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Grace Mitchell - General Care Projects in Thailand

With my class On my arrival into Krabi airport I was greeted by the friendly faces of Anna and Sao; Sao was to be my host mother. Their smiles and chatter immediately made me feel welcome; a feeling that was to last for the rest of my 3 months in Thailand. The volunteer house, where I lived quickly became home and we grew very close to our host parents, their two young children, and their niece and nephew. It was a comfort and a privilege to be part of such a lovely family.

My work at Ao Nang School began soon after I arrived and there were, thankfully, two other volunteers already there to show me the ropes. It was all a shock at first; the heat, the lack of English speakers, and of course the 25 five-year-olds that I was to assist for my time at the school. At first I was daunted and overwhelmed by the behaviour of the children; excitable, energetic, and at times seemingly uncontrollable! However, I always had a teacher to help, and realising the children were too young for anything serious I quickly changed tack and focused entirely on singing, sport and artwork. Doing something the children really enjoyed was fun for everyone and I grew to love them and their never-ending enthusiasm. Through my instructions and individual conversations with the children they learnt snippets of simple English sentences in a less formal and easygoing way, which worked far better.

Wall mural “Nap-time”, where the children were supposed to sleep from 12:00-14:00, was often an impossible task and with their boundless energy it was more often than not “dancing, chatting and playing time”. I decided this was perhaps better left in the hands of the teacher and instead, with the director’s consent, I painted a mural onto one of the school walls of a jungle animal scene. Everyday when I was painting the children would sneak from the classroom to come and help or watch me. This was when I began to grow closer to them and sense their approval. It was a good feeling when a child could repeat the English name of one of the animals on the wall and remember it indefinitely. One day I was painting and the sun was shining brightly where I was. Patali, a girl standing watching, took her apron off and held it above my head to shield my eyes from the light – it was a very touching moment!

Aside from the work in the school we went on trips such as elephant trekking, boat tours to the local islands (including Koh Phi Phi) and kayaking in the mangroves. The beauty of the country cannot be justified in words; the scenery, particularly the beaches, are incredible. A very funny and worthwhile trip was going up the very vertical steps (all 1,200 of them Ao Nang beachI think it was) to Tiger Temple at 4am to see the sunrise – our exhaustion at the end and jellified legs were an amusing show of our lack of fitness, and being trapped by the monkeys on the way down also provided much hilarity! On a weekend off we stayed in Koh Lanta in a quirky hostel on the beach, and sometimes we went out on the boat with the conservation volunteers to snorkel – a fear of mine that quickly vanished. All the volunteers grew very close and being with the other volunteers or hanging out in a local bar in Ao Nang playing pool was always fun.

My time in Thailand was AMAZING. The generosity and friendliness of the Thai people, the beauty of the surroundings, and the bonds I made with my host family, friends and the children made my experience the best I have ever had and utterly unforgettable. I would recommend Thailand to anyone and will definitely be returning!

Grace Mitchell

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