The girls’ first task was to raise a minimum of £500 each in sponsorship, which they did through a variety of fundraising events that included cake sales, quizzes, a professional ballet workshop and a 24-hour relay on the School running track.
Once in Thailand the girls worked with disadvantaged children through several local centres and projects, under the auspices of the Thai Children’s Trust. Their first experience involved holding English language conversation classes with orphans and children with disabilities and special needs at the Father Ray Foundation. Father Ray Brennan, an American priest who died in 2003, set up his children’s refuge in the 1970s with the motto ‘We never turn a needy child away’.
Next stop for the girls was the Pattaya Orphanage, where children from four days old are looked after until they can be adopted. After this they visited the Children’s Home where they led dance and crafts classes and also donated 222 pairs of pants – as there is a severe shortage of underwear. They then took a party of blind children to the seaside, as well as spending time with children who are deaf or HIV positive.
Fiona Morris, who teaches geography at Mayfield, has organised the annual trip to Thailand since its inception in 2012. She accompanied the girls along with head of maths Alison Pullinger.
“As always I was very impressed and touched by the girls’ compassion and humility,” says Fiona. “They even chose to give up their two afternoons of leisure time to do extra work with the children. They are great role models and ambassadors for the school. I believe they learnt a lot about thinking on their feet and discovered in themselves some hidden talents and depths of character. There was never a cross word between them.”
As well as their voluntary work, the party raised over £3000, which will be distributed by the Thai Children’s Trust. The girls will choose which projects the money will go to.
Their reaction to the trip was universally positive:
“Thank you for the best 16 days’ experience I have ever had. I’ve loved every minute.”
“What an incredible trip. I feel very lucky to have had such an amazing experience.”
“I will never forget these weeks.”
“This amazing trip has opened my eyes to things I had not seen before.”
“I cannot thank you enough for such an incredible, life-changing experience.”