ISB Students Turn Cancelled Event into Creative Community Outreach
Each year, International School Bangkok (ISB) hosts its own annual Junior Special Olympics, where students with physical disabilities from three local communities come together to connect and compete.
Unfortunately, these communities couldn't join us this year due to the pandemic on account of the children being immunocompromised, so rather than cancel the event entirely, our high school students rallied together and found a way to still safely connect with the community and give back. Our Activities and Service Learning Coordinator said, "through your limitations, you're forced to get creative." The pandemic's limitations were no match for our students' creativity. They brainstormed, planned, organized, and ran an entirely new event – ISB's first-ever Buddy Olympics.
In place of the three communities, our student coordinators chose to invite boys from Baan Maharaj, an organization founded by an ISB parent to help educate orphaned boys and teach them various skills. International School Bangkok regularly hosts a soccer club for these boys every Sunday, but our students wanted to take this opportunity to give them a unique and special experience.
The Buddy Olympics was a fun-filled day of activities, innovation, sport, art, and learning for the Maharaj Boys and our students. Each ISB high school student buddied up with a Maharaj boy for the entire day – overcoming language barriers and connecting as they guided them through various activities in our art space, maker space, and on our fields. Seventy-three of our high school students participated, showing great care and courage as they led this whole event for over 60 Maharaj Boys. Each boy left with a goody bag purchased and compiled by their buddies.
Furthermore, the student organizers charged International School Bangkok students a bit more to participate in the event and get a t-shirt so they could donate the excess funds to those three communities who would normally participate and who've been struggling due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Experiential Learning & Community Impact
Planning and executing an event during a global pandemic is no small feat. It was a unique experience for our students to learn how to be adaptable, respect one another, and communicate effectively between groups. A student on the planning committee said, "being able to help organize this event definitely challenged me and helped me grow in terms of taking on more responsibility in organizing and planning."
Some of our high school student coordinators' highlights included meeting a new group of kids, witnessing all the fun they had, and seeing the whole event come together after months of planning and hard work. One student said they felt they gained an appreciation for the little things, a broader view of the community around them, and a better understanding of the level of organization and communication with others required to plan such an event.
We are so proud of our students for their commitment in leading this initiative, finding a way to bring together both their ISB and local Thai communities, and learning from one another in a fun and cooperative way. A student organizer reflecting on the experience said, "being able to incorporate both communities in this one event is truly something special that hopefully continues on as a tradition at ISB and makes an even larger impact."