Friday, July 21, 2017

CCT Volunteer Kyra DiFrancesco 2nd Blog Post (FORRU)

Things at FORRU have really been looking up. At the beginning of my internship, I was worried that we didn’t really have our place on the team. Everyone else had their projects, but my fellow American interns and I were mostly doing data entry. After bringing up my concerns, though, we were able to meet with the founder of FORRU, and as I suspected, there was a lot of work to be done! One of my fellow interns, Anna, is now taking on a project with a professor at CMU, Dakota and I are now working on a seed germination experiment, and all three of us will now be working to update FORRU’s website.

The past week has had a lot of late nights working on getting our seed germination project started. We only have two and a half weeks left, so we need to work fast. It’s been pretty difficult due to the language barrier and lack of materials. FORRU doesn’t have a dedicated lab, so we had to get creative and turned the office kitchen into our own makeshift seed lab. We had to purchase our own tables, venture out to a flower market and use what little Thai we know to buy seeds, go back and forth to too many 7/11s to get miscellaneous supplies, get interdepartmental lab supply loans, and, in a desperate hour, wander into a random lab on campus to borrow a graduated cylinder. This past Monday night we were in our lab until 11pm…blending leaves. It was actually pretty fun, and I’m so glad that we have this opportunity to experiment with FORRU (and hopefully manage to make a scientific breakthrough in three weeks). 

CCT Volunteer Dakota Van Deursen 2nd Blog Post (FORRU)

                My experience with FORRU started off as a whirlwind, and it hasn't died down yet in the slightest. Though I have had less days in the field lately, I have been just as busy helping out around the office, keypunching data, and (most excitingly!) starting up my own laboratory.

                For almost two full weeks from when we left off (Tham Pha Thai), I worked in the office on data entry. Around 20 years ago, someone wrote down a bunch of tree species in a set of books. FORRU now needs them electronically -- and they aren't gonna type themselves!

                Data entry was interspersed with hammering out some tags for the Tham Pha Thai trees. Literally. The TEAN interns spent two whole days on the landing with hammers and alphanumeric stamps, stamping out over 2500 aluminum tags.

                This past weekend, I volunteered at an all-day endeavour: youth camp. FORRU hosted the Chiang Mai Demonstration School for a day of learning, hiking, and conservation. Though really tiring, I had a blast that day, and got to support the FORRU team teaching kids how to conserve, restore, and sustain.

                The last week and a half, though, has been dominated by the most exciting facet yet: our experiment. Once our Thai language classes were over, FORRU's director held a meeting with the TEAN interns to ask us all what we were looking to do -- I was one of two who were selected to bootstrap opening up a laboratory and performing a scientific experiment.

                So far, everything is looking good. After days of running willy-nilly trying to track down all of the supplies necessary for the lab (a converted coffee break room) to function, Kyra and I are preparing to dive head-first into the science.  We hope that, by the end of the next couple of weeks, we have made a lasting impression on FORRU's plantation monitoring techniques.

CCT Volunteer Nora Demilta 2nd Blog Post (Art Relief International)

This past week with ARI has been a bit of a different experience. We had two new volunteers join the team, Danielle and Queenie. They’re both from Ireland and both are really kind and fun to work with. They let me tease them about their Irish colloquialisms and they do the same for my American slang. I’m thankful for their addition and they’ve already contributed to some stellar workshops. Danielle and I teamed up on a Hope Home workshop last week where we made jetpacks out of cardboard and plastic bottles. We collaborated on the idea and it went really well! The children at Hope Home had a blast with the jet packs they made. Whenever a kid would finish their project, one of the volunteers would lift them up and fly them around the room. This always elicited a few giggles from the students! This was my favorite workshop with Hope Home thus far and it would not of happened without Danielle’s help.

It was interesting when Danielle and Queenie first arrived at ARI. All of the TEAN volunteers tried so hard to help them and teach them the ways of ARI. We acted as if we had been here for years when in reality it had only been about 10 days. It’s funny how quickly we adapted to working and living here. I hate to think that I only have about three more weeks in Thailand. I’ve learned so much and had so much fun; I don’t want it to end. I don’t want to have to say goodbye to the students, my coworkers, or the other TEAN members. In my last days I’m trying live as fully as possible and enjoy every moment. I want to be rich in memories for when I go back to the states!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

CCT Volunteer Jack Pooler 2nd Blog Post (Thai Freedom House)

Hi Everyone!

I am approximately 4 weeks into my internship at Thai Freedom House right now. Currently, there are no classes being taught as we just finished our most recent semester about a week and half ago. We held a “graduation” ceremony for all of the students on July 7th that wonderful. Almost all of Thai Freedom House’s volunteers, students, and employees were there. Every student received a certificate for each class that they took. We finished graduation with a large dinner provided by Free Bird Cafe!

Since then, we have been putting in a lot of work towards creating a more standard curriculum for the classes that we offer. Thai Freedom rotates through volunteers, teachers, and employees fairly regularly. With no classes being offered until September, now is the perfect time to catch up on the kind of infrastructure that will make transitioning new employees and teaching volunteers a lot more simple in the future. Right now that involves developing different leveled English curriculums since our students all come in with different levels of vocabulary and speaking proficiencies. Additionally, we have been working on training exercises and lesson plans for when new employees are hired at Free Bird Cafe. All of our current employees are from Shan state, and so we are working on them with their English as it pertains to their specific jobs in the Cafe, and we hope these exercises can be used for future employees as well. In the past, curriculums and training of employees has changed as people come and go, so we hope this will streamline things moving forward

I have also officially started my tutoring sessions with some of the Cafe’s employees. Most of them already have a solid foundation of English, so we have been working more on communication skills, pronunciation, and how to interact with customers since they work in the cafe. While it is still early in the tutoring process, I think it is going very well and I am excited to see the progress they have achieved by the end!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

CCT Volunteer Mansur Alam (BEAM and ARI)

My name is Mansur Alam, this summer I have been blessed with a wonderful opportunity to spend 2 months volunteering in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have come to volunteer with the Cultural Canvas Thailand through EIL Explore programme. It is a dream of mine to work with ethnic minorities and Refugees because I myself is a refugee from Burma. I’ve spend my early childhood living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. And I came to Ireland in 2009, never having attended school and with no English I have faced many difficulties and challenges every day with the language and school work.
So I know what the situation is like for the people living in such camp because I can relate. this is why I have chosen to volunteer here in Chiang Mai where I heard about the Burmese refugee students who left the country and now want to go to university in Thailand.
I will be teaching science at the BEAM foundation in Chiang Mai two days a week, Tuesday and Friday. BEAM is an organisation that provide education to the Burmese refugees who did not had the opportunity to go to college or complete their education in Burma. The aim of this project is to prepare the students to passed the GED exam so that they can apply to university in Thailand.
In my free time I will be working with the Art Relief International (ARI) programme where I will be working on different workshops such as, visiting foster home, children schools and many more. I am very excited to be here and can’t wait for my work to begin.


CCT Volunteer McKenna Tychsen Blog Post (Hope Home)

{June 19th-July 4th}

These past 3 weeks I've been working at an amazing organization in Chiang Mai, Thailand called Hope Home. Hope Home is a foster home and community with the goal of providing a loving, caring and therapeutic environment for children with special needs who are a part of government social welfare system or families affected by disability in the community.

We work with the children to provide proper medical, nutritional and emotional needs as well as daily physical therapy, occupational therapy and special education. With the combination of volunteers and the full time staff who have experience in different areas, we are able to provide the children with useful resources and proper therapy.

The children we work with range from a variety of physical and mental disabilities as well as multiple health complications including: Down's syndrome, blindness, fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, respiratory issues, sound and temperature sensitivity hypoglycemia and hydrocephalus.

Each child is unique in their own way, whether this be with their disability, or their personality, they truly stand out individually. 

When I first arrived at Hope Home, I was overwhelmed with the warm welcome they gave me. Ryan, one of the other volunteers through CCT from Canada, gave me the run down on each child as well as the home and where everything was and what they do each day. I was introduced to each child and was able to slightly interact with them the first day to learn the ropes, however, some of the children were timid with me because I was a new stranger in their home.

As the weeks went on, the children were more trusting with me and I felt more comfortable to take on responsibilities to help out where needed. Even though we are on week 3, I am still learning everyday. Whether it be what needs to be done with a certain child, which medications to use or even just how to speak Thai. Its nice being able to ask so many questions and the other people I work with are very nice about helping me out.

Something that has been pretty challenging is the language barrier. I am taking the Thai Language class at Chiang Mai University, so I do pick up on certain phrases and words I recognize, but I can't completely converse with them, which I wish I could. But the other women are very good at understanding what I have to stay with help of my gestures and broken Thai!

I've worked with children with disabilities before back home in the United States, and I've realized that most adults don't really understand how difficult some of the most simple activities such as eating, going to the bathroom, brushing teeth etc, (to people without disabilities) is. We don't recognize the simplicity because it is such habit and we don't even need to think about it. But for most of these kids, it is a lot more challenging and some require assistance, so we are here to help them adjust and improve their daily cognitive, social and physical skills to eventually be able to do these skills on their own. Although it may seem like we don't do much throughout the day, bare in mind that these activities take a lot longer than normal because we are working to improve their skills, not ours.

A typical day at Hope Home:
-Start out the day with breakfast
-Go for a walk around the block for some exercise
-Come back and start physiotherapy
-Lunch time (for the kids who don't go to school)
-Some children come back from school around this time, take showers and a nap
-snack time
-Special education
-Play time break outside on the playground
(Then I usually leave around 5:00pm)

With each of these activities, we try and include certain skills that are catered toward each child and their disability. For example, one of the children, Phil, has cerebral palsy but still is very able to use his limbs (mainly is legs and feet) as a way to communicate. We have a portable chart with buttons where he presses it with his toes and the speaker says something in Thai/English. He knows where everything is on the board, so if he wants to say something, this is a good way to express his thoughts without actually being able to form sentences by voice.


Next week, I will go into detail about each of the children and the specifics of their needs!! 

CCT Volunteer Jack Pooler (Thai Freedom House)

Hey Everyone!

I have been working at Thai Freedom House for almost two weeks now, and so far it has been really busy! The graduation ceremony for this past academic term is on Friday, and so there has been a lot of planning for that throughout the week. This past term we taught Shan, Burmese, English, and Thai, and I had the opportunity to be present for a couple of the English and Thai courses the last week or so. The students are mainly Burmese refugees or migrants and are from all ages. Almost every day, donations from places all over town come in and need to be sorted so they can be distributed to groups of indigenous people and refugee camps along the border, so a lot of time has been dedicated to that so far as well.

Outside of the day to day affairs, I have also been assigned to look into and develop possible fundraising opportunities that organizations such as Thai Freedom House are regularly supported by. So far research has included potential grant or other fundraising opportunities, which I will continue researching or possibly developing my own fundraising project throughout the summer

Lastly, many of the employees at Thai Freedom House or Free Bird Cafe are Burmese and are still learning English, and I will be tutoring some of them once a week while I am here.

It has been an amazing experience so far. There is always work to be done, and I am really looking forward to the new experiences and the rest of the summer here!

CCT Volunteer Tori Carey Week 3 Teaching Placement Baan Thao Boon Rueng

This week in Baan Tao Boon Reung School the children practiced how to tell time. They made their own clocks by using paper plates for the base and cut out arrow shapes for the hands. They had so much fun doing this. Each student got to show their own creative side, while also learning about time. 

 Later on in the week we went on a field trip. The whole school got to visit Chiangmai Zoo on Thursday. We had the best time! The children got to see a range of different animals. Each student was also provided with a zoo booklet which they recorded each animal they found.

We also got the chance to watch a live bird show. Which some of the children got to participate in it. They held out their arms while the birds landed on them, which brought a lot of laughter to the crowd. Their smile says it all! It provided great fun and entertainment for everyone there. 

 After lunch the children all got to go into the water park, which of course I had to go in, despite not having a swimsuit or towel! We got to play some water sports and had a couple of water fights (teachers vs students...which got a bit competitive!)

It was another busy week here at the School however, no matter how hectic or busy our week gets we always have so much fun. 

CCT Volunteer Mark Cotter Art Relief International - Compassion, Understanding, and Awareness


Chiang Mai, Thailand. The mountains surround the city in serenity, combing with the 

cloudy skies to create a soft, calm scene. Everywhere you walk, everywhere you look, 

there are food stands representing the communal Thai society as customers and 

sellers exchange food, money, and happiness. The Old City is reminiscent of the 

Lanna Kingdom, a past and glorious empire with Chiang Mai as its capital. As the 

moat surrounds this part, you can still watch Lanna dance performances and enjoy 

traditional Lanna cuisine. However, the best part of my trip, more than the food, the 

mountains, and the past, are the people. Through my internship, I have been exposed 

to the various communities Chiang Mai offers and they are often undeserved.


In a two-week span, I have worked with adults with disabilities, children with disabilities, Burmese refugees, students at temple schools, juveniles, elderly, and male sex workers. Art Relief International has bestowed upon me the opportunity to create and present art workshops to these marginalized communities. From teaching the students English words and drawing their favorite food on a plate, to forging charmed bracelets for the children with disabilities and dancing to the beats they made.

dance performances and enjoy traditional Lanna cuisine. However, the best 

part of my trip, more than the food, the mountains, and the past, are the 

people. Through my internship, I have been exposed to the various 

communities Chiang Mai offers and they are often undeserved


These communities are full of love, joy, determination, and grit. Yes, they are undeserved and marginalized, but they are as capable of succeeding as everyone else when given equitable opportunities. My compassion, awareness, and understanding has substantially grown in these past couple of weeks, and I hope to continue that for the rest of my internship.

CCT Volunteer Sarena Sanchez's Blog Post temple School Wat Kuang Singha

A week and a half ago I started my internship at Wat Khuang Sing School where I am teaching English to students. While my time there has not been long, I have experienced many different things. I am teaching English to students 1st through 3rd grade and have learned so much in such a short amount of time. The Thai school that I am placed at is extremely different than any school I have seen in the United States. The students are very orderly and polite and the school has a schedule that even includes time for the children to brush their teeth after lunch! There are no bells that indicate when classes are over or starting, but at certain times of the day specific songs play that signal that it is time for either an activity such as lunch, or time to concentrate while returning back to the classroom setting after play time.

Some challenges that I have faced so far include learning how to manage a classroom full of children, lesson planning strategies, and my teacher being out of town for the first three weeks of my internship. As for learning how to manage the classroom, I was able to reach out to friends who have previously taught young children. Specifically a friend who taught English in Korea, where she did not speak their language was extremely helpful. She gave me tips on non-verbal signals and other techniques that made a huge difference in my classes! One thing that definitely made me nervous at the start of my internship was the idea of lesson planning. I do not have any previous experience with creating my own lesson plans and was struggling with what to do. Once I had a better grasp on the information that the children already knew, it became a bit easier to manage. My lesson planning could still use much improvement though and I will continue to work on it! Lastly, when I started my first few days at the school, I learned that my co-teacher would be going out of town for three weeks, leaving me to teach my classes on my own and also take on a majority of hers to teach on my own as well. At first that was extremely intimidating, as I was not used to leading a classroom on my own, but it eventually grew to be a blessing in disguise. I believe that running these classes on my own has given me the opportunity to create a stronger connection with the students, as I am who they go to when they have a question even though we may not understand each other’s languages fully. I will be excited to have my fellow teacher return, but I am grateful that I was able to learn so much from being on my own.

One of the most interesting things that has happened at my school so far is that last Friday the students put on a market in the morning! Each grade had foods to sell. Some of those were popcorn, omelets, fried banana and fried mushrooms. They also sold books, toys and trinkets to other students. I spoke to one of the other teachers who told us that the market happens once a month and is helpful because not only does is build a community among the students and teachers (who also help and participate), but it gives the students invaluable life lessons. It gives them the opportunity to see what running a business is like and lets them practice skills such as counting and money handling. I thought that this was such a great idea and would love to see something like this happen at schools back home!

CCT volunteer Anna Osborn's Blog Post, Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU)

As a student studying environmental policy and environmental sustainability, I was very eager to start working for FORRU. I came to Thailand to work at this internship and gain hands on experience in the world of environmental sustainability. After a little over 2 weeks, I am very satisfied. We began the internship at full speed. During our first week we spent everyday out in the field except for one day. Although the field work is often tough manual labor, I personally love it. I love the mix of office work and field work. It’s extremely nice not having to sit in an office indoors all day, plus I get to see a lot of the nature in Thailand which I enjoy. One of the days I was able to help at an education event where we educated other American college students on forest restoration. After we took them on an adventurous hike through the mountains that was actually pretty tough! The rest of the week was spent preparing for our big planting day. We spent two days raking and removing pine needles and other invasive plant species to prepare to plant the trees at planting day. This was hard (but fun) work! It was so satisfying to see the progress we did with removing all the toxic plant species.


         All the preparation lead to our big planting day which was last Saturday. I had no idea how popular this event was. There were hundreds of volunteers that came out and helped us plant over 2,000 trees. There were different plots with different species of trees planted in various plantations across the mountain. The goal is to see which tree grows best in which area which will help restore the forest from degrading and slash and burn. I haven’t studied forest restoration so this is very new and exciting to me. It’s also really cool to learn about it in a foreign country with a climate much different than my own. However, even though it’s a different area of the world, this method could be introduced to America forest restoration as well.


    Away from the actual work, I have the best co-workers. There’s about 6 other interns, some are Thai students from a university in southern Thailand. They are so much fun and so welcoming to me even though there is a language barrier. It’s fun because they will practice their English with me and I’ll practice my Thai on them. We’ll ask each other what certain words mean in the opposite language. These girls make work so enjoyable. My supervisors are awesome too. They are so laid back and really down to Earth. It makes coming to work fun and not feel like a chore. I am so thankful I am able to spend the summer working at a job I enjoy, where coming to work is desirable, and where my coworkers are considered friends. I’m really thankful for FORRU and cannot wait to see where the rest of summer goes with this job!

CCT volunteer Nora Demilta Blog Post Art Relief International

It is crazy how much time has already passed. I am more done with my summer adventure than not. It’s frightening to think about returning home and it’s making me want to savor my time here. This past week of workshops brought unique challenges and victories that I did not originally expect. I am still learning the dynamic of this team and discovering how we all fit together. Regardless, I’m thankful for the group I am working with. We support each other in and out of the workshops and are always ready for fun.

            I taught my first workshop last Monday with Thai Freedom House. We made pinwheels and boxes for them to be displayed in. When we came up the stairs the kids were running around, shouting, and throwing a ball around the room. I was anxious to begin. I had no idea how I would be able to communicate what I needed from them and how I would be able to lead their group. Luckily, Pepo handled most of the explanation and fielded any questions the children had. I felt so guilty whenever I was unable to assist one of the students properly. I would look blankly at the students as they asked me questions in their native language. Only fully responding when they called out, “Teacher!” As my time progresses I would like to do my best to communicate more with the students. I know that I’m not going to become a Thai wizard overnight but I think it’s important for our relationship to figure out a multitude of ways to communicate. There’s more than just verbal communication and I will have to use that to my advantage while I’m here.

  I love my placement and I am so thankful for the chance to be here. The more time I spend with ARI the more I feel connected to what I value as an artist. All of the groups we work with are so unique and it makes every day a new adventure. 

CCT Volunteer Kyra DiFrancesco Blog Post FORRU placement

These past few weeks have had their ups and downs. At FORRU, we alternate between office days and field trips. So far, I like to go on the field trips more than I like to stay at the office, although for the field trips we have to get up very early. On field trips, we tend to plots (raking leaves, prepping for planting, etc.), have planting days, or transport seedlings from nurseries to planting sites. In the future, I hope my fellow TEAN interns and myself can participate in more science-based field trips. For example, FORRU also has to do monitoring, GPS tracking, set up camera traps, and test pH levels in the soil.

On office days, we are either stuck in meetings or just doing data entry. The meetings are interesting but they can be very long. For data entry we are copying field notebooks from the 1990s into Excel. This doesn’t feel like very important work nor is it of immediate necessity. However, the past two days we got to stamp tags for seedlings for our next planting day. It was fun to work with my hands. Over the next few days, I’m definitely going to start asking for more responsibilities, whether from my supervisor or from the head of FORRU. Right now I’m a little apprehensive we are being treated like typical interns.

In addition to stamping tags for the seedlings, some other highlights of the past few weeks include our first field trip, in which we helped teach a group of American students about FORRU, and our big planting day on 24 June. We did a lot of work leading up to that day, and it was great to finally see the trees being planted. I had never planted a tree before, so to think that I planted a baby tree that could live for decades and help restore the forest is really exciting!

CCT Volunteer Duncan Brody Blog Post Temple School Wat Thong Gai

   I guessed before coming to Thailand that the story of this trip would be ‘not knowing anything and just going for it’. It turns out I was very right about that. Even the day just before my internship began I knew close to 0% of what I needed. All of the interns woke up on that 4th Monday (1st Internship Monday) and drove to the Arts Relief International house. From there, the twelve of us received our general orientation. Luckily, the teachers had a second day of orientation to accomplish a more specific understanding. Our orientation/group leader notified the three of us (ESL Teachers) that our internship was particularly challenging, and that it would require a significant level of resilience and preparation. Since we’re teaching multiple classes of varying age and ability levels everyday our lesson planning needs to be differentiated as well.

    You appreciate the work that goes into being a teacher rather quickly when you’re thrown in to the mix without any warning. I approached my first day of teaching without a knowledge of what speaking/reading/writing level any of the students were at, what my schedule would be, how many students I would have/what their names would be, where my school was or how I would get there. So, when day 1 rolled around I figured it all out the hard way. Here are the answers to all the questions that burned in my head leading up to the start of my work: I teach solo for 6 classrooms ranging in age from 7 to 15 (1st to 6th grade). Each class has around twenty students. I teach 2 to 3 of these classes each day (2 on Tue. and Thurs. because I study Thai at the University and miss the morning class block). Mondays are definitely the hardest because I teach grades 1, 2, and 3 all on the same day. The ability level varies from knowing basic conversations/directions/animals etc. to knowing close to no English (this includes letters and numbers). Telling these students what to do is nearly impossible. To get to work I take a twenty-five minute Uber each way every day. This is kind of a blessing in disguise because it gives me the opportunity to meet and have interesting 20 minute conversations with ten different people during my commute each week. I need to spend about 1-2 hours a night working on lesson plans, materials, or doing research of some kind to help improve the classroom.
     These logistics don’t even come close to giving an accurate picture of what my day looks like, however. When you line up the responsibilities and stresses in a list you wonder why you would ever do a job like this, but the reality is something you couldn’t replace with the world. Although I spend the majority of my day hearing little kids (and teachers) spouting out Thai words, one on top of the other, that I simply don’t comprehend, I have met some of the most colorful personalities I have ever known in my short two weeks at the school. The teachers seem to be obsessed with having an American teacher as a ‘play-thing’ to test their English on and tell jokes around, and the kids treat me like we’ve been best friends since birth. Although I give the 1st – 2nd graders a lot of flack for being difficult classes that are uncontrollable, the kids have the hugest hearts and are too darn cute to not love. My favorite class is the fifth graders, however. They are such a smart group, and they are all incredibly dedicated to learning and growing together. I’ve never seen such a special group of kids who care so much about their education.
    Something that I realized on my first day on the job is that you can learn more about a culture by witnessing one full day of school than from spending three weeks taking classes at University. As I walked around the school yard and saw the way that the children learn, spend their free time, perform standard daily rituals, and react to their peers and teachers, I became so acutely aware of what that means for the society they live in as a whole. School is where so much of your childhood is spent. These are the years that form the foundation for the rest of your life, and over half of the waking hours of everyday are spent here, learning your values and your desires. That is why I think that teachers are some of the most important people in the world to shaping what children grow to become.

CCT volunteer Sam Walters (Art Relief International)

We did a lot of things during our first two weeks volunteering at Art Relief International. The first week seemed more stress free since all the workshops were run by Madeline. It was still a lot of work but really exciting to meet all of the groups, seeing them smile and having fun. The second week was a little scary, because we were writing lesson plans but fortunately I am part of a very great team. We all helped each other out because nothing is more important than creating a great workshop where everyone has fun and learns something new. I am glad that I get to work with such great people that help me when I need it and I can help when they need it. We make a great team and we all are so happy to be working for ARI. I am very happy to have met everyone at Hope Home, Urban Light, Elderly Care, etc. It always makes me so Happy to see them.

CCT Volunteer Julia Taladay Blog Post (Art Relief International)

Since starting my internship with ARI only 2.5 weeks ago, I feel like my understanding of so many different things have changed. The people I’ve gotten to meet and work with have made me realize that I can be an extremely adaptable and relaxed person, while also being a leader that people look up to. Before starting the internship, I did not think that I would work well with disabled people at all. Being an athlete, most of my friends are also athletes and we often bond over physical activities like sports or competitions. For children who are physically disables, I was unsure if I would be able to make a connection with them. At Hope Home and Healing Families, I proved myself wrong. I have learned new ways to bod with people through different avenues. I am learning how to communicate and bond with others in a way that in still physical, like helping the kids paint and giving them different fabrics to feel, but in a way that is less competitive and more educational and therapeutic. This has been a recent revelation of mine. One of my favorite moments with ARI so far has been with Healing Family, playing games with the participants. It is physical, but in a way that encourages bonding and solidarity rather than competition. I’m excited to see how ARI will redefine other concepts for me in the coming weeks.

CCT Volunteer Dakota Van Deursen Blog Post (FORRU placement)

The past two weeks have been a true whirlwind. FORRU, the Forest Restoration Research Unit based out of Chiang Mai University, does such great work for the region and the world; it's a true honor to be a part of it all!
                My first week, the other TEAN interns and I were flung head-first into pretty intensive field-work days. Tuesday, we hosted an education day for American college students at the FORRU nursery at Baan Mae Sa Mai. Nestled way up in the hills of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, it served at the best orientation imaginable -- we got to learn more about FORRU's 'framework species' planting method, then take hikes to visit old planting sites.
                The rest of the week, we spent preparing the plots at Mon Long (near Moncham). Each day, we left campus near 7:00am and didn't return until past 6:00pm! They were long days, but I don't mind it. We spent most of this time removing pine needles from the forest floor to aid in a soil acidity test being performed by one of the staff members.
                It all boiled down to Saturday, though: Big Planting Day at Mon Long with the help of students from MaeJo University, park rangers, the Rajapruek Institute, and others. We put all of the prepared trees in their holes, then began work fertilizing them all. It was certainly rewarding to take a step back and admire our handiwork!
                Following the labor-intensive yet massively successful previous week, our second week was spent mostly in the FORRU office on-campus, working to create electronic copies of Herbology charts. I've gotta say, I'm impressed by how much the simple act of typing differnet species' binomial nomenclature over and over again can affect how you recognize words (and their associated plants).
                Wednesday was spent on the road to and from Tham Pha Thai National Park in Lampang province. In preparation for the next Big Planting Day, we spent the morning loading 2500 seedlings into the truck (learning important Thai words such as "snail," "millipede," and "snake" along the way). The drive that day afforded some of the best, albeit fleeting, scenery I've yet seen in Thailand.
                So, now I'm two weeks in, and I'm totally hooked. I can't wait to see what the next five weeks have in store for me. Not that I want to find out too quickly, mind you! I'd like that departure date to stay as far away as possible, too.