It was with nationwide sadness that we heard the news of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s passing in October of this year. His seventy year reign accomplished so much in developing and maintaining Thailand’s wellbeing, culture, and livelihood. At the Barge Program we are often reminded of His Majesty’s many initiatives and beliefs focused on conservation of this country’s unique environments.
As we cruise along the Chao Phraya River we see many water gates connected to the irrigation canal systems that were developed by the King for water management. We pass through Ayutthaya, whose rice paddies can be used as ‘monkey cheeks’ for flood mitigation. Every boat and every house has the yellow flag with the late King’s insignia flying proudly. On the few occasions we head south of Bangkok, we cruise under the Rama 9 and Bhumibol bridges, towering majestically in honour of a beloved king. We meet communities following his por piang
Sufficiency Economy model, finding ways to live sustainably. We are showered in rain sometimes made from King Bhumibol’s artificial rain recipe, seeding the clouds to bring water resources across the land. We share in the eerie wonder and peacefulness of Royal Barge processions staged in honour of royalty for hundreds of years in Siam’s history.
His Majesty the late King Bhumibol’s legacy will live on for many generations. His ideas are so well established in the current culture of Thailand that he will continue to influence the way this country lives for years to come. At the Barge Program, we are proud to connect to one of his many passions – an interest in conserving the environment. We understand, just as the King did, that people need to know about their world to create a connection to its importance and a desire to want to look after it. We strive to share our knowledge about the world around us with our students. To ensure they develop an understanding of the issues here in Thailand, and throughout the world, and to understand how each of us can play our part in the future of our world.
ธ สถิตในดวงใจนิรันดร์ - “taa satit nai duang jai, niran
” - I will remember in my heart, for eternity.
Kanchaburi Service Trip
The Bargies visit
In the last few months staff at Traidhos Three-Generation Barge Program have had the opportunity to get involved in a few community outreach trips, but one that was particularly special for us was the trip to Baan Nasuan in Kanchanaburi. The children, teachers and parents of this remote Karen village school, nestled between forest, hills and corn plantations in the eastern province welcomed us into their community.
Our staff curated an excellent week of fun, hands on and thought provoking education, covering sustainability and development issues, local and global environmental issues, English classes and team building exercises, all tied up neatly with plenty of enthusiasm.
This service trip in particular did not just end in the classroom. One stuffy afternoon the students, teachers and our own staff made the short drive to the community forest, where a new weir was to be constructed to prevent soil erosion along the steep banks of the small stream. The whole group had no problem in rolling their sleeves up and cracking on with the task at hand. Through an amazing team effort, the weir was built within the day and we celebrated with a well-deserved meal back at the school.
This week of learning and community building came only a few days after the passing of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and as such, celebrating his life and memorializing his death became an integral part of the trip.
On our last night in the village we organised a memorial service in memory of the His Majesty the late King for parents, students and other members of the village to attend. While staff prepared the hall for the vigil, students demonstrated their trust and teamwork by slowly embarking on a hand in hand walk around the unlit school site, creating a single file line of 40+ students, all with their eyes closed! Upon their return, our Thai staff performed a touching tribute under candle light, singing ton mai khong por. Followed by a screening of some of the His Majesty the late King’s achievements, the service culminated in a minutes silence to reflect upon the weeks events.
These service trips are undertaken as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility plan, we are passionate about what we do, and fitting with our ethos of providing sustainability focused, experiential learning, we aim to provide a well-rounded itinerary for students who would not otherwise be able to attend our programs. Our highly adept team of Thai and foreign educators really work cohesively to plan and implement a diverse, educational and enjoyable trip for the students.
It is safe to say that both the students of Ban Nasuan School and our own Barge staff thoroughly enjoyed this experience. There was a great exchange of knowledge and cultures, and we thank the kind and engaging children of the school for adding a few more phrases to our foreign staffs’ repertoire. We look forward to returning to the school again in the future, maybe even in time to build next year’s weir!
Remembrance of the King – Doi Inthanon Royal projects
Under His Majesty the late King Bumibhol’s reign, more than 2000 royal projects were initiated, aimed at improving quality of life for some of Thailand’s poorest communities. One such project that we often visit is the Doi Inthanon Royal Development project in Chiang Mai. Not only does this area provide breathtaking scenery with a rich and diverse history, it’s also one of the best places in the country to see firsthand, the success of one of the royal projects.
Sometimes known as the Royal Hill Tribe Projects, the aim was to provide education and resources to the rural, hill-side communities enabling them to improve agricultural practices and diversify their farmland. Up until the 70’s this area was well known for being a key producer of opium. Coupled with unsustainable farming practices, residents were slowly and unknowingly degenerating their communities and the surrounding ecosystems.
His Majesty realised the imminent problems facing the people here and with support, immediately set about to replace the swathes of opium plantations with fresh (and legal) cash crop produce. Today, looking across the lush valleys, visitors can see stacks of terraces lined with long white greenhouses containing the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables. This agricultural land sitting below the tree line of the forests that used to support distant relatives.
The internationally acclaimed projects have been a resounding success and the area now boasts organic coffee, strawberry and flower plantations amongst rice terraces and large areas of untouched forests. These innovative and resourceful communities are striving to perfect their businesses, investing time and money into the research of new crops and methods of sustainable agriculture. The direct route to markets provided by the royal projects, ensures that there is always a buyer for the industrious farmers.
We are fortunate in our Program to spend time within these communities, experiencing first-hand the positive impact of His Majesty’s Royal Projects.
Students often have a preconception of what life in the Northern hills of Thailand is like. ‘Do they have cars?’, ‘Do they use Facebook?’ Students come away with a real sense of enlightenment after spending time breathing in the fresh air, seeing where the food they eat is produced and of course experiencing some of the rich and diverse cultures that exist outside of the cities in which they reside. We are now living in an increasingly connected, instantly gratified, consumer led society. It is important now more than ever, that students and young people are given the chance to experience, investigate and study the roots and importance of the systems that allow modern society to flourish. This way we hope they can grow up to be informed global citizens.