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​Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand is home to a diverse group of border-crossing workers from other regions of Asia, many of whom are classified as stateless—unable to vote, buy land, travel freely, or seek work like official Thai citizens can. But children in these communities still need an education, and CSULB instructor Rick Opland has been bringing groups of study abroad students to the area to lend a helping hand.

Opland recently brought 18 CSULB students to Chiang Mai to work at the Rai Som School for Stateless Children, an independent school for the children of those who work on the nearby orange plantations. The project was launched in collaboration with CSULB’s partner school, Mahidol University International College, and The Mirror Foundation, a non-governmental organization that works with local populations. During the June 2019 trip, CSULB students helped build a classroom and organized a sports day for the Rai Som school kids. In addition, the CSULB study abroad group raised over a thousand dollars in donations for the school through their GoFundMe page. 

The Mirror Foundation produced a video of all the activities that is available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Icduwh4EHt8&feature=youtu.be.

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The recent trip followed a previous visit by Opland and another group of study abroad students in May/June 2018, where they first broke ground on a permanent structure to replace the school’s aging thatched roof and bamboo walls. Students also took classes from Mahidol University faculty on topics such as international leadership, and visited seven local businesses to learn about their strategy, customers, operations, and management styles.


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