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Religious Youth Service

RYS Participants and Local Volunteers Restore Educational Facilities

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Thailand/Cambodia – IIFWP-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 2006. Volunteers were largely drawn from throughout Asia. The project was conducted in English.

This RYS began with roundtable discussions on "The Meaning of Volunteerism in my Own Faith," attended by speakers from the Baha'i Community, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

Together with local volunteers, the RYS participants were involved in the restoration of several educational facilities. In Thailand, service took place in the Buddhist community of Samut Prakan. Seventeen government and private agencies were involved in the preparation for the project and hosted the participants. Another service offered was the Clean-up Campaign co-hosted by the Regional Office of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Asia and the Pacific. It was attended by 300 youth, including RYS participants and local officials.

At the Thailand closing in Samut Prakan, the Mayor came to give his congratulations and to thank the participants for giving their time, effort and money to 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 station in front of the school, which they never had before. The Commissioner of Human Rights in Thailand, gave closing remarks. On that evening, it was like a festival for the entire village. They sang and danced together. Grandmothers and mothers shed tears when our participants said goodbye to them.

Most of the participants (about 35) departed early to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they worked in the Islamic community at the Qamaruddin Al-Islamiyan School located beside the mosque. The RYS team restored school classrooms and toilets, and built children's play areas outside the school as well as cleaning, repairing, plastering and painting inside. The community joyfully provided free lunch for the participants during the working days of the project. Participants were also able to visit the mosque and learn about its history.

During Christmas Day, the group spent time with the children at Mother Teresa Orphanage, and in the evening they attended the Christmas Eve mass at the Catholic Church.

On the final day of the project, the presidents of IIFWP/UPF Thailand and Cambodia, gave the official closing. Dr. Ronald Burr, Senior Advisor and Educational Director of this dual - nation RYS, gave his reflection and declared the project successful beyond his expectations.

The most memorable experiences expressed by the participants were the times spent playing, singing and dancing together with the children, both in Thailand and Cambodia. Seeds of love were planted in the children, the participants and organizers as they worked in cooperation, to build a peaceful "Culture of Heart and Character."

December 14-28, 2006

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