A group of five students from the Xavier Learning Community in Thailand have been taking part in an immersion program in Australia over the last few weeks, building on a relationship that was first established through the Cardoner Project.
The students were given the opportunity to visit Australia to further their studies in English and liberal arts, after winning an essay contest in their school community in Thailand.
XLC opened its doors in 2017, offering free or subsidised education to disadvantaged minorities such as the Karen, Akha, Lahu and Hmong hill tribes. XLC supports the students to achieve a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, which is seen as a world language and a key to their future careers.
In addition, every student at XLC undertakes profession-based training, including English for teaching, eco-tourism and hospitality plus sustainable community development.
While they were on immersion in Australia, the five students were based at the Cardoner Project in Sydney. As part of the immersion, they have been working three days a week at Two Wolves Cantina, and visiting a number of sites around the city, including Jesuit Mission and St Aloysius’ College.
One of the students, Chaiwat Sukdenchaikul, said coming to Australia felt like ‘coming home’, given how many of the young people at Cardoner had undertaken immersion experiences at XLC in Thailand.
Coming from a farming family, Chaiwat says he’s hoping his studies in English, and experiences in Australia, will help him realise his dream to become a flight attendant.
Video: Chaiwat describes how his faith was restored after he gained entry to the Xavier Learning Community Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Another of the students, Yanisa Praphakunkaew, was fascinated by the visit to St Aloysius’ College. She said she was interested to see how the teachers encouraged the students to ask questions, and to think of the answers for themselves.
She said she had experienced a similar approach at XLC in Thailand, which has teachers from all over the world bringing new ways of learning with them.
The students also visited Jesuit Mission, which provides support for XLC. The students gave a presentation, answered stories from guests and shared their hopes for the future.
‘Xavier Learning Community is very important for me because this place teaches me a lot more than learning or studying’, said one of the students, Rungnapha Mayoe.
‘They teach me to be confident, teach me to be proud of myself and teach me to be a good person and to be a person for others … I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project and I will try my best every day in return for your kindness.’
Jesuit Mission CEO Helen Forde said it was a pleasure to be able to host the students.
‘It was one of those rare opportunities when we could directly connect our friends and companions of Jesuit Mission here with individuals who are participating in Jesuit-run programs overseas.’
Article written with support of Victoria Graham at Jesuit Mission.