From the Head of Barge
To our Barge Program friends,
Today I write my final contribution to our Barge Program newsletter as the Head of Barge Program, as I move on to new challenges. I have met so many of you over my ten years with barge and have had such incredible experiences teaching thousands of students. I was recently asked to reflect on my time here – it was actually quite hard to think back over ten years and identify achievements in this way, as many of the successes have been small, long term, or just ‘a part of the job’! Though I would say that some of the most significant achievements have occurred only in the last year or so – completion of some of our strategic planning goals.
This newsletter edition focuses on community. I love my local community. I often tell our incoming foreign staff that where we live will help give them a genuine Thailand experience – eating and speaking local. It becomes home when the fruit lady knows your name, the rice shop knows how to cook your preferred style of fried egg, and the pork seller wants to know what you are cooking tonight. I like being a part of ‘barge’ community – all the past staff that are still in touch with the program, and all the teachers and students that continually support our program. Community can be such a strong support group for help, for resources, and for knowledge. I know look forward to becoming a member of a new school community as I move on to my next position, and encourage you all to find a sense of community that suits and support you.
Barge and Community
In June last year, staff spent two days planning the next three years of Barge Program. A significant focus for this period was ‘community’. Barge is a part of Traidhos Three-Generation Community for Learning, the ethos of which is to include people of all ages in the local community. We spent time discussing what community meant to us, identifying it as many different things – a local living community, a Barge Program community, a school community. Our plans included finding ways to be more active in our local district community of Bang Phlad, and to introduce our trip participants to new communities.
In the last twelve months, Barge Program has spent time working with the school closest to our office. We have planned a World Environment Day event that will include this school, Wat Buranawit, as well as staff from the Bang Phlad district office and have had several in-school educational sessions. The program has taken many students to community groups within their trip location – Elephant’s World to care for rescued and retired elephants in Kanchanaburi province, Thai government school Pak Chong Wittaya in Nakhon Ratchasima for building relationships and art work on a Khao Yai trip, a farm following King Bhumibol’s Sufficiency Economy model in Chanthaburi province.
Community has always been an important part of Barge Program and our trips. Visiting other people, seeing, investigating and experiencing how they live, gives us a chance to learn new ways to live our own lives. We can gather knew knowledge, share our own, develop partnerships, and make new friends. Community investigations help us to look closely at one place and connect to issues on a global scale. Many community visits help us to understand where things come from that we may never have thought about before – seeing the whole process of rice from ploughing, planting, reaping, all the way through to eating at Suphanburi Buffalo Village; asking questions about fishing in the Gulf of Thailand to comprehend the complex chain that gets fish on our plates in Bangkok; eating food fresh from the farm and sleeping with pigs grunting under the house and roosters crowing before dawn on Doi Inthanon to follow the route of organic vegetables grown in the mountains of northern Thailand. We recently conducted a survey trip to Ampawa region and discovered a coconut sugar factory – it is an incredible example of community. The factory runs as a cooperative, twelve families, each with a specific role – some are the land owners, others are the sugar collectors, three families work on refining the sugar, while yet another is responsible for all firewood. We look forward to taking groups here to see how coming together as a community has benefits to all involved.
For more information about these places and what students can learn on a trip contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Barge Program’s office sits in lovely Bang Phlat, a district which homes nearly 100,000 people. When we are not running around the country with international schools we like to take the time to share the Barge love with those who live in our thriving community.
Buranawit School is just a jump across the road for us, and we have been lucky enough to work with the students and teachers there on many previous occasions. About once every month we send our staff to the school to run a day of free environmental education activities. So far this year we have introduced the students to games such as Webbing – which considers interconnections in a habitat; to encourage team building and a sense of connectivity, Watershed Puzzle – which considers human influence over a the Chao Phraya watershed, and Just Passing Through; a game which highlights the importance of trees to us and the river.
We find it extremely important to recognise and remind ourselves about the power of a community on the environment. As Lady Bird Johnson once said “The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” It is our duty not only to be aware of our impact on the environment but to see, as one community, the ways in which we can aid our collective home.
In the coming months we are widening our scope to the community at large. With World Environment Day around the corner we figured it was time to spread the love a little further. On June 5 we will be conducting a district-wide rubbish sweep, creating some beautiful eco-art and much, much more!
If you find yourself free this World Environment Day come and lend a hand, get involved in the fun, or put an hour aside to conduct a rubbish sweep in your own area, your community will thank you!