One of Rustic Pathways’ most popular programs, “Come With Nothing, Go Home Rich,” is an advanced service program that takes students to three remote villages in rural Thailand. Students are encouraged to leave all unnecessary items at home and are allowed just one carry-on bag with essential items and five things they feel might be important during their trip, such as a camera, notebook, or book.
When students arrive in Thailand, they are given a locally made backpack and $50 in Thai currency to spend on necessities and clothes from the local markets. Students are always surprised at how much this buys locally and they learn that many families in villages around the world live on less than $50 a month.
After an enlightening shopping experience, students depart for three very small, rural villages situated along Thailand’s western frontier. Program leaders arrange clean food and water, but the living conditions are very basic. Local people don’t have many things but they have each other, and students find it refreshing to discover such a sincere approach to life and to spend time with these close-knit families. After just a few days, students find that they have left the world they knew behind.
The program spends about five days in each village, where students meet with government officials, local NGOs, village leaders, and respected elders who offer their insights into the needs of their communities. Students witness first hand how the political situation in Burma has forced generations of people to seek better lives in Thailand. As they travel, students reflect on what they have seen and heard, assess the needs of the villages, and work on both short-term and long-term sustainable service initiatives that they design. This means making a plan, gathering materials, working within a budget, and setting a timeframe to complete the project.
Students return home inspired, with the desire and the skills necessary to establish service projects in their own backyards. The students certainly become “richer” over the course of the trip and, if they have used their hearts and minds well, they will have made significant improvements in the local communities.
For more information regarding “Come with Nothing, Go Home Rich” or any of Rustic Pathways 130+ summer community service and adventure programs for teens, see http://www.rusticpathways.com or email Kevin Porter at [email protected]