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Global Playground Inaugurates Khe Sanh Primary School

Wednesday, August 07, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |



Global Playground inaugurated its fifth project, Pa Nho Primary School near Khe Sanh in Central Vietnam on August 7. Several Global Playground Board members and volunteers were onsite to celebrate the inauguration. Global Playground worked with the Global Community Service Foundation to construct the school.

“It is exhilarating to know that here, in a place still littered with Agent Orange and landmines, we have given some of the poorest children in Vietnam an opportunity to learn, and connected them with their peers across the globe,” said Doug Bunch, Chairman of Global Playground.

Global Playground’s new primary school in Khe Sanh will serve over 125 students in the town and surrounding villages when classes begin in September. The building hosts four classrooms, a toilet, and 72 desks and chairs. 

“The students, families and teachers very much appreciate Global Playground’s funding of the new primary school building. The teachers are committed to further the education of these children, and live up to the promise of the new school,” the school principal said. 

Although Vietnam as a whole boasts literacy rates above 90%, the ethnic minorities in more isolated mountain areas suffer from widespread illiteracy. 

 The lack of access to schools and quality education tempt many parents to keep their children at home to help provide income. These circumstances exacerbate the achievement gap and poverty rates, with many families living on just $15 a month.

Despite these challenges, the community’s commitment to education is undeterred. Although Global Playground and its generous supporters provided over $45,000 to build the school, the local community contributed land and materials to the project.

“The local community’s commitment to the school underscores the value they place on education and the hope they have for the future of their children,” said Edward Branagan, Global Playground’s Executive Director.

Khe Sanh is still recovering from the devastation and destruction that occurred there during the Vietnam War.  The town was the site of an American base and a major, well-known battle. Unexploded landmines continue to put many villagers and children at risk. Annual floods in the town have also contributed to the destruction of homes and the closure of a prior school building. Global Playground recognized and responded to these challenges by building the primary school on higher ground that had been cleared of landmines.

Global Playground hopes that the new primary school will provide educational opportunities that will reverse the local cycle of poverty, provide safe places to learn and play, and add to Global Playground’s worldwide network of schools where onsite Teaching Fellows will continue to facilitate global cross-cultural dialogue. 
          
This article was written by Pat Austria, Director of Communications. 



Global Playground Appoints New Board of Directors

Friday, July 19, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


The newly elected Global Playground Board of Directors met on July 13. Joseph Jay, Ryann Tanap, Jason Maga, and Emmy Levens, join returning Chairman Doug Bunch and Vice Chairman and Executive Director Edward Branagan to serve on the Board for the upcoming year.

This Board, elected in June, brings together a variety of backgrounds inside and outside of Global Playground. Joseph Jay attended the College of William and Mary as an undergraduate and a law student. He currently works as a lawyer for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in Washington D.C.

“I knew about GP from the time it was founded and have followed it through its first seven years,” Jay said. “I want to continue supporting the founders’ vision for education in remote areas around the world.”

Jason Maga works for Amtrak handling contract negotiations and operational improvement issues with the companies who own the tracks. Maga has supported GP for a number of years, and met his wife at a GP fundraiser in Washington D.C. Maga hopes his past nonprofit board experience will assist him in this role.

“I was previously on the board of another organization that has since grown to over $10 million in annual revenue and provides life-changing services to over half a million impoverished people in Africa,” Maga said. “My contribution was only a tiny part of the growth, but I hope to bring to GP a bit of what I learned there and use that to help GP develop and implement its own growth plan.”

Maga resonates with Global Playground’s ability to tie two distinctive goals into one organization.

“Global Playground offers a unique opportunity to, at the same time, support basic education and a broader cultural awareness by focusing on the synergy between these two objectives,” Maga said.

Current Thailand Teaching Fellow Ryann Tanap will return to the United States at the end of July and serve on the Board for the upcoming year. She brings a hands-on volunteer perspective to the group after finishing her year of teaching.

“I have more of an understanding of what fellows may face on a daily basis,” Tanap said. “I want to provide support for incoming teaching fellows, as they are the only full-time volunteers of Global Playground.”

Tanap believes her new role on the Board connects with her every day goal to teach her students English through a cross-cultural lens.

“At the end of the day, it’s really all about the kids,” Tanap said. “I believe that GP’s work, especially with the fellows, allows for a unique learning experience. GP has been able to promote cross-cultural dialogue, and I really want to help facilitate these interactions.”  

Smith Selected as Thailand Teaching Fellow

Friday, May 17, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


Maddy Smith, a 2013 graduate of the College of William & Mary, will serve as Global Playground’s Thailand Teaching Fellow beginning in August.

“I feel like now is the time in my life to give back as much as I can. I saw it as a great opportunity to give back to the organization that I have followed for so many years in a tangible way,” Smith said.

Smith first learned about the organization as a freshman in her Leadership and Community Engagement class.

“Doug [Bunch, Chairman of Global Playground] came to lecture in my class when I was a freshman. It was one of the first exposures that I had to meet the founder of an organization like that, and I was just captivated by him and the organization,” Smith said. “I have stayed in touch with him over the past few years and attended fundraisers.” 

Smith, an International Relations major, believes her experience tutoring kids during her time as an undergrad and her past summer working as a program director for a summer camp will assist her in this new position.

“I spent the past summer working with Christ church summer camps. Halfway through the summer I was promoted to be program director for the counselor in training program, designing and implementing curriculum,” Smith said. “In order to gain respect from the students you have to give them respect.”

Through this experience, Smith developed a philosophy to her teaching style that she hopes to use in her Thai classroom.

“I saw myself not so much as an authoritative figure, as much as a learning tandem relationship,” Smith said. “When I was able to convey that to them it worked so much better.”

For Smith, Global Playground’s small, supportive network stood out to her during her job search. 

“Through the whole process, it just became really clear to me that this was the place I wanted to be,” Smith said. “I just realized that this is a group of people that I want to be associated with.”

Smith believes the cross-cultural exchange element of the organization sets Global Playground apart from other teaching abroad opportunities.

“For me, the big difference between the average teaching English abroad and Global Playground is the fact that this is a cross-cultural exchange. I think that is something that is incredibly valuable,” Smith said.

Smith will go to Bangkok in early August to take a three-week intensive Thai immersion course. After that, she will go to Mae La Noi to join current Thailand Teaching Fellow Ryann Tanap in the village where she will be teaching and living for the upcoming year.

“The way the program is set up, we overlap by two or three weeks, so I will be able to observe her in the classroom so that by the time I step into the classroom I will have a solid grasp on what I’m doing,” Smith said.

She will also participate in a training weekend here in the U.S. before leaving for Thailand with the new Honduras Teaching Fellow Alex Clark-Youngblood. Smith is looking forward to the upcoming opportunity.

“This is the time in my life when I want to be putting myself out of my comfort zone so I can learn more about my life and my abilities, but also give back to different cultures at the same time,” Smith said. 

From New Jersey to Thailand

Friday, March 08, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


When Global Playground Board Member Becca Rollo read “The Lion and the Son-in-Law” – crafted by Teaching Fellow Ryann Tanap’s students in Mae La Noi, Thailand, to her fifth grade class in Freehold Township, New Jersey, her students noticed how similar it was to the American fable “The Lion and the Mouse.”  

Rollo shared the fables crafted by Tanap’s students as a lesson in cross-cultural dialogue lesson, discussing the Thai fables in comparison to American fables.

Students in Rollo's fifth grade class read both fables.
“We discussed the oral tradition of storytelling and how that is key to how both folktales and fables exist in the world today. I also told them that, fascinatingly enough, there are similar fables and folktales that occur throughout the world,” Rollo said. “I explained that today I would be sharing with them a Thai student’s rendition of a fable with similar characters. There was a definite twist in the Thai version.”            

Rollo was able to access Tanap’s fables virtually and share them with her class.

“The kids were floored by the artwork. They also quickly wanted to jump in and correct the grammatical mistakes. This opened the door for a very meaningful conversation about what it is like to do something like this in another language,” Rollo said.

Rollo’s students are currently learning Spanish, but they are not at the level where they can read or write in Spanish independently.

“Students see things from their own points of view, and it takes coaxing for them to see something from a different point of view. If they were the ones assigned this task, they would have been overwhelmed by the difficulty and here they were instantly quick to criticize,” Rollo said. “The broadening of their understanding and the development of that humility when entering into cross-cultural dialogue like this takes time to foster and is well worth the time it takes to develop.”

Tanap taught the fable lesson to her twelfth grade English 204: English for Speaking and Listening course at Mae La Noi Daroonsik School. She taught her students the different parts of a fable, explained vocabulary in the fables before reading them aloud, read them aloud to the class and then asked comprehension questions afterwards.

After her students understood the structure of a fable and listened to the American version, they were able to select their own fables from Thai, hill tribe or religious origins to turn them into storybooks.

“Because Global Playground is dedicated to cross-cultural dialogue, I knew that a fable assignment that incorporated the student’s knowledge of storytelling would really be something worth exploring,” Tanap said. “I loved having the students practice reading the fables aloud as well as coming up with the content for their fables.”

Rollo hopes to continue to communicate with Tanap’s students in Thailand. Thai students are on summer break from mid-March to mid-May, but Rollo plans to send a response to Tanap’s students in May when they are back in session.

“We will be working to record something to send to her in the meantime to further this literacy connection,” Rollo said. “We will spend the coming months using stockpiled videos on [Global Playground’s] YouTube channel to foster other cross-cultural dialogue projects that wouldn’t occur in real-time, but would allow us to prepare responses to send by the time students are back in school in Thailand in mid-May.” 

Taylor Nelson receives Monroe Prize for Civic Leadership

Monday, February 25, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


Global Playground’s former Intern Taylor Nelson received the College of William & Mary’s 2013 James Monroe Prize for Civic Leadership. Nelson was honored during the College’s Charter Day ceremonies on Feb. 8.

The award is granted to a student “who has demonstrated sustained leadership of an unusual quality, leadership combined with initiative, character, and an unfailing commitment to leverage the assets of the College community to address the needs of our society.”

Nelson will graduate from the College in May with a major in Sociology and a minor in Community Studies. She interned with Global Playground the summer after her sophomore year.

“It was wonderful to work with Global Playground and to have the opportunity to see such a different light on so many different things, such as cross-cultural communication,” Nelson said. “It was great to work with a staff that is so passionate about what they do and that is really driving change around the world.”

Nelson worked with members of the organization during her internship to begin the Moment of the Week initiative on the Global Playground website. Moment of the Week highlights a picture, video or moment from the lives of the teaching fellows at one of the five Global Playground schools. (correct me if this descrip is wrong)

“Working with Global Playground showed me the capacity I had to produce the things that they needed,” Nelson said. “It was incredible to see how my work paid off and was benefiting the organization itself.”

Nelson has had an extensive career in service during her four years at the College. She currently serves on the Branch Out campus executive board, working to plan alternative break trips and train trip leaders. She entered as a Sharpe community scholar, studying social justice issues in her freshman seminar. She worked for the Lackey Free Clinic in Yorktown, Virginia, and she created her own community-based research project on the effects of cooking-based nutritional education on reducing childhood obesity.

After spending a summer working with Global Playground, Nelson traveled to Ireland to continue her international social engagement experience working with Ashoka. There, she worked to coordinate the Change Nation summit during the summer after her junior year. These experiences have contributed to Nelson’s continued service to her community in Williamsburg and abroad.

“Winning the award was such a humbling experience,” Nelson said. “I don’t think I could have gotten to that point without organizations like Global Playground supporting me and giving me the opportunity to do the things that I have done.”

Read more about Taylor’s award here on William & Mary News

Global Playground Announces Teaching Fellowships

Sunday, February 17, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


Applications to work as a Teaching Fellow at Global Playground projects in Thailand, Cambodia and Uganda are now available. Global Playground currently sponsors four annual Teaching Fellowships, in Honduras, Thailand, Cambodia and Uganda.

Teaching Fellows serve as ambassadors to the host country and to the local partnering organization at the project site in the country. Fellows spend one year at the project sites, teaching English and working in Global Playground’s schools, library and technology center. Teaching Fellows create and implement a curriculum promoting cross-cultural understanding. They also work to connect their project site with other Global Playground sites and schools in the United States to foster cross-cultural dialogue.

The Thailand Teaching Fellow works in Mae La Noi, Mae Hong Son Province teaching secondary school grades 6 through 12. The Cambodia Teaching Fellow will work in Koh Kel, Kandal Province teaching secondary school grades 7 through 9. The Uganda Teaching Fellow will work in Buwasa teaching primary school grades 1 through 7. 

Alex Youngblood, a teacher in Arizona, will begin his Teaching Fellowship in Honduras in May. Ryann Tanap is currently working in Thailand and will complete her fellowship in July. She is the third Teaching Fellow to be placed in Thailand. Candidates selected for Cambodia and Uganda will be the first Teaching Fellows in those positions.

“Global Playground’s Thailand Teaching Fellowship has allowed me to put what I’ve learned academically and in past service experience into action. I love working with the Mae La Noi Daroonsik community. They invited me into their community by sharing their cultures and traditions,” Tanap said. “Although I cannot change the circumstances that my students face, I can inspire them to also be agents of change in their lives by teaching, and also learning, with them.”

To apply to work as a Teaching Fellow, click here


Global Playground Representatives Visit Uganda School

Saturday, January 26, 2013 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


Global Playground Chairman Doug Bunch and Executive Director Edward Branagan traveled to Uganda on January 2 to visit Global Playground’s first project, a primary school in Wakiso District.

Global Playground funded the construction of the school in partnership with Building Tomorrow who oversaw the project. Both Mr. Branagan and Mr. Bunch spent time with the students, teachers, and their families while visiting the school.

“We have worked so hard to get to this point, and it marks an important moment for Global Playground that we can actually see all of our efforts materialize,” Bunch said.

“As hard as it is for us to make time to do everything that we do, the benefit that we giveto these communities is larger than we can ever imagine. These kids would not be inschool if Global
Playground had not acted.” Branagan also added, “With about five years of hindsight, one can see and even feel that the modest funds donated for this schoolbuilding project have changed lives both in tangible and intangible ways that may not be reflected in a single success metric such as student enrollment numbers.”
            
Before Global Playground’s school was built, many students did not attend school because it was too far for them to travel to do so. The new school serves more than six villages. Classes range from 25 to 30 students each with a total enrollment of about 190 students and nine teachers.
           
“Global Playground can help build four walls for education, but at the end of the day, the learning that occurs within the walls is the result of the teachers, students, parents and local NGO Building Tomorrow,” Branagan said. “It is really inspiring to see how much education is valued by all stakeholders involved, a true testament to the grassroots community engagement model that is being employed by our partners on the ground.”
            
The government provides teachers and sets the curriculum, but Global Playground hopes to place a Teaching Fellow at the school in the future.
            
“There is always room for improvement, but, overall, I think there will be ample opportunity for a new Fellow to work alongside a very able and committed community,” Branagan said.
            
In addition, Global Playground received a grant from the Charitable Foundation of the Energy Bar Association (CFEBA) to install solar panels in the school. Bunch and Branagan saw the grant put into good use at the school during their visit.
            
“The solar panels are working and in use. The power is a huge benefit to the school,” Bunch said.
            
The panels not only provide power to the building, but they have also become a small source of income to further support the school itself.
            
“The solar panels are also being used to charge cell phones of community members. The modest funds generated from this are reinvested in the school,” Branagan said.
            
With a power source and a working school in place, Bunch and Branagan hope that Internet and computers can one day come to the school as well.

William & Mary Professor Hosts Global Playground Fundraiser

Monday, December 03, 2012 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


College of William & Mary Professor George Greenia hosted a fundraiser for Global Playground on Nov. 17. A variety of members of the William & Mary community including professors, administrators, law students and undergraduates were in attendance.

“The event was clearly a success – not just in financial terms. It’s always great to see such a cross-section of the College community come together to support Global Playground,” Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors Doug Bunch said. “William and Mary engenders an obligation to give back to others who are less fortunate. Everyone’s presence there on Thursday confirmed that sense of obligation, and it was inspiring and refreshing to see.” 

Global Playground has maintained close ties with the College of William & Mary since its inception. Both founders Bunch and Edward Branagan are alumni of the College, and the community has demonstrated overwhelming support during the organization’s growth. This event only reaffirmed the expanding supportive community of Global Playground in Williamsburg.

“This year’s house party was excellent… reaffirming the solidarity of a widening circle of local supporters. That sort of faithful cultivation of donors and believers is the lifeblood of any organization that hopes to outlast its founders,” Greenia said.

In addition to events like this one, organizations including Greek and service fraternities as well as the on-campus Office of Community Engagement have previously contributed to Global Playground through various fundraisers or activities. According to Greenia, this continued connection between the College and Global Playground has grown into more than just a connection with the alma mater of the founders.

“Our Tribe achieves a global reach through Global Playground and the more we expose the campus community to its successes, the more we can take pride in our shared stewardship. From President Reveley, through the faculty and staff and deep into the student body, this project merges us with the community of all humankind,” Greenia said.

Senior Maddy Smith attended November’s fundraiser as a gesture of her continued support for the organization. She first learned about Global Playground during her freshman seminar course entitled “Paths in Civic Engagement” when Bunch came to speak to her class about Global Playground.

“I was immediately captivated by the idea of cross-cultural understanding in schools around the world. His talk struck a chord with me because he was so passionate about his work that I wanted to be a part of the organization and its progress,” Smith said. “I commend the organization for taking on such an ambitious project.”

For Smith, the presence of undergraduates at the fundraiser is a part of the reason she supports Global Playground and its methods so wholeheartedly.

“I think that Global Playground has done a beautiful job of reaching out to undergraduates at William & Mary to encourage their support and brainstorm ways for students to become a part of the organization,” Smith said. “I admire the fact that Global Playground values the opinions of the students and takes into consideration their thoughts, comments and concerns and incorporates those ideas into the way they work.”

College and Williamsburg community members gathered together for a cocktail party hosted by Greenia in honor of Global Playground’s continued efforts to foster cross-cultural learning and understanding through educational infrastructure and resources. In total, the fundraiser nearly $1,000 for the organization. 

“It’s not just cocktails and food: it’s a common table and a common cause, a commitment to each other – and more importantly to the children of the world that Global Playground serves,” Greenia said. 

New Honduras Teaching Fellow Chosen

Monday, October 08, 2012 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


When Alex Clark-Youngblood wakes up in the morning to get ready for work, he knows what to expect. He goes through the motions, hops in his car, and drives off to meet his fifth grade class of emotionally disabled students for another full day of teaching in Phoenix, Arizona.

After a phone call a few weeks ago, the stability of his Phoenix lifestyle will only remain a reality for a few more months. Youngblood has been selected as the new Global Playground Honduras Teaching Fellow, and he will be joining the team in Honduras in May.

“I had already committed to come back and teach in Phoenix for a third year, but, to be honest, I was considering packing up my things and going straight down to Honduras,” Youngblood said. “Fortunately we worked out an arrangement where I don’t have to abandon ship here.”

Youngblood will spend the next few months connecting his fifth-grade Phoenix classroom with Thailand Teaching Fellow Ryann Tanap’s classroom to engage both in a cross-cultural dialogue. He will also make a few preliminary visits before moving to Honduras in May to complete the teaching fellowship.

“I think there i so much room for growth in Honduras and in El Progreso specifically –  on top of that the opportunity to pick up where Adam left off with Students Helping Honduras and to work with an organization like OYE that I am familiar with and that has already been successful,” Youngblood said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Youngblood worked with the Organization for Youth Empowerment, or OYE, in El Progreso during the summer of 2011. He helped fundraise for their annual summer soccer tournament during the year, and then worked in Honduras during the summer to hold the event.

Global Playground’s prior Teaching Fellow, Adam Levin, while working in Honduras, had begun to work with OYE as well. When Youngblood found out about the program, he applied.

“It just seems like the perfect opportunity, and I couldn’t be happier that we found a way to make it work.”

Youngblood currently works with a group of emotionally disabled students on a day-to-day basis currently. His students come from various backgrounds and they all have different disabilities, but Youngblood finds himself reinvigorated by his work every day.

“It can be hard working with students that have severe education issues to maintain the motivation and patience, but I really do feel like I wake up every morning feeling ready to continue the fight that we are fighting here.”

Youngblood plans to bring this same energy with him to Honduras.

“Every day is a struggle so you just have to take pride and satisfaction in the small victories, because the good days can be few and far between sometimes.” 

Vietnam School Construction Complete

Sunday, September 09, 2012 | posted by Ellie Kaufman |


In one short year, construction of the school in the Pa Nho village in Vietnam has been completed. The project, funded by both Global Playground in partnership with the Global Community Service Organization, will serve 150-200 students from ages 5 to 14 years old.

“The school building project in Khe Sanh offers Global Playground a unique opportunity to connect ethnic minority groups living in Vietnam with other children in the world through education,” Global Playground Executive Director Edward Branagan said.

95 percent of the students who will attend the school come from families that are members of ethnic hill tribes. Out of those students, 90 percent are living below the official Vietnam poverty line of $15 dollars a month.

The new school brings the possibility of a stable and uninterrupted school year for the students by providing an infrastructure that won’t close when the heavy rain season comes. The previous facility was built on a flood plain creating an unstable academic year for the community.

“Yearly rains rendered the school unstable for up to 2 months at a time, thus effectively shutting down the facility and forcing students to stay at home,” GCSO Southeast Asia Regional Director Max Talcott said.

The opportunity to attend primary school now will allow students to pursue higher education later. The facility can also serve as a storm shelter when needed for the community.

“All these kids really want is a place to play, a place to interact, a place to go to school,” Global Playground Chairman Doug Bunch said. “The opportunity to give these kids the infrastructure to do that and to put them in touch with the rest of the world is one we take very seriously.”

The Pa Nho village is located just outside of the Khe Sanh town, a former large Marine Corps base that was the location of many fierce battles during the Vietnam War. The area is still not completely free of land mines and bears emotional scars from the war.

“Building a U.S.-financed school in that area is a symbolic measure of how the positive relations between Vietnam and the United States have come since the war,” Talcott said.

The local government has been involved throughout the planning and construction of the project, and they have agreed to take over operational expenses now that construction is complete. The school was built in cooperation with the Quang Tri People’s Committee, the Quang Tri Department of Foreign Affairs, the Huong Ha District’s Department of Education and Training, and the Huong Ha District People’s Committee.


A ceremony to dedicate the school and celebrate the completion of construction will be held in the near future. Students have already begun attending classes.