A deep love of her mother’s homeland and a desire to provide Australians with a deeper understanding of Thai culture inspired Angelica Casado to found the Australian Thai Youth Ambassadors Program (ATYAP).
Each year the program takes a group of between 30 and 40 Australian tertiary students between the ages of 18 and 25 to the North East of Thailand where they volunteer as mentors at underprivileged primary and secondary schools for a period of four to five weeks.
In 2017, the program was hosted in the Thai provinces of Ubon Rachathani and Surin where Australian participants worked and lived in Thai communities, getting a unique insight into the Thai way of life, building leadership skills, and forging important cross-cultural bonds.
‘Australian participants gain a deeper understanding of Thailand by eating locally, attending local fairs and activities, and visiting cultural sites, this enhances knowledge and understanding of our neighbors in the region and enables the building of strong friendships,’ says Angelica.
Some of the activities from the 2017 trip included a cultural exchange program with Ubon Rachathani University and Surindra Rajabhat University (Surin), a visit to Wat Pah Nanachart (an international monastery in Ubon Rachathani), cultural day trips, visits to the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, and a trip to Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Royal Palace.
The program also hosted Australia Day celebrations on January 26th involving outdoor sports activities, dancing and creative knowledge building activities.
‘Our participants also teach Australian culture to their Thai students, from Australian animals, flora and culture, through to songs and dance, they are able to showcase the differences between the two cultures in an interactive and engaging manner,’ says Angelica.
Thailand is among the most popular international tourist destinations for Australian travellers with the majority of visitors sticking to the tourist centres of Phuket and Bangkok. The tourist centres offer only a glimpse of the authentic Thai way of life.
‘I hope the students who embark on the program come to view Thailand through a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of its people and its culture,’ says Angelica.
‘I also hope that they will have a greater understanding of cultural complexities, how to communicate with people who cannot speak the same language as them, to appreciate the wonders of Thailand and to have an in-depth understanding of the Thai way of life, most importantly, I hope they will think of Thailand if they wish to undertake an exchange, internship, or to pursue a career in the region.’
For more information on the ATYAP visit www.austhaiyouth.org
The ATYAP is supported by the Australia-ASEAN Council (AAC). Launched by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on 8 September 2015, the AAC generates opportunities for Australian business, education, science and innovation, and the arts to work with partners in South East Asia.
Grant rounds open in February 2017 for projects deepening connections between Australia and nations in South East Asia.