Despite the sweltering 90-degree heat, high humidity and jet-lag, the Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders team spent its Spring Break building a home for a local low-income Muslim family in Thailand.
Six high school students and three chaperones from the Klamath Basin arrived in Krabi, Thailand, on March 26 and got straight to work, building a brick house from the ground up in just five days.
Since 2007, the group has partnered with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program to provide students from the Basin with an international educational experience, giving them the opportunity to learn about different cultures, lifestyles and communities, said Director Stephanie Matheson.
“They all did a fantastic job of keeping an open mind considering it was the first time several of them had flown on a plane, especially for 12 hours,” Matheson said. “It was their first time experiencing squatting toilets and they didn’t complain, they found it interesting and had a positive attitude for the new experiences.”
As well as digging a six-foot hole for the home’s septic tank, Matheson said the team also mixed mortar and cement, laid the foundation for the house and the flooring and laid bricks, leaving only the floors to tile and the walls to plaster after their departure.
The students, Zulema Hernandez, Taylor Hampton, Tate Crawford, Jonessa Hood, Ashley Todd and Payton McConnaughy, “really got after it,” Matheson said, working from 9:15 a.m until 3 p.m. with an hour for lunch.
During the afternoons the group took part in various activities, including visiting a local Thai school, taking a traditional cooking class, feeding elephants, spending time at the beach and traveling to Bangkok to explore the temples.
“It was neat for our students to interact with their students,” she said. “We sang songs and danced and the Thai students took a lot of selfies with our students.”
Traveling overseas is not an unfamiliar experience for Mazama High School senior Zulema Hernandez, who visited Macedonia last year for her first Youth without Borders experience.
“It was incredible,” she said. “It makes you appreciate everything you have in your life. I could be living in Thailand and dealing with what they are dealing with, but I’m fortunate to be born in the U.S. and don’t have those struggles. Where we were born determines so much of what our life will be like.”
The trip this year differed somewhat from her previous experience, she said, based on the weather, the construction site and the amount of culture the group experienced.