Zoe, Co-Director Thailand

I am co-Director at the Chiang Rai centre. I arrived at the centre on the 22nd of October 2010.

How did I come to work here? Well I was living in Australia and working as a Social Worker for NSW Health, I felt like a change and decided I wanted to volunteer and travel. I wasn’t exactly sure where to start the journey but had a desire to see SE Asia, I chose this mostly because it isn’t too far away from Australia, it was inexpensive to live and I had heard so many wonderful stories from friends who had travelled there.

Imagine my shock and disappointment when I discovered the insanely high prices to volunteer in SE Asia, I had no idea what a big business this was! I decided I did not want to support an organization that charged a fortune to volunteer, I also decided I did not want to work for an organization that was religiously run.

IHF was the answer for me! I was so excited to find this organization. Although I was originally only looking to volunteer for a short period the position as co-director was too appealing to ignore. 5 weeks after applying I arrived. It was such a whirlwind before I left Australia; finishing up at work, moving out of my house and everything that goes with packing up your life that I didn’t even have time to worry or get nervous about my new adventure.

How do I find living in Thailand? For me this trip was the first time I had been to Thailand. I was very surprised at how big Chiang Rai was and how built up the area is, it is certainly not remote or rural by my standards! The centre is very western and this also came as a surprise to me. That being said, I am still not sure if I will ever get used to being stared at everywhere I go.

What is involved in an ordinary day? Mmmm, that is a tricky question, because every day is different, which makes it interesting and not always feeling like work. Usually I wake up at 7am which is sometimes tricky during cold weather. We wake up the young people at the centre, who are mostly high school age, have breakfast with them then make sure they leave for school.

I eat breakfast, rice and some type of spicy dish; how I will ever return to vegetemite on toast or weetabix I do not know. I love the food here! I then walk to a lovely cosy internet café, we have internet at the centre but it is not always working and I love my coffee. The café I found is amazing, the owners are so lovely they bring me gifts and even leave while I continue working, it feels like a second home. At the café I do 4 hours of online work, for me I work on the Media/testimonial team; increasing our social network followers, the Advertising team, trying to seek out free advertising sources, and I coordinate the Events/calendar and booths team, which involves checking on progress of all IHF centres.

After the online tasks I usually have a few hours to myself to explore the city, one day I might even use this time to try out one of the interesting looking Thai aerobics classes but for now I am too busy seeking out the next exotic food challenge to try. Yes it is counterproductive to the gym but it is oh so much fun!

I return to the centre as the children return from school. In the evening, I help with homework, play games to teach English, help write sponsor letters and most importantly develop my ping pong skills! On Friday and Saturdays we take the children to go and play sport, usually basketball, or soccer, then hire a movie.

Some of the other activities I have been involved in are fundraising at the local market, which is a great excuse to have a shop and continue my food safari in Chiang Rai. I have also been involved with helping at an information booth at the local university to recruit local volunteers. When new volunteers arrive I orientate them and help to work out what tasks they would like to get involved in during their stay.

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