Monday, September 29, 2014

Sawasdee Ka from Anna

                                                                       Sawasdee ka!

My name is Anna and I am a new volunteer for Art Relief International. Having just arrived a week ago, already there has been so many wonderful experiences to share with you. My days have begun with going with all my fellow volunteers to the Art Relief International office to prepare for the day's program, leading activities with different participants, home for dinner by six, and then a small chunk of time exploring Chiang Mai. It has been a humbling experience to be a part of what the current volunteers provide for the participants of programs. This week's activities have ranged from pointillism painting, making penguin masks, to playing theater sport games. All of which have left us rolling in laughter and my face hurting from smiling all day.

So far, Thailand has surpassed any idea I had made of it before arriving. What has stood out to me the most since arriving is how I am welcomed with smiling faces at every turn. Everyone here, strangers and new friends alike, have treated me with such amounts of kindness that amazes me. Though I know only common Thai phrases, local Thai people make such an effort to converse with me; through missed translations it'll leave both of us smiling.

Other than the daily ARI activities, I have found within just one week many things to do during any off time. Chiang Mai is a busy city filled with beautiful greenery, a gorgeous view of Doi Suthep, tea houses down most streets, and incredible temples. Most mornings call for a walk to a nearby tea spot, a cute place to get a relaxing start to your day is Tanita Coffee. It's located just a five minute walk from the volunteer home, is beautifully covered in moss paired with old wooden seats, and an old tree grows through the middle of the entry.

If you are a runner, then the streets of Chiang mai are quite fun to explore. Back home, I enjoy trail running throughout mountain paths. But since I have arrived here, I have found that running through the city has been a great way to orient a since of direction and understand where everything is located. If you enjoy running I highly recommend running in the early morning for it is cooler, much quieter than during the day, and less motorbike fumes around.

As the afternoon rolls around, it's quite fun to walk into the Old city of Chiang Mai and endlessly explore all of its lovely paths. Currently, there is the ASEAN Vegetarian festival going on so everyday the streets are covered even more so with stands of vegetarian food. The other night, other volunteers and myself went to the festival to enjoy some tea and northern Thai dishes. Everything was too delicious!

This past weekend was my first full free time to fully explore the city so I took advantage of my time and set out to do some adventuring. Two friends and I rented motorbikes for a day to ride around Chiang Mai. We set off to Mae Sa waterfalls; which is around a thirty minute motorbike ride outside of town. The motorbikes were a fun way to travel and the road to the falls was gorgeous. Everything is so lusciously green here and there was a gorgeous view of the mountains as we rode. The falls themselves and its surrounding environment were breathtaking.

The night life here is wonderful! Weekend nights have consisted of visiting the incredible Night Market and listening to live music with friends. There is such a vibrant to Chiang Mai's music scene. There are commonly live bands playing at restaurants or on side streets that play incredibly. It's been too fun to go dancing with friends while good music is played. This place has so much to offer!

So far, I cannot get enough out of the Art Relief International program and the city in which it calls home. If this is what a week's time is like here, then I can not imagine how these next wonderful three months will be like. Thanks for reading a birds eye view into my first week here!

Anna Marie

Friday, September 26, 2014

From Canada with love

Hello! My name is Stacey Braun and I am from Altona, Manitoba Canada. Before arriving in Thailand I completed my BSc in Biology from the University of Manitoba. So with that fact in mind - why did I chose to volunteer at a placement completely unrelated to science? The answer is simple.

Over 30 months ago I began work at an organization in my hometown called Blue Sky Opportunities. This organization is involved in maximizing the independence of adults with intellectual disabilities. As I commenced in my employment those many months ago, my work morphed from being a way to generate an income to a passion. A passion to serve this under serviced and vulnerable sector. In turn, it is through this found zeal that I selected Cultural Canvas Thailand's Cerebral Palsy Assistance program.

As according to the definition provided by the Mayo clinic, "Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a disorder of movement, muscle gone or posture that is caused by an insult to the developing brain". Notably, CP is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. Therefore, it is logical to surmise that multiple children in Thailand are affected by this disorder. Which is the exact conjecture by which Hope Home was founded in 2007.

As stated on the Hope Home website, "Hope Home provides residential accommodation for children with a disability who are orphaned or abandoned, until they are fostered long-term or adopted with a loving family". And it is at this lovely home I will be assisting

In closing, stay tuned each week for an update of my journey here in Chiang Mai and my doings at Hope Home. Though I am not a fervent photographer by any stretch, I will attempt each week to provide some pictorial supplement to my writing.

Thanks for reading!

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saying goodbye (Rita Boyle)

Hi there - Well after three truly wonderful weeks my journey at CCT has come to an end.   My last week was a busy one with mixed emotions as I said goodbye to my students and fellow students.  They were all so nice to me and I couldn't have asked for a nicer school.  Teacher May presented myself and another volunteer teacher with a lovely bag each and I had photo shoot with P5 and P6 (my students)  Teacher May also took us to her house for a wonderful dinner.   The friendship and warmth of the Thai people is something that I will never forget and will always be grateful for.
As the teachers were at a seminar last Thursday and Friday I got to close out the “Dress Code” Guidelines when volunteering with CCT that I was working on with Wad.  I also got to attend two of the Art Workshops which was a wonderful experience, it was truly inspirational to see how the children brought a blank piece of canvas to live with their imagination and talent.  The team are going to have a tough job trying to choose which pictures will make it into the Exhibition in October, let's just say rather them than me! 
On Friday afternoon, it was time for another photo shoot, this time with the CCT staff and fellow volunteers, well I couldn't go back to Ireland without a photo of the people that made this experience possible and who were there to support me every step of the way during my journey.

On Saturday, I went to the Elephant Retirement Park. Here I got to see the elephants roam free, no elephant rides, just feeding and bathing them in mud before giving them a nice shower, mind you I think by the end of the day I ended up with more mud on me than on the elephants..... - but well worth the trip.

Well that’s about it from me. On a closing note I would just like to say, if you are considering volunteering, speaking from experience you couldn't pick a more genuine organization than CCT, they do amazing work and the team are one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  So just go for it, you won't regret it, but remember you’ll get out of it as much as you put in to it. Keep an open mind and if you are willing to be flexible and embrace the experience you will end up with memories and friends for life.
I don’t really believe in goodbyes so until me meet again take care.
All the best

Friday, September 5, 2014

2nd week at Wifdflower Home.

Hello again!

My first full week in Wildflower Home is over and I want to tell you
something about my work there.
First, Wildflower is an organization for pregnant women and single
mothers, which offers them not only a safe place to stay, but also the
opportunity to educate themselves.
My current job is basically running the day-care for the older children (1
to 2 ½ years). Of course I haven´t done it on my own. Anyone who has ever
dealt with children of that age knows, you need at least six pairs of eyes
and ten hands to look after them. Right now, there are five toddlers in
the daycare, that´s 2 to 3 children per adult. Sounds like an easy job?
Actually it is challenging, running after them, playing, smiling if
they´re crying, being creative when they´re bored, making sure that no one
climbs over the fence or gets lost. I have never worked with children that
age before and to be honest, it´s still hard to figure out what they need,
when they start crying. – Hungry? Hurt? New pampers? Miss mum? Need
attention? My respect for nursery nurse rises with every minute, they must
be somewhere in between Superman and Mother Teresa.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to work there! The kids are adorable and it´s
amazing to see how fast they learn. The feeling is indescribable, when
they get used to you, start to trust you. And a bright smile in a child´s
faces excuses for everything.
If I need a break from playing with the kids, there is plenty other work
to do. Today I washed all dishes for the monks in the temple nearby, I
moved a mountain of mud into a hole and pulled a pick- up out of the mud –
well, I helped a little bit. In fact, my hands told me after ten minutes
of mud shipping, that their tool is a pen and not a shovel. But it´s good
to see the result of your work and it´s a lot of fun, too. Joking with the
mothers and the other volunteers about how useless and weak the foreigners
are. To be honest, it will take at least two more months to catch up with
the mothers, they´re so much stronger and faster in everything they do.
Not that I´ve expected anything else, but I can´t wait for the day, I´m
not only the nice German girl playing with the shovel, but a real help.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The journey continues (Rita Boyle)

Hello Everyone,

It's hard to believe another week is over, my time here in Thailand is going way too quickly.  I am glad to report though that I am really enjoying the experience and getting see and do lots of different things both at the school, with my fellow volunteers that I share the house with and I have also done a bit of exploring on my own.  

After last two school outings last week it was back to full time lessons for the students this week.  P6 are learning all about the weather and the different seasons.  I talked a bit about the weather in Ireland and the students were very interested to learn more about "snow". It made me realize that living in Ireland I take for granted that I get to experience many different weather types even if it does rain far more than I like it to!!  The students are very good and their main Teacher May has a great teacher : student relationship which is really great to see.  Last Thursday I got to participate in a workshop that my fellow volunteers run every week at the school I am teaching in.  This was great fun and it was lovely both to both get an opportunity to  work with my colleagues and to experience first hand another one of the many excellent projects that CCT manage.

As I mentioned last week, I am only teaching 1 - 2 hours a day so I spend the rest of the day in the CCT office.  Last week I worked on preparing a "Quick Reference Guide on Thai Culture and Volunteering with CCT" .  It is just in a table, A4 size that calls out the key points to remember while in Thailand. I know from my own experience that when you sign up for volunteering you receive a lot of reading material and a "Quick Reference Guide"  would have been really useful to have to hand to refresh my memory.    So hopefully this is something that future volunteers will find beneficial.  
So on the social side of things what have I been up to.... On Wednesday, I had my second  "Family Dinner" with all the volunteers and staff at CCT.  The food as always was great, who doesn't like Spring Rolls....  On Friday, Steph was leaving the house to return home to Scotland, so we all went out for drinks.  I can't remember the name of the bar, not because I had too much to drink but because the name totally slips my mind.....but anyway it was great, we started out on the rooftop but due to rain we went one floor down to inside bar which was equally as nice.  From there we headed over to another bar for one more before heading back to Riverside.  Me being the oldest of the volunteers bailed out at this point, I can't party like I used to:-)  

On Saturday, I went on a Thai Cooking Class.  It was excellent.  I was picked up at 9:00 a.m. and then we went to the local Market.  Here we saw how coconut milk is extracted from coconuts, Sammy (Chef) went through the local ingredients with us and we then had some time to look around the market before we continued on our journey to Sammy's Organic Farm.  Once inside we got to taste some freshly baked rice cakes and then we put on our aprons and got cooking!!    First I cooked Thai Green Curry followed by Chicken Stir Fry and Cashew Nuts, both turned out really well considering that I do not do much cooking at home, in fact my reputation for cooking in Ireland is so bad,  my friends bought me a mug as a present a few years about that read "I only have a kitchen because it came with the house"!!!  Of course I had to take some photos as evidence that I actually managed to cook a decent dish"😊  After we demolished our dishes we then had an hour to relax in one of the lovely hammocks, this was so relaxing and a real  treat.   Once we recharged our batteries it was back to the kitchen to prepare our final two dishes, Spring Rolls and Sticky Rice and Mango, both of which were delicious.  Everyone got a cookbook to takeaway so I guess I don't have any more excuses for not cooking a nice Thai meal when I get back home from my travels.


On Sunday, I went into Chiang Mai and walked around the city, the weather was beautiful and it was really nice strolling around and exploring the many streets and visiting the temples.  In the evening I went to the SundayMarket and bought some gifts for my family.  I then met up with Nicola and we went for some food and a catch up before walking home.  Before I knew where I was the weekend was over and I found myself getting ready for my last week at Wat Muen Nyeun Gong School.

Well that's about it for now, catch up again later.