|David||2008||Don Bosco Home, Chiang Mai||Thailand|
Describe the work you did during your placement:
In the time I was placed in Thailand I undertook a variety of roles. I was residing at the local Don Bosco centre which encompassed interaction with the young people living within the centre and providing a positive influence within the centre. In addition I worked at the local educational institution that the boys at the centre attended, assisted with day to day tasks and worked on a farm run by the centre. At the technical college I prepared and presented classes to the young people at the school and the teachers. The work I engaged in offered much variety, involving sports and activities, presenting English classes, farming and presenting a positive foreign influence. My work in Thailand gave me the opportunity to spend time in a range of places such as the north and south; where I was privileged to assist at a centre run by the Salesians to assist children impacted by the tsunami. Explanation of specific responsibilities is immaterial as being a volunteer, one must be willing to engage in a variety of tasks as required by the locality’s needs.
Describe some of the best and most challenging aspects of your placement:
When one chooses to reside in a foreign country one must accept differences that are implicit to that country. The culture and language were both foreign to me when I arrived. An example of cultural difference was the touching of a child on the head. In western cultures this would generally be considered an act of endearment although in Thai culture one should not touch the head of another person as it is consider an act of condescension. Language was a large barrier during my placement. I made an effort to learn the local language – Thai. Although I found I could learn Thai, many people only spoke the Northern Language or their own tribal language. As such I had to learn the northern dialect to fit in at school and the local tribal languages to fit in at the home. One must be willing to embrace all linguistic challenges present
Explain how your volunteer experience impacts your life today:
The experience has had a profound influence on my life in many ways. I have learnt to appreciate cultural differences that may occur – even when we may be unaware of these differences. As a result of my experiences in Thailand I have realised the disadvantage of others which, in the western world, we can only pretend to fathom. I study a degree in arts and science, my arts degree focuses on Asian studies. The experience overall has blessed me with an opportunity to gain an extended appreciation for Asian cultures and has blessed me with the chance to learn several languages I would not have otherwise had the chance to encounter. Overall the experience has prompted me to question the nature of Western capitalism – does money buy happiness? I would encourage everyone to engage in this opportunity both as a method to assist local communities and to grow as an individual.