Although eclipsed by the current news stories vying for the front page of most American newspapers in recent weeks, the flooding in Thailand is a disaster that deserves attention. Marymount of Santa Barbara has taken notice.
With one-third of Thailand already underwater and, as anyone in Bangkok can attest, water levels still rising, the country is facing a multitude of problems: hunger, disease, the loss of lives, and the loss of homes and businesses, to name a few. A recently published article claims that the personal computer market is going to be hit extremely hard as a result of the disaster.
Part of the reason the Marymount community is talking about what is happening in Thailand is because of a 13-year-old girl named Pim Chitsanga.
Under normal circumstances, Pim attends the Wittana Wittaya Academy in Bangkok, Thailand. Several years ago, she did an exchange at Marymount of Santa Barbara. Marymount’s foreign student program has welcomed several students hailing from a diverse range of countries in recent years. When the flooding in Thailand started to become a real threat to the Chitsanga family home, Pim and her family immediately thought of the place that had once been so welcoming and felt so safe several years before — Marymount.
When Molly Seguel, Marymount’s director of admissions, was contacted by the Oruku family and responded to their urgent request with a, “Yes, of course the school will find a way to make room for Pim in its middle school,” the family was enormously relieved.
Andrew Wooden, head of school at Marymount who has worked much of his career with international exchange, said at a recent assembly of gathered students, “Pim is willing to be our window into another culture, another country, another way of looking at the world. Pim will make us better world citizens and we are glad to offer her our hospitality.”
On Nov. 2, Pim came back to the welcoming arms of her former classmates.
Marymount students, faculty and administration are doing more as a result of what is happening in Thailand than simply welcoming Pim back. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Grandparents Day, Marymount students will sell homemade bread that they have made in the middle school kitchen in a program they are calling “Loaves of Love” to raise money for disaster relief in Thailand.
“We want to raise awareness about what is happening in Thailand,” said Lyn Shirvanian, head of Marymount Middle School. “It is important for a person who is going through something as dramatic as the floods in Thailand to feel that they can do something to help. Marymount is hoping to help Pim do this, and the students are very excited about it. Pim will be able to give her school a check — however small — to rebuild or repair damages. Marymount did a similar project for Chile through a Chilean foreign student after the 2007 8.1 earthquake in La Conception and it was a great success.”
Pim, a lover of hip-hop and the Black Eyed Peas, can now return to some of the things she loves most. Her cousins, also the Orukus and owners of the East/West Restaurant on State Street, are thrilled to have her with them while she attends Marymount. Although Pim is still very worried about things back at home, she is thrilled to be back at Marymount. She is taking the school’s theme of “diving in” to heart by diving into her studies, renewing friendships and genuinely enjoying and thriving in the comfort and support of the Marymount community.
— Molly Seguel is the director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.