ASH Student Learns Burmese to Support Global Service Program
Since the 1990s, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) trips have created opportunities for our students, communities and organizations around the world to take collective action on one of the United Nations’ SDGs. This year, three groups of students are headed off to Nepal, Thailand and Belgium.
Fynn, a twelfth grader, is part of the team traveling to Thailand at the end of February. The challenge for this year’s team is to design and implement a plan to upgrade the Unified Learning Center’s (ULC) infrastructure with clean energy sources, and empower at the same time their students to become clean energy leaders. To support this work, Fynn has been learning Thai and Burmese in order to communicate and connect better with the team’s partners.
What is the SDG focus for your trip? How have you shaped your plans for Thailand around it?
For the Thailand trip, the SDG focus is Goal 7 "Affordable and Clean Energy." Currently, our team is working on fundraising and the logistics for installing solar panels around the school to re-route their energy through there. These solar panels will power their fans and possibly their air conditioners. We have also talked about putting in place the “albedo method” by painting their roofs white to minimize heat and require less energy for the cooling systems.
How have you connected with your partners in Thailand?
What has the process been like? The main way we have been connected with our partners in Thailand is via video calls, where we regroup every once in a while to make sure that everything is in order and possible to fulfill. We also do it to clarify plans and get some help and advice from their side if needed. Personally, I have retained contact on social media with a few of the Burmese kids from the Thailand trip we did last year and have had a few conversations with them; specifically one, who I will talk about in the next passage.
What have you done to prepare yourselves for the trip?
I have been learning Burmese to prepare for the trip. Initially I was just studying Thai. I lived in Thailand as a kid and have always wanted to study the language, so I have been studying it for a few months now, as I knew that it would also be beneficial for this Thailand trip. I posted my Thai update on my Instagram one day, and one of the Burmese girls that I have kept in contact with since last year contacted me and told me that she would like to teach me Burmese, too, so that I could maximize understanding with the students there. I, of course, accepted and have been rigorously studying the voice messages and vocabulary that she has been sending me.
I am mainly learning basic conversation and pronunciation, and some basic grammar skills like how to make a phrase a question and it is already proving useful in communication with our Burmese partners. Otherwise, as a leader of the Storytelling group, I have prepared in other ways by making presentations to show the Thailand group on why exactly we are helping this school, and what the situation is in Myanmar. I also have previous knowledge of basic Thai manners that I have learned from living there, so that we can be sensitive and understanding as needed--and well educated--when we step foot in Thailand.
What are you most looking forward to on this trip? Any challenges so far? Thailand is my home, so I mostly look forward to visiting it again and again. I love the people there and everything about that country - I really miss it. I also love the school that we visit and have developed some close friends there that I can't wait to see and be with again. I love practicing my language skills as well and look forward to that. So far, there have been no challenges personally, and I am doing really well in the preparation for the trip itself.
The SDG trips program offers students a remarkable chance to cultivate a diverse set of skills beyond the classroom. Engaging in a real-world context, students collaborate with communities worldwide to effect positive change. Whether honing critical thinking and research abilities or delving into socio-emotional learning and practicing values like respect and responsibility, the SDG program presents a distinctive opportunity for students to truly understand what it entails to be an active member of society.