A very excited group of students from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) were warmly received by the children and administrators at Baan Home Hug in January. The QUT students met with Home Hug Director Mae Thiew and Khun Am, who acted as the translator throughout the trip. After a brief orientation on the story of Home Hug, the students immediately got their long-awaited opportunity to engage directly with the children through introductions and group play activities. It was not long before language and culture boundaries were broken, and smiles were seen all around.
During their visit, the QUT students visited the main Home Hug, as well as three other Home Hug locations. They were given the history and methodology behind why Mae Thiew structured them as they are to provide children of various ages and stages with the proper environment to grow and succeed. At these locations and together with the children, the QUT students experienced a variety of activities, including tie-dye, tree-planting, bracelet-making, animal care and farm maintenance, and painting.
Additional activities included playing sports with the children and some sing-a-long sessions with the QUT students, who even had a guitar to accompany them! Not to mention the delicious Thai meals that they shared together over the course of the week.
There were also some special visits from Thai government provincial officials who were invited to join in the festivities to help grow positive awareness in the community for Home Hug. The officials were impressed with the effort and love shown by foreign students to the children of Home Hug, and mentioned that such activities need to continue in the future.
The QUT students were further exposed to Thai culture in Yasothon with visits to various temples and a museum (Phraya Khan Khak Museum) by the reservoir in the mouth of a giant toad. The giant toad shares the reservoir with a giant Naga serpent, and the students learned the love story behind the majestic structures. Another highlight of the trip included a meditation and mindfulness session hosted by none other than Mae Thiew.
The week flew by, and before the trip ended, everyone participated in an emotional appreciation party where the children got to express their gratitude. There were lots of tear-filled eyes as the Home Hug children went from student to student to tie a white string, which is a form of thanks and blessing, around their wrists. The QUT students were also given souvenirs to remind them of their experience and, most importantly, to remind them that they are welcome to come back to Home Hug in the future.
We thank the students of QUT for their visit and we hope you will continue to stay involved with Hands in years to come...