December 05, 2008

 Dec 2008 Newsletter: Yumi's Monthly Note

Sawatdee Khrab!!! ("Hello" in Thai)

I landed in Thailand in November to talk about the Pangaea Project with the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO). The ALRO has been implementing practical projects to improve conditions for Thai farmers. To be honest, I had felt a bit edgy about this trip due to Thai political crisis, yet the feeling completely disappeared as I arrived in Thailand. The ALRO arranged "educational tours" to show me the ALRO CyberBrain Project, one of the incredible systems developed by the ALRO. During the tours, I visited schools and other facilities in farming communities, where farmers are mainly planting rice and/or rubber trees, along with two people from the Telecommunication Technology Committee(TTC).

The following is what I learned from the ALRO and the educational tours. In Thailand,

the agricultural population accounts for 30% of the total working population. To raise farm efficiency and productivity, the ALRO started the CyberBrain Project which provides farmers with information through text messaging. This is how the system works. A farmer carries out simple soil tests, and the test results are sent to the server via a cell phone. Proper amounts of fertilizer are computed based on the test results, and then the farmer receives a text message with suggestions for fertilizing. However, there is a catch: In Thailand, many farmers are not familiar with cutting-edge tools, at their time, educational opportunities beyond elementary school were still limited in farming communities. Thus, children who know how to utilize cell phones, as well as other gadgets, have been assisting the farmers. They are allowed to use the computer lab, called "Orange Center," at the ALRO's facilities in order for the farmers to get information about crops, insect pest and disease management, and so on. In addition, the children can ask questions to agricultural experts through internet; the experts give the children as much detail as possible. I asked the kids who were doing their internet tasks at the Orange Center: "How do you feel about cyber chores?" Every kid said, "It is a great honor!" The children I talked with in farming communities left some impressions on me: they are very shy and well- behaved.

During my stay in Thailand, we visited two locations: Krabi and the community, two hours away by a car from Ubon Ratchathani bordering Laos and Cambodia. This trip was extremely hard: I was being forced to be a super early bird - getting up at 3 AM - for three days straight. Nevertheless, social interaction with villagers in farming communities helped me survive. Children welcomed me with cute shy smiles; the elderly gave me warm feelings. We shared laughter... Actually, I had a hilarious episode. It just happened while I was in a village. I was being in the spotlight to receive a gift, a heap of rice on a gigantic golden plate sitting on a pedestal plate, from one of villagers. My hands grabbed the pedestal plate; the villager who was handing me the gift didn't take his hands off the pedestal plate, either. So, we were pulling the pedestal plate each other until I was given the instruction: "Take the GOLDEN PLATE, not the pedestal plate." Everyone cracked up laughing while watching my "performance." But the laughter completely changed the atmosphere. Kids were gradually coming out their shells and started talking with me through an interpreter.

Uh, sorry to change the subject, but I've got "Breaking News" - the Pangaea Project goes to Malaysia! We've just reached the final decision, launching our program in Malaysia in early January, 2009. The TTC had arranged the first session in order for us to meet with a vice president from one of universities in Kuching located on the island of Borneo. Because the meeting went amazingly well, we have been invited to visit Malaysia around this Christmas to discuss in more detail. It will be our first overseas playground since we fully developed the Pangaea Pack. This is exactly what I wanted. I wonder if God is watching me... and gave me this opportunity as reward for my hard work. Plus, I received an email from Kenya which says "come HOME immediately!" It seems to be a very busy year ahead for me.

Right now, I am watching the world-shaking news covering the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, as well as the closure of Thailand's major airports. I guess it's a sign - we must "shake a leg" to reach out to the world.

Ms. Chisa Nishikawa, aka Giara, is the Pangaea Ring writer this month. Giara joined Pangaea as a participant when she was in 7th grade. She is a Pangaea graduate and has been helping our activities as a high school volunteer. Giara is an outstanding facilitator with a natural ability to work with kids. I am very proud of her growth.

Well, bye for now.


Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter | Permalink

 Dec 2008 Newsletter: Pangaea ring - Ms. Chisa Nishikawa

Hello! I'm Chisa Nishikawa(call me Giara). I am a high school student and a Pangaea facilitator based in Tokyo.

I have been involved in Pangaea activity for as many as four years now. I used to be one of the participating children and I have become a volunteer to work as a facilitator this year.

When I first joined Pangaea as a participant, I had very little spirit of commitment to it. However, it soon became my habit to go home after Pangaea mumbling "Why is Pangaea held once a month only?"

When I was in junior high school, I used to be isolated in the class. My classmates used to think I was even disgusting.

One day however,

something happened and I became good friends with one of the classmates. I still remember very clearly when I was told from my classmate, "I heard from others that you were a disgusting person but you are not so at all! I am happy that I have become friends with you!"

Therefore, I hope that the children who come to participate in Pangaea activity will learn how to understand and accept the others, not only those overseas with whom they communicate on PangaeaNet but also those who are drawing pictures or those who are playing Viscuit (a software to create animation) sitting next to them.

Chisa Nishikawa
A high school student volunteer(16 years old)

Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter , 4. Pangaea Ring | Permalink