By Katharine Ward, Jessica Eldridge & Laura Bannerman: Former interns at BABSEACLE
On the 16th of January 2013, BABSEACLE volunteers (Queensland University of Technology (QUT) internship students and others), joined by a BABSEACLE legal fellow and BABSEACLE Co-director/Co-founder, Wendy Morrish set off to North Chiang Mai University for three days of Community Legal Education (CLE) workshops. Not counting the lesson preparation undertaken days before, for many this experience was to be the first the interns had with teaching CLE or teaching in general.
Within an hour of arriving the first afternoon of teaching ensued. The volunteers split up to lead two classes simultaneously. Different challenges were faced in identifying the various levels of knowledge, not only in terms of technical skills, but the understanding of the English language. This led to different experiences given the class dynamics varied between the lessons. The subsequent days realized further challenges posed by the language barrier. However, what the interns recall are the relationships forged, the engagement and excitement when teaching, and an appreciation for the great opportunity it was. It was also invaluable to observe and be part of the community legal education initiative in practice.
Another, yet equally as important goal, of the visit to North Chiang Mai University was to collect further data for an active research project of BABSEACLE. The project, ‘BABSEACLE Development of Clinical Legal Education (CLE) in Thailand’, aims to evaluate the effectiveness of current CLE programs in order to make data-driven recommendations to implement, support and further improve CLE programs in the future. The basis for understanding the effectiveness stems from interviews conducted with students and lecturers involved with the CLE programs. On the spectrum of research project experience, the majority of volunteers were novices. Despite this, through perseverance the set goal was achieved. However, this was not without its challenges.
Communication again posed an issue, particularly in ensuring the students understood the purpose of the interview and how it would operate. BABSEACLE Legal fellow, Nattakan Chomputhong (Ann), was integral to the project; translating and resolving problems and ensuring all requirements were met. Additionally, the interview process would not have been successful without the support of North Chiang Mai University lecturers (Ajaans) who assisted in coordinating students. Conducting the interviews and interacting with students throughout this process proved to be an additional learning opportunity for the BABSEACLE volunteers. Having the time to communicate with the students outside of lesson times constituted a platform to learn about each other’s culture and student lifestyles in another country. This further contributed to the success of the lessons, as by establishing such relationships the students felt more comfortable engaging in the activities.
While the QUT externship students have returned to Australia, the memories and insights garnered from volunteering at BABSEACLE will certainly remain with us.