The Armidale School travels to Thailiand, Fiji and the Kokoda Track | PHOTOS

SOPHIE Tongue was so inspired by witnessing the work of an organisation helping Thai hill tribes out of poverty through sustainable agriculture, she says it has changed her perspective on life.

“The Integrated Tribal Development Program works with the tribes to grow coffee beans which they sell to Starbucks and through their own outlet Lanna Coffee, and also grow food for their own consumption which helps get the villages out of poverty and increase the life expectancy and health of the villagers,” she said.

“It has opened up an opportunity to go back and work with them if I choose to, to help improve their agricultural practices,” The Armidale School Year 11 student from Nundle said.

The school’s annual Christian service trip to Thailand also included volunteer work at the Agape Home for HIV orphans and the McKean Rehabilitiation Centre for Leprosy sufferers, both in Chiang Mai.

Far from idling away the October school holidays, Sophie was one of almost 50 TAS students who extended themselves in a range of unique service, adventure and leadership opportunities around the globe.

John Moore of Bourke, walked the Kokoda Track with his brother Niall, father Greg, and 12 others from the TAS community.

“Over nine days we all learnt a lot about the sacrifices and perseverance of the Diggers against huge odds. It was a difficult trek however we just had to think of the conditions our soldiers faced in 1943 to keep up our motivation,” he said. “Another highlight was getting to know the friendly locals and talking to them about their lifestyle and the strong bonds with Australia.”

Oliver Cook (Moree) was one of 16 Year 8 students who continued a long relationship of service work at St Christopher’s Orphanage in Fiji.

“We scrubbed walls and painted fences and their church; to be able to help the Sisters who run the home maintain it was really appreciated. We spent time getting to know our buddies, and learnt that you don’t need physical objects to be happy like these kids are,” he said.

“It was nice to be able to help out.”

Elsewhere, students availed themselves of the rich opportunities provided by TAS’ membership of the global organisation Round Square, being challenged and inspired at conferences in Mongolia (Year 8) and South Africa (Year 11); there are also four students currently on exchange to fellow Round Square schools in Isle of Man, Canada and the United States.