Our Education Officer Andrew Hughes is not one to stay still for long, and immediately after returning from being honoured at the 2013 Australia Day celebrations in Canberra he and Nicola were back to work finalising plans for our environmental and cultural exchange between Tasmanian students and their counterparts in Thailand. This was a fantastic initiative, suggested by Alicia Rackett, a Tasmanian volunteering for a year at the Monsaengdao Ecological School in northern Thailand through Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) and the Association for Community and Ecology Development (ACED).
The aim of the exchange was to provide regional students from both countries with the opportunity to experience places, ecology and culture that they may not otherwise see, and to in turn communicate this back to their colleagues via online multimedia. Education and opportunity is especially important for the Thai girls, who come from marginalised hill-tribe communities. Without access to schools such as Monsaengdao, some of these girls would be at risk of exploitation from human traffickers.
The exchange was funded through the Australia-Thailand Institute at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with additional funding through Bookend's 2012 Banksia Award (the GPT Group Community Grant). This allowed for four Tasmanian students (Brendan & Nick from Triabunna, Hayley & Zackary from Ulverstone) and four Thai students ( teacher Jureelak Pimrot (Kiki), all from Monsaengdao) to be fully funded for the exchange, with a fifth Tasmanian student (Emma, from Triabunna) joining the team by successfully taking on the challenge of part-raising her own funds.
Additional support for the project came from the Pennicott Foundation, Travel Counsellors, the Tasmanian Department of Education, Sea 2 Summit and Mercury NIE, Monsaengdao, Think Elephants International, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, the Anantara Hotel, and FORRU at Chiang Mai University supported activities and day trips for the students in Thailand, while the Woodbridge Marine Discovery Centre, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Bruny Island Cruises, Oyster Bay Oysters, Devils@Cradle, the Parks and Wildlife Service, Triabunna District High School, Ulverstone High School, Todd Walsh and various other individuals did the same in Tasmania.
Leuke Marriott filmed the exchange for Bookend, and footage from the Thai leg was shown at the UTAS Centenary Theatre in Hobart while the students were here.
Check out more photos of the students' visits to Bonorong, Bruny Island Cruises and the Woodbridge Marine Discovery Centre, and seeing Giant Freshwater Crayfish - the largest freshwater invertebrate on the planet. More background on the project can be read in Andrew's Mercury article and the Thai and Tasmanian students' descriptions of themselves, while the day-to-day experiences of the students can be read as they happened in Thailand in February and Tasmania in April.
THAI EXCHANGE - FIRST STEPS
Bookend is extremely pleased to announce a new high school student exchange between Thailand and Tasmania. The exchange is being run in partnership between Bookend, the Australian-Thai Institute and the Monsaengdao Ecological School in northern Thailand. It will provide an environmental and cultural learning experience for both sets of students, and is targetted at students in both countries who may not otherwise have the opportunity to travel.
Five Tasmanian students (3 from Triabunna High and 2 from Ulverstone High) will travel to Thailand in February for 10 days to take part in local ecological work, including hillside revegetation and visits to elephant rehabilitation sanctuaries. In April, four Thai students and their teacher will visit Tasmanian for 10 days in return, and will take part in comparable projects here with Tasmanian wildlife and projects.
Bookend team member Felicity Wilkinson was recently able to visit the Monsaengdao Ecological School as part of her own travel to Thailand and was pleased to see what the Tasmanian students have ahead of them. As with all of our projects, the exchanges will be filmed and live-blogs will be online from the participants so that other students and the public can follow their progress.