Last November I had the pleasure of accompanying J and a team of teachers and students from Aiglon College to northern Thailand on a service project based in a refugee camp. For the first time I was there as official photographer rather than a member of staff and it gave me a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on recording the work of the students. Working in pairs, the students were set the challenge of not only teaching English in one of the camp’s secondary schools but teaching English through the medium of other subjects. They rose to the challenge with excellent lessons in Geography, Physics, Biology as well as English language. The lesson planning had begun back home in Switzerland but, as every teacher knows, ideas and techniques had to be adapted as they got to know the abilities of the their classes. Each evening for the long week we spent by the camp was spent lesson planning. The Karen students that we met were full of life and positivity for the future. It was amazing to see how close everyone became in so few days. Many of the students were born in camp and have never really known life outside of the barbed wire, save a trip to the local Thai doctor. Some had chosen life in the camp so that they could have a chance at an education, life back in Burma was too dangerous and uncertain especially for an ethnic minority.
The day began with a whole school assembly, lead by the headmaster and with contributions from staff and students. Some of the Aiglon staff had the opportunity to speak to the school and it was moving to be able to share our support for their fight for freedom. After three hours of straight lessons we were treated everyday to an incredible lunch of traditional Karen food followed by afternoon drama games and sports. Cane ball quickly became a favourite with the boys and I am sure it will soon become an inter-Aiglon sport! Watching the matches gave us an opportunity to get to know some of the younger children and some of the teachers in the camp. It was fascinating to see them with their camera phones - I think they took as many photos of us as we did of them!
Walking back through the camp at the end of the afternoon we chatted to the older students and talked about their hopes for the future. Closing the gate behind us and waving from the other side of the barbed wire it was difficult to imagine not being allowed to walk freely down the road.