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Celebration of Service

Environmental stewards in the making

In Thailand, Paranee Reymondon helps students appreciate their environment

In the central plains of Thailand, north of Bangkok, rich open fields of grassland and scrub forest are vulnerable.

Rather than continue the cycle of re-planting and re-building what had been intentionally and unintentionally destroyed, Paranee Reymondon, a communications specialist for IBM in Thailand, decided to get at the root of the problem—namely, a lack of knowledge and experience with environmental preservation among those who live in the region.

“The area is being degraded largely because of a lack of education in ecosystem management and sustainable agriculture,” says Paranee. “I thought that if we focused on educating young people, we could begin to create a generation and culture that appreciates how people and agricultural ecosystems can exist in harmony with the native environment.”

Paranee identified material for environmental education within IBM’s library of resources for volunteers, and joined with the Nature and Agriculture Education Centre (NAEC), a non-governmental organization, to create a series of activities for students at all levels.

Inspiring the future

Working with NAEC, which is supported by the World Wildlife Fund Thailand, Paranee and several other volunteers established two goals for their effort—promote ecosystem conservation in the central plains through environmental education, and use IBM’s Green Innovation solutions to increase student awareness and knowledge about the environment.

“In a project this size, my action is to federate ideas and ongoing practices of volunteers. I wouldn’t be able to do it alone without great effort from many IBM volunteers,” says Paranee. “Also, I’ve received considerable support from IBM management reflecting our commitment to give back to the community.”

An IBM Catalyst Grant will provide support for many aspects of the project including workshop materials, building supplies and science books.

More than 100 volunteers from IBM along with sixth-grade students from three schools in the area will participate in the segments of the project: a field learning activity incorporated with elements from the IBM volunteer activity “Help Kids Go Green,” a green innovation workshop, and the building of a vertical-ecological garden.

For the field learning activity the students will get a hands-on perspective about how fragile and vulnerable their land is, while appreciating how to sustain the future ecology system of the area where they live.

“The students have potential to promote environmental knowledge to their friends and families, and may take bigger steps for environment care in the future,” says Paranee, hoping the students will one day inspire others.

Increasing involvement to deepen engagement

The other components of the project will increase the students’ exposure to environmental education.

A discovery-based workshop, created by volunteers using multiple Green Innovator™ solutions is designed to provide students with more experiential learning. IBM’s “Help Kids Go Green” activity will give them a foundation in the three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle, with a post-activity assignment for each student to describe how they have protected the environment. As an incentive, the schools whose students have significantly increased awareness and improved their environmental practices will receive new science books for their library.

After witnessing the impact on their land, participating in workshops, and personally stating their environmental goals, the students will come together with volunteers to put their understanding of ecology into practice by building a community prototype of self-watering vertical gardens at NAEC. The gardens will become a learning tool and example for others as NAEC will be able to bring them to other local schools as part of their eco-educational workshops.

Paranee hopes that by the project’s conclusion the students will “have pride in their first steps in the environment conservation, which may lead to further steps in the future.”

As a volunteer, Paranee has had occasion to see what happens when you create and deepen interest in some topic for a child. Two years ago, she and other volunteers from IBM conducted a TryScience learning activity for 6th grade students. “They wrote down every single thing they found during the experiments and presented what they discovered with fascinated perspectives and pride,” says Paranee. “At the end of the day, they told us that they began to love science.”

The scope of her latest project with NAEC will span four months, and involve more than 100 volunteers, but she welcomes the challenge. “I’ve learned that a lot of people have a great sense of giving and sharing, and with their effort it is all possible.”

“The consciousness of many people can become a unique force if each joins hands and takes action. My role is to connect them with activities that allow them to meet and form a bigger group, and to serve and care for the community in which we reside.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.