independent

Saturday 20 September 2014

Nine Marist teens travel to Thailand

Janine Kavanagh

Published 26/07/2014 | 12:00

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THE Marist Mission Ranong got their annual visitors from Dundalk recently as Chaplain Father Jimmy McElroy and his nine volunteers travelled over to Thailand.

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Picked from a group of 20 or so who applied, the students were chosen using interviews and check-ins with their teachers and year head. Those who succeeded were very pleased with how they got on at the Burmese 'refugee town'.

The students spent two weeks in Thailand, with three days focused on a camp for the Burmese migrants and refugees.

Only 40 minutes across the Andaman Sea, Ranong is very close to the Burmese border and therefore sees an influx of its people. The Marist sixth years spent their time at the camp teaching the children, aged nine to 17 years old, simple English.

With some preparation and training before they went, the young teachers taught the kids English using their own methods while focusing on topics they were given.

Jordan O'Donoghue was very happy with the response they got from the children. 'I enjoyed how much they wanted to learn. You were famous over there and got asked for autographs.'

The admiration didn't stop in Thailand either. Through Facebook, the children have been able to keep in contact with their temporary teachers and message them to say how much they miss them.

A unanimous 'yes' was heard when asked if they would consider returning to Ranong.

During the rest of their trip, the students visited Bangkok, a nine-hour bus journey from Ranong, to see the temples. They also enjoyed some of the local transport, with Shane Rice admitting that 'Tuk Tuks' - a three-wheeled taxi similar to rickshaws - are now his favourite method of travelling, while the others laughed and described them as deathtraps.

A trip to nearby Burma had also been planned but an uncertainty about whether or not they would be allowed back to Thailand prevented them from going.

Amongst the differences of food and transport, there was also a polar opposite in what the Thai people considered beautiful.

Karen O'Rourke explained that they were fascinated by her white skin and used beauty products with whitening to make them more pale - quite a difference to using fake tan to be darker.

The students were also fascinated with the weather, seeing rain 'like bullets falling from the sky' that disappeared a half an hour later with the heat, not even leaving puddles. Father Jimmy pointed out that an amusing nickname for Ranong is 'Rain-on' due to the tempermental rain.

The money for the trip was raised individually using fundraisers like table quizzes and calendars. The group also brought over a donation of more than €2,000 to help with the schools and an AIDS programme run by the Mission. According to the students, this will go a long way.

The trip to the MMR is an annual expedition for Marist sixth years and has been running for seven years.

The Argus

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