Volunteering in Thailand
An appreciation for gratitude

On the summer holidays, I travelled to Thailand with Sophie Hahn and Lachlan Bond. We were going to Thailand to volunteer at a school within an orphanage for four days. The experience was amazing. We were staying in a small village called Singburi which is about three hours from the capital, Bangkok.

Our first day we commenced our volunteering to a class of grade 3 students. The orphanage was full of students who were extremely sweet and welcoming. We were shocked to realise that these students are learning English without a teacher there to help or guide them within the subject. We did our best to teach them with the hope to help and provide some guidance. The best thing about our first day volunteering was definitely the children’s reaction when we donated the toys and resources that we had collected during term 4 from the QACI community. Our only disappointment was that we wished we could have given them more, as we found that there wasn’t quite enough for the 250 orphans at the school.

The remainder of the week was spent at one of the schools in Singburi – Wat Trachoo, teaching Grade 1 and 2 students. The school, much like the orphanage, was full of happy and bright children who had so much energy. Their English proved to be more advanced due to their accessibility to resources that their wealthier school provided. We read the classic Dr Seuss books to the students, such as “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish”. We taught them words and how to string them together in sentences. We played a lot of hopscotch and tried to manage a bunch of naughty young boys who decided that locking the doors and stacking tables was a good plan so they could just play games during the afternoon.

The students at Wat Trachoo were happy to learn and loved playing outside, especially when hopscotch was involved. They loved cuddles and being carried around during the lessons. They adored writing on the boards and enjoyed playing hand games which included silly English rhymes which were a big part of my own childhood. Teaching these students was a massive privilege and an amazing experience.

Travelling to Thailand and being exposed to teaching with students who do not share the same privileges was the most eye opening and rewarding experience I have ever had to date. It made me realise just how privileged we are in Australia.

  1. Having a language teacher which knows the language fluently – In Singburi there are many schools who teach English however they don’t have actual English teachers. They learn the language by reading a textbook; this means they have no guidance in pronunciation of the words. I am currently learning a language at school and I can’t imagine learning this language without my French teacher. We need to show more gratitude to our teachers.
  2. Be grateful for a language curriculum – a follow up from the last point is that the way some students in Thailand are learning English is through the volunteering program. This means that a volunteer comes with a set plan for teaching based on what they think is important for students to learn but when they leave another volunteer comes and commences the same thing over. The result is that the students know a lot of basic words but don’t know how to string them together to form full sentences as there is no continuation of what they previously learned.
  3. Hot showers – this isn’t a big deal but just be grateful that you have them. Not having them for a week in Thailand’s winter (which for us was cold) was not pleasant.
  4. Accessibility to fresh and clean drinking water – In Australia drinking water is just an expectation. We know it is safe to drink! In many countries, not just Thailand, fresh and clean drinking water is a luxury.
  5. ROAD RULES AND ROAD SAFETY – oh my god. First cab ride in Thailand was completely shocking. It was crazy! Be grateful that there are some rules in place as they are there for a reason.
  6. Our social welfare safety net – in Australia we are blessed with social security. Our taxes support people in need. However, in Thailand we went to an orphanage in which that 250 children lived in one massive room together. This means illness and things like head lice is so easily spread and yet nothing is being done to prevent or treat the children unless volunteers’ step in. This is one of the major differences between a MEDC (1st world country) and a LEDC (3rd world country), be grateful that our money is helping people who need it.

Thank you for reading this and I hope you are more of aware of just how privileged we are here. Unless you have experienced a LEDC first hand it hard to imagine the difference but it is there and it is clear at times.

…article written by Arabella Morton