Port of Call
Phuket, Thailand: Connecting with Children , May 8, 2017
A Peace Boat participant connects with one of the school children
Upon arriving in the Phuket Deep Sea Port in the south of Phuket Island, Thailand, a group of Peace Boat participants had the opportunity to visit the suburban Kokwatmai school, which offers an education mainly to children from disadvantaged backgrounds and orphans. Built in 1977, the school currently accommodates 108 students ranging from five to 12 years of age. Some of the children's families migrated to Phuket in search of a better quality of life, as the standard of living is relatively high in relation to the rest of Thailand. Luna, the guide for the study tour, explained that some of the children must walk or cycle as far as three kilometers to school every day. "The children should be taught to believe in their potential. In order to do this, we need to help the children realize people love them, and encourage them to live life to the fullest," Luna highlighted.

Children had the chance to enjoy Japanese origami (paper folding)
Nuan Dan, a senior teacher at the school, warmly welcomed the participants and provided a tour of the school's facilities, including the computer room, classrooms and canteen. Improvements to the canteen such as additional fans and separating the cooking area from the eating area had been made possible due to donations from private foundations. The participants were then taken to the library where they had the opportunity to engage with the students. With excited faces, the participants could teach the children traditional Japanese activities including origami, calligraphy and kendama (a wooden cup-and-ball toy game). The children enjoyed trying their hands at painting Japanese characters, with one child requesting how to write his name in Japanese.

The children enjoy communicating with participants onboard
Haruka Kiyokawa, a participant who works with children as a psychotherapist in Tokyo, commented: "I enjoyed making origami [with the children], and they were very good learners, so I was very excited and surprised". Before saying goodbye, the group of Peace Boat participants sang If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands' in Japanese to the children. Recognizing the tune, the children then sang the same song in Thai - a nice surprise for all of them. Before heading off to lunch, participants were also able to enjoy some delicious local fruit which was offered by the school as a token of appreciation for the visit.

One of the dishes on offer at lunch: Pad Thai - a stir-fried noodle dish with eggs and tofu
Lunch included an array of Thai delicacies, including Pad Thai (a stir-fried noodle dish with eggs and tofu) and Tom Yum Goong soup (a very spicy lemongrass and shrimp soup), as well as sweet treats including sticky rice with mango and coconut cream. After lunch, participants enjoyed some time soaking in the local atmosphere at a nearby beach. The province of Phuket has 16 beaches and 33 islands in total. Participants were taken to the quiet beach of Nai Harn Beach right on the southern tip of Phuket Island, where they relished swimming in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Returning to the ship having had such an enriching cultural exchange with the Thai children, it was clear that this memorable day would remain in the hearts of the participants for years to come.