My Forever Family in Thailand
CCS volunteers often find a community in-country beyond their volunteer work in our on-the-ground teams. We are happy to bring you the experience of CCS Thailand volunteer Taryn Felder, whose experience in Thailand brought her a "forever family" a half a world away.
Each night I sat down to write this blog entry about my volunteer experience in Thailand, I’d stop because I wanted to ensure I gave it the time, care and attentiveness it requires. It’s really difficult to summarize an experience that’s immeasurable in practice and boundless within your heart.
I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I felt right at home as soon as I arrived at the CCS home base since I was greeted with jokes and laughter immediately. When I arrived at my volunteer assignment I was greeted with the same level of sincerity, but in the form of appreciation and gratitude by the daycare staff. My assignment was technically at a “daycare” but it feels more like a school since there’s a full fledge curriculum that’s enforced.
This was my 3rd volunteer assignment and in my experience the most meaningful thing I can provide children anywhere in a short period of time is the very BEST version of myself as possible. In Thailand particularly, the children don’t cross paths with people that look like me often so I wanted to make sure their experience was warm, kind and caring. The children are extremely well taught, disciplined and respectful so this was the easiest assignment to transition into I’ve had thus far. Since they already knew basic numbers, the alphabet and nursery rhymes I decided to base my lesson plans on variations of those principles they hadn’t seen before, and integrate technology as much as possible since that’s where the biggest learning gap exists for the children in the Nan Province since they have limited access to it.
There aren’t words to describe my time with Jack, Jia, Jiew and Joom so I will share a few experiences to help paint the picture. One of my cultural activities was a Thai cooking lesson. I. Volunteer. Different. so this is how it went for us.
On Friday, which happened to be my last day in Nan, everyone in the house wanted to attend the Long Boat Festival in advance of one of my planned cultural activities. This happened in the van on the way, and is what typically happened when we were all riding together.
Jiew [spatula dancer] started referring to me as her daughter my first day and that reference became clearer each day that passed. Her and I are the same kind of crazy. She’s EXTREMELY competitive [I know I’m one to talk] and would try to compete with me in every activity in a fun and loving way [even pottery]. So at the festival we picked a boat during each race and upped the stakes with the loser being responsible for cooking dinner that night. She won, but that was lose/lose scenario for her either way.
The next stop was at a cotton/textile making site. I knew this would be interesting since we always draw crowds with our silly antics when we’re out in public. We were well behaved at first but at a certain point in the tour we broke off on our own, Jack assumed the role of the tour guide making up terms as he went along. At some point we reached an object that Jack told us was used as a doorbell or to make announcements. I thought this was a good time to announce to everyone that the dinner I was responsible for that night would be from 7-Eleven, with a sandwich or pizza option and 30 baht [$1 in US] limit per person. We all laughed hysterically, Jiew lunged as if she was going to attack me so I had “To Do The Heisman On…”
We ate every meal together but decided to have dinner out at a restaurant my last night in Nan. I decided to take an overnight bus to Chiang Mai so I’d have a full Sat there and the entire crew saw me off.
I outlined my Friday in this post, but every moment I spent with them felt like I was amongst family. Not just because they were fun to be around, but because they were beyond supportive and were willing to do whatever it took to ensure my experience was rewarding and fulfilling. Having Jia with me each day at the daycare to translate made the experience more fulfilling for me and the children. Jack took the time to understand my personal interests before my arrival and catered all my cultural activities around them. Jiew, well she’s just the same kind of special as me so we just fed off one another’s energy. Joom was our instigator and biggest supporter of our silly antics.
I wasn’t emotional leaving Nan like I thought I’d be. This experience was life changing and one I’ll keep near and dear within. I just feel like I’ll see them again.
Learn more about Taryn's experience in Thailand on her blog at https://tarynfelderblog.wordpress.com/.