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My Thailand Volunteer Experience

Joined: 10/2/2010
Posts: 10
I would like to talk about one indelible experience that I had in Thailand as a volunteer English teacher in a Buddha school. “Volunteer?” many people may ask, and may guess that I am going to preach to them that helping people is enjoyable. However, their guess is just partly right. Of course, that helping others is worthwhile is a precious truth, but one thing I learned from the lovely kids there that is more valuable for me is: Always be optimistic no matter how abominable the situation is.

It was a sultry summer when I stepped out of the Bangkok International Airport. I, just high school students with medium English proficiency, didn’t know anything about teaching English. The only thing I owned was my passion.

After an hour’s bus trip, I finally arrived at Ayutthaya, a small and remote town. My room was small and hot, with spiders creeping on the walls and mosquitoes flying everywhere. I even asked myself: “ Is this place for human beings?” However, the primary school was even worse. Each 400-square-feet hot classroom held about 50 students. The facilities were dilapidated. There were even big crevices in the blackboards.

Nevertheless , the students were enthusiastic about learning. When I stepped into the first class, all the students stood up, with smile, and said, “ Good morning, teacher!” I was really surprised by such unexpected action. As I was dilettante in teaching, I just replicated the ways of teaching from our English teacher in China. I wrote down some words and their definitions on the blackboard and let them match; then, I spoke the words loudly and let them follow like the teacher in China taught me. Although, as I suppose, my first class was really boring, the students listened to me carefully and wrote down everything I wrote on the blackboard. After class, those students came up to the front and said hi to me, some even shaking my hands to show politeness. I knew from the principal that all kids here came from poor families. Their parents were all farmers. Some of the families even didn’t have a solid house to live in. however, I didn’t see anybody dejected and self-abased who felt desperate about his or her own situation. In free time, they ran on the playground and chased each other. It seems that they didn’t worry about any troubles at all. They smiled all the time, always feeling happy.

The third day of my teaching career was unforgettable. When I finished the fifth grade class, five students stood up and sang a pop song for me, “ 1, 2, 3 ,4 I love you, no matter where you go…….” Other students began to laugh and clap their hands following the cadence. After the song was over, I clapped my hands and cherished with other kids, not realizing my tears dropped. Their optimistic attitude towards life somehow convulsed my heart. No matter how poor they were, they still kept a happy mind and enjoyed everything in their life.

In the following days, I felt more comfortable and happy staying with these children: I didn’t felt frustrated about my teaching methods and complained about my hot room anymore. What’s more magical, the fifteen-minute walk from my home to the school never seemed as a painstaking path to me even though the sun was fierce.

This one-week volunteer experience was short, but for me, it was one of the most significant experience in my life. I taught these children English, but they taught me a much more valuable lesson: don’t worry, always be happy. When I feel upset or unhappy, I usually take out my camera and look at the photos of these kids in Thailand. The smiles on these kids’ faces, really innocent and spontaneous. When I see these smiles, I throw all my troubles away and smile to the sky……

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Comment by laureldiehl

Joined: 3/14/2009
Posts: 20
What a unique, amazing and humbling experience. I can only imagine the joy you felt in that week.

Do you plan on volunteering again overseas?
Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 2:19:33 PM
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Comment by xyipeng

Joined: 10/2/2010
Posts: 10
yes, probably next year. are you interested? I think I will go back to Thailand again, I love those kids!
Posted: Thursday, November 4, 2010 9:11:23 PM
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Comment by LauraJayne

Joined: 4/16/2009
Posts: 63
Thank you for sharing! It is amazing how education has the power to transform students AND the teacher!
Posted: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 1:59:51 AM
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