RACING TO UNITY
“This activity made us work in harmony. We adjusted ourselves to work with each other to be successful."
- Thai-ASEAN camp participant Prertthi Suthetha Aksorn
By Meighan Szigeti
Right To Play International, Toronto
The ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is looking at the next generation to continue developing a unity that fosters both economic and social development amongst its neighbours. More than 10 member states in the South East Asian region make up the ASEAN, each of which have diverse cultures, religions and economies. These include Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
For students who were selected to participate in the 2010 Thai-ASEAN camp, many were only familiar with their local communities. Before they arrived at the camp, they were not particularly sure if they wanted to “get to know” others in the ASEAN community.
From December 12 to December 17, 140 students aged 14-16, along with 86 teachers from ASEAN countries attended The Thai-ASEAN camp in Nakorn Nayok, Thailand. Right To Play was tasked to provide sport and play-based activities that helped create “One ASEAN Spirit”. The “Amazing Race ASEAN: Games for Peace and Unity” brought together teams of diverse backgrounds and highlighted lessons such as the benefits of communicating with one another to solve problems despite differences in opinions or perspectives.
In a story published in Thailand’s English-language daily news service The Nation on December 20, Hemalathaa Nallapen, a 16-year-old Malaysian student said, "I am a Malaysian. I didn't really know about other ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, their culture, way of education, political news and economy. I didn't really care about this. I was not really knowledgeable about ASEAN countries until I knew about this camp.”
"When I came to this ASEAN camp, I learned a lot of things. I'm excited to make friends [with the other camp participants], to know more about their countries and how they celebrate their special festivals. I am happy to see them, not like before when I did not care about them and did not know much about ASEAN," she added.
Right To Play designed the activities to stress the importance of inclusion and finding commonalities amongst the diverse backgrounds of which the ASEAN region is comprised. The Right To Play activities includes discussion that encourages the students to reflect on how they communicate and work together despite initial culture and language differences.
"I liked a game in which each member needed to help with controlling strings knotted with a basket containing balls to pour them into another basket,” said Thai ninth-grader Prertthi Suthetha Aksorn in The Nation. “This activity made us work in harmony. We adjusted ourselves to work with each other to be successful."
Suthetha Aksorn’s experience was part of the objective of the play-based activities during the camp. For the Young People Development Center, Right To Play and the Student Exchange Programme, the overarching goal was to promote “One ASEAN Spirit”. After leaving the camp, the youth are just as open to discovering their neighbours’ culture, as they are the rest of the world.