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Thai tour summary and conclusions

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 1 month ago

THAILAND – December 2005 and January 2006


The Thai Tour that followed the November/December 2005 Tour




The Team


Arabella, Children’s World’s Director, and Jo Galbraith, our guest performer, flew straight on to Thailand, and were joined there by their partner performers, Haggis Mcleod (juggler) and Jake Goode (acrobat and comedian). Later, after working on Phuket Island, on the Khao Lak leg of the Tour, they were also joined by volunteers Paul Molyneux with his crystal ball manipulation and by Trent Arkley-Smith and Martha Laschkolnig from Austria (wonderful musicians) and briefly by volunteer Lee Hayes (juggler) from Amsterdam (who were flying to Australia anyway, and were able to break their journey and fly very cheaply to join us in Thailand from Kuala Lumpur as volunteers).


The Performances


This was a performance-based Tour, with additional workshops and activities. Haggis, Jo and Jake combined their talents to create an extremely amusing show. Haggis was “Khun Haggis”, a rather high-and-mighty juggler, Jake was “Geoffrey”, Khun Haggis’s manservant, and Jo was the wonderfully daffy “Daisy”. Paul was incorporated into the show when he arrived, Lee was incorporated for a few days, and once Martha and Trent arrived for the Khao Lak leg of the Tour, we had wonderful live music to accompany the show (with Martha and Trent dressed in delightfully eccentric costumes, with the most wonderfully ugly false teeth!)


The characterisation of the 3 different performers and their relationships to each other in the show really developed over the Tour, so that if there were any occasional mistakes they could actually become amusing parts of the show. If “Daisy’s”’ pulling of the teacloth away from under her tea-set failed, for instance, her character would become upset or angry in an amusing way. If “Khun Haggis” ever dropped a juggling prop, “Geoffrey” would leap on it and dust it down with his ever-present clothes brush before handing it back for juggling. It really was a very highly-skilled and amusing show, and one that we would like to bring out of the "cupboard" again some time in the future.


The Workshops


The workshop activities were also very much enjoyed by the children - but obviously workshops could not be run for ALL the children in each school, as the numbers were too large to deal with. Each morning and each afternoon we would take a dfferent group of 60-80 children, and they would each have a go at making their own badge, juggling, ribbon-twirling, plate-spinning and hoola-hooping. Where possible, our show would start with a quick demonstration by some of the workshop children showing off their new plate-spinning or juggling skills, to loud applause from their friends in the large audiences.


The Schools


Almost all the venues we worked with in Thailand were schools, as there don’t seem to be any camps in Thailand any more – rebuilding of both permanent housing and satisfactory temporary housing seems to have happened far more quickly in Thailand, than in Sri Lanka, where much more damage was caused by the tsunami, and where many thousands of families are still living in camps and temporary shelters.


Because we were working in large schools, the numbers of children we reached in Thailand was far higher than in the Sri Lankan Tour, where we worked only in camps. We estimate that in Thailand we performed shows for approximately 9,000 children, and ran 1 hour workshops and activities for approximately 1,700, whereas we only managed to provide shows and workshops – usually 3 hours of activities, though - for over 2,500 children in the camps in Sri Lanka. (In the camps, there is the added bonus of many parents and family members also being able to watch the shows and activities – this does much to raise morale in the camps – the huge double circle of parents that was often gathered round the circle of children who were playing games round the parachute, was truly a joy to behold – the adults’ faces looked so happy, because they were watching their children enjoy themselves and have fun.)


Lessons for the future


In a perfect world, we think that generally, where possible, the ideal timetable on future Children’s World International Tours would be to work at big schools earlyish in the morning and then work in camps, with smaller numbers of children, later in the afternoon. This way we would achieve contact with high numbers of children in the schools, but also undertake much-needed morale-boosting performances and activities in camps, which benefit not only the children but their families. Because of the heat in the countries we are working in, it would be good to run sessions in schools approximately 9.30-11.30 and then work in the camps later in the day, say 3.30-5.30 to avoid the hottest hours of the day (though of course all hours of the day have been very hot in both Sri Lanka and Thailand, and we imagine they will be as hot, if not hotter, on our forthcoming recce trip to Aceh in Sumatra).


All the Thai schools were tremendously hospitable and gave us wonderful lunches between our morning and afternoon sessions (the schools also feed their pupils wonderfully well and nutriciously at lunchtimes – British schools could learn a great deal from them!) Almost every school has a large “sala” – an open-sided building with pillars (which were wonderful for attaching one of the parachutes to as a backdrop for the shows). After often having to perform in bright sunlight or minimal shade in the Sri Lankan camps, it was a joy to be working in the shade most of the time in Thailand.


The Costs


It is very important not to exhaust our performers too much – we pay some of them £100 a week for their services and some of them receive no payment at all (Children’s World International pays all Tour members food and accommodation costs out in the country we are working in, but because of the low cost-of-living in these countries, this does not cost the Charity a great deal). We must not take too much advantage of the performers’ kindness – it is important that they get time to cool off and recover between sessions where possible, and we need to give them occasional days off so that they can relax and enjoy themselves as well as work very hard.


Children’s World International paid for the flights London-Sri Lanka-Bangkok-London for Jo our performer and Arabella who worked full-time on both the Sri Lankan and Thai Tours. The Charity also paid for the flights of Haggis and Jake London-Bangkok-London. (Arabella and Haggis’s daughter Jessica, who joined the Thai Tour for 3 weeks had her fare paid for by her parents - as did Holly Whitmore, the lovely volunteer who joined us in Sri Lanka.) We paid the flights for Lee Hayes, Trent and Martha from Kuala Lumpur-Phuket-Kuala Lumpur, which amounted to about £60 each return. Many performers from Europe travel to Australia to perform in the winter, and many, we think, would be interested in breaking their journey for 2 or 3 weeks and joining Children’s World International tours as volunteers. This could be a very good way for us to take a lot of talented performers to tsunami-hit countries (not Sri Lanka, sadly, as it is not a cheap or convenient stopping-off place, but for any future tours in Thailand and Sumatra.)


Fund-raising is always hard, and if Children’s World International is to continue running foreign tours, we need to be clever and work out ways (like being joined by performers who are already en route from Europe to Australia, or vice versa, and by finding volunteers in England who would like to join us and who are able to pay for all their own expenses) that we can offer the most benefit for the least amount of money. Please see the accounts later for further details, but we are delighted to say that between the Sri Lankan Tour and the Thai Tour, Children’s World touched the lives of just over 11,500 children for just under £13,500 – about £1.17 a head! Look at the smiling faces in the photographs, and see if you think that's good value!


Lessons for the future


Because of working in schools rather than camps, the Thai Tour was very different from the Sri Lankan Tour. Working in schools is, in many ways easier (shady salas to work in, being fed at lunchtime, teachers to help keep things calm and ordered) than working in camps – it also has the benefit of enabling us to reach very large numbers of children. But we feel very strongly for the camps – imagine 15 months on from the Tsunami, still living in tiny temporary accommodation in rows of other such huts – crowded, cramped conditions with little privacy and often no communal space – and knowing that the chances are that you will be living in these conditions for another 2 or 3 years – no wonder morale is low in the camps – and that is why we wish to work in camps in Sri Lanka again in the future (and hopefully also in Aceh, Sumatra, which received the brunt of the tsunami and suffered a truly appalling death-toll and enormous damage).


We loved Thailand and the people and we think our time there was very worthwhile, especially once we were up in Khao Lak, the area that was most devastated by the tsunami. But Thailand has recovered well (especially so in Phuket, where tourism is back and you would hardly know there had been a tsunami) and continues to recover well, though it will take some time for things to get back to normal in Khao Lak.


We think our priorities for the moment should be Sri Lanka (where there is still very great need for our services, and where we have 2 NGO’s - Impact on the West coast and IOM on the East coast – who can set up tours for us easily and well) and Aceh in Sumatra, where Arabella and Haggis. her juggling maestro husband, will be running a recce during April, while also performing as many juggling shows and activities as possible, on their way back from Arabella’s son’s wedding in Australia. (We still wish to work, in the future, with the children who suffered from the Pakistan earthquake and with children in Africa suffering from the Aids crisis, and fully intend to do so – God, funders and helpful NGO’s willing!)


While we would not wish to spend Children’s World International funds on a further trip to Thailand, as the need there for our work is not so great as some other countries, we would be happy to undertake a further Tour there if the funding came from elsewhere. There is a possibility that if the schools wrote to the British Council saying they loved our shows and that they want us back again, that we might be able to get enough money to cover the costs of a further Thai Tour. Arabella will explore this idea when she returns from Aceh.


In the future, if we wish to continue taking CWI Tours to other parts of the globe, we need to get other NGO’s on the ground, whose centres we work in, to contribute to the costs of our Tours. We are gaining a good reputation and showing that the sort of work that CWI can offer is of great value, and we have high hopes that, with the co-operation and financial help of other organisations we can probably continue to run extremely beneficial Tours at very low cost to CWI. That's the plan anyway!


As in Sri Lanka, there were many problems for the team in Thailand – the greatest being incomplete clarity between the schools and our “fixers”, very uncomfortable transport in Khao Lak and, most importantly, the lack of a proper, permanent translator. Having a translator, is more important than anything for CWI Tours - and this is one of the main reasons we always want to work wherever possible with organisations who are already working on the ground with children in the country we are visiting – as in Kosova in 1999, when we were working with Save the Children in their “Areas of Safety”, if you have someone with you, with the right personality, who already knows the children and has authority and who can translate instructions for activities, you can achieve so much more. This is one of the things that Arabella and Haggis will be trying to sort out for any future tours when they visit Aceh in April.


Despite the above problems, we felt the Thai Tour to be extremely worthwhile (just not quite as worthwhile as the Sri Lankan Tour) and we would like to thank Linda Cruse of the Prince of Wales’ Overseas Business Trust for inviting us to Thailand. Many thanks also to Linda’s assistant Somchai and to our friend El who set up “gigs” for us and to the Sheraton Laguna Hotel on Phuket Island who so kindly provided accommodation (and the best breakfasts in the world!) for us during the Phuket leg of our Thai Tour, which really helped to keep our expenditure down.


Very special thanks are also due to Chris Fewer, Arabella’s “right hand” who remained in England, holding the fort at the Children’s World office in Glastonbury, without her presence there these CWI Tours could not have taken place.

Paddy and Charlie are running a mini-tour in Sri Lanka in March 2006

Bella and Haggis will be in Aceh in April 2006


and Bella and Haggis will be in Sri Lanka in June/July 2006


Do please read their diaries as and when they are posted. By reading the diaries and seeing the faces of the children enjoying CWI's shows and activities, you can really see why this work is so important, and, if you are a donor, you can see how well your money is being spent. If you are not already a donor, hopefully these pictures will encourage and motivate you to become one. Any sum, however small, will be most gratefully received!


IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A DONATION, please send a cheque, made out to Children's World International, to Children's World, 2 St. Edmund's Cottages, Bovetown, Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JE.

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