Students arrived at Somthavil School last Monday all prepared for a disaster. But they weren't afraid or unhappy - this unusual camp was meant to be enjoyed, even though they were training to escape injury or death.
Red Bear Survival Camp was the first such camp in Thailand to teach students Japanese methods on survival and being prepared to face danger by creatively implementing everyday skills and items.
The activity was also designed to boost the students’ survival instincts.
Elementary and secondary school students learned about teamwork, unity, and how to be cooperative and patient with each other in the face of danger. The 12 activities comprised mock disasters and games and activities such as flood walking in a blindfold.
The activities implemented taught students on how to move patients with blankets, conserve water using buckets, and adapt plastic bags during a fire. There were also guessing games about tools and disaster life cycles as well as competitions to stimulate memory about what’s inside relief packages.
Japan is a country known to frequently encounter disasters. The latest was the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands.
Kobe’s Fire Lieutenant Nobuhito Ohtsu, who saved people during the tsunami, recommended blindfold flood walking for this programme. The children were blindfolded to walk through obstacles, such as holes made with truck tyres and trees and bushes, carrying long sticks, while the staff splashed water at them to make the flood feeling more realistic.
“This will teach kids not to fall into holes and get injured easily when they hit obstacles because Thailand always has floods,” Ohtsu said.
This first camp was co-organised by the Japan Foundation, Design For Disaster, Design Creative Centre Kobe, and Plus Arts NPO.
The participants were elementary and secondary school students from Somthavil School, and four Ayutthaya province schools, Wat Jumpa, Wat Hua Hin, Wat Kai Jon, and Taa Luang Pithayanukul.
Taluang Phitayanukul School’s 12th grade student Nawin Juatae said the training made him realise the importance of teamwork as each activity was limited to ten minutes, and calmness was essential. The challenge increased his patience with his peers as well.
Somthavil School’s 6th grade student Sattawut Siripisankul agreed about teamwork and unity, saying the knowledge could easily be applied.
For volunteers from Thai Life Insurance and Big C who came to help with the activities, the students responded well and learned fast.
The name of this camp was created by Nagata’s friends according to the Design for Disaster’s founder Vipavee Kunanichayanont and programme producer Hirokazu Nagata.
“Nagata decided to choose a bear as the event’s mascot after he was teased by his friends for looking like a bear while wearing an overcoat in a meeting. He changed the bear’s colour, which was originally brown, to red to make the bear look more attractive to children,” Vipavee said.