Report from Wenzao International Service Learning Association（WISLA）
How large the poverty gap in the world is! Not only the material life standard but also the educational resources are unequal to each other, in reality, it is doubtful that the poverty gap can ever really be equal. However, with the phenomenon that the rich become more rich, and the poor become poorer it means the rich can never find the feeling of satisfaction, while the poor can only find the hollow in their heart, because they can’t find even a flash of hope. Modern people like us are eager to search for an answer inside our heart.
Globalization takes the whole world as one and respects multi-culture all around the world. This concept, which can also be understood as “unity in diversity” is referred to constantly, during the course of human development which I am teaching under the heading of “Characteristics of A Global Citizen” but this remains only theory, just like talking nonsense, unless something concrete is done about it.. In my heart, I desire that all Wenzaorians can have deep feeling inside their heart as well, and if this is going to be workable, there’s only one way – practice - just do it!
On 6th March, 2007, the Wenzao International Service Learning Association （WISLA）was established. Eventually, seven students have participated in a Culture and Education Program in northern Thailand this year. Training two hours a week for four months, included communication skills, mandarin, computer practice, group activity, story telling, fundamental English, international ceremony, and so on. Finally on 5th July, WISLA took over the responsibility for a program, teaching culture and education for a month both in the Chinese district of northern Thailand at Yu-Ying Junior School located in Chang-Liang village and Xian-Hua primary school located in Meng-Na village under the auspices of Caritas-Taiwan. There are 356 students and twelve teachers at Yu-Ying, 52 students and four teachers at Xian-Hua. Because they are so short of educational resources, it is not easy to hire teachers for these schools. Most of the teachers only graduated from junior high or even elementary school, while only a few of them graduated from senior high school. Some of the teachers do not have national identification which means they cannot go outside the country for further training. Under this kind of situation, they really need somebody who has a teaching certification from overseas to open a teacher qualification program at their school, but due to the shortage of certificated staff and long distances, they cannot reach the standard to open the program in these two schools. Because of this, Wenzao had the opportunity to take over the work of teaching them in culture and education. Although our abilities were not very professional, these two schools, no matter whether teachers or students, were all happy with our services, and our volunteer students did learn a lot too.
Training courses for the Teacher Qualified Course went from 9：00 to 12：00 in the morning for three periods, and from 18：30 to 20：30 for students in the evenings. During the evening periods the volunteers went to every class teaching students mandarin, math, English, computer, and so on. In the afternoons, as well as preparing their lessons, sometimes they went to students’ houses to understand their living situation. Volunteers were short of everything in school. There is no library in the schools our volunteers went to. Teachers and students only had twenty different Chinese dictionaries for reference, and students only had Taiwan edition textbooks which have to be reused every year. Their way of studying Chinese is simply reading the textbook word by word. They do not have English lessons for lack of English teachers. Facilities are quite simple in the schools; they only have three single-tube fluorescent lights with 20 watts in every classroom. Furthermore, because Chinese classes are taught at night time, the teachers and students are already accustomed to walk around the school in the dark. For volunteer students, this was really a different and special experience for them. We were all touched by seeing them in this kind of unhelpful situation but still trying their best to keep on learning seriously and respecting their teachers and honoring their teaching.
A most important aspect of the month-long culture and education service in northern Thailand is the self-training for the volunteer students themselves, so one and half hour’s daily reflection was considered an essential task. Volunteer students needed to make self-reflection to see what they had learned and what needed to be improved. Group reflection was made after that, to see what was the life significance in the experience and how our self-behavior changed as a result of the daily events. Sharing among the volunteer students helped them to learn how important it is to listen to the different voices of others. They learned how to become concerned about others and make dynamic self-reflection. They learned how to be humble and respect others in different cultures and life styles. The biggest harvest for them this time was how to present themselves professionally in public. To live with people in the village for one month, experiencing a life of no TV, no cell phone, no internet even no soft drinks was pleasant in some way. Of course, they also learned such a spirit and attitude needed to be maintained.
We were able to work the program of culture and education service in northern Thailand this year because of financial help from the Excellence Project in Wenzao Ursuline College as well as from the National Youth commission of the Executive Yuan and generous gifts from Sisters and others. This support from school and the contributions from society enabled us to set up a simple computer room （but no Internet） and small library with more than 1,000 books. Along with this activity, volunteer students could learn how to lead a simple life, to respect the differences between cultures, to cultivate a dedicated mind-set and to enrich their global vision. The most important thing was that this activity inspired their vocation and responsibility to international society, and made them awaken to the reality that they are a part of global culture and civilization.
It is impossible to solve the disparity in distribution of resources at world level, certainly in the short term. However, making a start with understanding and respect between person and person at the most ordinary level will help to eliminate differences in advantages and race. Authentic sharing in a different country, race, culture and lifestyle witnesses to selfless love from the depths of the human heart. Such was the experience of the members of Wenzao International Service Learning Association from day to day in Northern Thailand.