Round Square International Service Projects in the Field

Posted: 21 April 2022

Round Square International Service (RSIS) Projects, 50-70 students from Round Square schools across the globe together to work in support of a community in need somewhere in the world. Their project might be a “Big Build” to construct or renovate a community building or a school, or it might be an environmental project such as tree-planting or working on an animal conservation programme. In recent years RSIS teams have also built bridges and clean water systems, working with rural communities in locations such as Morocco, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Borneo.

Round Square International Service Projects involve students working on-the-ground in the partner community for two weeks during either July or December, working closely with the community, and often living among them. RSIS Projects engage students in a process of action and reflection that develops their understanding of the needs of a partner community and involves them in a practical project to addresses those needs.

In December 2023, 70 students from Round Square Schools across the world will join a RSIS Project in Thailand, where they will tackle issues relating to human-elephant coexistence in the Tenasserim Hills.  Students will work as a team on construction of a community research centre, park ranger huts, lookout towers, hornbill nest boxes, and beehive fences. They will also be helping to plant lemongrass and citrus plants, and other crops disliked by elephants. These plants will support the ongoing Tom Yum Project, which is dedicated to providing sustainable food security for rural communities in Thailand.

Not only will participants be contributing to an ongoing, sustainable project that is tackling a critical local issue, but they will also have the chance along the way to learn about Thai culture and history, elephant behaviour, demographics, and migration routes, as well as local fauna and flora. During the course of the project they will also be learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, and how this project contributes.

RSIS Projects have many learning objectives for the student participants. Most describe the experience as “life changing”, and when they return home their parents and teachers observe their increased confidence, greater maturity, and broadened perspective on the world.

Students live life differently for a time, learning more about themselves and the culture in which they are immersed, and develop communication and leadership skills along the way. They disconnect from their screens and from the wider world, as they embark on a digital detox and reconnect face-to-face with a multicultural team of newfound friends from across the world.

“Project participants came from many different schools and countries around the world and brought with them their own personal and cultural perspectives” says Alexander from Ballarat Grammar in Australia, who participated in a previous RSIS Project. “Working as part of a team together gave me an understanding and appreciation of the different approaches and strengths that people had to offer”

Amy from St Cyprians School in South Africa felt that she developed practical leadership skills through learning-by-doing: “Through the RSIS project in Nepal, I feel that I have developed a new-found sense of leadership within myself. I was able to lead a team of people I had only met recently which ended up giving me confidence and independence, two aspects I was hoping to develop.”

Perhaps the most important outcome is to demonstrate for students that they can make a positive difference in the world; that however small they may think their contribution to be, it can be life-improving or even life-defining for a person who benefits from that contribution. As Louisa Marie, a student from Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, who joined the RSIS Project working in an orphanage in Borneo explains, “I know I cannot change the world, but I knew I could change a part of the world for the children in the orphanage”.

Caroline from UWCSEA in Singapore says “I didn’t realise how big of an impact we could have in just two short weeks so just physically seeing what we built was amazing. It made me realise that if people just gave up their time for others, the world could be such a beautiful place.” And Olivia from Ivanhoe Grammar School in Australia says “without a doubt we made a difference and I feel incredibly proud to have been a part of it”.

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