Marissa Campbell-Service from New England Girls’ School talks about her experience helping others on a Christian service expedition to Thailand during the recent school holidays. We speak to Marissa and NEGS Chaplain Karen Eastment …
Tell us …
who organized the trip?
The group comprised students from NEGS, The Armidale School and PLC Armidal and involved helping disadvantaged students in Thailand.
What sort of things/activities did you do while you were there?
Our schedule was packed full of many activities. We visited an elephant hospital at Lampang, where we had a chance to ride rehabilitated elephants. At a school for the blind in Lampang, we learnt more about how children live with their disabilities, spending time with them playing games – including some tactile games we took with us – and just being with them. At the McKean Rehabilitation Centre for Leprosy in Chiang Mai, we learnt about Leprosy itself and what the Centre does to help its patients live with the disease and achieve the most normal life they possibly can. We also helped them clean up some of their gardens and built them a compost heap, which was harder than you would think. And our final visit was to the Agape Orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS, which was truly inspiring.
In what way?
It was definitely an experience I will never forget. While there, we mostly just spent time being with the children: playing with them and doing special activities with them. It was amazing to see how happy they were, even though they were so ill and suffering from the horrible disease.
You were there when the floods we’ve seen on television started. How did this impact you?
While we were at the McKean Centre, they experienced serious flooding. So we helped to protect their houses by sand bagging, moving furniture and doing anything we possibly could to help them out. The floods also meant we were unable to go to the night markets as much as we had hoped; they are really interesting, but the streets were waist deep in water!
How did you find the food?
The food was great. We attended a cooking course in Chiang Mai; it was well worth it, and we all enjoyed learning more about Thai culture through the food at this particular activity.
How did you find the trip, and what impressed you about your experiences there?
I really loved the trip and found it to be a very rewarding experience that will never be forgotten. Thai people are so warm and welcoming, and it was beautiful to see that people living in these difficult situations; for example, living in poverty, living through terrible illnesses and disabilities, could be so happy and so grateful for everything that they have got – no matter how little it may be.
What were some of the things that were very different to your life in Australia – and the things that were a bit more similar?
Their methods of transportation are definitely a lot different to those that we are used to in Australia. The food is very different, with lots of rice and noodles. The people are very carefree and laid back, so I guess that is something that we share.
What did you learn from the project? Did you learn anything about yourself?
I think that the most important lesson I will take away from the service trip is not to take my life for granted and to make use of all the opportunities that I am provided with, because there are many others who will never be able to live the life that I do. Seeing how happy people with nothing were helped me to realize this. It was a truly wonderful opportunity the three schools were able to offer, and we were all touched by what we saw and did.
Karen, what do you think everyone got out of the trip?
While the sandbagging was one of the more adventurous highlights, I hoped in time the group would understand the enormous contributions being made by the adults from Western countries they met, who had given up their jobs to help overcome disadvantage. In our society, Christianity has become contestable, as we are ever so quickly turning our affections towards pluralism, atheistic secularism and materialism. So it was wonderful to be with a group of students who had to leave their phones, iPods and computers at home and be challenged by those who had given so much in service to others in the name of Christ.
Thanks Marissa and Karen.