The letter from Lester, USA

My volunteer project was a rare and interesting experience to visit Thailand. I found the people to be friendly and most helpful towards our needs. Things were a bit slow at first due to organizational challenges. The first two days were not full work days which gave us volunteers a chance to ease into the project. I am a teacher professionally and found the needs of the kids very basic. They are similar to kids in the United States. The younger ones from First grade to Seventh grade enjoyed games and fun activities like sing a-longs, Simon says, and the Hokee Pokee. Older kids needed more of an educational challenge especially high school age not just fun and games.

The kids were well behaved and took direction from us fine. However, it was difficult for them to understand us when a Thai teacher was not in the classroom. Our weekends were fun because we got a chance to visit some of the tourist’s places.

We all came together without any major problems after waiting for everyone to arrive at the Bus station, and had a wonderful Thai lunch served outside in a beautiful area. Thai food consists of rice steamed or fried with a choice of shrimp, chicken or beef with vegetables and sometimes soup. Thai’s like spicy hot food but they accommodated our preference whether spicy or not. One volunteer was a vegan and they always made sure no meat was on her plate. There were five in our group two females from Italy, two from Korea and me.

The food was great most places like to use fresh ingredients every time they make a meal so you get good quality food at a cheap price 80 -120 Baht ($2-$3.40) for a meal compared to the United States prices.

We became a close group and did everything together whenever someone was missing from the group someone would inquire about their absence. I got invitations to visit Italy and Korea and spend time with my new friends whenever I wanted to. Everyone contributed best they could during the English camps and the camp leader Bowie was very helpful, talented and experienced working with the kids. They all loved him and always got excited when he stepped in the room. He helped us to plan each day the night before so we knew what to expect in the classroom each day. He also gave us some history on Thai language and customs to help us with the kids and Thai teachers. Sawadee, clap is hello for a man and Sawadee, ca for a woman. Thai people also show respect and gratefulness by clasping their hands like in prayer and bowing their head to you as a greeting. The end of every class students would yell out loud in unison “Thank you, teacher!”

There were a few instances with two volunteers that had been on the project almost one month before our group came and was not too open to being a part of our team. We worked through the difficulties and managed the best we could to get the job done.

Two of the staff was a little uncooperative with the camp leader regarding some personal issues. They created challenges for us too because we relied on him to give us direction and information. It made things a little uncomfortable but I reminded everyone, we should all remain professional and do our best for the sake of the children.

The kids loved us and gave hugs and took pictures at the end of camp. This was different for me because in the United States, a teacher should never hug or show affection like that to students. It made me feel like I was really affecting their lives and the hugs were great.

We decided to visit Erewhan waterfalls and the Tiger temple on the weekend. The price was affordable and we had a ball. Bring a swim suit and towel for the waterfalls. The Tiger temple has people guiding you around so you are safe around the tigers and the Monks are there also as trainers. I love the big cats and made a t-shirt, with me petting one of them on it. The staff and other Thai teachers drove us in their personal vehicles. I thanked them and offered to pay for their gas because it was 41/2 hours round trip but they refused to take my money. They were not obligated to spend their off days with us, but they said we were their guests and this was their appreciation for us.

I was disappointed about the living arrangements. I was told I would live with a teacher but we found out the teacher’s house was not ready and everyone had to live at the school. They gave us a pad and a mosquito tent to sleep in one of the school buildings.

I needed a thicker padding for my bad back and the staff obliged my request which made my bedding more comfortable. The toilet was outside within 4 walls but a short walk to bathe in the mornings. A spray nozzle hanged from the wall a short distance from the toilet for showering. There was also a basin of water with a scoop to wash with if the nozzle wasn’t sufficient.

I believe the Thai people use the basin to wash. There were many bugs crawling about the area and the ants in the building where we slept were an ongoing challenge with the mosquitos. I couldn’t understand at first why we needed a mosquito net around us to sleep. The mosquitos are no joke. Bring plenty of bug repellent the mosquitos love foreigners blood.

I feel privileged now having the opportunity to engage with Thai kids and learn about the Thai culture. I used to have a fear about Thailand. The country is relatively safe and you can find foreigners walking about alone or in groups almost anywhere. The people are friendly and many are curious to speak to you hoping to learn a little English from the brief encounter. I stayed another two weeks in Bangkok after the English camp was over and loved every minute. I can’t wait to go back to Thailand. Paosao Thai? Sawadee, clap.

MCCURTIS Lester from USA

VSA1210 Education/Creative English camp - Kanchanaburi 13/08 - 25/08