The Macclesfield Academy Students Complete Expedition to Thailand

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1st Aug 2023

This summer, after over a year of preparation, fundraising and ever building excitement, staff and students from The Macclesfield Academy completed a three week expedition to Thailand, as volunteers with GVI (Global Vision International).

Focussed on contributing to solutions for critical global issues, from wildlife and community conservation to habitats and ecosystems, volunteering on a GVI programme has been an invaluable experience for our students, affording them the opportunity to challenge, develop and enrich their skill set as young people preparing for life beyond secondary education.  

The trip was filled with first time experiences for our students, who threw themselves into living like the locals; staying in houses that sat as wooden structures on stilts and following the local custom of sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Cold showers and squat toilets steadily became the norm. 

During their first week in Thailand, students were exposed to fantastic opportunities to work with local wildlife, from data collection on elephants to bird watching, their understanding of indigenous animals solidified through individual presentations and further debates on trophy hunting.  

Part of their experience also involved learning how to plant rice in paddy fields, resulting in a number of rice beds being filled from their efforts. From the paddy fields, the group went on to the GVI base where they were introduced to 'eco bricks' - these being plastic water bottles filled with plastic waste and then used to build walls. The village where GVI are based was badly hit by the tsunami of 2004, resulting in the loss of 60% of the population. The team were shown around the village and while the villagers led a very simple life, it was promising to see that businesses were flourishing.

While days were filled with wonder and hard graft, evenings offered opportunities for team building through games and activities, learning the local language; Pakinyaw, and having a go at making Karen Tribe jewellery.The first nine days for the Thailand Team were drawn to a close with an evening spent camping in the mountains and eating amazing food cooked on a campfire. To this point, the expedition had been sensational, staff and students alike in awe of the spectacular scenery and wonderful welcome afforded to them by local villagers.

During the second half of their programme, the team volunteered at the Royal Thai Navy Base, where they were able to learn about turtle conservation from the impact of a successful conservation centre set up there. Their first day there happened to be the King's birthday and so they were lucky enough to observe the release of 72 turtles, described by Mrs Lucas as "a spectacle to watch and take part in."

Working in two groups, students teamed up to wash each turtle and treat them with antiseptic before returning them to their tank, which they had also cleaned. After spending a few days working at the conservation centre, students gathered into four groups for a debate on the work that is carried out, with some very interesting arguments for and against based on what they had seen and learnt. 

Weaved throughout their time in Thailand were various opportunities for our students to see some amazing sights and embrace experiences far beyond those available in the locale of Macclesfield. Trips included visits to temples, a boat safari which allowed the group to see monkeys in their natural habitat and even a walk with a medicine man. Students also experienced the martial art; Muay Thai, hiked to a cave in the rainforest, kayaked and swam in a lake and even had a go at bamboo rafting! 

As the expedition came to a close, the team, having spent weeks eating variations of rice and noodle dishes (mango and sticky rice being a firm favourite), were thrilled to visit a tiny shack in the village for ice cream and explore local markets, applying their increased confidence in using the local currency. The journey to a 7/11 (a mini supermarket) also caused quite the stir of excitement. 

After three weeks of travelling and inspiring experiences, arrival back at The Macclesfield Academy was made special by the greeting of cheering families - hugs and tears a plenty.

We are incredibly proud of our young people who spent months fundraising for their trip and embraced the opportunity to become active citizens. Their expedition has provided a treasure trove of memories to keep and share and just maybe, the seed for further travel is sown.