Monday, December 7, 2015

It's Already Almost Over!



Okay. Almost over is a little over-exaggerated with 18 days left in my project and 3 months of travelling after that. But let's say it’s almost almost over! Because that is certainly what it feels like. Working with FORRU I don’t experience a break like all the other CCT volunteers that I live with but that's totally fine by me! The last weeks are jam packed with super cool stuff! But there are most certainly things I will not relive. For example the first time I rode the pickup truck up to my work site. I was almost certain I would die. I did not and my fear was completely based on the good roads back at home and TV shows like “the most dangerous roads” where this trail, if filmed correctly, would be perfect!




Or the one time we got stuck in the mud having to pull out trucks for local farmers and drone pilots. Written down, this seems like a really odd aggregation of individuals but at that time all I could think about was how to get my feet dry and, again, not die on our way back down. But it’s not the unbelievably cool Automated Forest Restoration conference or the numerous field trips with the most incredible views that stick out to me the most. But rather the people I met along the way.



One of the best days I spent with my fellow Intern / Volunteer / Student, Ibren from the Netherlands. For a science project he needed 1g of plastic cable. Approximately 3000 pieces of said cable. It took us around 5 hours to cut all of it but I guess you can imagine us sitting in a really small lab as happy as only people in Babyfood commercials and organic wheat burgers can be. Listening to great music and just talking with someone who has traveled the world quite a bit was an enlightening experience! 

After the five hours of finger numbing scissor action and a really nice coffee at my new favourite place I didn’t even realise it was time for pickup. But of course all the other people I met and most certainly the ones I have to meet are fascinating. I really didn’t know the world was filled with so many awesome people until I started to travel!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

You Are Never Too Old... Or Young!


Hi there, my name is Silvana, an Italian / Swiss woman, living in Switzerland, and only 63 years young! 

When I applied for a volunteership I had the feeling people were smiling at me. And when I went for the introduction evening before I left Switzerland I was absolutely the "old lady" amongst teenies. I thought "Oh dear......"

Meanwhile I have started my voluntary services at the Wildflower Home. The home provides safe shelter, education, health and other services to young single mothers who are either pregnant or have young children. WFH offers emotional and educational support to help them move from crisis and poverty to steady jobs or continous education after leaving the home.

I immediately noticed that the children (up to four) were quite agressive to each other. They tore away each other's toys. Young volunteers seemed to always try to be nice to them. I learned that they needed firmness and limits to their behaviour. You would not believe it, but after three weeks everybody noticed! The children became calmer, they now play together, they share, and they politely ask if they want something! I am amazed how quick they learn. 

I just love them. Everyone wants to be hugged in a different way....... their background has certainly not been easy.

In the next edition I will talk about the young mothers!

As you can read, I am still eager to achieve a lot, step by step, whilst just being a little bit over 30!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teaching English to Mums and Kids Alike!


Hey there,

My name is Alina and I'm from Stuttgart, Germany. I'm 19 years old and I finished High School this year. My volunteer programme will take three months to complete, from September to December 2015.

I decided to spend some time in Thailand because I am really interested in Asian cultures and I hope to get to know the Thai culture. I want to become at teacher later so the work at a School here will prepare me for my occupational future. I also think that it is really exciting to get to know how kids in other countries are taught and how their parents nurture them. In addition I hope that the time here will be a great and unforgettable life experience.

Because of the school holidays I spent the first 4 weeks of my volunteer programme at the Wild Flower Home. This is a home for single mothers who are either pregnant or have young children. During my time there I took care of the kids, helped in the garden or in the office and I helped to clean the Buddhist temple kitchen from where the foundation gets most of their food and drinks. In addition I taught English to some of the older kids and to a few of the mothers.

Since November I have been working at the Wat Kuang Singh school. These children are essentially refugees from Myanmar and kids from the hilltribe villages in Thailand attending the school. I teach 3 lessons a week in 3 different classes. The most difficult part is the size of the classes (up to 48 kids) and the communication barrier, especially with the little kids. But I have a Thai teacher by my side and I realize that it is getting easier from lesson to lesson.

I'm looking forward to the following weeks and every experience I will get there.

Alina



An 18 Year Old German in the Thailand Jungle!




After one month in Thailand I can say I have arrived. Maybe I adapt especially quick. Maybe the circumstances were just right for me to feel accepted and welcome. Maybe it's because I was always interested in Asian culture. Maybe it's a combination of all those and so many more factors that make me comfortably say “for nothing would I trade this unique experience!”. Working with FORRU means being flexible. Very flexible. I didn't know I was that flexible. I also didn't know i would love this job, that before I arrived I had little to no interest in, so much that it would be no problem to sometimes work a 60+ hour week. But I guess that's exactly why I decided to make this journey and leave my family and friends for six months. To learn. Not only about a different culture and a different life and work philosophy. But to learn about myself. Also not only to meet incredible people ranging from people just like me doing a gap year to people working at Oxford on firing tree seeds in to the earth using automated drones. But also to meet myself. But who am I? Not in philosophical terms. This answer would probably exceed the few lines I'm writing here. But rather how do you imagine me? 



Writing this is an 18 year old guy from Germany, though when you read this it’s very likely I have already turned 19. I just finished the German equivalent to high school and I am currently on my gap year. Even though it’s only half a year I spend abroad I like to call it a gap year. 
I decided to travel to Thailand for a multitude of reasons. First of all I wanted to get away from home. And traveling a few kilometers in one direction just wasn’t going to cut it for me. 9000 km minimum! And another big plus for me was the culture. As I already mentioned I have always had a certain affinity with Asian cultures. Not so strong that I would just go there by myself and try to survive. After all I’m still only 18 years old. That's where CCT comes in to play. They were the perfect solution for me! I’m working with the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) at Chiang Mai University and have a place to stay and eat. So I get to do something really great (helping to find solutions for reforestation! FORRU is even considering using drones to save forests all over the world!). But I’m not alone on the beginning of my journey! And trust me having incredible people around you all the time really helps when leaving home for a long period of time and coming to a place you’ve never even been close to. For an 18 yo guy wanting to travel to Thailand, CCT provides the perfect starting point and in addition to that you also get a life altering volunteer opportunity.

Phillip




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Day in the Life of Volunteer Teaching in Thailand




Hello,

My name is Tang and I am from the University of Kansas. My major is Global and International Studies along with a minor in Anthropology. 

I am currently volunteering as an English teacher at Wat Khuang Singha School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Thai students that I teach English to range from ages 6 to 12 years old. Almost every day I assist the Thai teachers with teaching English and one day a week I teach on my own, which has become a wonderful experience.


To be honest, I am loving this volunteer work! The Thai teachers and students are very polite and respectful towards everyone and I felt very welcomed when I first arrived at the school. There are so many things that I enjoy about this school, such as everyone singing the Thai national anthem every morning, the food, and the people. I really enjoy teaching the Thai students because they love to participate which makes teaching much easier for me. 


I would recommend this volunteer work to anyone who loves kids and who loves to teach. You don’t even have to be highly experienced in teaching because the volunteer work itself assists and provides you with the necessary skills. It’s not difficult, nor is it easy, but once you get the hang of it you will enjoy teaching as much as I am, especially with these wonderful Thai students.

Until next time, 

Tang

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Day in the Life of Mplus+ (สวัสดีครับ วันนี้ผมจะพูด เกี่ยวกับทำงานใน Mplus+)



Hello, Cormac here!

Today I’m going to write a little about a day in the life in Mplus+, an organization working in sexual health amongst MSM (men who have sex with men) and TG (Transgender) populations in Thailand, as well as promoting LGBTQ rights across Chiang Mai.  

Every day is different...

Working at Mplus+ it is fair to say no two days are the same. Some days we work in the evening, others in the morning, sometimes in the office, sometimes outside of it. There is a great diversity to the time and setting of work which is nice and spices things up, however for the most part our work is based at the Mplus+ office in Chiang Mai. This is a really nice two storey building with lots of space downstairs for meetings and eating, and with really good kitchen facilities. Upstairs is where myself and Maria work with the others - there are three rooms, although most of us work in one big room with lots of tables and computers, making for a really nice, communal atmosphere. However, in saying that over the last few weeks we have found ourselves in Chiang Mai University for the ‘No His-tory but Ours’ LGBTIQ event, at a local hotel for a series of workshops on empowering HIV community support workers, plus a local bar and a local sauna for outreach work. This mix of settings and times makes for an interesting and fun work environment.  

The most generous staff you could meet...

Myself and Maria are so lucky to be work with these staff members. I think you would be hard pressed to find staff as kind and as generous with their time, and with their food! On my second day here, one of the staff brought us to a café and bought us tea and cake, which was so delicious. Each day the houselady brings us something to eat, and one day gave us so much food and tea myself and Maria were totally full and just could not eat any more! Since then we explained that we got a packed lunch from home, and so we just eat that now, but any time we ever forget our lunch they are always first to get us something.  

The people here are also very generous with their time. I’m forever asking them how to say this, that and the other in Thai, but they never seem to get annoyed and are always willing to help. Because myself and Maria are the only native English speakers at the office, it makes sense that they talk among each other in Thai most of the time. However, when we’re at meetings or workshops, they are always willing to translate for us, for which I am very grateful.  

Looking Forward to the Next four weeks...

Today marks the beginning of my fifth week in the organization, and as such I have crossed the halfway point in my time here at Mplus+. All I can say is I can’t wait to see what the next four weeks have in store, as I learn more about Thai language, culture and from the other volunteers in the volunteer house.  

That’s all for now, โชคดี ครับ

Monday, July 6, 2015

สวัสดีครับ (Hey!)


ผม ซื่อ Cormac! ผมมาจากไอร์แลนด์ ครับ ทำงาน มูลนิธิเอ็มพลัส ที่นี.

Phew! Okay I need to work on that a bit more.

Anyways, my name is Cormac, I’m from Ireland, and I’m volunteering with Mplus+ in Chiang Mai this summer as part of the EIL Ireland Global Awareness Program in HIV/AIDS.  Like my partner in crime at Mplus+ - Maria Flavin – I’m a travel award winner with EIL.  


Mplus+ is a fantastic organization that works mainly in promoting sexual health among men who have sex with men (MSM), preventing HIV and other STIs by promoting safer sex with condoms and lube, and encouraging and facilitating testing. In addition it aims to promote LGBTIQ rights and positive visibility – just last week we had an event on LGBTIQ rights and social movements in Thailand (shown below), and on Sunday Mplus+ hosted the annual Miss Healthy Thailand, an event focusing on sexual health, rights, wellbeing and positive visibility for trans women in Thailand.  I am really excited to be working with this organization, and I have already learned so much from them.  I hope that my different experiences and background in LGBTIQ and HIV efforts back home will mean I can contribute at least in a small way to the project, as we exchange ideas and experiences in this area.

You can spot us quite easily in the above picture. I’m to the left of Maria and we’re in the left of the photo. This photo was taken at the opening of the LGBTIQ History Gallery for the ‘No His-tory but Ours’ 2 day event on LGBTIQ issues last week. That’s most of the team there – they are so much fun! Also shown below is myself and Maria at the opening of  Miss Healthy Thailand 2015!  


About me: I’m a medical student in Dublin just finished my second year at University, and I’m also a committee member of my University’s LGBTQ+ Society – so you’ll usually find me at a lecture, the library, a coffee morning or workshop.  I’m interested in sustainability, renewables and development – I was that ten year old kid who used to pester the principal about getting a compost bin and pleaded with my parents to get solar panels – I still get really excited about developments in the field and how each one of us can empower ourselves to make for a more sustainable, greener life. I’m also a Disney fan and like to listen occasionally multiple times a day to cheesy pop music!

So far my experience in Chiang Mai has been thought provoking, adventurous and inspiring.  I have already learned so much not alone from the people at work and in the locality but from living with the other volunteers.  Each of us has our own unique background and experiences and it’s allowing us to find out more about each other, which is fantastic. 



I also like languages (I’m learning some French in University and I did Spanish in secondary school) and the language here (especially the written language) is very different to my experience of European languages. The language is tonal which means how you say a word changes its meaning, and Thai script so far has been a bit of an unfolding mystery. For example, Thai script is written as an abugida rather than an alphabet (which means that vowels can go above, below, to the left or right of consonants and the form of the vowel changes depending on the syllable in question), so reading it is like playing detective, because you do get more familiar with it in time and there is a nice feeling of accomplishment when you finally get why something is written like it is. At the same time, while the tones and script make for another dimension to the language, much of the grammar is simpler than its European counterparts, such as with tenses, plurals and conjugations. Given how friendly and willing to engage the locals are - even with my plundering tones and faulty strung-together phrases – I’m looking forward to getting more familiar with this interesting and exotic tongue

I can’t wait to see what the next six weeks has in store for me, both in work and with the other volunteers. You can follow my EIL blog at http://www.eilireland.org/users/cormac   

Thanks, Cormac 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

From Dublin to Chiang Mai, Swollen Ankles Included



Hi there! 

My name is Eniola, but called Enny by pretty much everybody. 

I was born in Lagos (Nigeria), raised in Waterford (Ireland) and studying in Dublin. I am supper bubbly, perhaps way too chatty and always with a smile. 

I am a 3rd year General Nursing student of Trinity College in Dublin. I love the placement! Going home knowing I have helped someone in a vulnerable place, honestly is the best feeling in the world. 

What’s next? I have huge plans, I have big dreams! Slowly but surely I will make these dreams a reality. 

The first of which began in Thailand on the 7th of June after being named the Thailand EIL Access Travel Award winner for 2015 alongside Maria and Melissa. 

Our 26 hour journey consisted of connecting flights from Dublin to London to Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It wasn’t until we were about to get off the 12 hour flight to Bangkok that I realised how ridiculously swollen my feet had gotten. My feet refused to budge and fit into my flat shoes and walking on it gave me pins and needles. Trying to get through security and immigration waddling in swollen feet was not a pleasant experience but it provided great humour for myself and the girls. I most definitely will remember to get Ted stockings in the future.  The excitement we shared is something that I will never forget as it was the farthest we had ever been away from home.

As we landed in Chiang Mai in one full piece, we were welcomed by Dan the Assistant Director of Cultural Canvas Thailand and a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. We arrived at the volunteer house and were welcomed by Sarah from New York and David and Claire from North Carolina.   


Since arrival, we have being orientated to Chiang Mai including awesome restaurants to eat, places that are a must visit, and our projects. The whole shebang really!

For more on that, look out for my next blog!

La gorn,

Enny