Ethan Buxton - General Care Projects in Thailand
My experience in Thailand
My time in Thailand has simply been eye-opening. I feel that I've achieved so much and made so many people happier just by purely saying hello with a meaningful smile. To me this was the most important thing, being able to change young lives for the better, teaching them, and watching them learn from what you do and say is overwhelmingly rewarding. I've learnt so many things about myself and I genuinely feel that I have changed so much since my first day here.
My host family in Thailand
The family that I stayed with couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming, I quickly settled in and spent a lot of my free time with them, I wanted to immerse myself in the Thai culture and for me the best way to do this was to see it through the eyes of the locals. They introduced me to a wide array of new and exciting things, one of them was to learn a Thai instrument; the Ranad, which is essentially a fancy glockenspiel to those who don't know.
My host mum, Pi Lak, who works at the famous primary school in Krabi, introduced me to the school’s music teacher Pi Ning. In 2 days I managed to learn at least 4 different songs, she taught me the basic and the not so basic techniques which I thoroughly enjoyed. As the weeks flew by I became closer and closer to my wonderful host family and I truly felt like I was their son.
My placement in Thailand
The place where I worked was simply lovely. I was greeted with big smiles and I felt fully appreciated each and every day. The routine was simple; greet all the students for about an hour in the morning as they arrived, once everyone was present we had to do a morning dance! This involved stretches and jogging on the spot, something to get the kids ready for the day. When this finished, we would separate into classrooms.
Classroom activities varied each day, but I myself had to prepare a 30 minute activity every day. The Projects Abroad office had everything I needed to conduct these activities. Then lunch time came around much quicker than I thought each day, so I would help give out the plates of food to the children and clean up once they were done. Nap time came soon after this; the kids would watch TV and eventually go to sleep. I would find myself taking a nap sometimes too!
Travelling and meeting people
I was lucky enough to go on fantastic days out with my host family and the other volunteers, to all the local tourist spots like the beautiful Tiger Cave Temple and the natural hot springs and emerald pool. These places were beautiful, but for me one of my most memorable experiences was the trip to Koh Hong. Pi Lak had a friend who owned a long tail boat, so she invited some of her friends and they invited their friends so to me it seemed like a big event!
It was wonderful to get to know more Thai people and make new friends. On the way to Koh Hong, we stopped off at various different islands, some more isolated than the others, Koh paradise was very busy as expected but having the advantage of a private long tail boat, we could sail to a more remote area so it was like being on our own island, this was amazing and so peaceful. Upon arrival at Koh Hong we saw a Komodo Dragon walk along the beach and swim into a cave, this was incredible to see and I felt very lucky.
I also felt very blessed to have been able to experience two very different sides of Thailand; Krabi, the lively town home to lovely people served as my base, a warm (sometimes rainy) place to come back to after weekends away or work trips out, a safe place that I felt proud to call home. And the less touristy side of Thailand which only seemed to show in the less popular (or perhaps not so well known) islands like Koh Yao Noi, a beautiful place filled with bright green rice fields and palm tree forests.
Final thoughts on my volunteering trip
I came with an open mind and an open heart and this enabled me to open up to the lively culture and the lovely people. Thailand is a place I will have to come back to, it's a place that hides many surprises and is waiting for people like me to go out and find them.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.