Paula Mulla - General Care Projects in Thailand
I quit my job in London in October 2009 to take part in a Projects Abroad care programme in Thailand.
Arriving at Krabi airport, I was met by the Programme Co-ordinator – Dear. Greeted with a big hug and plenty of friendly chatter, Dear instantly made me feel at ease. I was rather nervous arriving alone into Thailand with no idea of what was in store.
Dear took me to my host family where I was greeted with great enthusiasm. My host family had cooked a full table of Thai dinner for me and I felt instantly welcomed and at home as soon as I arrived there. I was also met by a fellow volunteer who would also be living with me. I was really glad I had another volunteer staying in the same house as me as it was great to have a companion to experience this adventure with.
On my first full day Dear took me around town to show me how to use the local transport, how to buy a phone card and generally all the amenities I would need whilst living in Thailand. After doing a bit of shopping a spot of lunch together and a walk around town, I felt very much looked after safe in the knowledge that Projects Abroad were here to support me during my stay.
I began working at the Nongkok day care centre with children aged 3-5 the following day. The children here put a huge smile on my face each and every day, and even through the language barrier, I felt I was able to communicate with the children through play very well. The children were a joy to be around, full of affection and laughter and days were spent reading them English books, which they listened to with great enthusiasm, picking up on any words they recognised and keen to learn more. Running around, ball games and physical activity with the children was also a big part of the day, after which we served the children lunch and then put them down for a nap.
All the teachers at the school were very caring and friendly. Although they only spoke broken English, we still managed to have long conversations (with the aid of English/Thai dictionaries, sign language, drawings and slowly spoken English!). I learnt so much about Thai culture and life through my teachers. They often invited me to social events including a party which was held in honour of the head of Education in Krabi. Events like these helped me to take part and experience Thai life and also made me feel very much part of the team.
Having developed a good relationship with my teachers, myself and my fellow volunteers were often invited out to dinner with them and their friendly and open nature made us feel very welcome. The school I worked in and the teachers went out of their way to make me feel welcome and at home. I will always remember the school, its children and staff with very fond memories and developed such a bond with some teachers that we still keep in touch now that I am back in London.
I eventually moved into another host family after my room mate left to travel to Cambodia. I wanted to live with other volunteers so said a sad goodbye to my surrogate family and moved into Krabi town. Here, my host mother looked after me like my own mother would at home! She was full of care and concern and I felt very much at home here. Again, the bonds I formed with this family will stay with me for a lifetime.
I met other volunteers throughout my stay via social events organised by Projects Abroad. The staff here were always upbeat and keen to make sure we were all happy. I met some amazing people on this trip, many of whom I may never had mixed with had I not been placed in a group with them. The volunteers often spend the weekends and evenings together and we all had some fantastic trips out to the islands of Krabi. This was one of the best experiences of my life and many of these people have become good friends of mine…even though they are all scattered around the world, we keep in touch!
Projects Abroad staff organised a few trips for us too, one of them being a ‘English Camp’ for children. The staff organised transport to take us to this remote place where children from various schools had gathered for a few days. Here we played games with the children, with the view to expose them to and improve their English. It was a joy to meet so many children and families and take part in this huge scale event.
I feel that Projects Abroad provides its volunteers with excellent support and opportunities. This trip was something I will remember for a lifetime and I really hope to go back to Krabi one day soon so that I can visit the children I worked with, the teachers I made such good friends with and the Projects Abroad staff – many of whom I would consider good friends and would love to see again.
I highly recommend this trip and have already been singing its praises to many of my friends in London – recommending they take this trip too – it really is an excellent experience whether you are a very experienced traveller or if its your first time travelling alone.
I took a big risk by quitting my job to make this trip, but I don’t regret that decision for a second, it has been a fantastic experience in my life - one which will always put a smile on my face when I think of it.
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.