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5D4N Scouts and NPCC Overseas Exchange and VIA Programme in Chiang Mai

The Scouts and NPCC had an enriching overseas exchange with Tedsaban School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Tedsaban School hosted us with their traditional Scouts ceremony and exciting activities such as outdoor cooking. The students learnt a lot about each other’s culture and practices through this overseas exchange and Values In Action (VIA) programme.

This is also the first time students from the Scouts and NPCC Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) have a combined overseas trip and worked together to achieve their common objectives. Other than cultural immersion, the Scouts and the NPCC cadets also learnt lessons about leadership and teamwork when they worked on their VIA project at Baan Pa Mued Primary School.

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Students’ Reflections:

This Chiang Mai trip was an eye-opening experience for me. Through this trip, I was able to learn more about the culture and way of life in Chiang Mai. I learnt that the people of Chiang Mai are very respectful towards their elders and peers. They greet each other by putting their hands together and bowing. In addition, the people in Chiang Mai are also very responsible for their own things. The students do not rely on cleaners to clean up the school for them. Instead, they are responsible for their own school's cleanliness and I think that this is a very good mind-set that we should learn from.

Other than being exposed to a new culture, I was also able to benefit greatly from the planning and preparation of our VIA. One of the things I learnt was the importance of teamwork. It would be impossible for one person to plan the whole VIA. Therefore, it was crucial for everyone to work together. Furthermore, I also realised the importance of communication. When we had to interact with the scouts and the children in Chiang Mai, we were faced with a language barrier. Hence, we were required to be more expressive to get our message across. However, we still had some misunderstandings along the way. Therefore, this experience made me really thankful that I'm able to communicate easily with my peers.

Overall, this Chiang Mai trip taught me many lessons that I am able to apply in my own life.
Wan Ting (3E4, Scouts) 

The trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand was certainly an eye-opener and I definitely learnt a lot from the trip. I not only learnt about the culture in Chiang Mai, but also many life lessons and leadership skills.

During the trip, we visited two schools in Chiang Mai and we realised that there are very big differences between the students in Singapore and Chiang Mai. For instance, the students in Chiang Mai are very respectful towards their elders, such as their teachers. During our scouts’ exchange, the Thai scouts would always salute their teachers whenever they meet them. I think that this is really interesting and it shows how much respect they have for their elders. This is something we can learn and apply in Singapore.

During the trip, I was given the chance to be the Overall-in-Charge (OIC) of the students on the last day. I learnt that a leader has to be responsible for those under their charge. For instance, when we departed from a venue or arrived at a new place, the OIC had to make sure that everyone was present and well. I also learnt that a leader must be open minded and be able to adapt to changes. During our VIA, as the student in charge of a station, I had to modify the rules and ways to play the game at my station to make it easier for the children to play.

Overall, this was a very enriching experience for everyone.
Ruei Leng (3E1, Scouts) 

From this overseas trip, I learnt many things as well as bond with my fellow scout mates and seniors. This trip also helped strengthen my ability to work in a team and I learned the importance of respect.

I also learnt a lot from the visits to the two schools in Thailand. For example, when they were carrying out their outdoor cooking, they only used twigs and did not use any leaves. This surprised me as back in Singapore we used a mixture of both. That is definitely something to bring back and teach my scout mates and troop mates that did not go for the overseas trip.

Furthermore, the children in Chiang Mai were really mature. They were really kind and not very playful. For example, during lunch, they offered the food to us and asked us to eat first before they had theirs. After lunch, they even offered to help us clear our plates, bring them to the back where the hose was and wash them. This is very different for us as we are only required to put the dirty plates into a container and the stall owner would do all the cleaning themselves. This made me realise how privileged we are in Singapore and that we should not take things for granted.
Samantha (2E4, Scouts) 

This overseas trip to Chiang Mai was wonderful and I feel that I learnt quite a lot from this trip. I personally feel that the activities which were more enriching were the night debrief on Day 3 and the VIA activity on Day 4. On Day 3, we had a really long debrief. During the debrief, the teachers provided their own viewpoints and perspectives to try and anticipate problems that could occur the following day so that we would be well-prepared. A number of changes to the activities were made during that debrief.

I learnt that planning cannot be done by one person. It would be a lot easier if everyone or an organised committee came together to plan, because not only would we have more creative ideas, we could also provide our own views and anticipate problems that could arise, such as ensuring that there is sufficient logistics so that the game can take place or adding buffer time. Minor things like these can cause the event to become chaotic and go wrong in many ways. Thus, foreseeing these problems and coming up with solutionswould be a useful skill to have. From the games, I also learnt that if there is a language barrier that makes it difficult to communicate with our participants, traditional action games would work perfectly as they can be understood through actions and demonstrations and do not require much explanation. This is something I can apply when planning future activities.

On the day of the VIA itself, there were many things that we were quite uncertain of, for example we did not know how the school compound was like and so we did not know where the games could take place and how to organise the kids there. Thus, immediately after arriving, we had to scan our surroundings and find suitable locations for the games to take place. We had to be flexible and adapt to our situation and environment to ensure the games and plans could proceed without issues. For example, the weather that day turned out to be surprisingly hot, so the group ICs took the initiative to bring the local kids out for water breaks. They had to make minor changes to the plan so as to ensure everyone was hydrated. In addition, as the OIC and coordinator for the VIA, I feel that I could have taken more initiative as a leader. Instead of waiting for instructions from the teachers, I should rely on my coordinators and myself more. There were many opportunities for me to take the lead and initiate but I had not made full use of it.

From the learning journey to the school, I realised that the students in Chiang Mai eat the same food during recess yet they do not complain at all. However, in my school, I would often hear students complaining about the food choices in school and how bad it tastes. This learning journey made me realise how privileged we are and learn that we should not take the things around us for granted.

Overall, the trip was really insightful and I learnt about the culture and lifestyle of kids there and quite a lot of leadership skills as an OIC. It was a fun and enriching experience for me and I think everyone else enjoyed it too.
Wen Kai (3E3, NPCC) 

This overseas trip to Chiang Mai was really memorable for me as I learnt a lot from the different activities there. Being in Singapore, with easy access to the Internet, we do not usually play with our friends especially when we are all stuck in our own online world. However, by just spending half a day with the students in Chiang Mai, I realised how they can use simple leaves, rock and ropes to create a really enjoyable game for everyone. Even if they do not have convenient access to the internet like we do, they truly enjoyed themselves. I was also embarrassed at how most of the kids there were younger than I am yet they knew how to set fire with twigs and leaves while I only knew how to spend time playing with my mobile phone. The students were also able to use ropes to create handmade obstacles. They were also responsible and took the initiative to do things. This is one of the biggest take away from this learning journey. In a nutshell, I hope as an NPCC Year Head, I can teach my cadets those same values that I learnt from the students there.
Zhi Sin (3N2, NPCC) 

This overseas trip to Chiang Mai with Scouts was definitely an enriching and insightful experience for me.

Firstly, what I feel I learnt most from was the valuable debriefs we had every night. The 2-3 hours we spent every night allowed me to reflect on many things such as the qualities and values a leader should have. One of the things I learnt from the debrief is that a leader should have proper time management and be able to make decisions independently and logically when the need arises.

Working with students from another CCA was also a great experience for me because we have different ways of doing things. Hence, I learnt the importance of having an open mind and looking for common objectives to work towards together.

Apart from learning about what it takes to be a leader, I've also seen the differences between Thailand and Singapore in terms of the cultures and practices. The way the Thais practise Buddhism is slightly different from Singapore and thus I found it an eye opening experience. One belief that they had that was different was that walking around a pagoda 3 times would bring them good luck. In addition to the difference in religious practices, the way food is served in schools in Thailand is also very different from what I experienced in Singapore. In my school, we have a canteen with different stalls serving different kinds of food. However, in Thailand, the students had to bring their own plates and utensils before collecting food from their teachers. They also did not have a choice as to the kind of food they wanted. All they had was rice with scrambled eggs and a slice of bread with jam. I realised that we are a lot more fortunate yet there are still students complaining about the variety of food we have in Zhonghua and choose to buy food from places outside Zhonghua.

All in all, this trip was a very fruitful one which enabled me to learn a lot more. As a Unit Head, I hope to share some of the things I learnt with my unit and lead my cadet leaders and juniors better.
 Nigel (3E4, NPCC)