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Morgan residents leave lasting legacy in Thailand

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Three Morgan residents joined 16 other students from Weber State University on the trip of a lifetime as they toured Thailand in hopes of helping build education in the developing country.  On Feb. 5, the group traveled for 31 hours to reach the beautiful area of Phuket, Thailand.
Sam Taylor, a network technology management student and Morgan resident, traveled with the group to aid with computer infrastructures. His wife, Nikki, joined the group.  Although not a WSU student, Nikki found opportunities to help serve.  Kristy McClellan, a business multimedia major, traveled to the far-off country to offer her talents in producing a documentary to support the area.
The group visited Rachaprachnukroh School in Kamala School in Phuket. This is one of three schools that is lucky enough to be part of  the Phuket is Good to us Foundation.   This foundation has brought native English speakers to teach English to the children of Thailand.  Learning English is critical to being able to advance out of poverty, which has been amplified after the tsunami of 2004.   With a command of the English language, graduates will be able to rise up in the tourism market, Thailand’s primary source of income.
McClellan and three other students were part of the video team.  They spent time interviewing students and teachers and filming classrooms and other aspects of life at the school.  The team filmed hours of footage to piece together an informational film about the school, its needs and how people can help.
Sam and the other students who were not involved in filming helped set up 15 tablets donated by Weber State.  They loaded the new tablets with learning games, and ensured the computer network was prepared to handle the devices as well as the other needs of the school.
Over 175 of the students are considered orphans and spend their entire time at the school with little opportunity to leave the grounds.   A program called Coconut Club gives these children extra experiences outside of school time.  Students can participate in crafts and activities for two hours after school and on Saturdays.
The program offers everything from jumping rope to sidewalk chalk to help enrich these children’s lives as well as give them something to occupy their time when they are not in class and their classmates are at home with their families. This also gives them extra time to practice their English.
Two of the days the Weber State students were at the school they helped lead Coconut Club.  They taught line dancing, made paper flowers, played soccer and had fun together.
McClellan loved spending this time with the children.  Her heart especially went out to these children who didn’t have families and could rarely leave the school grounds.  She explained that you can see the ocean from the school.  However, without payment for adult supervision, even this nearby landmark is out of reach for these children.  The Coconut Club gathers donations for simple activities on school grounds and for fieldtrips to the ocean and other nearby areas.
“You want to give them so much when you see what little they have,” McClellan explained.
“I wanted to offer them the things that I have,” Nikki said.  As a spouse, Nikki focused primarily on the Coconut Club. The cost is only $280 to sponsor a child for an entire year.
When the Weber State students were not filming, working with computer systems or helping the children, they were able to experience much of the beauty and excitement of Thailand.
The group rode elephants; took a bamboo raft ride down a river; rode in an ox cart to remote villages; visited a Buddhist temple, where they were blessed by a Buddhist monk; visited the Tiger Kingdom, where they played with tigers inside cages; watched as elephants painted pictures of trees and other elephants (seriously!); went on a night safari, where they saw some amazing animals; took a speedboat in the ocean and visited other Islands including Monkey Island; went snorkeling; and many more adventures.
“It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen,” McClellan said of visiting these remote destinations.
After they left Phuket, they traveled to Chiang Mai, where they met with students and Narong Chavasint, president and founder of North-Chiang Mai University, along with his advisor Dr. Vivat Sethachuay.  They were met at the airport with banners, leis and a warm welcome from the students of North-Chiang Mai University.
This left a lasting impression on McClellan, who was given the Thai name of Mali, which means Jasmine.  The group enjoyed meeting these college students taking classes on the other side of the world.
Sam and classmates analyzed the school’s network infrastructure.  They were able to make recommendations to aid the school.
McClellan and the others on the video team filmed as the Chiang Mai students dressed the rest of the Weber State students in traditional Thai clothing and taught them some traditional dancing.
Nikki taught these students American line dancing. “It’s my passion, so I had a blast!” she said.  This special moment brought together two different cultures in a fun evening.
Representatives from North Chiang Mai University and Weber State University discussed forging an ongoing relationship between the two schools.  Weber State will also produce a documentary they can use to promote their university.
One of the advisors from the school arranged for two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to show the Weber State students the area.  They visited a butterfly garden, botanical garden and snake show.  When McClellan initially heard about the snake show, she pictured an auditorium.  However, she was surprised to find the show was held in a small room.  There the students got up close with a variety of snakes.
When the trip was over, McClellan hated to leave the beautiful country and loving children, but was eager to return to her husband and four sons.  Nikki, on the other hand, would have loved to stay.  “I bawled when I left,” Nikki said.
They came back with memories, school credit and real-life application that is hard to duplicate in a classroom.
“There are a lot of good causes around the world, and if you get a chance, find a way to participate,” Sam encouraged.
Visit phukethasbeengoodtous.org to learn more about the foundation and to learn how you can donate.

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