That was my first “yes” from a Worldpackers host and the experience occurred between March 8th and March 22nd, 2018.
At the moment of the confirmation, the NGO will send you a standard reply, saying that you will be working three hours a day, three times a week. The schedule is subject to changes, depending on the time of the year that you arrive. March is the beginning of the school vacation that lasts until half may, so I found out I was going to teach to kindergarten when I first arrived at Thong Tos. I would teach one hour a day (from 10 to 11), Monday to Friday, weekends free.
On my first day, I arrived after 11 am, so I had a free day. I was then shown to my accommodation and had a pleasant surprise. It is a spacious and bright room, with A/C and wifi. The room also has a big desk and four chairs and two bunkbeds. I chose my bed and had the room all for myself, due to the fact that they don’t have many volunteers at this time of the year because of the school vacation.
In the male dorm, there was another Worldpacker volunteer, and on this day, he took me to see the area and showed where to eat, shop and do laundry.
Thong Tos Foundation is a bit far from the touristic areas of Bangkok and a 40-minute walk from Khao San Road (the busiest road with tourists from all over the world, street food and night market). It is easy to get around by BTS (sky train) and bus, if you are the adventurous type. I got the bus a lot, and it was ok for most of the times, but it can be tricky to find bus stops depending on where you are in town.
On the next day, I woke up with ease, had breakfast and headed to the classroom. The dorm is on the second floor of the building and kindergarten is on the ground floor, very handy.
I was happily welcomed by the 20 little students. Two Thai teachers stay in class with you. On the first class, one of the teachers asked to draw animals on the board and then, ask the children to name them, I must confess that my artistic skills are not quite developed, but I improvised and managed to get it done.
There are not many resources available, what really counts is us wanting to be there and do the best we can with what we have.
On this first day, I was teaching for one hour or so, I didn’t feel time passing. The Thai teacher did a sign to let me know that class was finished, I said goodbye to the kids with a HI-5 in each and everyone of them, they all came to me for that, and went to see a bit of this new city that would be my home for the next two weeks.
I had plenty of time to see Bangkok, but for now I’ll only talk about the teaching experience.
On the second day, the teacher told me, first thing, that the class would only last 30 minutes. They had separated books with the ABC, colors, numbers, animals and objects.
If you are not a native English speaker like me, I want you to know that it is ok to have an intermediate level of English to teach kindergarten children, just keep an eye on your pronunciation. Like I said before, the most important thing is your good will, and the rest will work out itself. The educational system seemed pretty tight, and I was always respected by the children during class.
In the meantime, the other volunteer was told to share the classroom with me, because his students were going on vacation.
Everyday we did the same activities with the children, with the littles resources that were given to us. I always tried to fit in a nursery rhyme and they knew all the words and were very happy to sing.
A week passed by like that. Teaching for 30 minutes in the morning, and lots of free time to do whatever I wanted. Personally, I wish that I had more work, because I realized I was quite good at it, and wanted to help more.
That was when the owner of the foundation invited me to go teach in her hometown, a rural village not too far from Bangkok. I was totally free to decide, but considering big cities are not really my thing, I told her I would do it and there we went.
I could write a whole new article just to tell you all about this experience in the rural Thailand.
It was a 5-day deep immersion on Thai Muslim culture, feeling part of the family and their routine, having dinner together every day, plus having the chance to teach and bond with the children.
I am sure that some of them will never forget me, as I won’t forget them. Their care and appreciation for my work overcame any financial gain, especially for me, that spent a long time working in a job that didn’t make sense just because of the money. It is priceless to have a different perspective on how to be “paid” for your work!
If you would like to know more about this deep culture immersion at the rural village, feel free to reach me through the chat, I’ll be happy to share all the details with you.