25th July 2012, by Laura

I arrived to the warm welcome of Ruths smilling face at about 6:30am having jus spent the night on a bus from Bangkok. I met a few of the children as they got ready for school, Tuesday is ‘scout unifrom day’. I learned there are 12 children at the centre and mostly are 14 or 15, with one girl Ipo who is 12 and Chatagorn who is 8. I didn’t know there would be so many teenagers I think this will make my time more challenging! Ill have to think of new approaches to English class and activities due to the age group. The children are a little shy towards me on the first day and seem distant I am a little disheartened but after all its just the first day! I had my first cold bucket shower that was surprisingly really refreshing. The children cooked a spicy meal which I loved and we spent the time after dinner writing their sponsor letters. I helped Kataya with her letter she is very smart and such a sweet girl. Before bed I got informed of many Thai teenage pop artists and watched many a video on youtube which Anashlee particularly enjoyed. I also sat though some Barbie videos with Ipo. I went to bed trying to remember 12 names and looking forward to the next 4 weeks.

I slept like a rock and woke up around 8 after the children left for school ready to start my international hours in the town center of Chang Rai. I jumped on a bike and headed off, a few hows later I due to a massive de-tour where I ended up at the White temple 10km out of town, I finally arrived in the city and did my work. I headed back red faced hot and tired after my nearly 30km riding day to be greeted by a laughing Chatagorn at the gate. The children got busy cleaning up the place for Carol’s (the children call her Ma) arrival. I finished off dinner while the Children were welcomed by Carol, they were all buzzing and full of excitement which I hadn’t seem before. The bewildered teenage looks turned to smiles and they all wanted to show Carol what they could do. Nupon started brake dancing and some of the children joined in with their own gymnastic talents, I joined in could do most of the tricks except the easiest crossed legged yoga pose. Darid show us all his drawings and the girls danced and song for Carol. I felt like I had a real chance to spend time with the children tonight and introduce myself to the ones I had not yet met. I also learnt a lot from Carol and heard stories about the tribe the children had come from, the issues and the conditions of their infant hood as well as a lot of fascinating facts about IHF centers all over the globe and the organisation in its self. I feel it is a privilege to be at the center when Caroll is visiting.

Wow it has been a whirl wind of experiences the past few days, I have learnt a lot. I feel like I belong in the center now, the children are slowly but surely warming to me. Ruth sat me down and explained parts of the Thai culture that was different from Western norms and this was a huge help. I was getting upset that the children sometimes ignore you when you speak directly at them, but I now understand they are very unconfrontational people its is much better to address them as a group and let them approach you rather than pushing the friendship too hard too fast. Knowing this aswell as their backgrounds has abled me to be more patient and wait for them to come to me, its has worked wonders.They show affection in their own way and we have had some laughs  when we do dancing as an activity anf playing jump rope and tug of war with a rope I bought them to play with. Like most teenagers they want to spend a lot of time on the staffs computers or phones but I want to reinforce sports, activites and interraction so I try to be out of my room just around them as much as possible.

It has been hard to learn about past of the children; the horrible hardships they have been through being the unwanted children of one of the Lahu hill-tribes. Carol spoke to all the staff about the children being ‘bad spirits’ and how she didn’t start IHF because she wanted to have a flashy organisation but because she saw a need. There were children that had no safe place to live and noone to look after then so she rose to the challenge. In the past few days another director Micah has arrived, he has brought a fresh new approach and is very organised and there is already a new sense of structure which had been lost a little due to a few negligant directors. Not to say there is no fun, just that there are bed times and organised activites etc. I have moved in with the other directors in a nicer dorm room I really enjoy their company.

The children have had exams for the past two days so they have been around a little more. Yesterday we walked down to the old airport which is now just a big strip of grass to play sport in. We played soccer, even though I am terrible at the game, it was boys verses girls then staff verses kids. It was fun, the boys were great some of the girls preferred to take photos on their mobile phones I was stuffed so I sat with them awhile while they did my hair. I also tried to spend time with Kantaya who is having a particularly difficult time at the moment being a 15year old and having a ‘broken heart’ its so hard to explain how small and insignificant this will be in a few years, but if it matters to her it has to matter to me.

I have tried new fruits the past couple of days one in a little pod like a lichee and a green mango which tastes like a bland sour apple to me! We have also done an english class on instruments which went well and along with the two new voluntourists I plan on doing an English class follow on when they have to write a song in engligh. I think they will really be into this. My projects are coming along, on the weekend I plan to buy some potting mix and start planting a garden over by the old chicken coup and I now have a bucket for the compost bin. All in all it has been a very BIG first week I have learnt a lot and seen the ugly sides of people who volunteer in NGOs but also been rewarded by the simple things like singing Ipo to sleep when she was sick or the girls teaching me how to make rice and just laughing with them all kids and staff alike..

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