By Patchara, Voluntourist, IHF Chiang Rai
I cannot believe that it has been a week now since I arrived at the Chiang Rai Center. I still remember the first day I arrived at the Chiang Rai Airport, all soaked from the heavy rain. With the help of Ushmi, one of the co-directors here at the center, I was able to reach the center safely without any problems. When I got here, it was a gloomy Saturday evening, but the smiles and giggles of the children helped brighten the mood. Before arriving at the center, I was a bit nervous, but after spending a few hours with the children, all my worries went away.
Throughout High School, I did several volunteer projects with young children from low-income families or less fortunate backgrounds around Thailand. In addition, this spring break, I volunteered to help teach preschoolers at KIPP DC, a charter school in Washington DC for a week. Although, I have some experience teaching and working with less privileged children, I was not sure whether my experiences will be helpful for the children here at the Chiang Rai Center. Nonetheless, everyone at the center was so willing to help me adjust and before I knew it, one week has gone by.
In the beginning, the children were shy and did not know how to approach me. They were probably used to the concept of seeing a new volunteer come and replaced by a new volunteer in a couple of weeks. Therefore, one of my main goals for this trip was to be able to connect with the children and help them out whenever they needed me. In contrary to my expectations, the children were easy to talk to and instead tried to help me out when I was clueless most of the time. I enjoyed playing table tennis with them, cooking and eating dinner with them, and even just spending time chatting about their day at school. Watching them come back from school and finish their homework every day warms my heart. Unlike my High School self, these children are so responsible and reliable. It made me realize how much I take having my parents around for granted. Moreover, seeing them work together, helping each other clean the dishes or helping each other with homework, makes me so relieved. Although some of the children may not have parents or are living away from their parents, this small tight knit community is like their extended family.
Furthermore, other than helping with the center chores and teaching English to the children, I was able to plan a fundraising event for the center. It was a very good opportunity for me to put my experiences from college into good use. Moreover, it is another good way to raise awareness and money for the center. I was very pleased to hear that if everything goes out as planned, then this project will be a be a good start up for future events.
Overall, this week has been spectacular. I learned so much from the children and from everyone around me. I cannot wait for another amazing week!