Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor and Busnes@LlandrilloMenai logosColeg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor and Busnes@LlandrilloMenai logos

Students teach children and volunteer at elephant sanctuary in ‘incredible’ Thailand trip

Learners from across Grŵp Llandrillo Menai enjoyed a life-changing experience

Students recently returned from a trip to Thailand, where they volunteered at an elephant sanctuary and delivered STEM workshops to schoolchildren.

Six learners from across Grŵp Llandrillo Menai had the experience of a lifetime after successfully applying for a place on the 17-day trip.

They were Cerys Foulkes and Charlotte Wilkes, who study at Coleg Llandrillo’s Rhos campus, Katie Davies (Coleg Menai, Bangor), Mair Armstrong (Coleg Meirion Dwyfor, Dolgellau), Cilan Garbutt and Tomos Eardley (both Coleg Meirion Dwyfor, Pwllheli). They were joined by nine students from Bridgend College.

After flying out to Mae Sariang, they spent the first week working with the Future Sense Foundation, delivering STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Maths) activities to primary school children.

At the weekend the students soaked up some of the country’s culture, visiting temples and trying traditional Thai food, among other activities.

For the second week of the trip, they were at Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. Here, they prepared food for the elephants, cleaned out pens and helped with other essential tasks.

The trip was organised by Challenges Abroad, which runs overseas programmes for students developed alongside the United Nations’ Goals for Sustainability Development. It was funded by the Turing Scheme through ColegauCymru.

Applications opened to Level 3 learners across Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campuses back in the autumn. There were more than 200 applications, out of which around 60 were selected to design a STEM workshop to deliver to primary school children. The final six were then selected based on interviews.

Accompanying them on the trip were Andrew Brookes, the Grŵp’s International Officer, and Lisa Johnson, Learner Services Manager.

Andrew said: “It was a really successful trip. We’ve had some really good feedback from the learners, from the staff and from the volunteers at Future Sense Foundation.

“None of the students knew each other before we went, so part of the experience was them getting to meet new people as well. So they were bang out of their comfort zone when we went to the airport, but they’re all best mates now!”

It was a transformative experience for the learners, most of whom are now keen to travel more in the future.

Andrew added: “They’re still in touch with the students from Bridgend and they’re all arranging to meet up over the summer. Now when they finish college a lot of them are planning to go for a gap year. They’ve come back as different people - they found it really challenging but it was all worthwhile.”

The learners themselves praised the life-changing trip, with Charlotte saying: “This experience was incredible and has truly given me confidence to experience new things.

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone and has taught me to not be worried about things, and that I should just go for it! In the future I wish to do more travelling, and enjoy different experiences across the globe.”

Mair said: “I really enjoyed the workshops with the kids. It was so fun getting to know the children and watching their faces when they completed the tasks.

“We built rockets with them and launched them by jumping on bottles. Their expressions as their designs took off were amazing. The experience with the elephants was a close second.”