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Model Learning Centre: Planting seeds of a volunteer sprit

      Model learning center - Volunteer spirit for society at Wang Kanai Sub-District, Ta Muang District, Kanchanaburi Province.
- “They are unable to care for themselves… they have neither children nor grandchildren to care for them. There is an elderly man who lives with Luangta (Grandfather Abbot) and his children never came by to visit him – not even once. This made me feel sympathetic and I really wanted to help him. But all I could do is feed him rice and medicine. I want his children to visit him sometimes to give him encouragement and free him from suffering.”
- “If my own parents were suffering like this, I would never leave them alone for sure.”

      These are the words of a small boy still in fifth grade. “Nong Pae” or Wanchana Pranomsilp, together with his peers, spends his time to care for the elderly and sick instead of playing around mischievously like most other youngsters.
When asked what inspired him to plant these seeds of goodwill, he is quick to respond that he was taught by his teachers at school. However, the Model Learning Centre of Nongtabong School in Kanchanaburi Province uses teaching methods that encourage “learning by doing” instead of ordinary textbook instruction. Children are able to absorb methods of analysis and problem-solving through a process called “Volunteer-Spirited Youth”.

      The Volunteer-Spirited Youth is one in three key activities organized at the Nongtabong School to instill a sense of volunteer spirit among the children, youth, and community members. The activities teach sympathy and empathy by bringing children in contact with those who suffer from ailment, injury, and loneliness at the home for the elderly. Children also have the chance to meet with and care for stroke and paralysis patients; the children feed them and encourage patients who have no relatives. These activities help the children absorb virtues, gratitude, and a sensitive heart and mind.

      The 2nd activity is called the “Volunteer-Spirited Teacher”, which requires the participation of teachers who volunteer and help care for children after school hours. As Nongtabong village is an agricultural community, parents finish their work late and have little time for their children. The teachers organize various activities for the children including arts and crafts, and literacy classes. The activities encourage children to spend their leisure time wisely and also ease the parents’ burden. The teachers work tirelessly and enthusiastically despite working above and beyond their ordinary duties and without any additional income.

      The 3rd and final activity is called the “Volunteer-Spirited Community”, which is a form of inviting parents and community members to participate with solving significant common problems, for example, children who are orphaned from deceased parents, underprivileged and poverty-stricken children, and youngsters with aggressive behavior patterns. These problems, if neglected, would certainly lead to problems. The project aims for these children to receive warmth and care just as everyone else. The volunteers in this activity are likened to “foster parents” for the children who provide care and guidance. The children are given all they need to receive an education and a chance to live normal lives. The underprivileged children become good students, with kind and respectful attitudes, and less aggressive behavior.

      Before assigning “foster parents”, students are selected by the classroom teacher and a community forum is organized where interested parties are invited to participate in the project. An invitation for “foster parents” is announced and distributed at various locations. When applicants sign up, a meeting is held to discuss conditions, code of conduct and duties of foster parents. Finally, the child receives help as a “foster child”. Although no money is gained from the “adoption”, it remedies the hearts and minds of children who are hungry for warmth and love.

      Other activities organized at the model learning centre include clean-up rallies to collect garbage and clean the community. Participants are taught how to separate the different types of garbage and about the impact of global warming. Children are instilled with lessons and are taught to be aware of the value of resources when using them in daily life. Other lessons include recognizing goodwill and saving for charity.

      At present, the project completes its first year with a total of 8 volunteer teachers, 165 volunteer youth members, and a total of 32 “foster parents”. The project continues to accept new members eager to become volunteer-spirited people to help plant seeds of the volunteer spirit among children, youth, teachers, and the community.