Kae Htoo Win climbing a massive tree to get coconuts!

Before I arrived in Thailand, I tried to get a sense of what SDC was like from a past intern. I asked them many questions about SDC in order to try and gather an image in my head of the place that I would soon call home.

They explained what the school itself looked like and how a regular class day would play out, but there was something which I was told that I didn’t fully understand until I got here.

I was told that everyone’s experience at SDC is unique and that I will see for myself what that means when I arrived there. I can see now how this is true after being here for a month…

Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, plays a key role in the functionality of the school. The students are broken up into groups and perform important chores such as cooking, cleaning, and fishing which helps keep the school running smoothly.

The teachers are responsible for creating lesson plans and facilitating the students’ education in English and community building and the administration team takes care of the logistical and problem-solving aspects of SDC. What is cool about life here at SDC is that the positions that people assume are non-binary. People are always willing to step outside of their role to help out.

To come full-circle, I was able to understand what the past intern was conveying to me once I got here because I saw how each person’s experience at SDC was unique from another’s.

No person here has the exact same role as someone else. Students are not just students at SDC. They can also be master chefs, landscapers, talented musicians or clever hunters. Likewise, teachers are not just teachers here. We can also be after-class activity coordinators, advice givers, soccer players or sous chefs.

The many hats that each person wears here is what makes SDC special. Everyone’s willingness to take on multiple roles at SDC makes the community here work in an incredibly beautiful way.

Group B studying hard!

I believe the students value a strong community more than most people do because of their experiences. I am beginning to realize how the student’s values reflect aspects of day to day life at the school.

For example, literally everything that is done at SDC is done as a unit. If a student is struggling with a question while a teacher is busy helping someone else, other students will lend their advice to help that student out before the teacher is able to come around.

If someone needs a hand fishing there is never a shortage of volunteers to go help, and I have never seen less than 3 people in the kitchen working together to prepare meals for their colleagues.

This cohesive way of achieving tasks is highly effective from what I have observed so far. It is a huge privilege to be able to experience this kind of community first hand. Without question, it is the students that have inspired me the most in my first month at SDC. They are all incredibly intelligent, hard-working and poised despite all the challenges that they’ve faced in life. They are also extremely dedicated to their education, community and peers.

What is also impressive is the students’ positive attitudes towards life. This school echoes laughter and screams of happiness from 6 in the morning until 10 at night. The students truly appreciate and cherish everything that they experience here.

There is a quote from one of my favourite songs that I think speaks to the students’ attitudes at SDC:

“Ain’t this rain nice? And don’t sad songs make you smile?”
-Old Dominion

The song talks a lot about being able to find the silver linings in difficult situations throughout life. I believe the students are very skilled at this. Even though they have had to deal with unfair circumstances throughout their lives, they still make a valiant effort to appreciate everything that they have. Being able to see this mind set in practice has made me question why I sometimes dwell on petty problems that, in reality, mean nothing.

So far, my experiences at SDC have provoked me to think critically about topics such as perspective and notions of community. Everyday, I find myself reflecting on an aspect of SDC that I hadn’t realized before, and how that relates to my own life. The exciting part about all of this is that it has only just begun. I still have 5 months to explore, discover and reflect here. I can’t wait to see what the coming months have in store. Stay tuned.