Tag Archives: Thailand

Buddhism in Thailand

By: Liz Behrens and Rachel Wong

Buddhism is a prevalent part of the Thai society, and even the royal family of Thailand is affiliated with the Buddhist faith.  Approximately 95% of the Thai population is Buddhist.  Because of the pervasiveness of Buddhism in Thailand, the country is also known as “The Land of Yellow Robes” after the traditional garb of Buddhist monks.  The practice of Buddhism has been around for thousands of years, but it is uncertain as to when Buddhism appeared in Thailand.  There is much controversy to when Buddhism arrived to Thailand, formerly known as Siam.  Many scholars believe that the birth of Thai Buddhism began with the Indian emperor, Asoka, who sent Buddhist missionaries to encourage Buddhist worship.  Although this theory is widely believed, historical evidence shows that Buddhist foundations were brought with a group of settlers known as the Mon-Khmer.  Continue reading Buddhism in Thailand

Malaria in Thailand

By: Sia Gerard and Karsten Gillwald

Malaria is directly translated to bad- air, which for a long time people believed, much like the Black Plague, was spread due to “bad air”. Malaria, despite modern advancements in medicine, continues to cause widespread infection and death in many parts of the world, especially in tropical regions. Continue reading Malaria in Thailand

Thai Festivals

By: Cera Cantu and Joe Caesar

Thai people enjoy relaxing and spending time with their families and friends. With over a dozen public holidays throughout the year, they have many opportunities to do this. New Years is celebrated three different times a year! Holidays and festivals in Thailand are either religious, traditional, or commercial (Thailand, nd). Most traditional and religious holidays are based on the Thai lunar calendar, so their dates vary from year to year. However, some of the holidays celebrated in Thailand follow the Gregorian (western) calendar.

Continue reading Thai Festivals

Refugees in Thailand

By: Nicole Roberts and Sarah Schafer

A refugee is someone who fears persecution while living in his or her home country, due to race, religion, nationality, or belonging to a particular social/political group, and seeks the protection of another country (Hodes, 2000). It is estimated that there is 19.2 million refugees world wide in which half of these are children (Ehntholt & Yule, 2006). Refugees have an increased risk to develop psychopathologies such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Conduct Disorder, due to traumatic exposure from war and leaving their home country (O’Shea, Hodes, Down, & Bramley, 2000). Many refugees will spend years in camps in which poor living conditions can consist of inadequate water and food supply (Lustig, Kia-Keating, Knight, Geltman, Ellis, Kinzie, & Saxe, 2004). Many of these refugees may then be sent to a foreign country not knowing the language (Kinzie, Sack, Angell, Manson, & Rath, 1986). These refugee children and adolescents are then expected to begin school at their age level, instead of their academic ability (Kinzie et al., 1986). A refugee child or adolescent may begin to feel lost between the pressures felt to perform above his or her academic abilities, combined with the burden of past memories, such as war and structural violence. Continue reading Refugees in Thailand

Ethnic Minorities in Thailand

By: James M. Bacigalupo

According to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, ethnicity is defined as “a large group of people who have the same national, racial, or cultural origins, or the state of belonging to such a group” (Cambridge). Furthermore the given perimeters of the word minority is simply put as “less than half of a total number or amount; the smaller part of something” (Cambridge). Thus one can postulate that an ethnic minority is indeed a group with similar origins and that of similar cultural and social constructs. Continue reading Ethnic Minorities in Thailand

Water Issues in Thailand

By: Caitlin Lemmon and Mariah Hartle

Water is a very important resource for the people in Thailand. With a population of over 68 million people, things such as urbanization and industrial expansion are impacting water quality for the Thais. Untreated waste, from growing industries have been steadily increasing in the water. Because of this their main source of income, agriculture is being strongly affected. Many farmers have not been properly taught how to conserve their water use when they plant their crops, therefore much of the water available is being wasted. If a proper solution was implanted for these farmers, and waste was cleaned from the drinking water, this crisis could be solved quickly.(Suwal, 1) Continue reading Water Issues in Thailand

HIV/AIDS in Thailand

By: Chloe Withers and Lacy Carter

AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is one of the worst pandemics the world has ever known. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. AIDS broke out in the early 1980’s and in just over 30 years it has become one of the leading causes of death worldwide. AIDS has resulted in the deaths of over 28 million people that we know of, resulting in a significant global impact (Bosner, 2001). As awareness rises and research progressed the outcome of people living with HIV/AIDS continues to improve around the world. Continue reading HIV/AIDS in Thailand

Post Trip Reflection- Kendall Brannen

Thailand Reflection Blog Post

Kendall Brannen

While travelling through Thailand I kept remembering a discussion I had prior to the trip with Professor Peter Ingle. I don’t remember specifics, at least not enough to quote, but I do remember a discussion that surrounded what it meant to be a global citizen and what role service had historically played in developing countries. For many, service is a self-serving act and in the long term, turns out, is not sustainable. Without educating we are only doing, which in developing countries, we become very expensive and unskilled labor.

booms mom and peter brooke planting natalie weaving

Meanwhile I had already started reading a book called Poor Economic which takes a comprehensive approach in understanding the logic and reasoning that poor families in poor and developing countries use. It was not until I had arrived in Thailand and our group had arrived in our first village where I began to connect all these pieces of the puzzle. The discussion with Ingle, the readings from Poor Economics, and the experiences on the ground in Kalasin all came together where I started to have a point of clarity of why I was there.

There are many reasons for people to do service work and many other reasons for why people travel. For me it was not about just one or the other. It became a synthesis of both service and travel. The travel experience of northern Thailand gave me a better understanding of who the people were, why the do what they do and how much alike we both are. Yes, some cultural differences but they make decisions based on a lot of the same reasons American do, it is just on a more basic level because they are in a developing country instead of a privileged developed country.

The service part of the trip came a little later when we made our first visit to a school south of Chiang Mai called Ban Mai. The service was not about service at all. We did not go to Thailand to physically give back to community in the form of labor but rather to help build community involvement and trust. It was a way to bond with the local school by offering our labor and time to help experience more of who they are and to prove that we can listen and learn how they would do it. I will also admit it was very hard to initially set aside my western ways and become more Thai thinking. Think of it as a go with the flow mentality. Of course this is a give and take of information with both sides giving and taking but it becomes a dance in which we hope that by our presence that we are able to help this small school and village somehow in the long term and through it all they will be better off than if we had not come at all.

This synthesis style of approach is a large key to why this program has become so successful. It is a creative approach to development and it may seem slow, but that is because it is. Good things take time to build and over time it is more sustainable and ensures that the community will be able to sustainably manage the improvements.

It is my hope that in the future I am able to continue to help this village/school/community is some way in the future. It was more than a learning experience. I fell in love with the people and the culture and it is something that I hope to return to again, someway, somehow.

Community Assessment for the Ban Mai School in Ban Mae Tuen

Community Assessment for the Ban Mai School in Ban Mae Tuen

Kendall Brannen

We left Chiang Mai, Thailand on the 10th day of our trip to strike out on a new journey to find the Ban Mai School located in the small village of Ban Mae Tuen, south of Chiang Mai. Professors Ingle and Kim had not visited the school yet so we did not have much information for what the school needs really were. Having had stories about the disrepair and rundown condition the last village was in when our professors first visited it 5 years ago this May. I had envisioned Ban Mai to be in similar condition. However, I was very surprised upon our arrival to see large, painted and colorful buildings, signage and a small town with shops, a restaurant and other businesses.  The school, which is home to more than 300 students from kindergarten through 6th grade during the Thai school year, was in better condition than I initially had expected but still largely lacking in regular maintenance.

Throughout our three day stay at the Ban Mai School we performed health assessments for each student which included height and weight checks as well as oral, lice and lesion checks with corresponding care given to help treat it. We also worked to repair a concrete step that was in disrepair by removing the old concrete and framing, mixing and pouring new concrete. The new step was a project that will provide a more safe entrance into the cafeteria/eating hall. Lastly, for our service work at Ban Mai we also spend a class period with the children in their classrooms teaching them games that would help work on their English skills and would also encourage class participation. In my group we taught the kids a song that was reinforced with actions so the kids could sing in English as well as act out the words they were singing.

kids

Bird Lice Check

Teaching Group

Kendall Teaching

Painting 

While working on these service projects we were reminded to keep an open mind about various school needs that we come across and to critically think about creative solutions to those needs. I particularly found myself identifying many needs that could benefit the school and more importantly the school children but it became even harder to sift through the ideas and simplify it down to a few good ideas that were not only sustainable but impactful for years to come.  I did not want to focus on small items that the community could do themselves but rather help on the larger issues that they might not have the capacity to do on their own. The criteria that I used to help me prioritize the list of needs I created was

  1. Is it sustainable for years to come?, Does it help free up time to focus on other projects?
  2. Does it help the largest amount of people?
  3. Is it affordable and can we execute it within the next 3-5 years or less?

Using this criteria of prioritization I was able to narrow down the scope of potential projects that we, as a May term trip, could execute within the timeframe of 3 to 5 years. It also helps to keep our focus on the larger goals that can help the school in areas that may not have otherwise had the capacity to do. One approach to helping a community such as this one is to help with large projects that will in turn free up resources such as labor. This transition from daily needs to more long term project planning will help with community development and can rollover the additional resources into future projects. This type of bootstrapping is a social entrepreneurship solution to small scale community development. If our May Term Thailand group can help with some of the larger projects to help free up their time from all the daily worries then the Ban Mai School can begin to shift focus to more mid and long term planning.

Here is a non-prioritized list of ideas that we brainstormed in a debriefing meeting after we left the Ban Mai School. These are student’s preliminary high level ideas and are not confirmed projects yet.

  • Address clean water storage and collection for year round use
    -Rain water collection system
  • Hygiene and dental care- not just brushing teeth but also keeping cuts clean and taking care of sores
    Annual care packages for incoming students
  • Improving the dorms- better bedding, more beds, better conditions for all (esp the Hmong), and more clothes, shoes
    Clothes washing system for all students to use
  • Mechai’s Pattana School model for gardening
    Teaches planning and teamwork
    Incorporate social entrepreneurship through the program
  • More/better materials for the classrooms- more English texts, more variety than just the workbooks, some basic technology stuff
    After school programs with non-classroom learning focus
    Career exploration, job shadowing, skills training programs, etc
  • Community involvement for future projects
    After school programs/classes where kids get to learn in a more creative way
    Addressing other building maintenance items beyond the cafeteria- lights, roofs, etc.

The next step for this process I think would be to thoroughly vet out the ideas with supporting cost benefit analysis and structure a timeline for implementation of each item. A supporting document such as a strategic plan would be beneficial as a deliverable to the Ban Mai School included with a letter of intent. In the future many of these projects are dependent on the level of student engagement and support for the fundraising that makes the May Term Thailand Service Learning class such a success. As fundraiser dinner coordinator I worked very hard to make this year’s fundraising activities a success, especially with the fundraiser dinner but, not without the help of great students. However, each year a new group of students are in charge of assuming this fundraising role and cannot be expected that every year will be as successful.  In order to keep this class a success and to continue the work we are planning we need to be sure there are successful fundraising for the years to come. I see this as one of the largest weaknesses of the program.

I hope to somehow stay engaged in more work like what we have begun in Ban Mae Tuen, Ban Mai School. I see a lot of future need with social entrepreneurship and business education within the community to help maximize the community’s potential and resources. I think through community education and town hall meetings businesses can really thrive once informed and empowered.  And with social entrepreneurship properly implemented beneficiaries such the community can really thrive from better education of the Ban Mai School education the next generation of business savvy social entrepreneurs.

Macro-Economics and Thailand’s Poor

By: Kendall Brannen, Westminster College, B.S. Economics, May 1, 2013

My interests while studying Economics at Westminster has been economic wellbeing of communities and what it takes for those communities to be sustainable and self-serving. When I was initially thinking about this assignment I wanted to look at the macroeconomic situation that is specific to Thailand. In this paper I will look at the descriptive statistics that surround the macro-economy and attempt to extrapolate more of the story that lay within each statistic/variable. As you can imagine there are a lot of factors that surround each observation, which for this observation paper I will simplify assumptions and take a high level approach.

I began researching to understand the economic conditions within Thailand and how it compares to the world economy with general descriptive statistics of the major economic indicators used globally. Thailand’s Gini Coefficient, a measure of income equality distribution, ranked 14th highest among 140 countries. That number rose between 2002 and 2009 from 42 to 53.6.  From this observation Thailand is becoming increasingly more unequal in its income distributions.  There is direct correlation between income distributions and poverty, when the lower quintiles have a larger percentage of the population within it, the income disparity widens and because of this the gini coefficient is a great indicator of a country’s poverty level. Below is a simple graph to help explain the concept of equal income distribution. It assumes a one to one slope for income to population as a fair measure.

Continue reading Macro-Economics and Thailand’s Poor