It’s been 13 years since ISKL held its first Global Action Program (GAP) trip back in 2009. What started as a pilot project group of Grade 9 students has evolved through the years into an annual mass exodus of students from Grades 9 – 11 exploring 25 different itineraries in 2022.
GAP is a critical and mandatory component of ISKL’s High School (HS) program, where students gain the necessary life skills and knowledge of service-learning community outreach within the Asian region. Service-learning is not just about having the right attitude but also a call to create a better world for ourselves and the world around us. During the program, students get inspired by partnering with local communities and learn to experience first-hand the environmental and global issues affecting them. In addition, students are exposed to different cultures and customs and learn to take responsibility, explore philanthropy and engage in teamwork.
This life-changing experiential learning experience gives students a chance to step out of their comfort zones in the classroom and deep dive into an outdoor adventure where they can explore distinct cultural and environmental issues while participating in community service projects.
Over the years, here are some of the many fantastic experiences ISKL students have encountered during GAP:
2009 – Nepal
A group of twenty Grade 9 students visited Nepal and helped to promote dental health awareness among primary students from the Shree Pokhara View Point School. Despite the linguistic barriers, the local students learned a simple three-step procedure for brushing, the mechanics of getting toothpaste onto the brush, and how to hold the toothbrush correctly. The ISKL students also formulated a plan to provide funds to ensure the future availability of dental health products for the students.
2010 – Thailand
Grade 10 students visited the hill tribe areas of northern Thailand, where they immersed themselves in Thai culture and did their part to conserve nature and provide community service to the villages.
2011 – Sri Lanka
Grade 11 students spent six days in Sri Lanka and took part in various community activities such as donating school supplies to orphanages. They visited a tsunami village built in 2004 for disaster victims, a school for the hearing impaired, and an orphanage for kids up to 15 years old.
2012 – Hoi An, Vietnam
Grade 10 students visited an orphanage in Hoi An and enjoyed playing simple games and activities with the children. Some of the orphans were disabled and unable to complete simple tasks, and the ISKL students gained so much from this experience just by sharing smiles and interacting with the children.
2013 – Bali, Indonesia
In northern Bali, 18 Grade 10 scuba divers learned about coral reef restoration and how many coral reefs had disappeared during the financial crisis in the 1990s. The students went scuba diving and planted a coral reef structure using Biorock technology, which helps the coral grow faster and makes it a healthier coral reef, benefiting locals by attracting more tourists to the area.
2014 – Kerala, South India
Grade 10 students built seating areas for meal times at a children’s elementary school for them to eat their lunch, as previously, the kids were seated on the ground. They also enjoyed playing with the kids and teaching them dance moves and English songs.
2015 – Luang Prabang, Laos
In Laos, working alongside local villagers, Grade 10 students and the ‘World Volunteer’ team, a student travel provider, helped build two rooms in a small eco-bungalow hotel in Luang Prabang made from clay. This program trains locals to run the hotel arming them with skills such as cleaning, gardening, cooking, security, welcoming guests, and managing the incurring expenses, income, and profits.
2016 – Lijiang Old Town, China
Grade 11 students visited Lijiang Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, and helped at a local kindergarten. They built bunk beds for nap rooms, decorated classrooms with seasonal themes, and planned activities teaching the kids about the different holidays.
2017 – Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Grade 9 students visited the Wildlife Rescue Center in Yogyakarta and assisted in cleaning cages and feeding endangered animals saved from the illegal pet trade.
2018 – Borneo, Malaysia
Grade 9 students visited Borneo, where they helped build a water dam for villagers and learned a lot about their culture. Afterwards, they got the chance to play rugby with the local kids and experienced zip-lining and scuba diving.
2019 – Manado, Indonesia
Grade 10 students visited Manado in North Sulawesi, where they picked up rubbish from the beach that was causing harm to turtles. While scuba diving, they saw over 20 sea turtles and a pod of dolphins close up. They also formed close relationships with the local kids and had fun creating colorful plastic turtles from garbage collected from the ocean.
2022 – Malaysia
After a two-year hiatus due to travel restrictions during the pandemic, Grade 9 students headed off to 2 different locations in Malaysia for three days of experiential learning and fun as part of a modified GAP event. They traveled to central and coastal Malaysia, where they enjoyed several challenging physical activities, engaged in local issues, and had fun with their classmates.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Grade 11 students headed into Kompheim Village for a three-day project arranged by the community leaders, local partner HUSK, and INDAGO. INDAGO is the learning provider and organized for the ISKL teams to work with tradesmen to build bamboo houses for farming families. The tradesmen construct the wooden frame for the house and while our ISKL students put together the bamboo walls.
In Siem Reap, our students taught English to Cambodian children at a local school run by non-governmental organization HUSK. After observing a lesson, the students were given a chance to plan and practice giving a lesson to local children.
Combining service learning with outdoor adventure gives our students a greater sense of resilience, confidence, and compassion when they return from their GAP programs, where they develop a greater understanding of global issues and different perspectives.
It has been such an enriching experience for our students, and we look forward to seeing more of our HS students engage in more exciting GAP activities in the years to come!