While most school students spent their holidays relaxing, 21 boys from the Armidale School put their hand up to work with orphans, HIV sufferers and leprosy sufferers overseas.
Twelve boys and a similar number from New England Girls’ School and PLC Armidale re-tiled dormitories, repaired pushbikes and entertain children at St Christopher’s Orphanage in Fiji, whilst a group from the three schools including nine TAS boys volunteered at the Agape AIDS Orphanage and the McKean Rehabilitation Centre for Leprosy sufferers, both near Chiang Mai in Thailand.
“This work was important for the Sisters as we were completing jobs they simply didn’t have the time or money to complete. As for the children, we were repairing their major facilities, as well as creating a child friendly environment with push bikes available to ride at any time,” said Jack Berry from Rowena.
“The main thing I have taken from this trip is that we are so fortunate to have what we do. Every little thing that these children have they adore, they don’t whinge and wish they had more, they simply cherish it. The final thing I took away from the trip is that even when these kids are experiencing the worst, they are happy and full of hope.”
Charlie Wyatt felt a similar experience in Thailand, where his group did manual work at both institutions and forged bonds with the residents.
“Many times throughout the week we had a stab of realization that most of the kids were orphans and were living with HIV. This experience was a real eye-opener. We were expecting to help and change the orphanage; while we did make a difference, the biggest change was within us,” he said.
At the McKean Centre for Leprosy, the group weeded gardens, made compost of elephant excrement and were inspired by the story of residents.
“Some had arrived from the war-stricken Burma with severe burns and injuries, others had been outcast from their own families for having leprosy – but at the centre, they were loved and treated for,” said.
These experiences allow me to look at the greater world and appreciate the little things in life and how much family means to me. It also shows that those with few materialistic possessions are also overwhelmingly happy.”
The two service trips are offered annually to senior TAS students as part of the school’s Leadership, Service and Adventure program.