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Going the distance for children in need

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: When I started writing the Blazing Saddles column two years ago, I had no idea of the eventful journey upon which it would take me. My two-wheeled companion has led me into many fascinating corners of the Andaman region; none more so than when I found myself a guest of Yaowawit School for underprivileged kids near the small town of Kapong in Phang Nga province last month.

I’d gone there to learn more about the wonderful work they do, helping and teaching less fortunate kids, and also to explore the local cycling options they offer to visitors who stay with them in their guest quarters.

Beautiful Cycling Country

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Kapong is a traditional village influenced by Chinese culture and rooted in Buddhism, having two temples whose monks support Yaowawit School by teaching the children meditation and sometimes accompanying them on trips.

There are several waterfalls nearby, as well as some famous hot springs. The cycling opportunities are glorious, with quiet, traffic-free riverside trails, local markets and abundant unspoiled rain forest and wildlife – the perfect antidote to hectic Phuket.

Yaowawit School itself is situated in a fruit orchard five kilometers from Kapong village. The surrounding fertile land supplies much of Thailand with mangosteen, durian, rambutan and other kinds of fruit. The beauty of the countryside, with its tropical forests, green hills, lakes and rivers, makes it an ideal location for cycling.

Yaowawit School

Yaowawit School is a government-approved boarding school for children from underprivileged families. It was initially founded to help children who were the victims of the 2004 tsunami.

Over the years, the school has expanded its mission and goals to help children who have suffered from poverty and abuse. Some of the children are orphans, while others were simply left uncared for, abandoned and exposed to violence, prostitution and even human trafficking.

The central ethos of Yaowawit School is to give kids who’ve had such a raw deal at the start of their lives empowerment through a practical education, so that they can gain the skills and the knowledge needed to get a job, or to continue their education on a higher level.

Founder and Management

Yaowawit School was founded by German philanthropist Philipp Graf von Hardenberg, an entrepreneur who is involved in many honorary educational projects, as well as managing both private and boarding schools, such as Steven Spielberg’s “Shoah Foundation” in Germany.

He was recently appointed president and CEO of Thanyapura Phuket – a sports and education complex in Thalang.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn opened the school in April 2006 for 80 children. Today, Yaowawit is home to 120 children from different isolated areas in Southern Thailand, ranging in age from three to 18 years old. These kids have had no access to education, health care or proper accommodation, and most of them have been subjected to abandonment and abuse.

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A School and a Home

Yaowawit aims to provide skills-based education and teach traditional human values. As soon as I arrived, I realized that they’d succeeded in creating an inspiring and motivating environment to help the children achieve their individual goals in a playful and professional way.

Thailand’s rich cultural heritage is also part of the curriculum. The school has its own theater which is used for Thai music, dance and presentations. It also has its own temple for daily meditation, and through the international volunteers and guests who work with the school, students are introduced to the traditions and values of other cultures as well.

Another thing that impressed me was that the school has been highly proactive in generating funding through its own visitors’ lodge, organic farm produce and other social enterprises.

Yaowawit is a happy, fun-filled sanctuary, which most importantly, gives children a place to call home where they have friends and can play and learn with dedicated teachers who give them the best education possible, and with international volunteers from whom they can learn English.

Cycling to Support Yaowawit’s Children

I was so impressed with my visit that I’ve decided to cycle from Bangkok to Phuket from December 6 to 14 to raise funds for Yaowawit School.

Please drop me a line at baz_gunner2000@yahoo.com.au to let me know if you are supporting the kids at Yaowawit. You will be helping a wonderful cause and providing me with the motivation to keep pushing my pedals for the 800-plus kilometers from Bangkok to Phuket in December.

For more information, visit: www.yaowawit.com

— Baz Daniel

 

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