By Simone Kaho
Our first day at the school is with the special needs children. Gail takes the children through a morning yoga session. Izzy is practically boggling with excitement to meet the kids and within a few minutes of sitting down Anna has a young girl in her lap. Before the class we all dance around to the most popular song in Thailand at the moment. Ingrid talks me through some of the lyrics - ‘We are a TAXI driver, we are going to meet our girlfriend, washing our clothes… ‘
The kids are unfettered and open. They smile on eye contact. ’We teach applied learning here’ says Ingrid, ‘Something that isn’t provided in Thai schools, and we teach with love’. I see a young man hanging around the neck of the teacher Pee Pa who smiles and walks with him around the room, gently disengaging him when it’s time to teach.
In the yoga class the kids show commitment and a beautiful stillness during the meditation. Some kids in the class move through stances confidently, and most kids attempt. I watch one young man with Down’s syndrome do a very good Downward Dog and think about the benefits I’m getting from yoga coming to these kids as well. More focus, more self awareness, a body that moves more easily. We end up in a circle holding hands. Pee Pa walks around ringing a bell, then sits in the middle of the circle.
Garfield, a small adorable boy who has spend the morning barely containing his excitement at having new people to charm, is fascinated by the bell. He has hearing trouble and signs instead of speaking. Peacefulness falls on our circle, then rises.
A girl with Down’s syndrome called Eve and I smile at each shyly. Later she makes a heart shape with her finger tips, and holds up her paint covered gloves for me to take a photo.
Today the class is going to make sellable art. Ingrid shows me the postcards the children make, they are otherworldly drifting colours and shapes. Very on trend and buyable.
We stir some oil paints and then sit outside to make art. Frame is the informal leader our session, she is meticulous, both in her handling of paint and materials and the way she looks after
everyone, including us volunteers.
Frame is 15, but has the learning age of 9-year-old. She wouldn’t have been accepted into high school, so at TCDF school she can continue studying and learning applied skills. Frame is involved in many projects at Eco Logic, including printing T shirts and baking cakes. ‘Everything she does is done perfectly’ says her teacher.
She puts an apron on me and one on Garfield. We sit outside, dripping paint into a container of water and then ever so gently laying a piece of white paper across the surface. Frame has a toolset of techniques to create different effects, blowing to create the drifting feel and tapping to make bubbles. She makes sure everyone has a turn, including Izzy and I.
Eve watches happily, dripping oil occasionally and happy to share turns. Garfield brings a board for Frame to lay the swirling pictures on and takes them out to dry in a line in the sun, carefully placing the pictures face upwards with a stone keeping each one in place.
Someone puts on late 90’s techno hits and the fun starts. Garfield, it turns out, dances just like a grandad at a wedding. A funky grandad. We create a production line, dripping colours in the water, blowing, casting, tenderly carrying the art to dry in the sun. Gail has come to work with us and we are all dancing as we work.
I accidentally push record on my camera and catch myself on video complaining that I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much and it hurts my face. Inside Anna is happily cutting out and gluing the postcards with another crew.
The next day, Saturday, we spend time with the village children’s class. They come in once a week for English classes, music and applied skills. Class starts the same way, with yoga, and once again the children show an usual focus and calm.
I’m touched to see the kids brushing hair out of the younger ones faces and helping each other respond in English to Pee Pa’s questions. ‘Thai kids are raised to look after each other’ Ingrid tells me. We break into two groups; the young ones led by Izzy, who does a stella job with a set of vegetable and fruit cards. Anna and Gail take the other, older group, through sentences. The kids are attentive and afterwards chorus ‘Thank you teacher’. That afternoon the girls dance for hours and play games with the kids while the school band, led by Pee Pa, practise for a performance.
That evening the school band perform in the living room. The band kids have style, they have attitude, they can sing in tune, they solve the problem of what music to put behind the video I’m making with the footage I shot. We dance, of course. Watching the living room restaurant from the hills you’d see several pairs of hardworking yoga-toned arms swaying in the air with abandon.
More blogs to follow....
More information on Eco-Logic, Retreat for Charity and the yoga arrangement we offer can be found here.
With your stay you will support the projects of the Thai Child Development Foundation directly.
DO GOOD, FEEL GOOD!