New South Wales
The idea of uprooting your life to experience another culture can be a tempting one- or a frightening prospect! NSM Michelle Lorschy, along with her twin sons, took the plunge with the Volunteer Teacher Thailand organisation and shares her story with NSM.
Last December my twin 17 year old sons and had planned a 10-day holiday in Khao Lak, south Thailand, as a short break before they commenced the rigors of the HSC. After booking the accommodation, I thought about how great it would be to stay a bit longer, meet the gorgeous people, and experience the food and culture of Thailand. I decided to extend the stay for all these reasons and as an opportunity to expose my boys to those who have not been as lucky in the lottery of life, and not had the experience of being born into a wealthy first-world country with all the resources we just take for granted.
I was very concerned not to get sucked into “Voluntourism” (and there is LOTS of that) and so I researched online until I found Ken at Volunteer Teacher Thailand (VTT). In 2004, hearing about the devastating tsunami and wanting to help, Ken left the UK for Khao Lak. He has lived there ever since. VTT are a small, well-run organisation dedicated to teaching English in a range of schools. English is incredibly important for the Thai people and their employment opportunities– for those that aspire to going to university or to work in the tourism industry, it is an essential skill. The VTT teachers instruct student classes in line with the local curriculum, covering Year 2 to Year 6. They work in schools where the parents would not otherwise be able to afford to employ an English teacher.
At first, my sons and I were a bit hesitant, especially as we had no skills in teaching. But our fears were soon allayed. VTT gave us a half day induction to introduce us to the structure, help us feel comfortable and to give us an idea of what to expect. Once we were in the school we actually all worked together in the same classroom each day. The days were not onerous, every day we worked in a different school (the same 4 schools each week, we rotated one per day). Some days were half days and others full days. There was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the fabulous beach at Khao Lak, read a book or laze in a hammock.
It was easy, fun and heart-warming. At each school, the Thai children welcomed us so warmly and were thrilled to see us each week. They swarmed round my boys and -without needing a common language to communicate- interacted over recess and lunch. For our family, it was a humbling and rewarding two weeks. I did not want to leave. It was amazing how quickly we slipped into the local life and we found ourselves becoming just as attached to the children as the teachers. I am sure we took away as much, if not more, than the gorgeous children we were working with.