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 forru.org! 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!

CCT Volunteer Sarena Sanchez Last Blog Post (Wat Kuang Singha School)

Well, my final weeks at Wat Khuang Sing School as an English teacher have come! It's been a rollercoaster of emotions including stress, exhaust and SOOOO much joy! The kids at Wat Khuang Sing School are such a joy and bring a smile to my face every time i walk through the gate and hear "Teacher Arena!" (lots of them can't pronounce Sarena). Many of them have asked about my personal life since learning that i will be going back home to America this week. A few of the girls insisted i tell them about my boyfriend, who doesn't actually exist and others are very intrigued with the fact that i'm planning on returning to my old job at Disneyland! I'm definitely going to miss working with them everyday!

This past week i introduced Bingo to my younger classes and not only did they love it, but my co-teacher really enjoyed it as well! Since the younger kids don't have strong reading skills yet, we used pictures of vocab that we've learned over our time together. I had a hard time finding a Bingo card maker that uses photos online, so i ended up making all 25 by hand by cutting and pasting each picture into the individual squares. Sure, it was a bit tedious and super time consuming, but it was definitely worth it when i saw how excited the kids got when they realized they had Bingo! I'm glad i was able to introduce this game to them and i hope my teacher liked it enough to continue using it in the future!

Speaking of my teacher, in the beginning, it was difficult to adjust to having another adult in the classroom, but by the end of week 6, it has been so much easier! I have learned a lot from her teaching style and the activities that she prepares for the different age groups. I will be taking back a lot of useful information and techniques that hopefully i can use in my future career.

I hope the students and teachers at Wat Khuang Sing School won't forget me, because i will definitely not forget them any time soon!

CCT Volunteer Duncan Brady Last Blog Post (Wat Baan Thong Gai School)

On the Impending Journey home and the breeze off the Hudson...

*** THURSDAY, AUGUST 3RD, 10:25PM***

I think it would be fitting to begin my final internship-focused blog post by stating that this is my fourth attempt at formulating any sort of information of clarity surrounding my last two weeks (and cumulatively my last ten weeks) in Thailand. It’s not to say that I’ve been struggling so profoundly to find the right words, although that certainly adds to the challenge. The real reason is that I have been besieged by so many oncoming distractions and responsibilities that there is quite simply no time to take a seat, take a breath, and type a memoir. For anyone who knows me well enough, my inability to take a seat and take a breath is often the biggest challenge I have in accomplishing any sort of long term or difficult task. And if you don’t know, now you know…

I give thanks for the menial tasks and myriad red herrings that sprout up ahead on my metaphorical path to blog completion, however, as most of them manifest in the form of young children seeking love and attention or new coworkers back home in need of some words of advice from yours truly (Because I’m apparently an adult who can give work advice now). My ever-increasing plethora of busybody battles really just makes me feel at peace. The heavy weight of responsibility comforts me like a warm blanket in the winter in the same way that an ant receives comfort from the purpose it feels in carrying thrice its weight over its tiny shoulders from ant hill to queen.

Nonetheless, as I sit in my penultimate remaining pair of unwashed and unpacked shorts, (the rest are tightly rolled and stuffed into a collection of suitcases at the foot of my wooden rig I choose to call a bed) I am listening to “American Privilege” by Allen Stone in one ear and the sounds of my roommate waking up from his religiously taken 8-10pm nap in the other. I’m mulling over the mundane aspects of living in Thailand, and realizing that it’s only when you settle in to the moments of regularity in which the profound quality of your shock into a foreign world becomes your reality; when your distinct shift in paradigm holds such a clearness in its cogency that you forget, even if for just a moment, that there was ever a reality apart from that which you are currently held.

In my last entry, I think it is safe to say that I tipped my glass rather heavily into the bitter half of a bittersweet feeling. Luckily for anyone foolish enough to dissect my mind by reading what I have to say in this far-from-succinct account of myself, there is an omnipresent truth that our youth learn from an early age in the subtle art that is the Sour Patch Kids commercial: “First they’re sour….Then they’re sweet”. If the seventh inning stretch was the sour valley of my sinusoidal ride in Chiang Mai, the sweetness of melancholy is hitting my tooth now in the bottom of the ninth.

Before I left for this trip, I debated whether or not I should bring my big, shiny camera along with me. I’ve always lived by a precept that to take pictures is to remember what you did and to live in the moment is to remember how you felt (my ghoulish ramblings of the previous blog post are a testament to this). However, it occurred to me that there is really no other outlet for me to remember the faces of the 120+ children and teachers I experienced day in and day out for the last seven weeks. The Baan Thong Gai School is not a tourist attraction that I can Google and see in seconds. If I want to ever see the faces of my students again (something I may never have the chance to do in person), I’m going to need some pictures to do the job. I had not taken my camera out of it’s case in ten weeks, but yesterday I realized that the only thing really worth taking a picture of on this trip was right in the heart of Baan Thong Gai.

…So I made a day of it.

I brought the big ole’ Nikon D52 in, and the kids were glued to it like dry macaroni on the mane of a clipart lion. I’ve never been so concerned for the safety of my camera equipment, something I dropped a substantial amount of cash on two years ago, in my life. The kids were passing the camera around like a volleyball and their little hands could barely hold it up, but after several hours of walking around the school and snapping as many pictures of the kids as I could, I feel like I really documented a day in the life of the many Burmese, Laos, Indian, and Thai students I have the pleasure to hang out with on a daily basis.

Because all of the pictures are on a memory card that is not compatible with my broken SD card slot, you’re going to have to wait until I come back home with an adapter to see the lot of them, but I promise that they are worth the wait. Just scanning through the pictures quickly was enough to bring my heart to a melting point.

I had a lesson planned for my fourth graders this Tuesday, but when I told them it was my second to last class, they unanimously dropped what work they had, and rushed into the adjacent room, returning with a stack of blank papers shouting “Make a card! Make a card!” They then preceded to independently fold, cut, write, and color goodbye cards for me, without me ever instructing them to do a thing. I was speechless for about an hour, because these kids have so much love and kindness in their hearts that they just want to share it with me, and whoever else they can. You just can’t replace that with anything.

My stomach is actually sore from the absurd number of times I have been aggressively hugged around the waist by several students at once. Between the many hugs, the few tears shed from some of my students, the amazing gifts that the teachers and students have been giving me throughout the week, and the going away party that the teachers hosted for me this evening, I don’t know how I’m supposed to walk away from this school tomorrow. It’s just going to be too difficult.

As the age-old sour patch kids motto goes, “first they’re sour….than they’re sweet”. But earlier I failed to address the third, and arguably most important phase in the triumvirate of sour patch kid flavors. “Sour, Sweet, Gone”. If my last blog post was sour, and this was sweet, than unfortunately we all know where this is going.

Kids, honestly I could go on and on. There’s so much I could say about all of these students, and all of these teachers, but there just isn’t enough time in the world, as, like I’ve said before, my full day at work begins bright and early tomorrow, and I need to sleep some time. I’ll follow up some day soon with a trip conclusion and many, many pictures. For now however, enjoy what little I can give you, and take care. ((Also whoever read my blog from the Czech Republic, thank you so much. You have officially brought my viewership to four continents!))

—If you managed to catch all three of this week’s Lin-Manuel Miranda references, be the first to message me and win a souvenir prize from Thailand! — (Offer expires after 11:59pm August 3rd – EST)

CCT Volunteer Anna Osborn Last Blog Post (FORRU)

One more day of working for Forest Restoration Research Unit and on Saturday I will be departing Chiang Mai. To say these past 10 weeks were fast would be an understatement. It feels like just yesterday I was starting my first day here at FORRU attending an educational event for American college students on the importance of forest restoration. Now, I’m getting ready to give my final presentation on my time spent here the past 7 weeks. Time flew by!! I’m very grateful for my time spent working for this amazing team and organization. As I am preparing my presentation, I am looking back at all the time spent with FORRU and how fortunate I am to have an eventful and unique job this summer. My days with FORRU were spent either in the office doing a variety of tasks, in the field doing laborious jobs and directly working to restore the forests, or attending events to education people of different age groups on the importance of forest restoration. 

I’ve definitely increased my knowledge in the world of environmental sustainability this summer!
My final days working for FORRU were spent finishing up the individual tasks I was assigned, which was working with a professor on her specific project and updating the website, and also traveling to Tham Pha Thai National Park (again) to follow up from our tree planting day a few weeks ago. On Tuesday night we traveled to Tham Pha Thai where we slept over, again, in a log cabin to prepare for our all day event on Wednesday. Although my room in the cabin was crawling with spiders, Common House Geckos, and many ants, it still turned out to be a cool experience. On Wednesday morning we woke up and traveled to the planting site (again, it was an adventurous ride). When we arrived at the plot, we were divided into teams of two. Each team had the task of measuring 500 trees that day. We were provided with a measuring stick and a caliper and had to record the height, thickness of the base of the tree, length of the trees crown, and record how healthy the tree looks to be. This was a very tedious task, but I also recognize how important it is. We do this to record the tree growth and see how much it has changed over time. This also made me realize how much background work is put into planting thousands of trees in the forest.

My last day interning for FORRU will be spent at the Chiang Mai University Nature Center attending an event on forest restoration. I will be sitting in informational sessions and also selling FORRU merchandise. Although I am looking forward to getting back to Michigan and heading back to Michigan State University for my senior year, I can’t help but be nostalgia for my time spent working for FORRU and living in Chiang Mai. It was an amazing experience and I am so thankful I was able to work here this summer. Not only did it enhance my knowledge of forest restoration, but I was able to see so much of Thailand and meet really great people along the way. I was able to visit many cool places that I otherwise would not have known existed if it wasn’t for working with FORRU. I also really appreciate that I was able to gain so much hands on experience, rather than just sitting in an office all day. Finally, FORRU provided me with awesome co-workers, which I have covered in my past blog posts. I am sad my summer in Thailand has come to an end but grateful for the experience and have memories that will last a lifetime!

CCT Volunteer Sam Walters Last Blog (Art Relief International)

It has been an amazing experience at ARI. It is now the end of my last day at ARI and I am filled with a lot of emotions. I'm sad to go but really excited to see my family. When I sent in my resume to be a part of ARI, I never thought what we would be doing would be so important. I said in my essays that I wanted to be part of the program because I wanted to see the world through other people's eyes and even though I don't think I could ever put myself into another person's shoes, I feel like I understand things a little more. I met a lot of people that are great people and I've learned a lot from them. I will miss the smiles that you get when you walk through the door. The way the students from Wat schools peak into the boxes when we arrive and they try to guess what we brought for them. I feel like in the past few weeks alone I have learned how much ARI is needed. Hallie keeps saying that we grew a lot while working for ARI and I hope I continue to grow even though my time with ARI is over. But I wont forget the people I met and I hope they wont forget me too. 

Farewell Post from Julia Taladay (Art Relief International)

I just finished my last day of work at Art Relief International! I can’t believe my time in Thailand is over, I enjoyed every minute that I spent here, but I know it’s time to go home. Luckily, I know I’m not really leaving anything behind. Every experience here has had a huge impact on me, to the point where I could almost feel myself changing with every day that passed. Hopefully my friends will still like me when I get back!

It’s hard to realize what kind of an impact you have on people’s lives until it’s time to say goodbye. Working at ARI, I’ve met and worked with so many different groups during my time here, and I’ve had to say goodbye to everyone with each workshop. I’ve been saying goodbye for a week and a half now. It’s been so eye opening to see just how much we mean to some of our workshop participants. In most cases, people who I feel like I haven’t had a huge connection with surprised me with a really emotional and elaborate goodbye. When I think about it, I only spent an hour or two with each group of participants a week. It doesn’t seem like that much to me, and the art activities that we did with them weren’t monumental, but the opportunity that we give to our participants to focus on art and creativity must have a positive impact on them, even if we can’t always see it. It’s good to know that the hard work and time that we put into are workshops are so greatly appreciated.

I truly loved Thailand, but I'm excited to see what life has in store for me once I go home, too. Perhaps I will be able to come back and see all the people who have helped make my summer an experience of a lifetime. If not, I'll always have them in my memory and close to my heart.

Homeward bound,


Thursday, August 3, 2017

CCT Volunteer Mark Cotter 2nd Blog Post (Art Relief International)

These past 3 weeks have seen me explore more of Thailand! A small one-day trip took me to a small farm outside of Chiang Mai. There, we spent a whole day learning how to cook Thai food. The experience was lovely and the food, delicious.

In Phuket, I was Poseidon and conquered the sea, i.e. getting wiped out by a 10-foot wave. In Bangkok, the “Bangkok or Bust” group toured the city and saw the beautiful Grand Palace.

My mom and brother also came to visit for my birthday! It was wonderful to have a piece of home and my lovely family with me in Chiang Mai. They even came to one of ARI’s workshops! The workshops have been lovely, and we got to visit a school we have not been to in a while. There, I took the MOST epic selfie of all time

CCT Volunteer Duncan Brady 2nd Blog Post (Wat Baan Thong Gai School)

Boy, is teaching people in a different language hard! It has been getting easier with each week, but is still by no stretch of the imagination easy. The difference between where I am now and where I was 3 weeks ago is that I actually have a grasp on how much English my students actually know. This allows me to plan ahead for them more successfully, rather than being surprised by their level of knowledge the hard way. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to lesson plan every day for a set of six different grade levels with six varying degrees of ability. Actually, I should rephrase that. Each grade has a varying ability level, but the spectrum of ability within each classroom is even more severe than the spectrums between, so making plans for a specific class here is incredibly difficult. The age range in every class is at least 3-4 years, and in one or two of my classes is upwards of 5-6 years between the youngest and oldest student. Needless to say, when you have a student from Burma who is twelve-years-old and speaks Thai as his second language and English as his third language, and a student from Indonesia who is six-years-old and is still learning the written fundamentals of her own first language in the same class, it can be tough to make an engaging lesson that accommodates all 25 students. So yes, it is still a tough job, but it is getting easier and easier.

I’ve been picking up particular Thai phrases that are helpful in school from the kids. Even though most of the time the young students just stand in front of me and spout Thai at lightning pace, I eventually can grab a phrase or two that they are trying to tell me. I would cautiously recommend to anyone considering ESL as a career that they become proficient in world languages before jumping into the career, however. I’m at the point where my face and presence are regular enough to the students, and the same in reverse, that I have an individual connection in some way with mostly all of the students. There are inside jokes and tendencies that I have developed with many of them (almost all of them in Thai or just with body language, because it would be too difficult in English to be funny to them). My Sixth grade class was even able to ask me when I’m going home to America, and when I drew out the days we had left on a calendar they all started complaining that it was too soon and that I needed to come back –Or at least that’s what it seemed like. Again this is all in very broken English-Thai conversations–.

I’ve been trying to learn the names of my students more effectively as well. The task was so daunting at the beginning that I almost ignored it altogether. There are just too many students, and the names are just too difficult to pronounce. But this last week I committed to memorizing the names of my sixth graders, which is the smallest class, and I was able to do it! So I moved on to my fourth graders, and I’m getting close. If I can keep up the pace, maybe I’ll have this whole school memorized before I leave. The problem is, that will likely only make me miss them more when the time comes for me to go.

The weird stage I’m at right now is in coming to grips with the impermanence of my time here in Chiang Mai. Although I miss home so much and want to be back in America, I’m terrified by the idea that it could be years, decades, or even until the day I die before I have the chance to see these people again. What it takes to fly to Thailand is just more than I have the capability to do a second time financially. Maybe someday though, it would be great to come back with my family and show them the place I called home for a few months. So I’m here in this seventh inning stretch, where I miss home and want to go as soon as I can, but I love my home here and want the trip to stretch on forever…

Despite all that, I can’t forget that I’m not here on a vacation. I’m here to do a job, and my job is to educate young, underprivileged Thai students and S.E. Asian refugees in the English language. When I remember that I’m here helping people, it makes it easier to continue forward during those nights when I just want to sit and miss home. The lesson planning, the early mornings (comparatively), and long days all come together for an incredibly rich experience.

CCT Volunteer Anna Osborn 2nd Blog Post (FORRU)

I can’t believe I have less than 2 weeks left interning for FORRU, these past 6 weeks went by incredibly fast. A lot has changed since my last blog post, but one thing that hasn’t is how much I enjoy working for this organization. I have attended more field trips, been assigned specific projects to help with, learned even more about forest restoration, and continue to see the beautiful scenery Northern Thailand offers.

                The past 4 weeks since my last post have been a mix of data work, field trips, and various tasks around the FORRU office. I was able to help care for the seedling nursery we have outside our office. I spent an afternoon doing seedling care for around 300 seedlings which included picking weeds, refilling the dirt to each individual seedlings, and watering them...basically I was gardening, which I enjoyed (the only part I didn’t enjoy was the heat that day)! Other tasks include entering data into spreadsheets for our bosses, making seedling identification tags for planting days, and attending meetings for the education events. Although field trips and my individual projects are a bit more exciting, I recognize this work is very important!

As for my individual projects, I have been assigned a task of assisting a professor in Chiang Mai University with a project she’s doing with forest restoration. She is in the process of working to figure out which tree species could survive in Thailand regardless of changing climates in the future. She traveled to a herbarium in England to research the diverse tree species in various countries in Asia. She collected pictures of the data she recovered and brought the information back to Chiang Mai to continue her project. I will be helping her transfer information from pictures she has to data sheets on the computer so it is accessible easier. The pictures are snapshots of information tags included with each tree species. These tags include collector, collection date, description of where the species is located, and description of the habitat where the species grows. However, these tags date back decades old, and on occasion, over a century old. It can be difficult to gather the information on the tags due to illegible handwriting or not enough information provided. Although, it is really interesting to learn of all the different species in various Asian countries and even learn more about the geography and habitats of Asia. The professor’s project is a long process but the translation of the information tags will be a start to her succeeding in her research.

Another individual project I have been assigned is updating the FORRU website projects page. The project page has two categories; recent projects and previous projects. I’m working to move projects that have been completed to the previous project folder and add the project outcomes and final reports to them as well. I also am adding new projects to the recent project page and updating the current projects that are still in the works. I have met with professors and various people heading each project to get more information on what they have accomplished and what they're working to achieve. This is cool because while I’m working to update the website, I am also learning about projects FORRU has done with forest restoration before I came to intern for them. I’m able to understand which part of the projects were successful and what did not go as planned, which is helpful to know in the world of environmental sustainability.

Away from individual projects, I’ve attended more field trips. A few weekends ago I participated in a planting day in Mae Takhrai National Park but this time I was the volunteer (this event was not put on by FORRU but the organization Flight of the Gibbon). During this planting day we planted around 4,500 trees with hundreds of volunteers. This past weekend we did another planting day, this time put on by FORRU at Tham Pa Thai National Park (3 hours southeast of Chiang Mai!). We left on Friday and helped with the controlled planting of various tree species all afternoon on Friday. After the work day, we spent the night in a cabin located inside the national park due to the national park being far away from Chiang Mai. Saturday was our big planting day. We planted over 3,000 trees this time. It was hot and a long day, but very rewarding. I love being outdoors for my job, it’s always in beautiful national parks and I am able to see more of Thailand. I also am able to participate in hands on experience, which is beneficial. One of my favorite parts about the planting event in Tham Pa Thai was our adventure ride to the planting site. We drove 30 minutes to the site through backcountry roads in the bed of a pickup truck. We passed several rice fields, beautiful luscious mountain views, and went through the forest in order to get to the site. It was a once in a lifetime experience to say the least. Not only was planting the trees really cool, but also all the breathtaking scenery I was able to see. I definitely could not have asked for a better summer internship.

During my time at FORRU, I also helped with an education event. Around 30 Thai high school students came to learn about forest restoration. This day began with an information session on forest restoration and was followed by a hike to Doi Suthep (a mountain in Chiang Mai). Although the information sessions and guided tours were in Thai, my super awesome Thai co-workers helped translate it for me so I could understand what was going on - which I’m very thankful for! After the hike we did various activities with the students, which provided a fun way of learning about this topic. They were able to engage and do group work to understand all the information they obtained. It was really cool and such a good idea, I would love to see this kind of thing happen for American students back home! They also have these education events for younger students and college aged students, which I think is awesome. Educating students on the importance of environmental sustainability can be really helpful for the future of our planet.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have to reiterate how awesome my coworkers are. They’re so fun to be around and are so passionate about forest restoration which is a great vibe to be surrounded with for the summer. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten to know them more and more and love that I can call them friends. I’m really thankful for FORRU and my summer in Thailand. This place is amazing and this organization is great work for anybody with a desire to help the environment.

CCT Volunteer Mansur Alam 2nd Blog Post (BEAM Foundation)

It has already been a month since I landed here in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand but it only feels like a week. I have no idea how the time has passed so quickly and I only have 3 more weeks to go.

So here is what I have been up to for last five weeks. When I came here, first I had my orientation with the executive director of Cultural Canvas Thailand. We went out to a coffee shop where we talked about my work and everything that I needed to know about Thailand, Thai culture and places I can visit here in Chiang Mai.  It was an amazing day and I was so excited and looking forward to next day.

On the first week I did very little, I went out to meet with the people at BEAM foundation (the place where I will be working for the 8 weeks I am here) and had orientation with the ART relief director. Later on we visited the Hope home. Hope home is a foster home for children with disabilities. The home is for seven children but it also serves as respite for families of children with disabilities and provides loving and caring environment. 


Teaching is never something I thought I would do, in fact, if someone would have suggested a year ago that my next job would be teaching high school level science I might not have believed them. It was not until few weeks before I came here I read about the lives and circumstance of the kids I would be working with that I felt it was something I had to do. I think I was very affected by the stories of the kids and how they relate to my own story.

 At the beginning I was extremely nervous, and still sometimes I have to put in a lot of extra work to keep up but so far I have loved every moment of it. I am proud that I have managed to grow and pick up other skills I may have been worried would hold me back in this position.

 It turns out that having a lot in common with the students has really helped me to connect with them and build some meaningful relationships. I love that the students are engaged and interested in learning, they try their best in every moment and some of them seem to love science as much as I do. I also enjoy moments in the class where I can hear small pieces of their stories and share small pieces of mine. I love how unique they all are, and how they are able to laugh at themselves and feel comfortable enough to bring their sense of humour to the class and make it more fun for everyone including me. 

Aside from occasionally being showered with messages in the evening about homework confusion and wifi “not working,” I really have nothing negative to say about my experience with the students at BEAM. I am just over half way through my time with them and I am already starting to feel sad about leaving.

ART Relief

I have had the privilege of working with Art Relief International by participating in some of their workshops in my free time. I spend most of my time preparing for my class at BEAM as it is my first time teaching I am not yet very fast with creating my own lesson plans.

I have enjoyed every workshop I have participated in, they are all great and educational. There are  great lessons behind every workshop and I am very glad to be a part of it.

Here are a few of the workshops I have attended: 

Hope Home

I had five workshops with the kids at the Hope Home and they have been my favourite ones out of all the workshops with ARI. Our main goal here is to improve and practice sensory and motor skills including touch, sight, and sound. Therefore our workshops involve drawing, painting, folding etc. It is very important that every workshops we do include everyone in the house so that we don’t leave out anyone just because they can’t do it in certain way, therefore we help them to get involved in the activity with whatever way possible.
We go to hope home every Wednesday and do small workshop with the kids and it is really amazing, I absolutely love going there and doing different activities, playing and laughing with the kids, they make me smile so much and I really hope I can make a difference in their lives by just helping them in whatever way I can.

So far some of the things I have done with the kids at hope home are making Tambourines, Paper Plate Animals, sensory jet packs, kites, and textured painting. 

Wat Muen Ngen Kong

I have done two workshops with this school and both have been very fun and successful. I particularity  enjoyed one where we had the kids do portraits of their friends and were not allowed to look at their page. It was a fun way to get the kids to think differently and create something interesting they may not have made if they were allowed to look.
nd do small workshop with the kids and it is really amazing, I absolutely love going there and doing different activities, playing and laughing with the kids, they make me smile so much and I really hope I can make a difference in their lives by just helping them in whatever way I can.

So far some of the things I have done with the kids at hope home are making Tambourines, Paper Plate Animals, sensory jet packs, kites, and textured painting. 

Elderly Care

Going into the Elderly Care program, I was curious about how Art would be used or relevant as I am more familiar with working with kids using arts and crafts. I was pleasantly surprised by the ability that the simple art activities had to uplift the seniors and it made me happy to see them so happy. I was also quite entertained by the fact that many of them seemed to think I was Thai and made me feel quite welcomed (thanks to P’Noom translating everything they said.) So far I’ve only been able to attend one workshop with them where we did dot painting which they took to quite well. I would love to go back to Elderly Care before I leave.

CCT Volunteer Sarena Sanchez 2nd Blog Post (Wat Kuang Singha School)

The past couple of weeks have been such fun at Wat Khuang Sing School! I’ve really found my groove as a teacher and am really enjoying leading the classes!

One Friday we were lucky enough to be a part of an awesome celebration that included the entire school! At the end of the day the classrooms all lined up in a huge group with the band at the very front and the teachers right behind them. The regular teachers put us towards the front, where people of importance usually go. We then walked off of the school property and began a parade with the entire school where we walked around the neighborhood and ended at the temple. We went inside and listened to a monk talk and listened to the students recite many things. We also were given things to give to a certain monk. It was a super cool experience and I’m so glad we were able to be a part of it!

At the beginning of week 4 my teacher returned! It definitely took some adjusting to have someone else being in the classroom with me and feeling like I was being watched the entire time and almost evaluated. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but once I became a little more adjusted to it, it was such a huge help to have someone who could translate things that I struggled to get across. I also am really thankful to have her back because I am able to learn a lot from her. Teaching is what she does for a living and I have been using her strategies to make my own lesson plans better suited for the classes! 

I can’t believe there is only a little over a week left for me at Wat Khuang Sing and in Thailand! I am really going to miss the kids and other teachers in the school. I can’t wait to see what other adventures the last week brings!