04 January 2010
The adventure begins, I am booked in on the 2.15pm flight from Sydney to Phuket. For every hour that passes on the flight I began mixed emotions of excitement and also apprehension of what the next 3 weeks had in store for me!
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I got into the room, I was surrounded by the children, who showered me with thai eskimo kisses and cuddles. I’m not a shy person at all!! but when i had to stand up in front of everyone to introduce myself, I felt my cheeks going bright red!! but everyone was fixated with what I was saying. It is normal for thai people to have nicknames, and after several attempts of trying to say Hayley (we had Hail, another attempt being Harry Potter!) they all settled for “Dorrean” the thai word for flower! what a cute name!
They told me about the National Children’s day celebrations due to take place on Thursday 7 January, they said I was invited to work, where I will meet the Monks and also give an offering to them! Speaking to Karen after, she said this is an honour to be asked. Wow, what a brilliant opportunity.
This is my first full day of school. When school starts we stand ready for the National Anthem and raising of the flag, the children are still intrigued by me, so I stand with about 5 of them clinging onto my legs and arms. Next we are all put into our groups, I have been allocated to a group of 7, we all start dances with dance moves, everyone had loads of fun.
The big day is here, I arrive at the school to find that the staff have decorated it immaculately! they have made such an effort! Khun Waneda guides me to some women from the ‘Lions Club of Phuket Pearl’ they ask various questions about the volunteering programme I am on, and make an invitation for someone to speak at their next weeks meeting.
I managed to book a weekend at Koh Phi Phi. They arranged my own wooden villa nestled on the coastline of Koh Phi Phi, with amazing views and extremely friendly staff.
11/01/2010 – 15/01/2010
I think all too often there is a stigma portrayed that due to disabilities that children with special needs may not be clever or can not learn. I don’t really know what my opinion was looking back? maybe I was naive to start, but having now been a part of this experience, I have learned that just because someone has a disability, this should not be used as an excuse that they can not learn.
During this experience I think that whilst I was helping teach the children, It was not only the children learning, but also myself. This time has really opened my eyes as to how unique and individual people can be. Showing that material things can be a luxury but, simple affection and laughter go much further. It has also given me a self confidence that I never had before, that I have been able to travel to a different country and work on a programme with people whose English language is limited and live in a community that do not depend on modern technology. For this I don’t think that there is anyway that I can truly show my appreciation to the staff and teachers at the school, but know I will take these memories and lessons away with me forever!
I was taken by Nurong in the car around the surrounding areas of Kathu. The reasoning for these home visits was to visit homes of families of children who are unable to attend school due to either their location or due to the disability that the child has. The hope is that they can be signed up for a training session due to take place from 27 -30 January, which trains the parents to be able to teach and care for their children. Yet again I was filled with admiration for what this school does, not just for the students who attend but also for the local community.
After having met Dr Siriporn on National Children’s Day, she had contacted me to say the Lion’s Club meeting had been rescheduled today and so I attended the Merlin Hotel for their monthly meeting.
The meeting then went onto the recent devastation that has hit Tahiti on 12 January 2010. A poignant moment of the meeting was when the President of the Club announced “It is 5 years ago that the Tsunami struck us and the World came together in support for their country, it is now the turn of Phuket to show their help to those affected in Tahiti”. Lion’s Club has done a lot since the awful Tsunami, sitting back observing this meeting made me realise one positive of this disaster,that from the devastation it caused, organisations as the Lion’s Club and Andaman Discoveries have formed bringing people together to support and develop the country.