Two weeks in Thailand working with Paladin Rescue Alliance—an organization that supports prevention, rescue, and aftercare for victims of human trafficking—turned into a life changing experience for 16 members of Calvin’s swim and dive team.
Starting in Mae Sariang, the Knights taught swim lessons and English to more than 300 students at Huay Song Elementary School. In a country with very high drowning rates, the Calvin student athletes taught the children basic survival skills, and many learned to swim. The lessons also helped build confidence, self-efficacy, and excitement for learning.
The Knights also spent a day building and painting a playground for the kindergarten class at Huay Song Elementary. What started as a Calvin project turned into a community project, as many of the older students came out to help dig and paint.
At the end of the week, the school honored the Knights in a ceremony. “It was very unexpected and very emotional. The relationships we built in just one week were very strong, and there were a lot of emotions displayed,” said Calvin head swim and dive coach Dan Gelderloos.
After eight days spent in Mae Sariang, the Knights relocated to Chiang Mae. There the Knights experienced the second pillar of Paladin’s mission: rescue. “One evening, we visited the red-light district with the goal to talk with some of these girls,” said Gelderloos. “This was intimidating and uncomfortable to say the least. However, after talking about it and getting proper preparation, we were able to have some successful conversations with some girls. Our goal was to hear their story, to share a good conversation, and try to plant some seeds so that they will reach out to Paladin and ask for help with trying to find a life map into a healthier, successful lifestyle. It was an eye-opening experience.”
The final three days of the trip, the Knights had the opportunity to be tourists. “A highlight for the group was the day we visited elephants at an elephant sanctuary. We were able to feed them, bathe them, and play with them; it was a wonderful day. We also took a bamboo raft ride, visited temples, sampled local food, and participated in many other cultural activities.
“This trip exceeded my expectations in every way. I was hoping we could make a contribution to something bigger than what we do in our normal lives. By the end of the trip, it was clear that we were able to make a big impact in the lives of the kids at Huay Song Elementary School, and likewise, they made a huge impact on our lives. Our views and opinions on the huge problem of human trafficking were also influenced, and hopefully we can continue to contribute to the cause.”
Senior Libby Engle was deeply grateful for the experience. “I realized how God’s love is so enormous. Despite a language barrier and radically different culture norms, we were able to demonstrate and observe Christ’s love through our interactions in the pool while teaching lessons and in the classroom teaching English. This was overwhelmingly powerful for me, and I am so appreciative of each moment our team spent serving together.”