Northern School for the Blind
During the second week of the Global Grad January 2019 semester, Apple, the owner of the hostel we are staying in, asked if the we wanted to join her. She was going to the Northern School for the Blind. The trip was to hand out snacks for them to eat for lunchtime, so once we all expressed interest, big bags of crisps and drinks were brought.
OUR FIRST TIME AT THE SCHOOL
The next day, we arrived at the school with all the snacks in tow ready to hand them out. A few minutes into talking with the teachers, the schoolkids begun trailing out of their classrooms. Several students were holding hands or walking around in almost conga-like formations which gained empathetic responses from some of the group.
We unpacked all of the snacks and put them on a table at the side. Included were biscuits, crisps and drinks. Some of us worked on unwrapping the food and puncturing holes in the drinks whereas the others handed them out. Despite there only being one other blind school in the country even though Thailand has a population of 69 million, there were surprisingly few students there. There were three long tables in the dining hall but they weren’t even filled.
As we finished up with unpacking the food and all of them had something to eat, we sat and spoke to the teacher for a while about the school and what went on there.
THE STUDENTS PERFORMANCE
Once they’d finished up and all the rubbish had been binned by us and a few of the teachers, the students all stood up and sung for us in Thai. We were all moved by the performance, which was headed by a few of the students.
One particular student came and brought us all a little keychain each which we didn’t expect at all but loved. Most of us have either kept them safe or have placed them onto our backpacks.
After the students begun to trail back to their classrooms, the teacher asked if we would like to come back on a later date and help teach English to the younger students. Global Grad is big in giving back to the communities which the students are living in and so this was met with a unanimous ‘yes’.
THE FIRST VOLUNTEERING SESSION
On the first trip to the school we didn’t know much about the classes, so there were actually more teachers than students. The night before, those who were going first had made up a lesson plan with songs and games and came to realise how much we actually rely on our eyes. I’d be registered partially sighted if my glasses didn’t work so when not wearing them, I have limited vision. Even I came to the realisation that I am lucky to have the vision I do.
The school was within walking distance so we made sure we knew the itinerary for the lesson by heart as we all walked over.
In our class were only three students, one whom we recognised immediately as she had been brought up to sing when we were given the keychains. As well as her were two male students.
We all sat in a circle and went through a few of the songs. We were surprised to find out they knew a lot of the ones we’d planned, such as Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. We did teach them Incy Wincy Spider though which was a new one for them, and they also sung us a song about elephants in Thai.
THE SECOND SESSION
We returned back a week later and this time had a larger class. The group’s hostel was based next to Hug Academy, who provided us some equipment this time around. In a bag they’d gave us were some little obstacles which they could walk around which had lumps and bumps on them which worked as aids.
This class were older and predominately female and we started by playing some English songs for them. This was turned into a game when we introduced musical bumps and statues. We also got to watch them do Baby Shark with all the actions and words.
After that, we got out the obstacles which we connected together first in a snake formation and eventually in a circle. While we stood on standby in case any of the children were struggling, they mostly experienced it themselves using each other for guidance. The room was filled with screaming of joy and so we were happy with the choice of equipment Hug Academy provided us.
SESSION NUMBER THREE
Because of the number of us, we decided to rotate who would go each week. I did the first two classes so did not attend the third and final one. During this lesson, they had an interactive class looking through things such as fruits while having realia alongside it.
WE WERE THEN INVITED BACK
Later on in our time in Chiang Mai, we were invited to the school again for dinner. We cheekily had expected that they would provide us food as they had done so when we volunteered but this was not the case, and again we were helping serve the food and drinks. Afterwards, we were sung to again and this time got given keychains with little men-like figures on them. They’re very intricately made.
We didn’t know that teaching at the blind school was an option before beginning the semester but we all enjoyed it. Those of us with English teaching qualifications and experience used it as a chance to practise their skills whereas we all enjoyed getting to sing songs and play with the blind children. It also helped us come to the realisation of how grateful we are for having vision and was a great way to kick off our volunteering streak while travelling with Global Grad.
During our time in Chiang Mai, we also visited Elephant Nature Park which is a rehabilitation centre for elephants who have been abused in multiple industries. Two of our group, Molly and Louella, went and did a whole weeks’ worth of volunteering at the Park and their vlog documenting their experience can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuiM3eK46nI
Or you can check out the Global Grad to see about the whole program and sign up for a semester: https://globalgrad.com/
About the author
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.