At the beginning of June 2013 I had the opportunity to fly to Thailand and work with a fantastic company called starfish volunteers and help local communities by working in a day care centre, in a school and on a building project. When we arrived in Bangkok we spent the first weekend getting to know the starfish staff and the other volunteers by exploring Bangkok. On Sunday we made our way up to Surin, a small Thai city near the Cambodian border which is not normally visited by tourists.
The first project I worked on was at Ban Ka Koh Rayong junior and middle school out of the town. I taught English classes for children from the age of 5 to 15. The classes were much larger than I had experienced in England, some reaching up to 60 children. The classroom I was able to teach in had the only interactive whiteboard that the school owned, which was as a result of the Starfish Company’s donations. It was clear from speaking to the Thai teachers that they are very grateful for the opportunities to learn English, as it gives the children a wider range of life opportunities and a greater chance of a better way of life. The children I taught were clearly happy to be in school and loved lessons.
The next project I worked at was at DREAM Day Care Centre on the other side of the city, out in the small communities. This project involved helping with the day care centre in the morning where we played with the children, read them stories and ensured they had clean clothes and food. Children would then have lunch at the day care centre, which for some of the children would be the only meal they received each day. After lunch the children would be showered and would brush their teeth before sleeping in the afternoon. Children as young as 18 months attend the day care centre and it was clear how much of a positive impact the centre had on the children’s lives. The hall that the centre was run in was unstable and not safe. When it rained heavily the children would have to be escorted to the Monks hall across the road in order to take shelter. Therefore in the afternoons while the children were napping the second part of the project was building. During the time I was there we were building a secure garden and shed which would allow the centre to grow and store their own food, this was the start of a large project which would eventually include a brand new hall. By the end of the week the bamboo fence was up which me and two others were able to complete. Finishing the fence was an achievement that we were all proud of, and since returning home I have been informed of the rest of the project going to plan.
Living in such a Thai city where practically no tourists could be seen allowed me to really engage with the Thai culture which I believe helped me to complete the projects I was working on. I would love to one day return back to both Ban Ka Koh Rayong School and Dream Day Care Centre in Surin to see how Starfish has helped to positively impact the lives of so many more Thai children. This experience is one that I will remember for the rest of my life.