Thursday, October 5, 2017

Moin Moin !

Hi everyone, or as we say in Hamburg "Moin Moin". My name is Miriam, I am 19 years old and from Hamburg in Germany. I just graduated High School and I am very excited to be volunteering here in Chiang Mai for 6 months. It has always been a dream of mine to come to Thailand and I am so glad that I have the chance to be here until February!

I am a very active person and enjoy sports, cooking and spending time with my family and friends.
During my time here I will be volunteering at Wildflower Home, which is a shelter for young mothers and their children that come from crisis situations. As a volunteer there I will be helping with the kids in the daycare, gardening, farming, organizing or where ever a helping hand is needed. During my first week, the other volunteers and I inventoried all the items that are handmade by the mothers and sold on our website. I was really surprised of how many beautiful bags, jewelry and other things we had in the storage room.
So far, my highlight was cooking pasta with tomato sauce from a huge donation of tomatoes for all the mothers and kids last Wednesday! It was so much fun to cook with the other volunteers and the mothers!
Wildflower Home is such a beautiful place and everyone there is super nice and welcoming. Every morning I am excited what the day will bring. What I like best about my work is that there is always something to do and that it is something different every day!

I am so excited for the time ahead and I am sure I will learn and grow so much from the experiences I make here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sawasdee Ka

Hello everyone, my name is Carla, I’m from Munich, Germany and I have just finished high school so I’d say my stay here is part of my gap year. I will be staying in Chiang Mai with CCT for 6 months and my placement is at Wildflower Home, which is a shelter for single mothers. In Thailand women who become pregnant out of wedlock or women who have to live without a husband because of different reasons are often discriminated. Therefore, they often struggle to build up a sustainable future for themselves and their children. I have always been very much interested in womens’ rights and human right, which is why the aims of this project -to provide education, shelter and hope- are very important to me.

During our first week we already got to do a lot at Wildflower Home. We were taking care of the children and we even got to look after our youngest baby, who is only 6 weeks old. Besides that we helped in the garden, for example planted a few trees or helped pulling wheats and also made an inventory list for the products the women have produced in the past. Wildflower Home sells the products as a part of their income-generating program. Even in these first few days we really got an insight in the diverse tasks at Wildflower Home. We realized that there will hardly be a time where there is nothing to do for us.

Although I’m more than excited for my placement, I am also looking forward to learning a lot about Thai culture. When I first arrived here I didn’t know much about it or at least not more than what I’ve learned from the CCT-handbook, which - of course, I’ve read thoroughly. But even on our way from the airport to the volunteer house and in the last two weeks I’ve realized how much there is to learn and see for me. Now I’m more than excited what the upcoming months will bring and what lessons I will learn. I hope I will be able to bring home a lot of stories and memories.”

Carla Lohner

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

CCT Volunteer John Pooler Last Blog Post (Thai Freedom House)

Thai Freedom House
Jack Pooler

I am currently finishing up my last week here at Thai Freedom House, and it feels like I have just arrived. It has been difficult getting ready to leave, especially being here for only 6 weeks, it feels like I am leaving without doing all that I wanted to. With no classes currently being taught at Thai Freedom House, most of the work I have been doing in my time here will not be applied until the next session of classes starts well after I leave. At first, this was hard to come to terms with, because it feels unfulfilling in the current moment. But much of the work I have done in my time here is to make future volunteers jobs easier, and it is taking solace in the fact that my contributions here will have a lasting impact that has made coming to terms with leaving easier, even if I will not be here to see the results.

Not much has changed in the past couple weeks in terms of the work I have been doing. Assisting with curriculum building with the other volunteer remains the primary focus. With no classes currently being taught, it is pertinent that we direct as much of our attention to this as possible because when the school opens up, there will be significantly less time to do these kinds of things.  At this time we have almost finished up beginning and intermediate English curriculums for the upcoming semester, while also continuing to build on an English training manual for the workers in Free Bird Cafe. Even after I leave, I hope to be able to contribute a little bit to these projects when I have time, because it is an unfinished project and one of the few things I can assist with while back home.

Since it is my last week, I also completed my last English tutoring session with the Freebird staff on Monday. Since many of them can already communicate in English, we have been working on emphasizing pronunciation and expanding vocabulary. This past week, we also worked different customer scenarios and what kinds of difficult questions that might get asked about the cafe, the menu, or Thai Freedom House. Their tutoring will continue after I am gone because there are a couple other tutors as well. It is often difficult to see improvements in language over such a short period of time, but even in the 4 weeks of tutoring I was a part of I have seen progress in their understanding and confidence speaking the language.

I have enjoyed my time at Thai Freedom House immensely. The work that is done here is so often overlooked or not given the attention it deserves because it is not as large as other non-profits. But they serve their community extremely well and are dedicated to their cause. The lack of access the community we serve has to many institutions leaves them extremely disadvantaged in education, work, and plenty of other institutions. The work done here is is important to helping them succeed and providing them with opportunities that might not be available otherwise. Being a part of this community and the work that is done here has been an invaluable experience, and I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity.

CCT Volunteer Kyra DiFrancesco Last Blog Post (FORRU)

My last few weeks at FORRU have been pretty busy. Just days before departing Thailand, we participated in a “baseline monitoring” trip to Tam Pha Thai National Park in Lampang Province. Almost two weeks ago we went to Tam Pha Thai to plant 5,000 trees in the FORRU plots there. It was our job to measure a baseline for the growth of the trees we planted. Each team of two was assigned 500 trees! We didn’t end up finishing, especially since we were delayed with rain. It was a long and exhausting day. After getting back from the baseline monitoring trip, we rushed to wrap up our projects and deliver our final presentations.

Unfortunately, the science experiment we were performing didn’t quite turn out the way we wanted it to. Half of it got contaminated (an almost unavoidable problem when working in the tropics, according to our boss). The other half had results that can’t statistically be considered significant, but we did get somewhat promising results. Even though we didn’t have any scientific breakthroughs, which I didn’t exactly anticipate having in a three-week project, we did set a good precedent for the next set of interns to work on this project. We gathered all the necessary supplies, learned a lot, and wrote a paper so that the next group to take on our project doesn’t have to start from scratch like we did. Overall, I think it was a good learning experience.

On our last day, we delivered presentations to our co-workers on our time with FORRU. We went through our office, field, and lab work. In the office, my biggest project was working on FORRU’s website. On the day of the presentation, I revealed the new publications section of the website. Check it out on! Our boss thought the data from our experiment looked promising, and that he looked forward to reading our paper. After presentations, we all went to iBerry to celebrate our time with FORRU before saying goodbye. 

CCT Volunteer Dakota Van Deursen Last Blog Post (FORRU)

Wow. I can't believe that it is over. My 10 weeks in Thailand. My 7 weeks with FORRU. It's a little mind-bending, really. It seems like only yesterday that I was walking to my first day of work, but so much has happened since then.

                The last coupld of weeks went by so quickly, but I feel like they were the most productive, rewarding, and educational. Most recently (a few days ago), the TEAN interns at FORRU presented comprehensively on our seven weeks – my presentation (and this post) is most easily broken up into Office Work, Field Work, and Lab Work.

Around the office for the past few weeks, most of the hubbub has centered around the FORRU website. It has been the job of the TEAN interns to revamp the website, giving specific parts of it much-needed facelifts. I worked with Kyra – while she worked on the website-proper, I worked behind the scenes, scanning in recent FORRU publications to be uploaded. Two comic books, two pamphlets, and two seed-care books later, that part was finished!

FORRU’s fieldwork lens has been focused upon Tham Pha Thai National Park: A few weeks ago, we visited and joined the planting of over 5000 trees. Earlier this week, FORRU took an over-night trip to the very same plot, to monitor the growth progress of the trees. Three teams of two went out, each tasked with recording the height, crown width, and diameter of 500 saplings. We…didn’t quite finish. A late arrival, two spats of rain, and a broiler of a day pushed us to nearly 350 per group. Oops. We got some good data, though!

And finally, lab work. Oh, boy. The last two weeks were eye-opening, in terms of the experiment. We went to work every single day to take results and keep it healthy. All that, though, and half of it had still managed to completely fail within five days. Generally unwanted patterns and a disastrous fungal infection rendered our results inconclusive. The other half, though, has been hobbling along. It has been kept on life support for at least the next few weeks, in the care of one of FORRU’s new interns. I have faith that he’ll treat it well, as we did.

                I suppose that is all, then. It feels weird to be leaving Thailand, and the new city I've come to appreciate so much. I'm sure I'll be back as soon as the opportunity arises!

CCT Volunteer Annie Kaplan Last Blog Post (Wat Kuang Singha School)

10 weeks ago I left on a plane to a place where I knew little to nothing about. I knew Thailand had a King, I knew I loved Thai food, and I knew I was ready for something different. Other than that, my knowledge of this country was extremely limited. Today, as I wrap up week 10 of being here and week 7 of working in a temple school, I have learned more than I could have learned in an entire semester of classes back home.

My work at Wat Khuang Sing School has been the most life-altering time I have yet to experience in my 21 years on Earth. I have been challenged as a person and as an educator, spending every waking moment attempting to improve myself and my teaching. I can remember my first day here like it was yesterday. I arrived shaky and nervous, unaware of the love I was about to receive from the students and teachers. Things have gotten better week by week too. As I grasp what my students know and want to learn, I have been able to adjust my lesson plans and simplify instructions to help comprehension. 

Last week was one of my favorite weeks by far. I taught all three classes I work with the Macarena, a personal party favorite of mine. It started with P4 last Monday as a way to kill time during the transition period, but slowly crept around school. By lunch the next day all of my coworkers were talking about how they had seen the dance and couldn’t wait to learn it themselves. P6 learned it next, bringing out a side of them which I had never seen before. I don’t have much of a chance to interact with them as my mentor teacher teaches that class alone, but this moment I’ll cherish forever. The character each child brings to such a simple dance is what I love the most about the Macarena. By the time I got around to teaching P5 the dance, many of the girls knew it already. They had seen their friends doing it and heard the music in the hallway throughout the week. By the end of Week 10, I hope to teach and have them master the Cupid Shuffle.

Something that has come along with this summer is my second guessing of my future profession. Like many of my family members and friends know, I want to be a Social Studies teacher initially but then eventually go into Education Policy. Every day I wake up though wishing I was working at summer camp or doing something different with my day. Preparing each day’s lesson became a nuisance which had me questioning if I even want to be an educator for the rest of my life.
cher teaches that class alone, but this moment I’ll cherish forever. The character each child brings to such a simple dance is what I love the most about the Macarena. By the time I got around to teaching P5 the dance, many of the girls knew it already. They had seen their friends doing it and heard the music in the hallway throughout the week. By the end of Week 10, I hope to teach and have them master the Cupid Shuffle.

 As I talk to my fellow interns and friends back home, I realize that hating work as a teenager is just kind of a part of life. We are all adjusting to the daily grind and figuring out how to balance work life and social life. We are testing the waters with jobs we like, dislike, and slightly tolerate. It’s a part of life I’m coming to terms with slowly but surely. With my final year of college approaching, I’m ready to see where life takes me and how this internship changed me for the better.
but this moment I’ll cherish forever. The character each child brings to such a simple dance is what I love the most about the Macarena. By the time I got around to teaching P5 the dance, many of the girls knew it already. They had seen their friends doing it and heard the music in the hallway throughout the week. By the end of Week 10, I hope to teach and have them master the Cupid Shuffle.

(Thank you Wat Khuang Sing for giving me these three)

CCT Volunteer McKenna Tychsen Second Blog Post (Hope Home)

McKenna Tychsen
Hope Home
{July 9th-July 25th}

A few weeks ago, I said I would go into detail about each of the children! Here you are!

We have 10 children at Hope Home, however, not all of the children live full time at the home. Each child, very unique in their own way, has specific need which we do our best to cater to in each activity we do throughout the day. Here, I go into more depth about the complexities of each child we work with.

1) Bella, 4 years old, (almost 5!!) with a fatty acid oxidation deficiency and a developmental delay. The fatty acid oxidation deficiency is a condition requiring her to eat every couple of hours, If she doesn't, it could be very serious and turn into a hypoglycemic episode. Bella is also deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other. She is a VERY sweet, intelligent and dedicated little girl with high potential for success, but can distract you easily with her adorable charm to get out of something. During our learning portion each day, Bella is always very attentive and interactive with the lesson. We work with her to improve discipline, fine and gross motor skills as well as basic educational material, such as colors, days of the week, numbers, etc.

2) Little Guy, 2 years old, was born premature with respiratory problems, so had to have a trachea placed in his throat. Now, he is a very active and talkative little boy. Very smart for his age! It is sometimes hard to know if he fully understands English, (for me to understand him at least) however, he has an easier time with Thai and listening to the Thai staff. We are working with Little Guy on his basic educational skills like learning the Thai and English characters and basic words, as well as colors numbers and other beneficial life skills.

3) Tadpole, 3 years old, came to Hope Home when he was about 1 and a quarter years old. He has Down's syndrome and is one of the sweetest and outgoing kids you'll ever meet. His adorable smile and big hugs will get you every time. He has the most energy of all the children, always running around and getting into some sort of ruckus or mess (usually with Little Guy) but is a blast to be around. We work with Tadpole to improve social and mental skills in our education bit and throughout daily skills. We also try and improve his attention span keeping him focused and interacting with others for a longer period of time while staying focused.  We also are working with Tadpole to develop his vocabulary in English and Thai, learning colors, numbers and basic life skills.

4) Yannie, 7 years old, has a developmental delay, but she loves playing shakers and rattlers, coloring and making messes!! She has a contagious and boisterous laugh as well. At Hope Home, we work on Occupational therapy with Yannie. We do repetitive activities such as put certain items from one box to another in order to work on her focus on one activity at a time as well as her fine gross and motor skills.
We've also been trying to improve Yannie's health, so we do fun activities such as bending down, grabbing balls out of one basket and having to lift her body to put it into another basket, like basketball, but repetitive action of shooting the ball in the hoop!

5)  Will, 20 years old, has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. He is also recovering from stroke caused by shunt complications. Will struggles with communication. He is non-verbal, but can make some sounds and slightly points to things that he wants. We try to help involve him in activities and learn but at his own pace and capabilities. We also work on his motor skills and mobility with physiotherapy each day.

6) Clark, 12 years old, has cerebral palsy, but is probably one of the most able children I've ever seen with cerebral palsy. He is very intelligent and is able to use his limbs and noises as a clear way to communicate. We have also adapted ways for him to use his communication strengths (such as his legs and feet) to form a device which speaks when he presses the buttons. He know where each button is and what it says, so it is a good way for him to show his expressions without being able to verbally communicate them. We've also been working with Clark on his standing and arm mobility. These are both skills which will aid in helpful daily activities such as eating himself, or brushing his own teeth. Clark has a lot of potential, and from the three months I've been here, I've already seen many improvements. Keep it up Clark!

7) Yindee, 9 years old, has severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a chronic lung disease. Yindee has had a rough few weeks, however, maintained a smile the whole way through. There was a bug going around Hope Home and a few of the kids got sick with a cold and a fever. Unfortunately, Joy's immune system isn't strong enough to fight against the bug, and it quickly turned into pneumonia, and due to Joy's previous conditions, it affected her very badly and she had to be taken to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) in Chiang Mai. She ended up staying there for 15 days. She is doing a lot better now though!! She's back at Hope Home. Yindee is a very sweet, beautiful and a true pleasure to be around. She enjoys musical sounds and silly faces!  She has limited muscle control and struggles to sit/ stand or move on her own, in need of assistance in everything, however we are working on it with her! We work with Yindee to help her communication skills (she uses her eyes as a way to say what she wants), motor skills and muscle strength/ mobility with things like holding her head up while sitting.  Eventually Hope Home wants to have Yindee work with an electronic communication aid, but for now, we've made giant charts so we can see the movement in her eyes for communication and learning techniques.

8) Dontri, 5 years old, has cerebral palsy, multi-cystic encephalomalacia (scars on the brain), micro-cephaly (undersized brain), epilepsy, a heart defect, and is blind. Dontri is a sweet little boy with an adorable laugh and smile, but with very little ability to communicate. Dontri is very sensory oriented. He needs a lot of different types of stimuli but not all at once, which may be overwhelming for him. He likes textures, calm music, head being rubbed, being held and certain smells. We've been working on having him sit up when possible so he's not laying on his back all the time (so muscle development), as well as an educational system we developed specifically for him, which includes a brail alphabet in English and Thai. As of now, we can't really tell how much he has retained, but it's a start!

9) Namchock, 10 years old, has Down's syndrome and very poor vision and goes to a special education school during the day. I don't get to spend too much time with Choppy because he leaves for school before I get to Hope Home and comes back just before dinner, and I leave right after dinner. BUT... for the time that I do spend with him, he never fails to put a smile on my face. He has such a unique personality and is a sweetheart. As for what my other coworkers have told me, they work with Choppy on his attention span. He gets very distracted very quickly.

10) Andy- 13 months. Andy was born two months prematurely, however, doesn't express any characteristics of a disability. Because he is so young, it is difficult to tell. However, Andy is very sweet and is just now starting to babble. It is quite the task to get a smile out of him, but once you do, it's the cutes little grin with only two front teeth!  We work with Andy to improve basic motor, cognitive, physical and social skills, such a waving hello and goodbye, putting a spoon into his mouth by himself, drinking out of a cup, putting objects into a box, etc... he seems to be developing quite normally so far. (I have only been here three months, but babies grow fast!!)
He loves to try and walk, with our assistance, but soon he'll be able to do it by himself!

As the weeks dwindle down, I can't help but reflect on my time here thus far. From the classes I took at Chiang Mai University, to the friends I've made along the way and the impact the people have made on my life over the course of my three months here. People at Home Home, TEAN friends and every genuinely kind, random person I've met in Thailand. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity I've been given and have loved and cherished every moment of it.  I couldn't have asked for a better summer, I've learned a lot about myself, a better view on different disabilities and how to adapt to their abilities, Thai culture,  medicine, and the world around me. I'm now headed to travel for a bit but will stop by Hope Home before I head back to the states, for another goodbye!

Sah-wa-dee-ka for now!