If you are a Rotarian, your motto is emphatically “Service Above Self” and involves working to improve the life of others. In doing so, many, in particular, Rotarians Paul and Betty Manchak,

Betty Manchak

Paul Manchak

find the personal rewards are immeasurable.

Being able to actually make a difference in young people’s lives – seeing they get the food they need, the medicine. Knowing, because they can speak English, they will get a better job” is what makes going to Thailand year after year a life altering experience, Paul said. He was referring to the international projects his organization, the Lexington Park Rotary Club, has cosponsored for the last seven years.

The LPRC focuses its humanitarian projects on literacy and education, water management and health and hunger. All have been serviced by the projects the Manchak’s, in conjunction with Thai Rotary clubs and the international Rotary Foundation, have implemented in Thailand.

Adding water filtration systems to 14 rural schools in western Thailand has enabled children to drink fresh water. Bringing filtered water to a local hospital improved medical care. The creation of, and later rebuilding of, the Rotary One School near the Thai/Burmese border has provided children with learning and lunch and local residents with a community center.

Over the years, there have also been teacher-training sessions. The focus, most recently, has been on interactive teaching. Traditionally, the Thai students’ respect for the teacher has made it difficult for them to ask a teacher to repeat something or to explain something more fully. “The focus was rote learning,” Betty said. Recently, “we have been helping teachers develop more interactive techniques so as to increase teacher/student interchange.”

In the long run, she added, it would be “ideal to have teacher exchanges.” U. S. teachers would go to Thailand. Thai teachers would come to the United States. “If Thai teachers come to the U.S., their English pronunciation improves amazingly.” While British is taught, American English is the preference in Thailand.

Paul notes the educational challenges in the Thailand are much like those in the U.S. “Modernizing education to what it needs to be in today’s world,” is a goal in both countries, he said. As well, seeing education valued and obtaining resources, teachers and funds for what you need are shared obstacles.

As a result of taking more than one visit to Thailand, “ I’ve have had the opportunity to work with some teachers more than once,” Betty said. “I have been able to see people grow … to embellish the knowledge and experience I have been able to share with them. Having the opportunity to see the help you give blossom into results, to see what students and teachers have been able to do for themselves is heartwarming,” she added.

The Manchaks have also had many experiences outside the Thai classroom. On the lighter side, both remember the trials and tribulations of finding Western toilets and removing interior t