Vacation at school

The countries affected are still struggling with the consequences of the disaster today – for example, in the Thai "Beluga School for Life" for orphans or half-orphans from poor families.

The young Thais in the English class of the "Beluga School for Life" are out of control. A foreign visitor is a welcome change in everyday classroom life. Some grin broadly, others laugh loudly, still others look a little embarrassed. The very brave use their English skills, ask where the visitor comes from, what his name is – and are delighted when their English is understood. The students are all orphans or half-orphans from poor families. A good 150 boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 18 live in the "Beluga School for Life" (BSL) in the village of Na Nai near Khao Lak. What was founded four years ago as an aid project for tsunami orphans in need by Niels Stolberg, head of the Bremen-based shipping company Beluga Shipping, has long since grown into a small village community. The vacation paradise of Khao Lak in southern Thailand, near Phuket, which is particularly popular with Germans and Scandinavians, was hit particularly hard by the seaquake on Boxing Day 2004. More than 5.000 people lost their lives, hotels and villages were leveled by the earthquake.

"Even poor children deserve a first-class education" "50 of our children lost their families in the tsunami," says Jorg Thiemann, BSL project manager on the ground."Many children were initially placed with relatives. "But after a while, these could no longer support the children, or they were disowned when the surviving parent entered into a new marriage." Thiemann emphasizes that the "Beluga Lebensschule" is not a classic orphanage. "We are an educational project. Even poor children deserve a first-class education."In addition to school lessons with classic subjects from math to sports, the BSL offers practical vocational training opportunities: Computer technology, for example, or methods of organic farming. This includes fish farming, goats, water buffalo and vegetable cultivation, which also have the practical purpose of contributing to the supply of the project. BLS is beautifully situated in a wide, green valley, surrounded by high mountains, just a few minutes by car from the dream beaches of Khao Lak. The buildings with the dormitories, common rooms, classrooms and offices are generously spread over the property of a former coconut plantation. In the center, a pool shines fresh and blue. It belongs, like some bungalows, to the new resort, which in the future is to finance the BLZ to a good part. The motto of the vacation in the school of life: "Travel, recover, help".

It's not just about the mere J The hotel is also a hotel school. There, BLS youths are trained to become hotel clerks – with a built-in job guarantee. The school works with other hotels in Khao Lak, where hotel students complete internships. At the end of their training, two-year contracts with partner hotels beckon them. "They're beating down our door. Trained hotel workers are in short supply in Thailand," says Thiemann. But it's not just about the mere job. The young people would also be prepared for other ies. Khun Emma teaches sex education at the "school of life". She educates her proteges not only about sexuality. Above all, the girls who later work in hotels learn that some male guests regard young Thai women as fair game and how they can defend themselves against this. "There are still many sex tourists here," says Khun Emma. Immediately after the tsunami, the psychologist was commissioned by Malteser Hilfsdienst to help survivors in the emergency camps cope with the trauma of loss and grief. "Some fell into depression, others became aggressive," she reports. Five years after the devastating natural disaster, the psychological wounds are slowly healing. But a residual trauma remains, as Khun Emma knows: "In some children, a shyness about the sea is noticeable."

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