When I first came to Ban Nong Phong two years ago everything was different! Many things have changed and developed both visually in the village, at school or in the temple, and structurally of the whole project. The following text is a report of the things that have changed.
The volunteer village:
The first thing that caught my attention was all the new houses that have been built in the village .It was very simple back then: The old wooden house, in which grandma and grandpa normally slept, and another house for the volunteers were the only buildings that existed. Every morning and evening we cycled to Raimund and Linly to have breakfast and dinner. So we mainly stayed at the village to sleep and construct things inside and outside the houses. We had four bikes for all the volunteers, but today there are eight bikes and two Tuk Tuks. It is now easier for the volunteers to reach places further away, especially with the two tuk tuks. There used to be only 2 pigs in the barn, but now there are about 10 to 15 pigs and two water buffallos.
A third house for sleeping was built and there is a kitchen for preparing and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner. Furthermore there is a storage room, a library with many books, teaching materials and music instruments.
At the language cafe volunteers can store their food in a fridge, but the main purpose of the language cafe is the cultural exchange between volunteers and kids from the village. During the holiday season the kids can play, learn English or take part in other activities at the cafe. The “book club” at the library will be opened two afternoons per week for the kids.
Right at the entrance of the village a big photo wall welcomes you. Here you can see all the steps of the development of the project. If you stay in the colourful houses of Volunt2Thai you will very quickly become a part of a big family! It is just like a huge outdoor flat-sharing community! The volunteers are very friendly, helpful and are well organized – which makes it easy to settle down in this ‘family’. Everyone has to do something to keep the village clean and in a good condition – if everyone is doing that reliably, then it is great place to live together.
Another new house with two floors is in the building phase right now. On the upper floor there is space for some tents, and on the ground floor there will be a cultural centre for english lessons, seminars and speeches. You can already see the cooperations with some universities on posters on the outside of this building.
Since the project already has a wide reach across the globe, a lot has changed with all the volunteers. Two years ago the people stayed for only a couple of weeks and mainly did some construction work in the village and not very much teaching. Nowadays this has changed completely – all of the volunteers teach at different schools. After school they do some construction work, paint the houses or cut grass or trees. Everything is structured very well, and every Monday there is a meeting whereby everything that has to be done during the following week is discussed.
Another difference is, that most of the volunteers stay for a long time, at least a month, some of them even a whole year. That’s a very positive thing, because the children at school can get used to one person for a longer amount of time, and they can improve their English a lot. But if all the volunteers leave after just one month, the kids have to start new with every new teacher.
It’s also quite good, that there is not too much coming and going at the village. The capacity of the beds for the volunteers is getting bigger and bigger, so more and more schools can be supplied with English teachers.
When I first came to Volunt2Thai there were only two schools (Ban Nong Phong and Ban Nong Khung), that could get teachers on an irregular schedule. Sometimes volunteers went to the kindergarten in Ban Lao to look after the kids.
It was very hard to teach English back then, because the kids could only say and understand ‘hello’ and nothing else. We couldn’t speak Thai, so we were not able to explain anything to them. You see – it was very complicated and sometimes impossible to teach anything. But we tried it and most of the time we played some educational games with them.
Today, two years later it is so unbelievably wonderful to see and listen to how much their English has improved. Nearly every student comes to you and starts talking and asking you stuff, so you can chitchat with them about simple topics. I am really amazed and excited by the improvement that all the volunteers have achieved in just two years!
Right now it’s not only possible to teach in the same two schools as before, but also at Ban Nong Si Samran, Ban Lao and Ban Nong Hung. That’s really awesome and great for all the kids who get the chance to learn English.
With the the new director and new teachers at Ban Nong Khung school they experience a significant upturn. The new director is very interested, motivated and very involved in developing more and more English lessons.
You can really feel and see the progress of the project in each school! Many of the kids seem much more interested in learning a new language than two years ago.
The surrouding villages:
Because of the project, many people in the surrounding villages are changing their minds about ‘farangs’ (European people).The presence of the volunteers is an enrichment for everyone! The cultural exchange between local and foreign people is huge.
In some villages there are new shops being built because the need for it is rising. One family in Ban Nong Phong is offering a laundry service for the volunteers, so they don’t have to drive 40 minutes to Amphoe Phen anymore.
Two years ago it was kind of a sensation, when you cycled along the village’s streets but now it is already normal – the openness towards foreign people is increasing.
At the temple:
The biggest development at Mae Chi’s temple in Ban Moo is that there are some new buildings made out of old wood. The „Chedi“ is also growing, and the dangerous bamboo framework got exchanged for plastered walls. Very detailed handwork is behind all of that. There are some art projects like modelling sculptures taking place at the temple.
Mae Chi is like Volunt2Thai – you have to work hard and with all of you heart for something, even if there are occasionally very hard moments. But you always have to be sure that you are doing something amazing!
In other countries:
The presentation of Volunt2Thai in countries other than Thailand happened mainly via facebook back then. But nowadays there is a huge network of volunteers all around the world who stay in contact and represent the project. The members come from Germany, Hong Kong, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Scotland and soon from Switzerland too.
In Austria ‘Volunt2Thai Österreich – Verein zur Förderung von Freiwillgenarbeit’ was founded and has already been at some volunteer fairs. The Website www.volunt2thai.com <http://www.volunt2thai.com/> has a completely new design and is very detailed, informative and continously updated. The cooperation with universities in Belgium, Germany, France and Canada is great to spread the idea of the project!
All in all I can tell you that Volunt2Thai has developed a lot since I first volunteered there. So many hard-working and kind-hearted humans helped to push the project forward. After two years I am very happy to see what has changed in such a short time!
I wish Raimund, his relatives, all the wonderful people in the villages and the whole Volunt2Thai family all the best for the future, and that the project continues to grow like that!
This project is something very special and important!
Report of Corina Veith, Volunteers in October 2015 / 5 months to 2016 and January 2018