26 Feb The Traidhos Three-Generation Barge Program
In 1994 visionary Thai architect ML Tridhosyuth Devakul embarked on a dream to create a floating school that would allow young people a unique educational experience and inspire them to live a more environmentally conscious life.
Together with the Chewonki Foundation, an American non-profit that runs educational programs with an environmental focus, Mom Tri purchased and renovated an old twenty-meter teak rice barge, turning it into a floating, living and learning classroom.
The new look brought a touch of adventure and romance to an essential initiative for Thailand.
The first trips began in January 1995, with participants from both Thai schools and universities as well as Thailand based international schools. Then in the late 1990s, Mom Tri donated the Chao Phraya Barge Program to the Thai Environment and Community Development Association and the Program became known as the ‘Magic Eyes Chao Phraya Barge Program‘ because of the magic it was working on the younger generation.
Here the project grew in strength, establishing a sound reputation that lead to successful partnerships with Thai artists that resulted in Art on the River Programs and art exhibitions. These helped fund the hosting of students from less advantaged Thai Schools on trips, allowing them to experience the barge and lessons on offer, as they floated down the intricately connected river system.
Initially the main focus of the Barge program was to clean up Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, as it had begun to suffer the results of long-term pollution, which was having a detrimental impact on the communities who relied on it. This river is the lifeblood of the city with around 50000 people using its ferries to get to work each day and is lined with characterful shop-houses, restaurants, upmarket hotels and further upstream, farmed fertile land, making it a valuable asset that needs protecting.
As anybody who has visited Bangkok will attest, life in the city will be next to impossible without it, which is why the Traidhos Barge Program stepped in, rolled up its sleeves and started cleaning up the much loved river. The results were impressive and these days a marked awareness exists, as well as an essential appreciation for this vital water source, it’s fish population and fertile land banks.
In 2015 the barge celebrated twenty years of operation with a staggering 55000 plus students passing through it’s educational programs, all leaving with a better connection to the world and greater consciousness about their personal impact on the environment.
Today this floating school continues to educate Thai youngsters about the Chao Phraya River through hands on experience, inspiring them with visits to agricultural projects and communities.
The kind of programs on offer include the opportunity to live and learn onboard the converted rice barge while cruising along the Chao Phraya River, discovering the natural and cultural history of Thailand from the depths of the river to busy trade on the banks of Bangkok.
Their Watershed Land Program brings a closer look at Thailand’s ecology, culture and environmental issues through sustainability, as the groups travels the pathways of the watershed by foot, car, train and tuk-tuk, learning the value of water to the communities in riparian environments.
Believing that you are never too young to learn, Barge’s school program brings environmental educators into the classroom, schools and even parent teacher meeting to introduce the Traidhos programs and the world of hands-on learning, encouraging more sustainable living in home environment.
Trips are not restricted to the Chao Phraya River and the project runs visits to all parts of the watershed, including Chiang Mai. As they say on their website when talking about the experience they offer – ‘Expect to take care of one another, get your hands dirty, and walk away with a renewed sense of responsibility and plenty ideas on how to save the river. Not only is the program fun, it is planting a seed of environmental compassion in the next generation that will take over from us.’
Onwards and upwards to the Traidhos Three-Generation team, may their vision and good work spread across Thailand and beyond, bringing change in the hearts and minds of the new generation.
The barge receives students, private groups, and communities from around the world. To learn more about this brilliant non-profit or to sign up for one of their programs, go to http://barge.threegeneration.org/ or connect with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.