My name is Sarah, I am from Belgium and I am 18 years old.
After finishing high school I decided to take a 9 months Gap Year in South-East Asia where I wanted to do some volunteering and some travelling.
I first decided to begin this gap year with 4 months of volunteer work with VSA Thailand.
4 months ago I stepped out of my plane after 12 long hours of flight from Brussels. Here I was finally, I was in Bangkok. I was tired, dirty, it was so hot and I just realized that I wouldn’t go home for 9 months. It was scary and exciting at the same time.
A few hours later, I arrived in Hat yai and finally at Learning home in Klonghoikhong district. I remember very well, the first person I saw was P’Pong, a Thai volunteer. He came to me and said: “Everything is okay, take a rest!”. It was so nice from him. I felt so tired and I just didn’t realized what was happening to me.
But very soon the project began and I felt more and more like Thailand was my second home.
My first project was at the “Songkhla Zoo”. I worked during one month with the research team of the zoo. I was with Nanami a Japanese volunteer. I really enjoyed this month at the zoo. We went to observe some tiger footprints, we prepared cages for reptiles, we prepared an exhibition, etc. I will also remember this month as the month where I discovered something new about Thailand every day. My amazing host family was my first real contact to Thai culture and I am very grateful to them.
My second month, I spend it as an English teacher in 3 different primary schools around Hat yai. I think it is the project I enjoyed the most. I felt so useful and I just loved the contact I had with the students. After a while I really learned to know them. I realized being a teacher is not as simple as I thought. You have to be creative and joyful because most of these kids don’t now anything about English and you need to motivate them and to show them it is an amazing language. Every day was different and so tiring but I enjoyed is so much. For that project I changed host family. It was a very different family and I had the chance to spend new-year with them, which is kind of different than in Belgium.
The 2 last months I spend with VSA were different. First of all, VSA gave me more responsibilities. I had to help for the orientation meeting, etc. I also changed project. I went to the “nursing assistant” project, which takes place in Hat yai. Very soon I realized that because it is a very new project, some things weren’t working and had to be changed. In a way I was happy that I could contribute to a project’s development. Because I changed project, I changed host family again. I realized I had a lot of chance with my host families because each family was very kind and had something new to bring me. I also travelled a lot at that time and learned more about Thailand and the differences you can find between the north and the south of the country. Finally, I also took this time to think about everything I have done for four months here. I think it is very important to do that because when you travel, you meet new people, you discover a new country, a new culture, you meet new people… It is very difficult for your brain and for your feelings to assimilate all these changes.
So when P’Tum asked me to write an article about my whole experience I was really happy to do it. For me, writing is very important. I realized this year that the fact of writing what I am doing and feeling helps me to “digest” all these things that happen to me.
Now that these 4 months are over and that I took some time to look back, I realized that doing this volunteering project was much more than just a “good action”. All the people I met made this experience what it is now. All these people coming from different countries with their dreams, hope, projects, problems, feelings,.. made the different person I am now. Because today I can say it: I am different person than when I arrived. So today I want to thank every single person I met during this project, because all these people changed something in me and I hope that I changed also something in them threw our talks and our common experience.
I have the feeling that it is finally the time for me to move on, to discover something new and to change country. I will never be thankful enough for all these perfect and not perfect moments I had here. All these moments put together, made one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I will miss you.
I will miss the moments.
I will miss you Thailand.