OUR LITTLE ORGANIC PROJECT

Written by: Soufian, Co-Director, Chiang Rai

Here I’m again, a lonesome Moroccan at the Chiang Rai Center with two children and a frustratingly slow traveler PC. Two kids left the center for vacations and the other two are working full time, staying outside the center. Moreover, this week the housemother left, she moved to another place and found another job. From now on I have to share the center duties just with the children. So now that they are gone for two weeks, I’ll have to take a good care of the center, especially the garden that we started together.

firstAt first, we wanted to plant a small garden in our yard, but the problem is that the ground there doesn’t get a lot of sun as the tree leaves block the sunshine most of the day. As a solution, the children suggested another place with more sunshine and as it turned out more land to grow vegetables. We got to work. Nupon was great at cutting the plants while Arisa and I collected them. We didn’t have all the necessary gardening tools, so we used what we were able to find at the center. Soon the land was ready.

The goals of this project were to show our children how to grow vegetables and take care of the garden as part of the house maintenance, as well as supplying us with some fresh and organic fruit and veggies.

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This week we had also new board members visiting us to meet the children and talk about IHF at the family dinner. They didn’t speak English, but Pratya helped us communicate and translated what we said. I was glad to be part of this experience. They seemed very friendly and shared their experience in working with local organizations with us. Hopefully they will take care of this place and contribute to children’s education the same way IHF was doing for a long time in Chiang Rai.

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My memories from Chiang Rai!

Blog post by Soufian, Co-Director, Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Thinking about leaving IHF family after one month makes me feel really sad, as I got used to the life in Chiang Rai center and the city. But due to some visa issues I had to book my round trip flight to Morocco. However, I consider coming back again when it is handled.

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It’s  been an interesting week for me. Following children’s recommendation, I visited Mea Sai and the border between Myanmar and Thailand. I drove through the mountains, saw the jungle and villagers life style… I really admired the landscapes from this part of Thailand, as these are different from the dry mountains I’m used to hiking in in my home country. Here, even the center itself is surrounded by a very, green yard.

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This week, Jirapon and Nupon cooked me dinner – catfish that they used to farm in our pond, with spicy vegetables. I am really glad that we are creating bonds, and that they are now more comfortable with speaking in English, as I’m making efforts to learn some basics of Thai language to use in my daily life.

Two of our kids, who I like to call “best model students”: Arisa and Kantya were focused, during the week, on their education and homework. The fact that they don’t need someone to watch them, the responsibility they show is very impressive. I try to get to talk to them more, but we still have a hard time communicating since my Thai isn’t good.

For a community facilitator, local language can be the key to people’s minds and hearts. The children are amazing but I just feel sad I cannot have a deeper conversation with img_2484them. The housemother actually try to talk “little” in English with me and we often express our thoughts using translator as well. She will leave us on October 9th, we will miss her and her little cute baby around the house. She was very dear to us at the center, especially since I’m the only co-director here; she was providing great assistance in helping me to understand things, such as cultural differences.

 

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Welcoming the newcomer!

By:  Soufian, Co-Director, Thailand

As this is my first blog post with IHF, let me Introduce myself to you, my name is Soufian, born and raised in Agadir, a coastal city in the southern part of Morocco.  Being a social worker has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I have taken the first step towards fulfilling this dream by being a part of a few local organizations, volunteering inimg_2088 children centers and by participating in the social and cultural events in my city. Such experiences over the past several years have made me into a highly self-motivated, energetic and creative enough to seek for a volunteer opportunity abroad. Surprisingly, hearing about IHF and (YES) being a part of IHF is a great opportunity for me to fulfill my dream to serve!

I arrived in Thailand on the 15th of August, at Chiang Rai airport and I started my new journey of life through volunteering with IHF. I initially planned and tried to apply two years ago when I was a student but then I was lacking experience. Anyway, Now I am here!

Being new to the Thai culture even though there are a few similarities between the Thai culture and my culture, I get confused on numerous occasions and I had to struggle to communicate with person who can’t speak English with a Farang (Foreigner) like me. When I arrived at the center I met a great young IHF kid, Pratya, he is a good help to me and I can see in him a great independent man. I didn’t know anything about the city or img_1943culture, all I know is some Thai cuisine and that I WANT TO LEARN how to cook. This was a great integration tool for me with local people. The market is a very interesting place in Chiang Rai, and going on shopping spree with the housemother is a great way for me to understand food culture, bargaining and more importantly learning how to count in Thai, Whoa!

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Even though she doesn’t speak fluent English, we always find a way to communicate as she challenges herself to find the words to explain things to me and satisfy my curiosity. And cuisine language was a great way for me to get acquainted with the kids. Even though it’s hard to find all species I need in Chiang Rai, I tried to cook a Moroccan dish. I used “Pani”, a local fish and baked it with spicy sauce and vegetables and cooked it in a typical morocco style!

– The kids just loved it!

Being the only co-director here and I had to look for information, but on other hand I don’t want to be a burden on Pratya as he is going into a busy work schedule and will be having exams soon.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to having a wonderful time here in Thailand!

Elephants and Birthday Cake

By: Sarah, Co-Director Thailand

We had an interesting week at the center, it was Arisa’s birthday! She is now 19. Arisa’s day started with a present in front of the door of her room. At school, two different friends Smail cooked cakes for her! At midday, Jiraporn and Nupon went to Arisa’s school to take lunch to her. After school, she found some birthday balloons at the center and for dinner we ate some pizza! After that we had an Oreo ice cream cake, the kids at the center love this kind of cake. We had a nice night and Arisa was very happy with her day!

 

On Saturday we had two men repair the center roof and they were able to repair the water heater too. So now we can have hot showers and after the next big rain we will see if the repairs of the roof will really be flood proof.

On Sunday I decided to have a surprise for all the kids. This was to celebrate the birthdays of this month, the scholarships of Darid, Kantiya and Arisa ,and for Darid’s work promotion.  So we went on a day tour, although not all of them could go.

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Arisa, Kantiya and I decided to go and we had an amazing, funny and happy time. During the day, the weather was very crazy, there was very hot sun and also rain too. We went to the elephant village and rode elephants! For Arisa and I it was the first time, and we were very excited about it. Then we went to a waterfall where we took a lot of pictures and the guide took some for us with a bamboo cane selfie stick. I really love how Thai are able to transform anything to fit their needs. They have a lot of inventiveness and skill, I admire them. We finished the day in the hot springs, where we relaxed our bodies in the hot water.

It was really a wonderful week and I continue to learn a lot about Thai culture and about the amazing children we have at the center.

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A Week of Achievement!

By: Sarah, Co-Director IHF Thailand

We have had a very intense week in Chiang Rai.

We are in the rainy season and this was definitely a rainy week. As a result, we did a lot of cleaning work because our roof is broken and every time it rains, the center resembles a swimming pool. The bad weather caused us to experience many other problems, outside of the center too. Remembering that our main modes of transportation are scooters and bikes, it was almost impossible to go outside without get completely soaked.

Arisa and Sarah's selfieOn the bright side, the rain gives us a lot of time to spend with each other. This week, we watched movies, took plenty of selfies and had the most exciting conversations with everyone at the center.

Arisa!!!!!!!The highlight of this week was on Sunday, when I had the opportunity to be fiercely proud of our students Arisa, Kantiya and Darid. We visited their school and I discovered that all three of them received top scholarships for next term.

That is incredible news to us as they are extremely good, hardworking students and it is wonderful to see them rewarded for their efforts. I had the honor of accompanying Arisa onstage to receive her certificate as a student with one of the best averages of the last term.

Our students’ results are as follows:

Arisa ended with an average of 3.64 (out of a maximum of 4);
Kantiya ended with an average of 3.34;
and Darid ended with and average of 3.09.

These extraordinary results confirmed to us that our center’s young students are intelligent and capable of doing anything.

I’m very proud of them and I wish them all the success for the future.

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We have a Lot of Friends at the Center

By: Sarah, Co-Director IHF Thailandchicks

This week in Chiang Rai was a normal, busy week.

It was raining even more than last week, and so we were not able to do a lot due to the bad weather.

For this week’s post, I would like to tell you about the friends we have living with us at the center.

We have a frog that you have to be careful to not trample on during the night, which actually quite a common occurrence here.

We have a lot of different snakes – big and small. Luckily, we found out quite recently that they are not dangerous snakes. Still, they scare us a lot. You always have to be careful aLazy Bobobout what are you moving towards and where you are walking.

We have a lot of tiny spiders (black and white); they are annoying because they sting just like mosquitoes and cause itching. Obviously, these are our more irritating friends.

Then, we have some big spiders too. They are fast and so it is very difficult for us to hunt them. We only want to move them farther away from the center, we swear!

We also have a lot of chickens that continue to raise chicks. They are very sweet to see, but at the same time, they are very annoying because they are messy.

We have a rooster too! He is very colorful and he sings all the time.lizard

We have a very lazy cat, Bobo. He is sweet and cuddly. One of our nicer, more pleasant friends.

During the night, all around the center, fireflies fill the air. It is an amazing spectacle – watching them fly and brighten the grass around us.

We have a lot more friends: lizards of all sizes, small crabs, small scorpions, cockroaches and a lot of more insects. But we will leave those for another time!

Over the past two months in IHF’s center in Chiang Rai, I saw a lot of animals I have never seen before.  It is amazing to see how it is possible to live with them safely once you know how!

A Week Full of New Events

Picking Fresh Mangos
By: Deanna, Work-Study Thailand

This week at IHF Chiang Rai our mango trees are ripe and ready to be eaten. Several times this week we have seen Arisa, Jiraporn and Nupon, climb the trees in the backyard to pick fresh mangos for everyone to eat.

On top of it being the right time for Mangos, it is also the perfect time for the Maeng Mun ant to come out. On Wednesday evening the whole neighbourhood was out on the streets catching the Maeng Mun, including some of the kids at the centre. We learnt that it only comes out a couple of times a year and is cooked as a special food in Northern Thailand. With a bit of oil and salt in the pan, Arisa cooked the Maeng Mun and we all ate it. To us it tasted like crunchy popcorn.

Arisa, Kantiya and Jiraporn have all been very helpful in the kitchen this Darid's New Helmetweek. Most evenings we begin to cook dinner and then ask them to help us out, but it usually ends up with them showing us the better
way to prepare and cook the meals. We were also very happy to welcome some new chicks that hatched this week, our family of chickens is growing!

We are very proud on Darid’s decision to buy a helmet for his new scooter. Unfortunately in Thailand a lot of people don’t wear it and it can be very dangerous. We are really happy to see that Arisa the Teacherhe is always using it.

Our week ended with a Sunday dinner altogether, followed by a Thai lesson from Arisa. She is a great teacher, and although our pronunciations made most of the young ones laugh out loud, they were more than happy to help us out.

A Day of Adventures

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By:  Teresa, Co-Director Thailand

I’ve only been in Thailand for three weeks, and I’ve already seen so much!  This week one of our work-study volunteers, Hernan, and I were able to take a trip out to Baan Dam, also known as the Black House Museum.  It is a collection of buildings, items, and artwork all belonging to Thawan Duchanee, a nationally recognized artist in Thailand.  Some of artwork included a lot of skulls, and was a little dark for IMG_1556my tastes, but none-the-less it was very interesting to see.

On our way home we detoured over to Tham Tu Pu and Wat Tham Phra, two caves with statues of Buddha in the inside.  They are near the Kok River, so afterwards we relaxed in one of the huts by the river, and dipped our feet in the cool water.  There were lots of Thai people swimming and having a great time there.

When we got home we were astonished to find that the old abandoned airport by the center had been transformed!  There was a giant concert stage set up, with a walled-in concert area and a huge crowd of Thai people around.  Of course we had to go check it out, and IMG_1564the guards ended up letting us in for free!  This was probably because it turned out that there were only a few songs left, but it was still great to see.  The band was Carabao, one of Thailand’s most famous rock bands!

It was a lot of excitement for one day, but I love that there is always something fun to do here in Chiang Rai!

Week 2: Work Study Thailand

By: Hernan, Work-Study Thailand

IMG_5609 (1)The week passed by very quickly; Teresa the new co-director came the previous Sunday. Julie advised us to go downtown on Monday so I would be able to show her where do we buy the vegetables for the center, groceries (Big C supermarket,) and where to pay the bills. So that’s what we did. I also showed her the downtown and the night Bazar where we had dinner.  It was cool because I also got to see new places and try new food.

The children were having exams so they were all very busy studying, particularly Monday and Tuesday so I wasn’t able to talk much to them during those days. However we were still planning the BBQ. Most of the week I was doing center tasks, including cooking. I really like the cooking because I’m learning how to make new dishes (including Thai dishes.)I guess I will be able to cook something different for my mother when I get back home. We also cleaned part of the center, and did some maintenance.017

Some of the children had most of their exams at the beginning of the week, so I did most of the cleaning on Tuesday and decided to go to the downtown for a while. I went with Julie to rent a bike too, I did it for three days; we were thinking to go on a road trip on Wednesday around Chiang Rai’s countryside, I thought it will be interesting to see the mountains and get out of the city for a while. The good thing is that you can actually rent a bike for five dollars a day, which is quite good, but if you rent it for longer periods you can get cheaper rates.

Wednesday came and we left at 9:30 am, we were planning to be back by three so we were able to do some local tasks at the center. The countryside was fun. It is very nice and peaceful, and there is very nice scenery. I got to see elephants for the first time.  During nighttime I was invited by the girls to have dinner with them; they cooked mashed potatoes with some spices and vegetables, I have to say that it was very spicy but it was amazing, I’m looking forward to learn how to make them.

Thursday was probably the best day; we left in the morning, but this time with Indar (the other volunteer) and Teresa. First we went to the white temple; it is a very interesting temple, impressive on the inside and beautiful on the outside. Later on we went to the waterfalls that are close by the temple, the hiking to get there was actually amazing as IMG_5607well as the waterfalls. Finally, what a better way to end the day that having a BBQ with some of the children; unfortunately not all of them were able to come but it was nice to share some time with them as well as the volunteers.

Friday was quite chilly, I went with Indar to the countryside again, because I really like it and I wanted to show him around since he had rented a bike too. We got back at around three and after returning the bike I spent all day working on local and mostly international tasks.

Julie was leaving on Sunday so on Saturday we decided to go out to the downtown for some time and talk a little bit. We had dinner and went back to the center after visiting some places around. Finally Sunday was a cleaning day; I also finished certain tasks I had to. In general it was a fun week, and I’m really looking forward to the next week as well.

Tour Guide Chiang Rai

DSCN0172By: Julie, Executive Director Thailand and Kenya

This week was spent being a bit of a tour guide.  I quite enjoyed showing our latest voluntourists the local sights including my favourite haunts. Chiang Rai ‘beach’ is actually a sandy area next to the Mae Kok river. The Mae Kok is a tributary of the famous Mekong.  It’s quite amazing that the river flows all the way to China.  You can sit on little bamboo platforms and have lunch or a DSCN0239soda and just watch the world go by. It’s very peaceful.

We also went to the Wat Huai Pla Kung temple which is about 8km from Chiang Rai city. It has a pagoda but best of all a huge statue of Buddha in the Chinese Guanyin style which is about 500m high.  Despite a lot of people being around, DSCN0243the place exudes an aura of serenity and calm. I love to just sit and gaze at the Buddha and think over all that is happening in my life.  It really is my favourite place in Chiang Rai.

The kids have been busy this week preparing for exams. Nupon is very handy about the place devoted a lot of time to re-building the chicken coup.  It now has a nesting area, a repaired and sealed cage and bamboo rousting bars. I wish I could transport  him to Kenya to refurbish our chicken palace DSCN0467there.

Sukanya and Janjira, our eldest girls, have been studying hard for their final exams which start at the beginning of March. I so hope they do well and can follow their dream to enter one of the top universities in Thailand in Chiang Mai.