Katie Desmond and Stacey Smail are two volunteers from Edge Hill University who volunteered in Thailand for six weeks, here they reflect on what happened on their first day at their project and how welcoming the host community were to them.
On the first day of school we got shown around by our two host families who are both English teachers at the school. It was a bit of a whirl wind as we were immediately introduced to many of the students and all the teachers and we were still trying to come to terms with the fact we were in Thailand and the culture.
Everybody was staring at us like we were celebrities, one of the things you need to get used to when coming to Thailand.
Many people have never seen a foreigner before and our journey through the school was accompanied by shouts of ‘FARANG, FARANG!!’ which means foreigner. The school has a farm where they grow all their own products such as rice and fruits and they farm pigs, chickens, frogs, crickets and fish. This is all looked after by the students and the teachers.
After our whistle stop tour of the school we were introduced to our headmaster, all very surreal and through a conversation in broken English he told us how happy he was to meet us and how pleased and grateful he was that we were there teaching his students. The rest was translated by our host families.
The headmaster wasn’t the only V.I.P. we had met that day, we also walked into the village, but not only did we walk, we got asked to join a parade to the temple as the villagers were so excited to see foreigners and wanted us to be a part of their tradition. We got asked to meet the village leader, so the three of us sat round the table with some villagers and the village leader.
We could not believe the fuss that was being made for just little old us.
Getting used to the fuss is something you will need to get used to; being made to feel like royalty yourselves, not that this will be hard. However much fun this may sound, we have found it is best to keep in mind our purpose and our duty to this school, so whatever they give you, you give the same back in effort, respect and appreciation.
We have never met such welcoming and appreciative people, as the next day, after we had given a welcome speech to the whole school (daunting but a good experience), we had a welcoming ceremony privately with all the teachers who presented us with flowers and demonstrated their appreciation. Even the headmaster gave a short speech in English which was heartwarming as we could see the effort he had made to welcome us to his school. The teachers all share great relationships with one another and the sense of community is tangible.
They introduced themselves to us as one big family and we cannot explain how lucky we felt to be a part of this.
Katie Desmond and Stacey Smail, Thailand 2012
Interested in volunteering in Thailand? Apply now!!