Video taken down until further notice contact Jen Spoor for copy
In June this year a team of 14 set-off for Thailand with our bags packed to the brim with craft, activities, treats and many more items donated as well as collected over the past months for the children at our school.
This was our largest group to ever visit the school. Marisa Robertson, Gail Davis, Jennifer Berry, Paul Smith and their two children Prue and Alex were visiting the school for the second time as they were part of the 2013 team. New members this year included Colleen Page who has worked with Steps with Hope for a number of years and her sister Anne O’Brien, Marie Kellett and her daughter Ella, John Egarr from West Epping Uniting Church and Kim Waters with her daughter Liliana.
Each of us made our own way to Bangkok arriving in plenty of time to ensure we were prepped and ready for our early morning departure to the school.
Preparation continued even during the bus trip with Marisa and Gail preparing for our coffee pod snake activity, and Colleen, Anne, Kim and myself threading the needles to assist. Many laughs at times trying to thread needles with the bumps in the road and eye sight not as good as it was some years ago!
We arrived at the school just after 11am to be greeted by the lovely Tat, Sopheb and teachers not to mention all the beautiful little faces of the children we were so looking forward to seeing and spending time with.
We had many things planned for our first day even though there was not a lot of time before the children were to head home as the school day finishes at 12.30.
Firstly we handed to each child a new handball, which were donated by the Fullerton family from Sydney, Alastair (11), Luke (7) and Curtis (5). The boys had saved their pocket money for many months to purchase a handball for each child. Prior to heading back into the classroom we enjoyed many games of handball with the children.
Handballs safely away under their desks we then issued each child with a new uniform as the ones received last year were well and truly in need of replacement. This year we decided to add some colour, as we know how much the children enjoy this. Bright pink, purple and blue shirts were handed out along with navy pants. Just like the hats last year both boys and girls were ecstatic with whichever colour received.
They couldn’t get their old uniforms off quick enough and within a few minutes the room was full of smiling faces and lots of colour. Although their old uniforms were so well worn and dirty many children folded them with care to take home.
To add to their ‘new look’ we then handed to each child a pair of sunglasses, which had been donated by a friend of Anne’s. Lunch then followed – the children enjoying simple but tasty food though we noticed some packed their lunch away to take home. It struck us that, hungry as these children were, it was important to them to take their food home to share amongst their family.
Just before we said our goodbye’s for day one and joined the children on their walk back to the border they all received a new pencil case filled with supplies, lovingly made by Anne Leece and Gail Davis from the Steps with Hope team.
Day 2 was filled with many exciting craft activities. All were well received and thoroughly enjoyed by all and once again added even more colour to their little lives.
Firstly the children painted plates and then attached long bright colour ribbons to make their rainbows. Once completed they all ran around with them held high watching the ribbons float in the air. Lots of laughter and smiles.
For the placemats craft, each child decorated a piece of contact with different shaped cut outs and then placed a piece of cardboard on top to produce their placemats. Little hands and contact causing a few reworks, however, all very pleased with their results.
Next were the coffee pod snakes. The children were going at their own pace to complete, the concentration on their faces was beautiful to watch. Some snakes turned out very differently to the samples we took, however, it made us realise that it didn’t matter, they had so much fun doing and so were so pleased with their new snakes.
Then the t-shirts. One for each child kindly supplied by Kim and Liliana from our team. The children drew lots of beautiful pictures and patterns with textas and then wore over their school shirts for the remainder of the day. Some true creative talent amongst them (including teacher Heng).
Loom bands. New for many of us. A crash course was held at my house prior to the trip to ensure we could all help on the day, however, little help was needed as the children picked it up very quickly and within a short time many of them had a number of handmade designs around their little wrists.
The walk back the border with the children was a happy one. Lots of colour and smiles, rainbows flying in the air, loom bands and t-shirts.
Day three, our final day at the school we still had a number of great activities to introduce to the children. First up each child was given a photo of themselves to place on a large fisherman’s net hanging on the wall. Sopheb then told them all the story of the “Fishers of Men” whilst they sat on the floor listening and looking at all of their photos in the net she told them they were all Gods children.
The children were then introduced to their first musical instrument- recorders that had been donated by children from Liliana’s school, Dobroyd Point as well as Haberfield Public. They were a mixture of colours, white, purple, pink, black and blue and just like the school shirts, not one child asked to swap for another colour, they just loved the one they were given. The noise was amazing with all just blowing as hard as they could. Prior to the trip a wonderful man Romney, a Cambodian music teacher living in the United States spent hours of his time putting together a number recorder tutorials in Khmer to assist the children and teachers to learn to play over the coming months. It was heartening that teacher Heng just 17 years of age, spent time learning a Cambodian folk song that really impressed the children (and us!).
The fun activities will continue for months to come thanks to a group of very generous women who attend the craft shop where Marie works. Along with Maree they have spent countless hours cutting shapes and putting together craft and activity packs for future use at the school.
Waving goodbye to the children at the border, bidding them farewell until next year we felt many emotions. 3 wonderful days spent with special people and a lifetime of change for us.