Australian ISV High School Group Volunteers in Thailand, January 2012 (Part 1)

by on Thursday, 15 March 2012

A group of Australian high school students has recently returned from their travels with International Student Volunteers in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They spent two weeks (followed by one week of adventure travel in northern Thailand) providing support and assisting the Mae Kok Foundation, an organization focused on providing a supportive and positive living environment for underprivileged (mostly ethnic hill tribe) children. The group kept a journal of their adventures along the way and we’re excited to share their stories with you.

Check out Part 1 of their blog sent by Dee Totrakool (ISV Thailand Project Manager) about their amazing accomplishments in Thailand:

January 2012 ISV (in partnership with Mae Kok Foundation) High School Group (c) used with permission by Dee Totrakool

Day 1:

Coming from across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, we all came to meet at Gate 24, just as they were announcing the boarding call for our flight from Sydney to Bangkok. An 8-hour flight was more than enough time for us to introduce ourselves, watch a movie or two and get plenty of much needed sleep. Landing at Suvarnaphumi Airport at 11:30pm, we met up with our project leader, Dee, in awe of her tiny but strong presence. Stepping out the doors of the airport, we were hit with the strength of the humidity and pollution of Bangkok at midnight. All of us were on a high and were eager to begin our three-week adventure. We all waited for the bus to take us to the airport, and by the time most of the kids got on with their luggage as well, there were still 10 kids that would not fit! We had to wait even longer for another van to come to take us to the Queens Garden Resort. When we finally arrived at the resort, we were allocated our rooms, settled in and a big group of us made our way down to 7-Eleven to buy phone sim cards, snacks and drinks. By the time we made it back to the hotel at 1:30am; we realized we had to be up again at 5am, so everyone went to sleep to try and get as much out of 3 hours as they could.

Day 2:

5am wake-up was the first challenge we faced. We all made our way down to the lobby to be taken back to the airport for our flight to Chiang Rai. We all had breakfast at the airport, for which our budget was 100THB. Too bad some people spent almost 300TBH, and couldn’t live up to the challenge.

The flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai was short and easy, only one hour. The change of climate was easy to adjust to, going from hot and humid, to a cooler climate. We all packed our bags into the van and made our way to our volunteer site, the Mae Kok Foundation (MKF). All of us were taking videos, pictures and admiring the view of what we saw—the rice fields, colorful temples, and lots of people riding their motorbikes, not to mention bikes with whole families. We arrived at MKF, with Mum out front smiling and greeting us with a warm welcome. We settled into our accommodation and made our way to Cherry hall for lunch. We all admired the view and had our first taste of Thai cuisine, which was DELICIOUS!

We had orientation with Mum after lunch and were introduced to the MKF children. One by one, they all stood up and introduced themselves with smiling faces, and we then viewed photos of MFK from the beginning and a Japanese Show which was all about MKF. In the late afternoon, we went for a walk through a village nearby, enjoyed the views of the rising hills, and made our way to the hot spring pools with the children for a relaxing swim. The night was finished off with a meal of chicken, rice and Asian noodle vegetables and lots of laughs back at our cabins.

Day 3:

The pond “before” (c) used with permission by Dee Totrakool

The first day of volunteering began with a 5am wake-up to assist the children with their morning chores and then breakfast was at 7:30am. We had a run through of the project ahead, which was to assist in the making of a fish pond, which would help save money being spent on food at MKF, but also generate an income by selling fish to the local community. At 9am it was go time, and we began by pulling big logs of wood out of the muddy pond by rope, and then we all got even muddier when we all got into the big pool and cleared more wood. There were eels and catfish everywhere and more screams of shock to go with it. Lunch time came around, we all demolished the amazing food Mum made and then headed back to work to begin putting up the wall barrier for the pond before we could call it a day at 4pm. Although everyone was exhausted from the day’s work, we were all still ready to go for a night full of games with the MKF children, which made us even more exhausted afterwards.

Day 4:

Waking up at 5am for chores, we felt the cold, dark morning again, as we will for the next week. After heading back to bed for an hour or so, we wake up for breakfast, and we continue our mission to complete our work. After falling in the mud, forming blisters and massaging sore muscles, we continued to work. Once we finished lining the sides of the fish pond with bamboo, we then started to dig the mud from the floor of the pond to fill in the gap between the bamboo and outer wall of the pond. We used shovels, buckets and a human chain to transfer the mud from the middle of the pond to the outer lining.

The January 2012 ISV MKF High School group hard at work! (c) used with permission by Dee Totrakool

Mum made us a lunch that was ‘to die for’ (as usual), and we continued to construct the wall for the pond. As the workday ended, everyone went off for their relaxation time, showers, journal writing and playing cards. We then went on to have another amazing dinner cooked by Mum; we are always so excited to see what we are eating. After dinner, we all prepared for our first night of teaching the kids English. It was so rewarding! The kids were so interested and excited to be able to learn what they wanted to learn and have all their questions answered about ourselves, our culture and our language. We finished the night with a game and then headed off to bed for another 5am wake-up for chores.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks to read about the rest of their journey.  Next week, read how they completed the pond and enjoyed their free weekend!

Find out more about ISV’s Thailand High School Program HERE.

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