The beginning of April meant an eventful, fun and sometimes moving trip to Thailand for photographer Matt Oldfield, this time to help out with some video training at the Ecotourism Training Centre in Khao Lak, a not-for-profit organisation set up by Reid Ridgeway to help a group of local people rebuild their lives after the tsunami. In a nutshell, Reid managed to raise enough money to set up a year-long programme of academic and practical training for 17 students who had lost their livelihoods, and often family, homes and possessions as well, in an attempt to help them restart their careers and lives and get a fresh start after the disaster that hit Thailand.
The course is geared towards diving and the students are now undergoing their final divemaster exams so that in a months time, they will be qualified and experienced enough to start looking for jobs. But it’s not just dive training – the students are also taught business skills, admin, computer skills, they have had trips overseas, visitors from the US, intensive english language training – everything to give them a better chance. Matt travelled to Khao Lak to deliver a new video camera and housing, as well as to teach a Scubazoo underwater videography course to them all. Starting on Sunday morning Matt and the students headed out on a liveaboard and dived a new reef off Khao Lak, surveyed some areas for tsunami debris for the UNDP and then travelled down to Racha Yai and Racha Noi for some clear water and hopefully, mantas… Enroute they were blown out by a storm, dived in zero visibility water, got caught out by monster currents and even participated in the rescue of a manta from a long line – all-in-all and eventful trip!
However, for Matt the most moving part of the trip was in the days following the liveaboard trip. It was the first day of Songkran, Thai New Year, which for all intents and purposes is the world’s largest water fight! With a few of the students, Reid, his partner Cougar and teacher Sarah Krantz, Matt was driven around in the back of a pick up armed with bowls and two huge vats of water. Heading north we arrived at a small village, which now consists of row after row of new concrete houses – nothing survived the tsunami. Scattered amongst the houses was the odd boat, some of which were more than 1km from the coast line. One of the students pointed out a single, large tree left standing in a area of new development – the only reason she was there for Songkran was because when the tsunami hit, she managed to climb up and save herself. Unfortunately, she then witnessed the destruction of the entire village, including her own home and entire family.
Please take some time and have a look at the ETC website.
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