Friday, May 9, 2008

Summer camp takes youth 'Inside Thailand'


When Mac Bakewell stepped off an airplane in 1990 and took his first look at Thailand, goose bumps jumped up his spine.
“I stepped off the plane and felt like I had come home,” he said.
Bakewell stayed for months, then returned to teach English in 1992, where he met his wife Boosaba.

Bakewell’s love for Thailand and the small village where he met his wife didn’t fade. He made it the focus of Inside Thailand, a summer camp that is sponsored by Cate School and is entering its 14th year.
The camp runs from June 20 to July 20 and is for students in grades 9-12.
The first thing the camp participants do when they step off the plan is get a Buddhist blessing — a ritual Bakewell said is common there.
“It kind of sets the tone for the program,” he said.
Bakewell said the camp involves a bit of touring around for the first week, where they visit an orphanage for children with HIV before spending the remainder of the trip teaching English to students of similar age in his wife’s village.
“They spend a good chunk of time in one place,” Bakewell said. “The best way to travel is to wander around a little bit and then just park yourself somewhere and then really get to be part of a community. That’s why we call it Inside Thailand.”
The camp isn’t cheap. After airfare one can expect to pay $5,000 to $6,000. Bakewell said each year he tries to find donors willing fund as many scholarships as possible.
“We try to take a broad range of kids,” he said.
But the majority of the young people who have made the trips over the years have come from affluent families — a fact Bakewell said creates an interesting dynamic between the poor children in the village and the kids from Santa Barbara.
“If you grow up in Santa Barbara you think about what kinds of iPods you have and what kind of car your parents drive,” he said. “You get over there and you find that [those things] are not the bottom line.”
Bakewell said the young people who take the trip often return to the country later to follow up on relationships they made.
“That sort of intimacy and connection is what we’re striving for,” he said.
The maximum number of children Bakewell takes is eight. More information about Inside Thailand is available at

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