School Test

Moving Schools Project: Week Two on Site:


After managing to put in the first foundation post at the end of last week, our determined and energetic volunteers worked through the weekend and managed to fix three further foundation posts on site. The team worked through heavy rain, attempting to remove water from the foundation holes before they filled up with new rain water. It was great to see their clear understanding of the tasks, each volunteer knew their role and worked together as a team to construct the foundation posts in a quick and efficient manner.

Placing first tyre into Foundation hole
Placing first tyre into Foundation hole

It takes a great deal of patience and careful orientation to place the truck tyres into the foundation holes. The wires which can be seen in image above plot out the central line of the foundation post. It is very important that the wires remain in the correct place to ensure we have an accurate measurement across the school grid.

Finished foot foundation post


On the last day, many of the school students helped out the volunteers to carry gravel to the holes. It was great to see the kids excited about the school project and get involved in lending a hand on site.

We were very sad to loose nine of our volunteers on Tuesday, as they returned to Hong Kong for their Summer break. Ashley, Airi, Stephanie, Charity, Chung, David, Hin, Nicholas and Jim made an incredible impact on the school site and we are very grateful for the help they offered over the last month. Thankfully, Jim will remain with us for another month and our UK volunteers Claire, Ben and Mark will continue to help out over the next week.

HK Volunteers
HK Volunteers

As we awaited recruitment of new volunteers to assist with the foundation posts and with a day of continuous heavy rain the remaining volunteers spent Wednesday at the Global Neighbors workshop. The workshop team had managed to drill all the required holes in the steel and cut to the correct dimensions to allow us to assemble the first classroom module. With great excitement the team assembled the steel construction simply slotting the steel plates in place and bolting together.

Fixing steel components together
Fixing steel components together

It was very exciting to see the pieces come together and gain a real understanding of the size and scale of one school classroom module. It was also very reassuring to know that in no time at all the unit was assembled.

Steel frame
Steel frame

We had the great opportunity to finally see how the bamboo wall panels which the G’yaw G’yaw workers made a few weeks ago would sit inside the steel frame. The frame slotted inside the frame perfectly and the combination of the dark metal steel frame looked fantastic next to the natural bamboo wall panel.  We cannot wait to see how one fully assembled unit with full wall panels, flooring and roof will look very soon.

Bamboo wall panel and Steel frame
Bamboo wall panel and Steel frame


Now that we have tested the first module we can confirm all dimensions with the workshop and order steel for the ten classroom modules. Over the next few weeks the apprentices at the workshop will be plotting, marking out and drilling many holes to create the final steel frame structure. The steel will be brought to the school and assembled on site. In the meantime, there is lots of painting to be done!

Painting foundation feet
Painting foundation feet

HOME Competition Deadline – 1 week to go!

HOME Competition
HOME Competition

There are now only 6 days left to register for the latest Building Trust International Open Design Competition.The competition entitled ‘HOME’ will look into designing affordable, single occupancy housing for the increasing numbers of young and elderly people affected by poverty.


The aim of this competition is to:

– Design a quality, low cost home that will tackle issues of homelessness and homes for the elderly in our society;

– Encourage and reward design excellence at a small scale which integrates function, structure, details and the need for shelter;

– Research, respond to and highlight the unique aspects of designing a home with the constraints of a low budget on an urban site.

– Encourage the employment of sustainable design in all aspects of the proposal and foster understanding of the impacts of housing trends on people’s health and well-being.


This is a single stage competition with the aim of identifying the most appropriate proposal, which best satisfies the general and specific objectives of the contest.


The challenge is to design an affordable home for an individual. The profile of these users is not defined within the brief “we’re leaving it up to you” but as a guide they could be the elderly, physically or mentally impaired or homeless and looking for the opportunity to stop the cycle of living in debt. Lack of provision of quality small scale housing stock in developed countries often means those that are most vulnerable in our society live in sub-standard living conditions. The HOME design competition hopes to shed light on this and open the doors to designers and house builders that want to make a difference.


HOME Competition welcomes designs that can be sited in an urban area in any of the countries from the list below:

Norway                                          Luxembourg                                      Israel
Australia                                          Singapore                                    Belgium

Netherlands                               Czech Republic                                     Austria

United States                            United Kingdom                                    France
New Zealand                                      Greece                                       Slovenia
Canada                                   United Arab Emirates                              Finland
Ireland                                               Cyprus                                           Spain
Liechtenstein                                     Andorra                                          Italy

Germany                                 Brunei Darussalam                               Portugal

Sweden                                              Estonia                                       Bahrain
Switzerland                                      Slovakia                                          Latvia
Japan                                                  Malta                                             Chile
Hong Kong                                         Qatar                                      Argentina
Iceland                                              Hungary                                       Croatia
South Korea                                      Poland                                      Barbados
Denmark                                          Lithuania


Once you have decided which area you would like to work in please find a site and situate your project. Building Trust want to know why you think the site could have the potential to offer a home. We understand that it may not be possible to find out every detail about a site i.e. cost, land ownership, etc. However, we do expect a certain level of study into the site conditions that may inform any design decision. It would of course be great if you can give more information regarding cost of land and ownership but it is not a marked criterion.


1 – Find a site: Within a city (pop100.000+) for example an in-fill site, a warehouse, redundant parking space(s), under transport infrastructure, on top of a building, etc… NB: If you would prefer to suggest a generic home solution, please skip stage 1.

2 – Research: Site and housing solutions (Think both inside + outside of the box)

3 – Test: develop and refine

4 – Propose


The design should be accessible and inclusive, you should display a sensitivity to the access needs of elderly and those with physical /mental impairments. Submissions can be the work of an individual or a group. There is no age limit. However, entrants under 18 years of age must be led or entered by someone over 18 year of age. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged to enter the competition.


Professional Category
1st prize: We will pursue funding and planning for the winning design.
There will also be 9 honourable mentions.

Student Category
1st prize: $500
There will also be 4 honourable mentions.


1st Prize, will be published in any subsequent magazine press as well as the Building Trust Website. There will also be a book that will be compiled of the best designs from the professional and student categories.


Competition officially announced – 1st April 2012
Final date for registration and fee payment – 30th June 2012
Closing date for submissions – 31st July 2012
Jury evaluation – 1st – 30th August 2012 
Announcement of Winners to be posted on –15th September 2012


All entry submissions must be sent via email to until 31st July 2012 at midnight (11:59 pm.GMT). Competitors will be responsible for the arrival of their proposals within the corresponding deadlines and no proposal will be received one day after the date previously stated.

If you or any or your friends/colleagues may be interested in the competition please do share with them the link to download the Competition brief:

But remember there are only 6 days left to register – Good Luck!


Breaking ground

On Saturday morning, David and myself met with Thu Kha Hang Sar Headmistress Chan Chan on the school site. After taking measurements of the current school buildings we were able to draw the buildings in CAD and place a render of the position of the new classroom buildings. We were then able to take Chan Chan through each aspect of the school design to ensure she fully understood the classroom layout. We discussed the use of colour within the building and Chan Chan told us how she would like to use the colours from the teaching staff’s uniform in the design. It was great to gain her ideas and thoughts on the design and we look forward to working alongside and implementing her ideas as we move forward together.

New classroom layout
New classroom layout

In order to understand the scale of size of the classroom we took some of the current pieces of school furniture and placed them outside within the plotted grid of the new classroom layout. This was a great way of allowing us to gain a clear understanding of how the classroom would look and feel inside. We found that the best layout for the chairs was in a horseshoe shape, allowing all students to see each other during a lesson and also allowing the teacher to have the ability to walk up and down the middle of the desks. It was important to Chan Chan and the teachers that we understood where the white boards would be positioned and where the school flagpole would be positioned. After reviewing the layout and materials to be used, we were happy and confident that Chan Chan was pleased with the school design and knew she was keen to start the building project. Not one to miss a photo op one of the teachers suggested that Chan Chan start  the first foundation hole.  We passed Chan Chan a shovel and led her to where the first foundation foot was to be dug.

Headmistress Chan Chan digs first foundation hole
Headmistress Chan Chan digs first foundation hole

With great excitement she placed a pair of gloves on, took the shovel and started digging. Soon afterwards the school teachers asked for gloves and tools and within an hour the Building Trust volunteers and School staff were getting stuck in and mud began flying everywhere. In the first afternoon, the team managed to make a great start on the foundations and slowly began to be able to visualise as to how the school would look. In the late afternoon, we had a surprise visit from the Head of the School Council who arrived with his wife and a much needed platter of jack fruit to feed to the volunteers and provided them with a much needed last boost of energy to keep them going until the early evening.

Volunteer Jim carries tyres onto site
Volunteer Jim carries tyres onto site

On Sunday, the volunteers arrived on site bright and early ready to start a full day of digging foundations. Over night the skys had opened and all of the holes that had already been dug and filled with three car tyres, were now full of water and in some holes a family of frogs!


We knew that building in rainy season would be a challenge and we were to find out over the next few days how much a challenge it would be. As David went to scout out more car tyres with Matt our cameraman, the volunteers continued to make progress digging foundations and emptying the holes off water and then filling with tyres. We were shocked to see David and Matt return a truck load full of truck tyres instead of car tyres. The original foundation plan was to place one truck tyre and two car tyres underneath the earth. However, David was to find out that a very kind local Thai lady would offer as many truck tyres as we needed for free. We therefore made the decision that it would be better for the school structure and cost that we place two truck tyres with one car tyre on top. This was great news, however meant the volunteers finished foundations were not quite finished as they now needed to be as wide as a truck tyre. The volunteers remained upbeat and split into groups with two widening the finished car tyre foundations and the further two groups starting new holes the width of a truck tyre.  David and Matt returned to the truck to collect a further 32 truck tyres!

We were sad to see our cameraman Matt leave on Sunday evening, however we knew he had to get back to his real job and looked forward to seeing more of the footage he had captured over his two week stint in Mae Sot.

Our camera man Matt
Our camera man Matt

On Monday the volunteers had a day off,  several were very lucky and managed to gain a day pass visit to Mae La Camp which they reported back as an interesting, eye opening trip. Meanwhile, in the Global Neighbors workshops, Chris and his team of local apprentices began work on the steel foundation posts for the first school module. The foundation is made up of a layer of gravel, a truck tyre with the steel foundation post slotted inside then a further truck tyre and one car tyre placed on top. The tyre hole is then filled with gravel and the footing fitted into place. We were glad to know that Chris’s team work incredibly fast and managed to make the first foot posts by the end of Monday.

Waterlogged site
Waterlogged site

On Tuesday, David dropped myself and the volunteers off at the school site to continue digging holes. By Tuesday the school site was very water logged from the continuous down pours of rain and the water remaining in the ground. Volunteer Ben resorted to wearing swimming goggles in order to get the mud out from the bottom sections of the foundation holes and not get mud in his eyes. By midday on Tuesday the volunteers were covered from head to toe in mud and were really making progress on the foundation holes. Even with a heavy afternoon downpour they stayed out on site determined to get as many holes dug in one day as possible. It was great to see their positivity and determination to get the job finished.

By Wednesday, the volunteers were beginning to feel slightly less upbeat about spending the entire day digging holes, however I think it helped keep motivation by seeing the children they were building the school for so close to them every day. I sat amongst the children as they waited for their school bus as they each shouted out ‘Hello’ to the volunteers digging hole.

kIDS AT tkhs

I spent the morning cleaning and painting the first of the school foundation posts. First using white spirit to remove any rust and dust and then painting with a layer of red primer. After the primer had dried I then gave each post 3 coats of black enamel paint. The primer will help to keep the steel from rusting.

Completed foundation post
Completed foundation post

After spending the morning in the workshops,  we went back to the school site to test out one of the painted foundation posts inside a truck tyre. In order to place the post inside the tyre, a small cut had to be made to the tyre. We were happy to see the foundation post fit perfectly. The next morning, Ben one of the UK volunteers and David accurately measured the placements of the foundation posts and prayed the rain would hold off for a few hours to allow us to drain the holes of water and fill with gravel and tyres. We were very pleased when the rain held off and yesterday afternoon we managed to fix our first foundation post!

Foundation gravel

Schools and Sites

On Wednesday morning, David and myself met with Salai from ME (Ministry of Education) to discuss potential sites we would be building the new classrooms for. Sadly, Kwe Ka Baung had still not worked out their land agreement with the local community around the new site we therefore had to look at the possibilities of helping another school for our first ‘Moving Schools‘ project. The weeks are passing quickly in Mae Sot and we wanted to make use of our 13 volunteers and start building a school.  Salai and ME staff set out with a task to review the schools most in need in Mae Sot and to work out which schools had the right piece of land, number of students and most importantly the need for the new classroom buildings. In the meeting we reviewed the staff findings and narrowed down the options to two schools which were greatly in need of school buildings and importantly had the community agreement to allow us to start building straight away and had written into their contract that any buildings which were built could be taken with them when their land agreement ended. Salai kindly offered to provide us with a truck for a few days to allow us to visit the two schools and work out which school we could provide classrooms for immediately.

Temple in Myawaddy

In order to extend our time in Thailand, we cycled to the Thai/Burma border, handed over our passport in return for a laminated ‘foreigner’ card and spent the afternoon exploring the small but bustling border town of Myawaddy. We ventured into town and found a beautiful Wat to explore. As we wandered around town we could help but notice the huge smiling faces of the Burmese people, everyone seemed to be very happy that we were there. Strolling around the town we noticed the red betel spit staining the pavements and the intoxicating smells of fresh herbs and spices. To finish off a very enjoyable day we indulged in a cold Myanmar beer as we watched people being ferried across the river.
On Thursday morning, we collected our Ford pick up truck from the ME office and first headed up to the Global Neighbors workshops to see how Saw Dee and Si Da Pa were getting on with the bamboo wall panels, we were happy to see that they had now completed 5 beautiful frames and would finish 7 by the end of the week. We then collected Layshi our very helpful translator from Imagine Thailand. He kindly directed us to Hope School which is a one hour drive from Mae Sot. It was nice to be driving and getting an idea of the countryside and surrounding villages of Mae Sot. We slowly climbed windy hills in our slightly old and noisy truck. At the top of a hill in the middle of the countryside Layshi  said ‘Stop’ and asked us to pull over. We got out of the car and were surprised to hear children’s laughter amidst the quiet surroundings.

Boys at Hope School

We had arrived at Hope School and slowly made our way down a muddy slope to reach their school grounds, walking over a bamboo bridge to reach the main school yard. We were to find out that there are 200 students at Hope, 91 of which are nursery age. However, the nursery have no class to teach in so it is often the case that the students are turned away and cannot attend school. On Thursday 56 children could not make it to school. We were introduced to the very helpful and smiley teachers who proudly took us around each of the class groups from Nursery to Grade 6. All of whom are taught under one small room, eating learning and sleeping in one area. The children were lovely and after slight apprehension at first they slowly began to chat with me as I asked each of the younger children their names. They proudly stood up, crossed arms and said their name, they laughed as I tried to pronounce their name back to them and often obviously did not pronounce their names correctly. Within a few minutes I was covered in children telling me their name and trying to see their friends faces on the screen of my camera.

School children at Hope School

I found it very hard to leave the class but we were to be taken by the Headmistress to see the Nursery Room. We walked through the mud to the back of the school where we could see lots of little children’s flip-flops and shoes lined up outside. Then we heard singing and the children sang their ‘Hello’ song which they address to the teachers in the morning. They all stood together 100 nursery children with their hands pressed together singing out loud.

Site at Hope

It was obvious that there was a real pressing need for new classrooms buildings at Hope School, our only problem was the location of the site and the rainy season approaching/here. With our team of volunteers in place and ready to start building foundations we knew that the location of Hope would not work for the first Project. However, we saw the real need for help at this school and would like to plan to come back in the dry season to provide them with some much needed classrooms.
Our next visit was to Thu Kha Hang Sar School, a school we had been told about by many people as a school desperately in need of some new school classroom facilities. The school is located just outside of Mae Sot in a small village called Mae Pa. We met Chan Chan the school headmistress in the afternoon. She kindly explained to us her great want and need for her school children to be provided with new school classrooms.

Site at Thu Kha Hang Sar School

She showed us the current school facilities which were very basic including one large room where all the students except from the nursery are taught. The 115 students are of Burmese, Karen, Hindu and Hmong decent. We were glad to hear that the Headmistress had a land agreement with the land owner for a further 3 years and had the agreement in place to construct buildings on site which could then be removed with the school at the end of the agreement. It was great to meet Chan Chan and see how much she wanted to help her students gain the best education possible. She knew that the current facilities were not good for the students as they had no where to concentrate and study as the one room echoed all the class students lessons. She also explained that the small nursery building was away from the main building to give the younger student peace to nap in the afternoon. It was Chan Chan’s hope to gain 6 new classrooms for her students and to use the existing main hall as a much needed dining area and to be used for meetings.
We were happy to know that we could help Chan Chan and her students and made an agreement to start working on the plans with her new school classrooms immediately. We went over an idea as to where she would like the classrooms placed and agreed that having 6 classrooms in total, in two lines of three running horizontal to the current main building would work best. This allowed the nursery students to remain in peace from the noise of the student classrooms and meant we could keep the lower section of the school land for play. Chan Chan also discussed with us their recent burglary and how security would be an important factor to consider in the design. The school recently had electricity cables and white boards stolen from the classrooms.

Children at Thu Kha Hang Sar School

We have a site and a group of children and teachers in need of better learning environments. On Friday morning we met up with the volunteers and were keen to take them to the new site. The volunteers clambered aboard our truck to visit the new site. We arrived at 9am, to see the students sitting in silence taking their morning prayers. After agreeing with Chan Chan on the rough placement of the classrooms, we split the volunteers into two groups. One group was in charge of surveying the current site based on the lessons they had learnt when surveying the buildings at Kwe Ka Baung School. So Chung, Hin, Nicholas, David and Claire set to work measuring the main classroom, nursery, toilet block and overall site dimensions.

Survey Team

Meanwhile, Ben, Ashley, Charity, Stephanie, Airi and Jim set out on the task to plot out the new school classrooms on the new site. The plotting team were given measuring tape, red rope and pieces of wood to plot out the dimensions of the overall buildings, walkways and individual classroom modules.

Plotting the classrooms

As the morning progressed the surveying team had quickly worked out dimensions for all the buildings and had a good understanding of the overall site. The plotting team carefully worked out the dimensions of each classroom and plotted where each module should be positioned.

Working out Foundation plots

This gave us a clear understanding of where foundations should be placed in order to start digging the foundation points. After a few hours the site was really taking shape and both teams were able to gain a real understanding of the size and position of the new school building. Carefully positioning coloured plastic flags along the red rope to ensure the school children would see the layout of the new school.

Marking Foundation posts

In the next blog update details of our meeting with Chan Chan confirming site position and find out how the volunteers get on starting foundation work on the site.

Final classroom plotted

Off to work we go


Bright and early on Monday morning, the Building Trust team and volunteers met at the DK Hotel in Mae Sot to await our escort to the Global Neighbors workshops in Mae Pa. We have been very kindly offered the workshop facilities to develop and design the modular school classroom. Before setting off, the volunteers were given a run through of Safe Tools Use and watched a 20min video entitled the ‘ABC Of Hand Tools‘ The very simple cartoon allowed the volunteers to have a basic understanding of to use hand tools correctly and how easily they can be misused.


With the arrival of our ride, the volunteers piled into the Picturebook truck to be taken up to the workshops along with Saw Dee and Si Da Pa, two highly skilled carpenters/bamboo workers who will be working with the group this week. They have worked on several school projects in the area and were hired to teach the volunteers about the uses of bamboo. They worked with Norwegian Architect Line Ramstad through the G’yaw G’yaw Organisation. Gyaw Gyaw is committed to construct buildings to the benefit of Karen refugees in Burma and Thailand.

Before we could start using the bamboo and seeing how this material could be used to create our wall panel structures, Saw Dee and David travelled to pick up material supplies for the day. While myself and the volunteers awaited the materials we played a few team building exercises to make sure everyone would communicate clearly and be aware of each other in the afternoons building workshop. The first activity was a drawing game.

Volunteer Team Building
Volunteer Team Building

I first split the group into pairs giving one person from each pair a simple drawing of a cat placed on the top left of a blank piece of paper. The other team member then had to draw the picture which was described to them in shapes by the team member with the original drawing. It sounds difficult but the teams seemed to enjoy the game and as we tried a second round with one player drawing their own image to describe to the other team the communication between the pairs developed and the teams were faster at drawing the correct image.

The next game involved trust and working together as a team to get the best possible solution.  The volunteers enjoyed the mornings activities of getting to know one another a bit better and to understand how important it is to ensure everyone has a clear knowledge of the task to be achieved each day.

Volunteer Team Building Morning
Volunteer Team Building Morning

Just after lunch Saw Dee and David arrived with the materials needed to build the wooden frames. The volunteers quickly ran to the truck to help unload the bamboo, wooden planks and woven bamboo sheet into the workshops. We were quick to learn that Saw Dee believed that the machetes they had purchased did not have a high quality handle, so decided to search the workshop for a better piece of wood and then make their own. Within an hour Sawdee and Si Da Pa had made 3 new wooden handles for their machetes.

New wooden handles are fixed to the machete
New wooden handles are fixed to the machete

With machetes at the ready, Saw Dee kindly began the bamboo workshop and discussed the many ways bamboo can be used. He first  cut a piece to length then used the machete to take any rough edges off the sides. Then slowly cut into the bamboo, tapping all the way down. Saw Dee said to cut one piece of bamboo would normally take 15mins, however the lesson took slightly longer so the volunteers and BTi staff could gain an understanding of how to do it ourselves.


After cutting the bamboo, Saw Dee unfolded the bamboo and began to flatten, using the machete to remove any hard edges found along the inside of the bamboo. The piece was then attached to a further two pieces of flattened bamboo and attached inside a wooden frame to create the bamboo infill wall panels.

It was great to see the skills shared between the local workers and the International volunteers, the group worked well together and slowly but surely we were getting the hang of using bamboo. Saw Dee and Si Da Pa will be working in the workshops all week to finish the wooden frames for one classroom unit.

Yesterday, the volunteers began clearing the ground and digging holes for foundations with the hope that we can complete one steel frame with infill wall panels over the next week. So keep reading to see how the build progresses!

And one panel is completed.

Finished Bamboo Wall Panel
Finished Bamboo Wall Panel

After cutting 3 pieces of bamboo and flattening then fitting inside a wooden panel fixed with a mortise and tenon joint and two tapered down teak dowels. Now another few to go so we can complete one classroom module!

Finished Bamboo Wall Panel
Finished Bamboo Wall Panel

Timelines and Tours

LIVE UPDATE from the Moving Schools Project:

Please check out the first video footage from the ‘Moving Schools‘ project showing the volunteer site visit to the MTC Medical Training Centre and the CDC School dorms. Please watch and share!

Burmese and Karen History/Culture project

On Thursday we met up with the volunteers to see their presentations on the Burmese and Karen History/Culture project. The teams split into their groups and went over each others work.

Volunteers present their Timeline Project
Volunteers present their Timeline Project

The first to present was the Green group, their timeline was set from 1951 – 1970 and they found out many key events such as, Burma was granted independence from Britain in 1948 and details about the ‘Four Cuts Operation’ of 1970 when the army targeted people supporting the guerrilla rebels by cutting food, information, recruitment and financial support. The team also looked into the topics of religion and art. The team focused on the mixture of Christianity and Buddhism within the Karen and were also aware that there is a large number of Muslims living with Burma.  Within the topic of art they discussed the strong Buddhist influences in their sculpture and painting and also spoke of the architecture which they believed was strongly influenced by Indian culture.

Timeline 1971 - 1990
Timeline 1971 – 1990

The next group presented what they had discovered during the period from 1971 – 1990 and the topics of music and language. The group discussed how in December of 1974 the biggest anti-government demonstration to date was held and also spoke of the 8888 Uprising in 1988, which was started by students in Yangon and spread throughout the country. The group also looked into the music and language of the Burmese and Karen people. The team found out about the ‘Saung Gauk’ a type of Burmese harp, ‘Hne’ a type of oboe, ‘Mi Gyaun’ a crocodile zither and the ‘Myanma Saiwai’ a type of drum.  They also discovered that there are around 100 languages with a variety of different dialects. In the Karen language alone they found about the Sgaw, Pwo and Pa’o. It was great to see the teams enthusiasm for the work they had carried out.

The final team looked into the history of  1991 – present day and found that there were many key moments in history that happened during this time period from Aung San Suu Kyi being placed under house arrest in 1989 to making her first trip outside Burma to Thailand visiting Mae Sot on 2nd June.  Political leader, Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989. The team also looked into the location of the Karen and Burmese people finding that more than 250,000 Karen reside in Western Thailand. They also found that most Karen lived in the Karen State in Eastern Myanmar.

Karen Fashion
Karen Fashion

They discussed how since 2005, more than 50,000 Karen refugees have been resettled in Western countries such as USA and Canada. The teams second topic was fashion, where the group drew images of the clothing typically worn and found out about ‘Thanakha’ which is a Myanmar tradition of face painting which is used as sunblock and to cool the skin. They also found out that red was a very important colour in the clothing of the Karen and that women wear garments with covered shoulders until they are married.

Thanakha Myanmar Face Painting
Thanakha Myanmar Face Painting

The volunteers seemed to really enjoy the project which gave them a bit of background about the people who they will be building a school for over the upcoming weeks.

In the afternoon, we arranged a tour of the Mae Tao Clinic for the group to allow them an understanding of the great work the clinic carries out every day. People of all ethnicity’s and religions are welcome at the clinic. Its origins go back to the student pro-democracy movement in Burma in 1988 and the brutal repression by the Burmese regime of that movement. The fleeing students who needed medical attention were attended in a small house in Mae Sot.The group were to discover that 8 babies had already been born that day and that this was a common occurrence. Today, it serves a target population of approximately 150,000 on the Thai-Burma border.

Tour of Mae Tao Clinic
Tour of Mae Tao Clinic

After the tour of the Mae Tao clinic the volunteers got back on their bikes to cycle out of town to see the MTC School dormitories which  were designed by Albert and Jan, local architects for the clinic. We were very lucky to have a tour of the dorms by Jan who took us through the adobe brick structures which are cool all day and the new dorms which were constructed in 2 weeks made by locally sourced materials.

Volunteers check out adobe structure
Volunteers check out adobe structure

Slowly after our tour by Jan the heavens opened and the volunteers and the Building Trust team took cover in one of the bamboo dorms. Thankfully after a few hours of playing games and chatting we managed to catch a lift back into town leaving our bikes to pick up another day.


The Volunteers arrive!

After a great set of meetings with Non Profits, Architects and Social Enterprises in Mae Sot last week, we were eager to get on with the school build and were very excited to meet our first set of volunteers who will be working on the ‘Moving Schools‘ project throughout the month of June. We are very lucky to have three volunteers from the UK and 9 students from Hong Kong University who have all travelled to Mae Sot to help out on our project. On Monday, the cameraman for the project arrived just in time to film the first meet and greet of the Volunteer Induction Day. We look forward to posting video footage of the project as the weeks progress.

Volunteer Induction Day
Volunteer Induction Day

Yesterday, we met with the volunteers and gave them an introduction on the background of Building Trust International and an update on the ‘Moving Schools‘ project. All the volunteers seemed very keen to get stuck in and were excited to know we would be spending the afternoon visiting the current site of the Kwe Ka Baung School meeting some of the students and teachers and assessing the current facilities.

At 3pm we re-grouped at Kwe Ka Baung school, with the volunteers travelling through town by bicycle (a mini Tour De France in Mae Sot.) The first task was to let the volunteers gain an understanding of the current site and the school buildings. Edward a volunteer from Hong Kong University who is currently teaching at Kwe Ka Baung kindly agreed to take the volunteers on a tour of the site answering many questions from the group. It was great to hear the volunteers asking important questions such as the number of students per classroom and the utilities available on site. Edward showed us the newly built mushroom hut where the school hope to gain some extra finance through selling the mushrooms in town. He also pointed out the current problems with the school classrooms, from poorly built roofs to the issues of sound travelling through the current classroom walls.

Edward from HKU gives the volunteer a tour of the current school site at KKB
Edward from HKU gives the volunteer a tour of the current school site at KKB

It was great for the volunteers to meet some on the current Kwe Ka Baung students and staff. As the group walked through the site children shouted and waved saying ‘Hello’ to the volunteers.

We set the volunteers an interesting task for the afternoon, first splitting them into three groups (Red, Blue and Green.) They were given a tape measure and a specific building within the site to survey. We asked the groups to take key dimensions of the buildings, plot where supports were on the classrooms, note materials used on the build and measure wall thickness’s. This information will allow us to get a clear understanding of the facilities on the current site and help us to achieve an even better layout and plan for the new site. By gaining an understanding of the needs of the current school we will gain an insight in to the needs that can be applied to the new site.

Blue team measure the height of current building at Kwe Ka Baung
Blue team measure the height of current building at Kwe Ka Baung

Each team had their own ideas on how to measure the height of the school classrooms, from guessing the height based on their own height to standing on a chair to try and reach the top of the school classroom. It was great to see the teams having fun and enjoying carrying out the site survey.

After an hour taking dimensions and working out the layout of the classrooms the teams re-grouped to show their layout plan. It was amazing to see teams working together to come up with the easiest and quickest solution to survey the site. After a great first day, we finished by setting the volunteers a new task, to look into the history of the Burmese and Karen people. We want the volunteers to have a clear understanding of the people they are helping, in order to give them a deeper understanding of their ‘client’ before we start the build. Teams were given an A1 piece of paper with a chosen period of time, 1950 – 1969, 1970- 1989, 1990 – 2012. We hope that the volunteers will be able to research the history and on Thursday we will re-group to see what they have found out. Each group was also given two categories to research from art to music, fashion to religion, language to culture. We think this will be a very beneficial task to all of those involved in the ‘Moving Schools‘ project and look forward to seeing the results later in the week.

Green group review their chosen time period and study category
Green group review their chosen time period and study category

I look forward to updating your with more pictures and video clips as the build progresses.

Girls at Kwe Ka Baung
Girls at Kwe Ka Baung


Meeting the Mae Sot team

Meeting with Global Neighbors:

There are over 100 other non profit groups in Mae Sot all helping in a variety of ways to assist in providing better education for the 13,000+ displaced children in the area. One of the larger organisations is a Canadian charity called Global Neighbors. The Building Trust team were able to get an appointment with David Heppner, Director of Global Neighbors who has been heading up work in Mae Sot since 2004.  David and his local community in his home town of Prince Albert, Canada kindly donate hundreds of items which are placed in a shipping container every year and brought over to Thailand to be donated to the local schools.

David is a great asset to the the area and after a very interesting meeting we hope that we will be able to work with Global Neighbors in the future to develop more schools in the Mae Sot area. At Global Neighbors Headquarters in Mae Sot there are fantastic workshop facilities where the team train locals in an apprenticeship scheme teaching woodwork, welding, mechanics and more. We hope that we will be able to gain a team of apprentices to help on the school build.

Meeting with Translator:

As I am not up to scratch on Thai conversation we organised to meet a translator, a lovely lady named Mey. We had a really nice meeting with Mey who is Burmese and speaks fluent English. Sadly as our school is a Karen school we need a translator who can also speak Karen. Mey kindly taught us a few basic Burmese words and vocab and is going to source a Karen speaker for our upcoming meetings.

Meeting with Youth Connect:

The Building Trust team had a great meeting with Patrick Kearns from Youth Connect. Youth Connect pose the question, “What happens when these students become young adults and have to leave the system? Where will they go next?” Youth Connect provide training, apprenticeships and career services so students can transition to safe, productive and independent lives. We were very interested to meet with Patrick and hear more about the great work he is carrying out in Mae Sot. The organisation offers paid apprenticeships in skilled work which are carried out in the workshops mentioned at Global Neighbors. We hope to work with Patrick and his team of apprentices to build the winning design from the ‘School 4 Burma‘ competition. More details to be confirmed soon! Check out this short video showing just a few of the apprenticeships on offer:

Design Meeting:

We met up with Albert and Jan to review a new scale model of the school design. We discussed possible materials to use for the school floor possibly a stone tile structure or a wood/cement material. Albert made a suggestion that if we were to keep the raised flooring we should raise it even higher to ensure that poisonous animals don’t ‘move in’ underneath the classrooms. We are now in a process of refining and finalising the design details.

Meeting with HKU Volunteers:

Tomorrow 9 students from Hong Kong University will arrive to volunteer on the ‘Moving Schools project we are very excited to have the team work with us on the build. Yesterday we met with the team leaders Neha and Edward who previously volunteered teaching English at Kwe Ka Baung school last Summer. It is great to have them as part of the team! We look forward to next week when we will start an introduction session with our volunteers. We currently have 9 volunteers from Hong Kong and three from the UK along with a camera man arriving next week to film the progress of the school construction.

Meeting with Imagine Thailand:

Another great charity found in Mas Sot is Imagine Thailand another Canadian run organisation who offer support to the community of Mae Sot through supplying water systems to schools in the town. We met with volunteer Dave Hanson who moved to Mae Sot with his family to help the local people, his family has now been in the area for two years.

Imagine Thailand works with ERDO to provide the funding needed for the water systems in the area along with a range of funding programmes such as Sponsor a School linking Canadian schools with schools in the Mae Sot area. It was great to meet up with Dave who is hoping to help out on the Moving Schools project throughout June.

Many thanks to all of those who have met up with our team this week!