Photos & video provided by Jayna Milan. View more of her work at jaynamilan.com.
It takes three hours to hike to the small village of Maeramit, nestled in the hills of Omgoi District in Chiang Mai Province, and three hours to return. The students and staff who formed the Maeramit Development Group (MDG) have made that trek eight times, and though the journey may be physically tiring, it is also uplifting. Through their experiences, they have permanently impacted the small community, and in turn it has transformed them.
The MDG was intended to simply be a service project, one that fulfilled the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) component of the IB Diploma Programme. Identifying Maeramit as a village in need, the students and staff who launched the project decided to implement the 5-stage model of service learning, a model that is used by NGOs worldwide in combating poverty and other social issues. Shortly after their first trip in 2013, they realized that they could make a far greater impact than simply donating supplies.
Working hand-in-hand with the locals, the MDG identified five major developmental goals: providing a safe source of drinking water, improving sanitation and hygiene, promoting safe waste disposal, increasing education levels, and increasing agricultural opportunities. Each goal shared a singular purpose: making positive, sustainable changes in the lives of the villagers.
What they did not expect was the changes that occurred within themselves.
The members of the MDG use different words to describe their experiences over the past year and a half, but the spirit is the same. Each has bonded with members of the village, establishing connections that they would never have experienced otherwise. Since that first visit, they have raised hundreds of thousands of Thai baht to fund the project, labored to build bathrooms and water tanks, provided educational supplies, taught and learned from the village elders…and played with the children.
The joy in their faces says it all.