The bus ride was long and frustrating, but once we got off we saw a familiar face. I recognized her from pictures on GoEco’s website and cheered up immediately. The organization came to give us food and rest before tonight’s reception.
We sat in the back of a small truck with another group of volunteers, two Dutch and one German, and immediately felt what only then we knew how to explain what will make this trip amazing and exciting, the incredible people.
We came to a beautiful, quiet river that runs slowly and had, on occasion, Thai fisherman in small boats. We ate with all the volunteers, a meal prepared specially for us, then drove around and got to know the area.
In the evening we went with the other volunteers (there were three in Singburi) to watch a performance prepared by children. There are traditional Thai dances every Sunday to receive the newcomers. How heartwarming it was to see these beautiful children, and to know they were doing it just for us…
The next day we began to do volunteer work. Volunteering options in this area are many and varied, and we were given the unique opportunity to taste them all. That week we became construction workers, teachers, and artists. We renovated the orphanage, painted chairs, tiled floors, laid bricks for a community project and shortly thereafter we were teachers for children in the school.
It’s unbelievable how much fun it was paint and plaster, working with my hands was so great. It was so liberating for my consciousness when all I cared about at that moment was using color to make a sad grey wall become alive and happy.
For me, however, the strongest experience was teaching in the school. Thai children are quiet and have a pleasant discourse, and are especially eager to learn. Each new person is an opportunity for them to learn something new about the world, every unfamiliar face is a teacher. It felt liberating and exciting to pass on every small bit of knowledge to the children.
During renovations and school you meet another amazing aspect of this project – the volunteers themselves. After the hard work it becomes clear and the real adventure begins, now you’re finally beginning to get to know the people around you. The people you meet when you are on a volunteer project are a world beyond who you would meet on any other trip; everyone works hard, everyone aims to become slightly larger than themselves, and they all simply good people.
Sheila, a lovely girl, 21 years old, half-English half-Singaporean, wants to study teaching. She is so tied to the students at local schools that she went shopping downtown and played video games at the arcade with them. She found a bookstore and bought equipment – pens and notebooks for the children. Mary had just completed a fourth-year medical school in Amsterdam. She traveled east to volunteer at schools as a nurse and at other medical projects in Cambodia and Laos.
There were lots like them; Francesco, a 20-year-old from Italy was driving for three months specifically to help at the orphanage. Lucille, 24-years-old from France came to volunteer for a community project.These people, these amazing people, are what made this experience for me.
Every moment I was with them I learned something new, all in the fun of and joy and giving, and all for something a bit more than just a trip – a little more than just another holiday – and maybe, just maybe, this was something that will ultimately help me find myself in all this mess.