Proud: School principal Linda Parker (back left), pictured with the students and dance teacher Mary Faulkenberry (back right), praised the girls’ “stellar job” in representing Bermuda. Below, poverty-stricken children in Pattaya play on the streets.
Proud: School principal Linda Parker (back left), pictured with the students and dance teacher Mary Faulkenberry (back right), praised the girls’ “stellar job” in representing Bermuda. Below, poverty-stricken children in Pattaya play on the streets.
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Students from Bermuda High School for Girls say they will never take what they have for granted again.

The teenagers came face-to-face with those less fortunate on a trip to Thailand last month.

They say the visit “really opened their eyes” and now they want to help those most in need in Bermuda.

Six girls from BHS spent a week in Thailand as part of the 2010 International Round Square Conference ‘We Walk Together’.

Up to 700 students from around the world attended the conference, at The Regents School, Pattaya, to discuss global issues.

They each also undertook two days of community work with orphans, prostitutes, prisoners, people living with HIV and families from the slums.

Desperate

The BHS students taking part were Phoebe Barboza, 14, Phaedra Dill, 15, Anugraha Chandrasekran, 15, Tania Gray, 13, Ariel Kaplen, 16, and Caitlin O’Doherty, 17.

They said they were overcome with emotion as they saw first hand how lucky they are to have homes, parents and a good education.

The girls said they experienced “a completely different culture” which led them to “appreciate the small things in life”.

Phoebe said she was grateful for the opportunity, which “truly changed me.”

She said: “I learnt how lucky we are here in Bermuda, having a roof to sleep under and an education that gives us the chance to stay far away from being so desperate that we would have to go into prostitution.

“This really touched me, I was very moved by it all and still am.”

Phoebe worked with bar girls and prostitutes at a rehabilitation centre and said she was “shocked and embarrassed” at the magnitude of Thailand’s prostitution industry.

Ariel worked in a centre for blind children and said it really made her appreciate “what we take for granted”.

Phaedra urged people to “put themselves in the shoes of others” and to think about what it would be like with no electricity, parents or an education.

She said: “We are so lucky here, we enjoy the comforts, but not everyone in the world does.”

The students had to learn to respect the country’s Buddhist culture and learn to communicate with people of a different language.

They also spread the word on Bermuda, as “no-one knew where it was”. They teamed up with Bermuda Tourism to hand out pins and bracelets.

The conference’s guest speakers included journalists and charity leaders.

It encouraged the students to “act on their passions”.

The BHS students also got to meet royalty, as the former King of Greece, King Constantine, is president of Round Square. They said he spoke to them “on an equal level”, which tied in with the conference’s ‘We Walk Together’ theme.

BHS is the only Bermuda school to be a member of Round Square.

Educator Dr. Kurt Hahn developed it to focus on internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service.

It aims to develop “well-balanced, whole students”.

BHS IB students Mariangela Bucci, 17, and Caitlin O’Doherty, 17, the co-chairs of the school’s Round Square student executive committee, organized the Thailand trip.

Poverty

Prior to the BHS arrival Caitlin participated in a six-week Round Square student exchange at Regents School in Pattaya.

She said: “It was such an opportunity for me and I now realize that I really need to help others. We are all pieces in this giant puzzle of the world.”

The students were accompanied on the trip by Linda Parker, BHS principal, BHS Round Square coordinator Mary Faulkenberry and Trustee Pamela Ferreira.

Ms Parker said: “This was a very powerful opportunity for them to see the difference between the haves and the have-nots.

“As soon as they went beyond the school gates they saw the poverty first hand. There were girls who were prostitutes just to try to bring bread and butter into their homes.

“It really heightened their awareness of the world. It’s had a positive effect on them as youth and we hope it will encourage them to make positive changes as adults.”

Ms Parker added she was “very proud” of the students for doing “a stellar job” representing BHS and Bermuda.