Rasheel Bhopla - General Care Projects in Thailand
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to volunteer but it's never been the right time or I haven’t had the money or my job is too important to me, etc. etc. I made so many excuses throughout the years, as I was scared of travelling on my own. I have never travelled alone on a plane, let alone to a different country.
So one weekend, I thought enough was enough and that I didn’t want to look back and regret not having done volunteering. So I started to research online and I came across Projects Abroad. The more I read about them and what they do, the more I found myself getting excited about the prospect of joining them.
I got in touch with Projects Abroad and was put in touch with the Volunteer Advisor for Thailand, Inaam. She arranged a call and within days, I was on the phone to Inaam, who explained the whole process, making me feel at ease. As I was going during the Thai New Year, I would be involved in arts and crafts, working with children aged between seven and 12.
I arrived at Gatwick Airport full of nerves. Travelling on my own was a new thing for me and the thought of being on my own in Thailand was nerve-wrecking, but the journey was brilliant and I needn’t have worried. As I looked around the airport, I saw many people on their own, going about their own business without a care in the world.
My host family
When I arrived in Krabi, I was met by my Projects Abroad Coordinator, Earb. She met me with the biggest smile, which calmed my nerves instantly. As I landed at night, Earb took me straight to my host family and on the journey there, she gave me tips about my location and how to get to places. As I arrived at my host family's house, my host mum had food already cooked for me. We sat down to eat together and although she spoke little English, she made me feel welcome and at ease. After my dinner, she took me to my room and showed me around.
The first night was different, sleeping in a room on my own with only the sounds of what I later found out were geckos and frogs keeping me company. I couldn’t sleep, as I was too excited about the adventures ahead of me.
Travelling around Thailand
The next day, I woke up at about 10am and went downstairs where I was greeted by my host mum who had made breakfast. As it was my first day in Thailand, I wanted to explore so I decided to visit the Tiger Cave. Setting foot outside on my own should have been even more nerve-wrecking than flying on my own, but I wasn’t worried or nervous, as the Thai people are one of the nicest people around.
I spent the day at the Tiger Cave and then ventured to the night market to sample some of the local delicacies. I finished the evening with a ride on the motor taxi to get home. On reaching home, I was introduced to my house mate, who had been there for 10 days and I met my roommate, Sarah, who had landed that evening.
On the second day, Earb collected Sarah and me and we had our induction, including all the formalities of filling out forms and so forth. Earb very kindly took us around Krabi, pointing out the main things that we might need during our time there, such as the nearest doctor and pharmacy. Once the induction was over, Sarah and I took the bus to Ao Nang beach, which is a mere 15 to 20-minute drive away, and we spent the rest of the day and evening at the beach.
My Care placement
My first placement was at a local school where we painted a mural about global warming on the four walls outside. This is where I got to know more of the people involved in Projects Abroad and I spent two days painting and drawing the mural with some very friendly people. We were outside and the sun was beaming down on us, so the teachers helped in every way possible by bringing us cold drinks, watermelons and food and providing us with shade covers. The four plain walls were transformed into colourful walls with an educational message about global warming and the teachers were so grateful.
My second placement was at a school where we spent the week teaching English to children who were 11 to 12 years old. The first day was such a lovely day! As we approached the school, we could see the children sitting down in a line and as soon as they saw us, their faces beamed and they became very excited. During the week at the school, we taught them English and played games with them. Although I was only there for a week, the relationships that I built were brilliant. I had the best time ever.
The teachers and the children at the school were amazing. As I ended my placement a day earlier than the rest of my roommates, on my last day there I was given a bit of a surprise. We were playing one of our usual games and then I ended up in the middle of the circle during the game. The next thing I knew, the song from Fast and Furious, "See You Again", started playing and one by one, the children came up to me and handed me letters, giving me the biggest hugs ever and saying how much they will miss me. I can safely say that there was not a dry eye in sight.
My overall experience
During my time off, I was able to explore some of the other islands nearby, such as Poda Island and Chicken Island. I can honestly say this has been the best experience of my life by far. All the people I met during my trip made it so worthwhile; from my host mother, to my housemates, to all the Projects Abroad staff and all the Thai people I met on my journey. I have made some good friends and recently one of the Projects Abroad staff members came to London, where I met up with her and showed her some of the lovely sites.
I was only able to go for a short time, but the time spent there has been one of my best experiences and I only wish I had done it earlier. Two months on, I am still reminiscing about my time there and I hope one day I can go back to visit the lovely country and people.
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.