Sport has long been widely acknowledged to contribute positively to child development and, with this goal in mind, the Mechai Bamboo School in Buriram has teamed up with the Chelsea FC Soccer School Bangkok to stage a charity football visit which includes football sessions and a festival on June 3. Both are in the charity game: the Mechai Bamboo School offers children in poor rural areas a stepping stone for social and economic advancement, while Chelsea FC Soccer School Bangkok (located at NIST International School) is a community development programme directly operated by the Chelsea FC Foundation, the charitable arm of the world-renowned football team. Mechai Viravaidya, the famous public health activist and charity mastermind who founded the school, tells us more.
Tell us a bit about the Bamboo School
The educational system in Thailand is sick, especially for those at the end of the opportunity line—that needs to change. The only way to do this is to do it ourselves and that is what we have done. Instead of being just a regular school, it is a lifelong learning centre not only for kids but for everyone. Kids who go to ordinary government schools learn how to read and write but they do not learn life skills, or occupational skills, so that is what we place emphasis on. This way, children leave our school having already achieved a certain level of management.
To give a few examples, when visitors visit the school, the students carry out the task of explaining things. Whether it is supplies or vehicles that the school needs, students buy them and they audit the accounts. They also learn to do budgets, among many other things. The programme includes children going out to help 10 other schools outside. Our secondary school kids help teach the primary school students. Our students regularly help elderly people in their own villages, pick up garbage and look after sick people. And school fees here are paid not with cash but with community service.
Why a football charity event?
Sport is very important and provides opportunities for young people to learn important life skills such as problem solving, friendship, teamwork, decision making and leadership whilst helping them to stay active. We want to teach them both sportsmanship and how to live with loss and accepting it, which is what life is about. It will not be about who wins but rather, about comradeship. The Chelsea FC Foundation hopes to provide students with an opportunity to engage in genuine CFC football sessions for the first time as well as build long term relationships with the school’s staff to provide ongoing support to help further develop the students at Bamboo and surrounding schools. So when they approached us about working together, we thought it was a great idea.
What can we expect from the event?
During the visit, Chelsea FC Foundation will bring a group of their local and UK coaching staff along with players from their under 11 and under 13 squads and supported by seven NIST student leaders. These student leaders have been mentored by the Chelsea FC coaches at NIST to learn the coaching techniques and how to apply them in a structured, safe and enjoyable learning environment. The shared values of the Chelsea FC Foundation, NIST and the Mechai Bamboo School are what make this event so exciting for all parties. It’s a great way to support the local and wider community in Thailand.
What’s the underlying philosophy here?
To make society a better place, I believe those who are in privileged positions should try to help those lacking in opportunity. We shouldn’t just leave it to the government. And if you want to assist in anything, the most important area is education. This is what Thailand desperately needs.
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