Students, colleges and businesses increasingly want to show their relevance and positive contributions to helping communities in need across Asia. The challenge is for them to do it sustainably, in a way that brings meaningful results for both schools and villages in need.
Picture a scene where the villagers, say in Cambodia, are asked what kind of community development they need most. This could be health care, water supplies, sanitation, housing, education, community infrastructure, capacity building, even sports coaching. On the environmental conservation side it could be reforestation, re-greening projects, wildlife conservation, or animal rescue.
The challenge is then to match those needs with a proactive international school, college or business in Hong Kong or across Asia, especially if it’s a college where community development or comparative culture studies are part of the curriculum. It’s even better when participating in a community development project in a managed and structured way counts towards end-of-year exam grades. Making these projects relavent to students is key.
This is why GROUND was created – to make the community development projects a reality – and to match those basic community needs with proactive colleges in affluent countries.
After consulting with a community about what their needs are – we’re talking school facilities, environmental conservation, health care, water supplies and so on, not a bunch of iPads – the college or business in the affluent donor country typically raises funds.
GROUND will then create a program or itinerary for the college students in consultation with the host community, college teachers and administrators.
Over the years, we’ve found that a successful community development trip should include cultural orientation, educational lessons, and some traveling in the destination in order for students to see the bigger picture of the country. Yes it’s community development, but it’s development that is linked to educational travel that broadens horizons.
The core of the trip is the hands-on constructive work in the village. This may mean building classrooms, helping with a community health project, improving sanitation facilities, planting trees, and so on.
During the trip the students are typically asked to reflect on what the have seen and done, how circumstances on the ground varied from their pre-trip perceptions and what personal lessons they have learned. We encourage thoughtful interaction between the host community and the students.
After the trip, GROUND encourages the students to keep in touch with the project and will continue to work with the villagers and invite other international colleges and businesses to contribute to the project. We don’t want to leave the village in the lurch, since the core idea is sustainable community development.
The idea for GROUND came after Khiri Travel (GROUND’s sister company) successfully handled trips for student group for 10 years. These included experiences in Cambodia for the American Youth Leadership Program, programs in northern Thailand for international schools in Singapore, and BISJ students visiting the Mekong Delta, and more. Each trip had a strong community development, cultural exchange and learning element. Satisfaction levels on all sides were high. We saw the potential.
GROUND now taps into all that understanding and has honed the travel and community development experience to strengthen leadership skills, build resilience, and teach cross-cultural understanding.
The full range of GROUND’s projects and services can be seen online at GROUNDasia.com, including testimonials.
GROUND is a member of the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation and will participate in the confederation’s conference in Belgrade in September.
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