UPF-Thailand together with the Foundation for Development and Peace and the International Cultural Educational Foundation were the main organizers of the Thailand-Cambodia Religious Youth Service Project December 14-28, 2006 under the theme “Building a Culture of Heart and Character through Service.”
One of the objectives of this RYS was to encourage interreligious youth to develop a deeper understanding about their own religions and to encourage, promote and contribute to meaningful dialogue between young people who represent the religions of the world. On December 16, at the Roundtable Discussion on “The Meaning of Volunteerism in my Own Faith,” we invited five speakers from different faiths: Baha'i Community, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Clean-up Campaign
The RYS project in Thailand was co-hosted by the Office of the Governor of Samut Prakarn. There were 17 government and private agencies involved in preparing for the project and welcoming our participants. Another component was the Clean-up Campaign co-hosted by the Regional Office of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Asia and the Pacific which was held on the morning of December 17. It was attended by 300 youth including RYS participants and local officials of Samut Prakarn. The Deputy Governor, Hon. Wannida Bonprakong, came to welcome the RYS participants and the volunteers and express his appreciation for cleaning up the Bangphu Seashore and also treating the polluted water. Service Brings the Community Together
Constructing the children’s playground and painting the old school building of Krong Bang Phu School were the centerpiece for everyone to come together. The local people, 15 students from Samut Prakarn Technical School, more than 20 high school students and 5 five students from Suan Kulab who came as interpreters, joined in to work together with the participants. Some local persons came with bread and juice to feed the participants and the local volunteers. The Department of Health and the Police Patrol were there every day at the worksite to look after the safety of the volunteers and RYS participants. We were not worried about the safety of the participants in the evening since we stayed at the army barracks.It was very effective to ask the local government and the community to be involved in the project. We were able to get free medical treatment for two Australian participants: one had a food poisoning in Malaysia before coming to Thailand and the other had a cold. Every time we left the barracks, the police patrol were there to escort the bus. We were able to get half price for our accommodations and free admission for our tour to the Crocodile farm and the Ancient City.
At the Closing Ceremony for the Thailand project in Samut Prakarn, the Mayor came to give his congratulatory speech to thank the participants for giving their time, effort and money for the small school of Bangphu. The head teacher and head of the village were very grateful that because of the RYS, the local government built a bus stop in front of the school, which they never had before. Dr. Suthin Nophaket, Commissioner of Human Rights in Thailand and UPF Ambassador for Peace, gave the Closing Remarks on behalf of UPF-Thailand. On that evening, it was like a festival for the entire village. We sang and danced together. Even an 80-year-old grandmother came up on the stage and danced together with our participants. Grandmothers and mothers shed tears when our participants said goodbye to them.