In the village of Huay Tong in Northern Thailand, the boys continue to serve as part of the Arrupe Education Project managed by Fr Vinai Boonlue, SJ. It is an initiative that exists to improve the educational outcomes of Karen and Hmong children. The current participants are James Grant, Nick Slaven, Hugo Vlachos, Thomas Wells, Alex Mann, Callum Ryan and Declan Scott. Lorenzo Benitez and William Noonan recently finished their six-month stints and returned to Australia in July.
The most recent additions to the program have been the introduction of learning software and Google Chromebooks, both of which were kindly donated by Mark Stanley of Literatu. This technology has become an important part of the classroom because it also teaches the children computer literacy, another asset valued by a rapidly-globalising workforce.
Already seven months into their time there, the boys have had their cultural perspectives broadened. While learning Thai was initially somewhat difficult, most have surmounted the major obstacles and are on their way to achieving conversational fluency, enabling them to become better teachers.
Maliwan Kasetsukjai, Fr Vinai’s sister and the person who looks after the boys in Huay Tong, recently recovered from a crucial, but expensive, neck operation that was generously subsidised by former Service Year boys. The boys didn’t hesitate to help years on, which is a testament to the relationships formed between The Cardoner Project and the Karen people.