Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kids' Guernica in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand

Ban Huay Bong Primary School

Sunshine Kids Center
Sunshine Kids Center
Sunshine Kids Center
Sunshine Kids Center
Ban Luang School

In February, 2015, three days Kids’ Guernica workshops were organized at two schools in Chiang Mai and one early childhood literacy center for hill tribe children in Chiang Rai Provinces, Thailand.  Going about a hundred kilometers north from Chiang Mai City, the center of northern Thailand, there is a non profit organization, Always Reading Caravan(ARC), which runs a community library, named Rang Mai Library, in Phrao District, Chiang Mai.  Ms. Yoshimi Horiuchi, ARC Founder and Director, started this library project to deliver joy of reading readers can find any opportunities of windows towards the world through reading.  Based in Phrao, the Rang Mai Library, regularly deliver joy of reading to those who live in mountainous areas and have had lesser opportunity of reading by mobile library, 43 kids from those schools participated in this workshop.  

Feb 23, 2015
20 students from Ban Luang School, Phrao District, Chiang Mai.

From fifth grade of primary to third grade of junior high school students discussed together what they wanted to design and then started sketching with chalk in the morning.  Around 4pm, they managed to finish painting.

“Have you ever heard of Picasso?”  Asked them the question, their hands raised very little.  However, students were so excited with the news that their canvas was going to be exhibited in Brussels, Belgium, Calabria, Italy and Bali, Indonesia, even though they cannot travel with the canvas. 

Trying to think of what to paint under the theme of “peace”, at first, they came up with an idea of friendship between Thailand and Japan as they welcomed us from Japan.  Trying to avoid stereotyped image of peace, we asked the students about their daily life in Phrao with those question; “When you feel peace?  What kind of environment Phrao has?  How do you spend time with your family and friends?”

The students painted the orchard of longan, typical landscape of Phrao and sky lanterns above a golden pagoda, which is one of beautiful night spectacle of festivals in Thailand.
They also painted traditional dresses of Thailand and Japan to represent two countries friendship.  For the images such as Japanese kimono, which they wanted to sketch but that’s what was not so familiar with, they made sure of it through internet and discussed each other from projected images onto a screen.  Some students tried to elaborate their coloring techniques and effects and seemed that they wanted to continue for the better.  Some lower grades students were missing joyful time of reading because mobile library did not came that day due to this workshop.

Feb 24, 2015
7 kids of Sunshine Kids Center, Siplang Village, Chiangrai.

The Sunshine Kids Center, the early childhood learning center for Akha children was located in where the hill tribe lives in mountainous villages over off-roads, two hours from Phrao.  3 to 6 years old kids study basic Thai language at the center made of mad brick among the raised-floor houses on a mountain slope.  They welcomed us with Akha and Thai songs.  Interpreted Thai into Akha by Akha teacher, Mrs. Nalae, it was first time for kids to paint by acrylic colors and paintbrush.  So they painted what they want such as flowers and own portrait on the same canvas that the students from Ban Luang School painted previous day.  They enjoyed their first workshop experience with excitement until lunch time.
ARC has been playing another important role in this area that is to set up those the early childhood learning centers for hill tribe children such as Akha and Lisu whose mother tongue is different from Thai.  For those children, the opportunity of learning basic Thai skills to prepare them for primary school is important so that they won’t be left behind in their classes from other students those who grown up in Thai spoken home as this gap seriously affects the opportunity of higher education and the choices of careers in their future, too.

Feb 25, 2015
16 second grade students of Ban Huay Bong Primary School in Phrao District, Chiang Mai.

Among the foots and mountainous area, handed over the baton of canvas from the workshops previous days to another school on the foot, the students of Ban Huay Bong School painted field landscapes of their everyday life in 90 minutes workshop in the afternoon.  Mr. Akihiko Fujii, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai also observed our workshop during his visit to the ARC.  There was a happening that some kids didn’t know our national flag of Japan and they signed on the flag painted for the symbol of friendship two days ago.  
On the way back from Siplang, we visited a Lisu tribe village where they were making mud brick as ARC and this village were going to construct third early childhood learning centers for hill tribe children.  The team leader for mud brick making was a volunteer from Spain.  To sustain their non-profit project in the communities, ARC also runs Move Lanna project, which is coordinating volunteers from all over the world to local NGOs and smaller projects in the north of Thailand. 
Peace is not built in a day.  The steady efforts from those communities through the social interaction has been paving our way for the peace and our future.

Lastly, we would like to express our gratitude to all teachers and students for the heartwarming welcome and participation, and our most grateful to Ms. Horiuchi, Ms. Pin, Ms. Bum and other staffs of Always Reading Caravan for such wonderful coordination in really short time preparation with the support of Mr. Nong and Mr. Jiang for kind transportation service, and also our big thanks to Ms. Noda from Chiang Mai University for the cheerful support during her exchange students term even in our first contact.

For more detail about ARC and Move Lanna for volunteers’ activities, please visit their website;

Always Reading Caravan

Move Lanna