From 17 to 31 May, 19 NUS students, as part of Love Export, an overseas project by the NUS Students’ Community Service Club, helped to build a wall around the boundary of an orphanage in San Pa Tong village in Chiang Mai, Thailand and also taught the children basic first aid and hygiene.
For this iteration of the annual Youth Expedition Project, volunteers were tasked to build a wall around the Care Corner Orphanage to keep trespassers out and the children safe. The students also painted the children’s rooms and cleaned the village. After long tiring days of carrying bricks, mixing cement and moving heavy pillars under the blazing sun, the students felt a strong sense of accomplishment upon seeing their work come together. The students also provided the children with useful lessons on hygiene and basic first aid skills to minimise the transmission of diseases. It was not all work and no play, with some nights spent on knowing the children better through fun games and activities.
“One of the biggest challenges was to connect with the children…I’m really glad that our team respected and was sensitive to the needs of the children and our beneficiaries,” said Year 2 NUS Psychology student and Love Export IX Project Director Lucas Yap.
During their two-week stay, the team prepared Singaporean delights such as kaya toast (toasted bread with coconut spread), rojak (a salad consisting of a medley of vegetables, fruits and dough fritters slathered with prawn and chili paste) and biscuits for the children. In return, the orphanage cooked up a storm of Thai desserts for the volunteers as a gesture of thanks.
The students also had the opportunity to visit the local three-dimensional museum, and sample local fare during excursions to various markets such as the San Pa Tong Buffalo Market. The students and children bonded over mookata, a popular Northern Thailand delicacy which features meat, seafood and vegetables prepared in both barbeque and steamboat styles.
Year 1 NUS Science student Yap Jiaying said that her most memorable moment was their last day with the orphans. “My nine-year-old buddy said, ‘Now that you are going home, I have nothing.’ It broke my heart and I realised that the last two weeks had a huge impact on them. One thing I learnt from them is to love unconditionally. Volunteers come and go at the orphanage, but yet, the children still treat everyone with hospitality and so much love.”
The expedition had made a difference not only in the lives of the orphans, but also on the students who gained insights into the lives of others living in the same continent.
By Wang Xinling, Year 1 NUS Engineering and Lucas Yap, Year 2 NUS Psychology and Project Director