19 November 2010

What Does It Mean To Learn?


This past unit we explored the theme of water and dam related issues. Our first visit was to a community affected by the Rasi Salai dam in Si Saket province. The community has been fighting for over two decades to seek reparations and restoration of their livelihoods after the Rasi Salai dam flooded thousands of rai of land and inundated a large part of the wetlands. Many of the farmers have yet to receive compensation for lost land and those that have find that it was not enough to make up for everything they lost. After, years of failed strategies the community has redirected its efforts towards peaceful engagement with the government and education. It is this second component that I will address further.

The spring 2010 CIEE student group responded to a request from villagers affected by the Rasi Salai dam to help create a project plan for a learning center. In the beginning, there were a few ideas of what it may look like and the purpose it could serve. Through a process of collaboration and planning the community and students developed a concrete project proposal. Since then the community has moved forward with the construction of the agricultural learning component. This includes a community gathering space, two chicken houses, a mushroom house and the planting of trees and crops.

The next step is the most important and possibly the most difficult. The community wants to preserve as much knowledge about their livelihoods, flora and fauna, the wetlands and the history of their struggle as they can. They may have structures but it is vital that knowledge be collected and displayed effectively if it is to be passed on to a broader audience. This is the task that is confronting the villagers and our student group. I hope that we can work together to establish a system that will ensure Rasi Salai’s local wisdom will be passed on to future generations.

This same strategy is used in our own student group in trying to connect our learning to that of past and future semesters. Through a series of detailed pass-ons and the use of tools like this blog we are able to share our experiences, struggles and knowledge with those to come. This is the true meaning of learning. Looking beyond the now and oneself to see your learning as small step along a very long road. A road that has built by millions before you and will continue to stretch far into the future.

Brett Srader
Macalestar College

6 comments:

Jake T said...

Your conclusion really resonated with me (probably because I have been right alongside with you since this program started back on August 18th). Learning is such a complicated procedure in the sense of trying to do it right. But what you shared, about connecting it to the past with tools such as a pass on and blog are very useful things.
At first with the ciee program I felt like in every circumstance they were trying to get us to rebuild the wheel. I equated it to the idea that every group that comes here is given a bunch of scrap metal and told to build a car. With limited instruction from the past, we stumble along clumsily trying to figure it out. And at the end of the program, we would finally have something that moved. But instead of giving the following group that same car to improve upon, a new group has to start all over again. For the longest while, I thought this was the most inefficient procedure. Why not have groups build upon one another so they can get the most out of their experience? But I came to realize that if we never knew how to construct the car in the first place, we would never be able to start from nothing back home. And this is the most important knowledge to have: how to build a group up from nothing time and time again. And this is what the ciee model has taught me.

Ann Kam said...

Hello! I studied abroad with CIEE in Spring10 and worked on the Rasi Salai Learning Center. I'm glad to hear that the villagers have moved forward with their building plans!

Best, Ann

Larissa Gaias said...

Hello CIEE Thailand Fall 2010! I worked on the Rasi Salai Learning Center project last semester, and I'm so excited to hear your update. It sounds like so much has happened since I took my first tour of that 30 rai of land, not too long ago. Rasi is such an amazing community, and I'm so glad you guys get the see the learning center in progress!

earth songs said...

Brett,

Nice entry! The learning center in Rasi was something I will never forget. And that picture is beautiful but it hardly does justice to how sweet the location is. The idea of a learning center is a great strategy in preserving local wisdom. Learning about these centers made me think about the local wisdoms in America and how I can learn to preserve these things. I never considered myself as a person with local wisdom. However, reflecting on it, I have a lot of wisdom about things like chocolate chip cookies, gardening, milking cows, and art from my Grandma. I thought that sharing local wisdom could only happen in learning centers. However, now I realize local wisdom can be shared through a variety of a spaces and it is vital that we keep and value these traditions.

Abby bok

Anonymous said...

I get such a rush knowing that what I am learning and doing hear will impact future CIEE students and communities in Thailand. Before this incredible experience in Thailand, I never truly connected with my learning process. CIEE’s alternative learning model has evoked an emotional attachment to the issues and to the people fighting injustice. I finally feel like I can make a difference and impact someone’s life. Even if it so small as creating a pass-on for future CIEE students. Learning and doing is the essence of life. What you do in the present moment will have an effect on the people around you and in turn may change the future. I can’t wait to reveal my newfound passion for learning to my friends and family back in the state. Learning is a lifelong process. A journey that began centuries ago and will continue beyond our time. I can only imagine what will become our learning and doing process here in Thailand. Final project time is our time to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

I get such a rush knowing that what I am learning and doing will impact future CIEE students and communities in Thailand. Before this incredible experience in Thailand, I never truly connected with my learning process. CIEE’s alternative learning model has evoked an emotional attachment to the issues and to the people fighting injustice. I finally feel like I can make a difference and impact someone’s life. Even if it so small as creating a pass-on for future CIEE students. Learning and doing is the essence of life. What you do in the present moment will have an effect on the people around you and in turn may change the future. I can’t wait to reveal my newfound passion for learning to my friends and family back in the state. Learning is a lifelong process. A journey that began centuries ago and will continue beyond our time. I can only imagine what will become our learning and doing process here in Thailand. Final project time is our time to make a difference.