Friday, August 24, 2012

Bamboo School - Thailand

This coming Friday, August 31st, will see a rather unique event at SJI International. The school community is coming together to celebrate and support a wonderful Lasallian outreach in Thailand, a place through which education is provided to truly needy students of all ages who live at or near the border with Myanmar.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit this “Bamboo School” in Sangklaburi for a few days. Located a very long bus ride away from Bangkok, the school at that time had one Brother working there, Brother Victor Gil, a long-time Spanish missionary, fluent in Thai and with a PhD in Chemistry, who began the adventure some 20 years ago “on the side” when he encountered the great need for education at Three Pagodas Pass. His small efforts grew in providential small steps, and today three Brothers oversee several educational outreach programs, including the original Bamboo School.

The things that impressed me when I visited were 1) the eagerness for education on the part of the many poor refugees and day-wage workers, both for themselves and for their children, 2) the perseverance of the students in pursuing education despite limited supplies and Spartan conditions, and 3) the real and genuine dedication of the teachers. Whether in the open, bamboo-built classrooms or at the night school in the covered area next-door at the rubber processing plant, students and teachers alike were clearly happy to find that the needs of some matched the gifts of others.
On the sign in front of the school is the motto “No Child Left Behind.” While this was a popular educational rallying cry in the U.S. during the presidency of George W. Bush, the truth of the statement really comes to life here at the Bamboo School. By whatever means, children come to discover the power of education.  One of my more memorable images is that of a little girl, carrying a shoulder bag (probably her prized possession) with the logo Beverly Hills Polo Club, who spontaneously gave me the Victory sign. She didn’t realize how true that gesture was.

At the August 31st fundraising event at SJII, with Thai food prepared by a former royal chef, and dancing and music by Thai dancers flown in (as a donation) for the occasion, and with many very impressive auction items available, everyone will be able to celebrate and support the generous work of education at the Bamboo School. It’s also a rare opportunity to directly help Brothers and others who carry on this kind of work, and who do so in solidarity with us at SJI International. Those who participate that evening will give real and genuine substance to what the term “International” in our name is all about.

For those who would like to see more photographs, go to this link. For those who would like to buy tickets to this Thai evening or donate something, please contact the school office.

You won’t be disappointed and are certain to be inspired and well-fed..