Until 11 March 2019, the Cardoner Project in Sydney is hosting five Thai/Karen students from Xavier Learning Community, a tertiary education institution in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The five students are the winners of an essay competition and interview process last September.
The exchange is the result of a partnership between the Cardoner Project and Xavier Learning Community, a work of the Jesuits in Thailand and the brainchild of Fr Vinai Boonlue SJ, who is himself a Karen.
The Cardoner Project director Fr David Braithwaite SJ conceived the program as a gesture of gratitude for the hospitality received from the ethnic minority Karen by members of the Cardoner Volunteer Corps who have taught at the college.
‘We’ve tried to do this in the past but failed with visa issues’, Fr Braithwaite says. ‘And so this first successful exchange is a wonderful thing. It allows a two-way street for learning and hospitality between our communities and is a natural outgrowth of our mutual endeavours.
‘We’ve had almost 80 young Australians volunteer in Northern Thailand with the Jesuits for 12 months since 2011, and another 100 go for shorter-term immersions. I hope that those numbers can be rivalled by this new program over the coming years.’
The students will spend six weeks in Australia, working to improve their English (they are studying a Liberal Arts Degree with an English Major) and gaining experience in hospitality through work at the Two Wolves Community Cantina.
They will also visit the cultural sites of Sydney and NSW, live with families of volunteers and at the Bellarmine House attached to Two Wolves, and see some of the Jesuit schools and other Jesuit sites in Sydney.