For several years, the BCTFN has supported social projects undertaken by the Students’ Education Trust. SET is a non-profit-making charity with the primary aim of awarding scholarships and welfare grants to disadvantaged Thai students. Nearly 700 students are currently receiving support. The scholarships are gifts, not loans, but students are encouraged to voluntarily undertake social projects to return something to their own society, as a way of saying ‘thanks’ for the help they receive from SET. Students at high schools and vocational colleges run projects to help orphans, mentally handicapped children, old people and those with Aids, while older students at university renovate and improve rural primary schools by building libraries or children’s lunch canteens.
The ‘SET for Society’ program is sponsored entirely by the BCTFN.
Giving something back (from the SET for Society webpage)
SET scholarships are gifts, not loans, and do not have to be repaid. However, our scholarship students are encouraged to return something to other disadvantaged people in their own society, as a way of saying ‘thanks’ for the support they receive. The SET for Society Program not only benefits many other people, it also encourages a sense of social responsibility in our students. They are also less inclined to think of their scholarships simply as ‘free money’.
The program is remarkably successful. After being introduced at Rajabhat University in Nakhon Sawan in 2002, interest quickly spread to other schools and colleges from which our students are drawn. Now, more than 250 students from Rajabhat, two colleges and two high schools are involved in the various projects each year. Students take part voluntarily but most are very enthusiastic to do so.
The Rajabhat program has now developed on a very ambitious scale but students from other schools and colleges make annual one-day visits to an orphanage, an old people’s home, a school for handicapped children and an Aids hospice. After an explanation from the institute director about the residents’ problems and special needs, the students chat with the residents, help them in any practical way they can, serve a special lunch and give each a small gift. Residents and students alike all seem to greatly benefit from the visits. Some students now make their own independent visits, especially to the orphanage.
One project combines the SET for Society Program, the Scholarship Program and the Volunteer Teacher program. Our older scholarship students at Nakhon Sawan High School accompany and take care of twenty children from a local orphanage on an annual two-day visit to an elephant training camp in the north of Thailand. The project is organized by SET’s two volunteer teachers at the school. The trip is very exciting for the children since most have never left the orphanage before, nor seen an elephant.
The Rajabhat Program
Our students at Rajabhat University are particularly enthusiastic about the SET for Society Program and their projects become more ambitious every year. The students organize every aspect of the projects themselves, including budgeting. That greatly increases their sense of personal responsibility to the project.
The projects are held during the long summer break and usually last seven or eight continuous days and nights. Early in the year, a team of students assesses remote, rural primary schools and selects one for the project. The school must be in need of improvement and the project must be of direct benefit to the school children. In keeping with the Rajabhat tradition, the project must also be very labor-intensive. Hundreds volunteer to take part but the work-team is restricted to the fifty students who can offer the best practical or other skills.
In 2003, the students worked for more than 10,000 man-hours to build a library at a very remote primary school. They also built a large chicken coop in the school grounds so the children could have fresh eggs at lunchtime, they repaired and repainted equipment in the play area, cut back trees, landscaped the school grounds and cleared several tons of rubbish.
In 2004, the students were even more ambitious. Their project was held at a tiny primary school named Wichawadee, run as a charity for children from a very poor local community. The team removed a large flight of dangerous wooden steps and built a new concrete flight.
They also completely remodeled the children’s lunch canteen and created two new classrooms. After the project, the team leader said: “I think we’re developing a good understanding of what SET expects from us. These projects are not about how much money we spend. It would be easy to help a little school like Wichawadee by simply donating equipment, like books, computers and so on, but that’s not the point. The point of the projects is about we students putting in real effort as a team – not just physically but with our hearts too. That’s what we did at Wichawadee and I think we can feel proud of the result.”
"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to show that we also care about other people in our society"
2004 Project Team Leader
The 2004 project team on the new concrete access steps they built at Wichawadee School.
In 2005, the students undertook their most ambitious project - building a combined assembly hall, canteen and cookhouse at a small primary school named Wat Dong Muang. After the project, the team leader said “This has been our most difficult project so far. We’ve created quite a substantial building from scratch and I think we’ve done it as well as any professional builder could, but at a fraction of the cost. After three years’ experience of such projects, I think we’ve proved we’re not a bunch of kids messing about with cement. We’re very serious and professional about what we do because we know how much the children benefit. The project was a great opportunity for us to do something worthwhile for other people in our society. That’s a good feeling”.
The SET for Society Program is sponsored entirely by donations from the BCTFN (The British Community in Thailand Foundation for the Needy).