Take one Wendy Every Four Hours

This will be the final blog in the Project series, sad, sad times for us all right?? Following the same structure as I have done for the other projects Starfish has in Surin, I will now be looking at the hints and tips and other bits on information that you might find useful for the Medical Project.

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Apparently this isn’t a medical project appropriate face so I had to write this blog with the help of some ex volunteers!

Now I don’t work on the Medical project, strangely enough they aren’t too keen on visible tattoos, facial piercings and the fact that my hair changes colour every other week, so for this blog I had to turn to some ex volunteers and ask them what they would pass on to the next generation of Medical volunteers.

This is what we all came up with 🙂 In no particular order as well I might add haha

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Jesse feeling the ‘baby’ in this training dummy at the Surin School of Nursing

The first thing that each volunteer I spoke to mentioned was, to expect the unexpected. This is Thailand, you never know who will come through the doors that day, who you will go to meet or what you will be doing. Sometimes days will be regimented and organised into activities for the whole day and some days? Well, some days may be more free flowing and relaxed with some people going off to do one activity with others going in a completely different direction. Everyone here goes with the flow and takes everything in their stride so don’t be too startled if you don’t do everything you thought you would for that day and you do something else instead. It is all a learning experience and sometimes a change in plans can be an amazing adventure and experience in itself.

All Medical volunteers must be aware that they can be doing anything, from spending the day working in the hospital learning about how Thailand train their student nurses, to walking several miles between homes and villages in order to do health checks on villagers that have no means to get to a hospital. Everyday will be a new adventure and learning experience, just go with the flow and take part in everything that is planned, or not so planned for that day.

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We do work with all walks of life from monks to children

The work you are doing is real work. It isn’t a show put on to please the foreigners. This is real work that the hospitals and the clinics need doing on a day to day basis, you will become part of a working team of Thai medical staff that will expect you to work with them and help out in every way you can, to teach them about the culture of working of where you come from and to take on board how different things might be in Thailand. Naturally some days may be quieter in the clinics or the hospital might not be running any special classes, so it might be a quiet day but, take this as an opportunity to talk with the Thai medical staff and learn what it is to work in Thailand. You can learn some incredible techniques and diagnostic tricks just from hearing stories, one that the volunteers learnt that is very helpful is, that when drawing blood from elderly Thai people who work in rural areas, is that their circulation tends not to be as it was, so a little massage on the area you are going to take blood will make it much more comfortable for the patient and also bring up veins much quicker as well as stimulate the blood flow as well.

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We do regular work with the tallest man in Thailand, the check ups we do are very important on assessing his condition and his flexibility levels that will hopefully one day improve enough for him to walk again

One thing that Mary Gross, a nursing student from the Lane Community College of Nursing in Oregon, told me to talk about is pockets. Pockets are invaluable and provide somewhere to keep hundreds of pairs of latex gloves, hand sanitizer and also your camera; so if you don’t already, get some scrub trousers or travel trousers that have easily accessible and large pockets; believe me you will thank us later when you don’t have to be scrabbling at the bottom of your bag to find anything.

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The Lane Community College Nurses always had pockets stuffed with useful things like gloves and sanitizer

Another thing about clothes as well is that you need to make sure you have light breathable clothes, cotton preferably, and if possible invest in some travel clothes or scrubs that are meant for humid climates; these will be invaluable to your stay and keep you cool in our VERY hot and humid weather!

Don’t forget that Surin is also a normal bustling town with bars and a club so don’t forget to bring non work clothes with you as well!

It is super useful to bring several small tubes of hand sanitizer with you, you will be seeing several ill people who have a multitude of different conditions so making sure that your hands are sanitized is always incredibly important and some places might not always have sanitizer available.

Also have on hand lots and lots and LOTS of latex, preferably non latex, gloves. Some clinics may be running low or not have any spares at all so having your own is always a good back up.

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Even inside with air conditioning it is still hot for the girls on the baby unit!

Thailand is hot. You will be walking around and travelling around in several different places for the entire day so staying hydrated is incredibly important, being medical professionals or students you will know how severe dehydration can get if left unattended or ignored. The volunteers I spoke to used to drink big bottles of watered down Gatorade every day in order to keep high levels of hydration; you obviously don’t need to bring over the massive bottles with you but the powder or any other re-hydration powder would be an amazing idea to have everyday. Even when you aren’t on project you do need to keep on eye on your hydration levels; just follow the advice you would normally give to any patient that was travelling to a very hot and humid country for several weeks.

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Here you can see Marys very full pad of BP measurements; efficiency is very important when you see as many patients as we do

Another item that is always helpful to have is a pen and a paper pad, this is an efficient and easy way of communicating to the Thai staff on the project, sometimes they read better English than they understand and is also a great way to communicate BP or sugar levels as well as height and weight; the last thing we want is for information to get lost in translation at the expense of the patient. Its also a great way to make a note of any interesting things you have learnt that day, fun anecdotes or events that happened. I always like to write down place names of everywhere I have traveled and if I didn’t have a pen and some paper I would never remember them all!!

Something that Racheal Willingham mentioned to me is that you don’t always need to be taking pictures. Yes they are an amazing way of capturing memories but sometimes it is better to just let the experience happen and effect your soul, let your experience change your life and your outlook on the world.

Photographs are perfectly fine but do always make sure you are asking patients, monks and parents as well as the medical staff if it is OK to take pictures. Sometimes there won’t ever be an issue but the fact that you asked will show that you respect others and will also gain a lot of respect for you as well.

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Group photos are a great way of remembering every single person you worked with on your trip

We always need to make sure that we constantly show the highest level of respect for the Thai culture and way of life, this also extends to their medical practices as well. Things will be different here, same as they would be if you went to practice medicine in any other country, but Thailand especially, is a very spiritual and culture loving country. You are very lucky to have a Thai with you as your coordinator and translator that will be able to educate you about all of the different practices, their reasons and their relevance, they will also inform you if you accidentally make any cultural faux-pas that you other wise might not know about.

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This is the way in which some of the beds at the hospital are raised and lowered, it probably isn’t what you are used to but sometimes this is all we have to work with.

Another area that will always need to be respected is that Thailand isn’t as developed as other countries in the world, at times the facilities you visit might be very basic and often very old fashioned with out dated equipment that you may not even know how to use due to is primitive nature; this however does not match the expertise and the intelligence of the healthcare providers, every nurse, doctor, physio and other members of medical staff are trained to the very highest level with an incredible level of detail in both modern and traditional methods. All of the staff and students you will work with will be taught to the same level as you, they just learn in a different environment that’s all; they do get taught some areas that other countries don’t even think about though such as massage. Each student is required to be proficient in massage in order to provide the very best care possible for each and every patient; something which I think is amazing and should really be included in other countries.

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Sometimes volunteers work in the most rural of locations with equipment that is not the most up to date but they always make the best of what they have to work with

This experience is a way for you to gain experience and expertise that you can’t get in a classroom, working in the field in another country really does test you and everything you know, don’t be scared to learn from our Thai staff and the way in which they do things as well. They are so incredibly experienced and have so many tricks in order to make healthcare in Thailand extremely efficient and effective; take every new situation as a chance to learn something new and you will go back home positively brimming with amazing experiences that you will want to incorporate into your own practices.

Mary Gross told me to let all of you reading this know, that no matter how much you put into Thailand and the project, that you will get more back than you could ever imagine. The staff both at Starfish and the hospitals and clinics we work at love having volunteers who are open and passionate about wanting to learn and experience a different way to work and live; be that and you will have the greatest experience of your life.

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Also don’t be too shocked if a patients BP is particularly high if you are the first white person they have ever seen, been close to had touching them!!!

If you haven’t already signed up to the Starfish Volunteers Medical project and want to know more information then take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook pages. Also have a look at the Starfish Tumblr to see photos from across every project that we do.

Make sure you also look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram, I am constantly updating with stories of what we get up to everyday including blog updates, photos and my own silly adventures as well!!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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Wendy and the Doctors Bag

We always get questions from incoming and prospective Medical Volunteers about what exactly they will need to bring with them when they come to volunteer with us, the answer to this question is very much the same as it is for Childcare and Teaching.

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Whitney sporting a very fetching tye dye scrub top that is exactly the right thing to wear whilst working on the Medical Project; you don’t HAVE to wear tye dye if you don’t want but it certainly brightens up everyone’s day 🙂

The best thing you can wear whilst being on project is a normal pair of scrubs, any colour is fine just as long as they aren’t too open necked and they cover both your knees and you shoulders. We always need to make sure that we dress appropriately when we are on project so if you don’t have any scrubs then just a t-shirt of the same description and trousers of some kind are perfectly fine. When it comes to your footwear I would make sure that you have something that covers your feet, crocs are probably the very best thing you can have or something similar and along the same lines.

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The lovely Will doing health checks on some monks; as long as you have your knees and your shoulders covered you are totally fine and don’t HAVE to wear scrubs

Crocs might not be the coolest thing in the world but they are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and they can also cope really well with all of the different terrains that you will traverse whilst being on projects. You won’t be climbing mountains but you will be anywhere from rural villages with mud and stone roads to the clean slick floor of a hospital or clinic so do make sure you have clothes and footwear that can work across the board.

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This was the trail that some volunteers had to walk in order to get to a rural clinic they were working at, so those Gucci shoes might not be the right thing to be wearing

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Lee-Anna and Lou doing some blood test on the kids and staff from a local school; certainly brought in a pretty big crowd!

In terms of required elements for your project that is pretty much it, you are always welcome to bring anything you might feel would be a useful donation with you, clinics and hospitals are always in need of new supplies of everything from needles to gauze so anything you might be able to get hold of or fundraise for will be so unbelievably appreciated.

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Volunteers also help out with education and care of whole communities as well as the individual patients. Here the volunteers are helping to build a garden that will grown medicinal herbs and plants that locals can use to heal minor health issues.

Another thing that you should bring with you along to all of our projects, not just medical, is an open mind. This is Thailand, it isn’t the States, England or Australia. Thailand is far from being a third world country but it isn’t as developed as Western countries so some practices or standards may be completely different in every way to what you are used to but I promise you that they are all safe and regulated. All basic techniques are the same, so stitching, suturing and dressing wounds for example but sometimes local people will try several herbal or holistic methods before they trouble a clinic for help; this can often mean that wounds or conditions are in a worse condition than you might usually be used to so do make sure you prepare yourself for some pretty interesting conditions and wounds.

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Also expect to have kids pull the ‘I hate you face’ when you do their vaccines 🙂

So as long as you hide your bendy bits and come to volunteer without any preconceptions about what the medical care and coverage is like here then you will do just fine 😀 You will have an amazing time and gain some priceless experience that very few people ever get to receive, not only that but you will make such a difference to the lives of each and every patient that you work with, no matter if that is stitching up a wound or doing an hours worth of pyhsio, the work that you do has a lasting effect that will educate the patients about how not to get into situations where they get into trouble in the first place. Education is so important but extremely lacking here so you are an integral part of improving the knowledge of local rural people and how to better care and look after themselves but also their friends and family.

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This looks wonderfully medical – you can tell I am more used to treating animals as opposed to people huh??

To see what else you might be doing on the Medical project take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook as well as the Starfish Tumblr page for looks at project across Thailand.

As always make sure you look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, they are always being updated with everything that I am doing and fun pictures and anecdotes from my own adventures in Thailand as well 🙂

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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Wendy and the Nam

Now that you have met the rest of the team there is only one more person that you have left to meet. That person is our manager, the medical coordinator and all around go to for volunteers and her name is Nam.

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Nam with our baby elephant Katin, when she was only a week old

You may have seen Nam in a couple of older posts about Medical or our company meeting down to Cha Am but this will be her proper introduction to you all. No matter what project you are working on, whether it be teaching, elephants, childcare or medical, you will meet Nam, along with the rest of the team, on arrival in Surin. She also makes regular visits to the volunteer houses to check on everyone and field any questions or issues that you may have.

Born and raised in Surin, Nam is definitely a local and knows some of the best restaurants and haunts that you may otherwise not get to visit or experience. Nams local knowledge and connections have helped Starfish continuously over the two years she has worked with us to create a seamless relationship with projects and volunteers; many of our project locations and contacts are made through Nams connections locally.

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Teaching………..

After being an English Major at the local Surindra Rajabhat University here in Surin, Nam went on to work with other companies where her English skills were an integral part of her job, this means that Nam has some of the most developed English skills that I have seen in anyone who doesn’t have a parent or step parent who is a native English speaker. Because of this Nam is always the one to deal with any issues that volunteers have because she can fully understand everything you say and she is very sympathetic to any feelings that volunteers may have, whether it be being home sick, struggling with their project or even personal issues.

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Nam and some physio volunteers meeting Auf, the tallest man in Thailand

Nam is our regular medical coordinator but she is currently working in the office taking care of the rapidly increasing numbers of volunteers and all of the behind the scenes work that comes with it all, and when I say behind the scenes work I mean hours and hours of organising and orientating where everyone is and what everyone is doing, this requires so much organisation and some rather late nights for Nam in the office. It all pays off though when everything runs as smoothly as it does, even if a problem ever does occur it is fixed so quickly you would never even think it had happened, all because of the work that Nam does.

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Whitney and Nam on the way to a home visit on the Medical Project

Not only does Nam do work in the office but she can also be seen on each project checking up on everything and making sure everything is running smoothly. Nam recently attended the huge English Camp that we put on in our previous teaching location as well as coming to check in on the newest location and how the volunteers were holding up teaching there; always giving up her own time to check in on volunteers and make sure that they and their projects are up and running smoothly.

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Nam and some medical volunteers having a great night out in Samed

A great example of Nam sacrificing her own time to ensure that volunteers are happy is the amount of weekends she has spent taking volunteers down to Koh Samed and showing them around the beautiful island and everything that it has to offer, from its beautiful beaches to its incredible night life; Nam is full of knowledge about several of the different island around Thailand so if you ever have any questions about which islands to hit, then Nam is your girl.

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Nam and her Niece

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Nams two Chihuahuas

When Nam isn’t working in the office, on project or tirelessly taking volunteers to the beautiful Thai islands she can be found hanging out with her friends at a clothes store in town, with her two very adorable dogs or with her niece and her family. As with all Thais, Nam is centered hugely around her friends and family and you can see this in the time that she dedicates to making everyone as happy as possible. But if you still can’t find Nam after looking in clothes shops, her house or with her family then the last place you need to check will be Nams favourite haunt and that would be the locally famous Jahbar!

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Jahbar 😀

But no matter where you are, Nam is only ever a phone call away from being your fairy godmother or your knight in shining armor depending on what kind of pickle you have managed to get yourself into!

To see what Nam is up to then take a second to check out her Instagram ‘salitanam’ or even check out her Twitter which she regularly updates with pictures of what she is up to day to day. To take a look at the projects Nam is in charge of then shimmy on over to the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook and  Starfish Tumblr pages.

Also make sure you check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages which are always fun places to hang out with me 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

Instagram

 

A Very Healthy Wendy

So this is the final week of looking at the different projects that we here at Starfish Volunteers do. These last few posts will be about one of our most intense projects, and that project is Medical and includes project work for every side of healthcare from physio to nursing and ER to home visits.

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Getting ready to help deliver a new born!

In order to work on our medical project volunteers must have completed at least their first year of their relative degree, the reason that we require volunteers to be first year qualified is that on our project, volunteers do undertake practical work which is important to both the health of the patient and the reputation of the hospitals we work with. If volunteers have no knowledge of medical procedures then they would end up being more of a liability as opposed to the amazing benefit that they currently are.

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Volunteers really do get stuck in so they must be first year qualified in order to do this

Healthcare is so paramount in Thailand as many people either don’t have the money or the transport to be able to get to the healthcare that they need, another huge issue that faces many Thai people that we work with is their education. The majority of the people that work with us are unaware of why their back hurts or what exactly the bump in their arm is and why it could be life threatening to them, Thai people are notorious for just getting on with life and doing what they have to in order to make their lives livable; this often means that people will just leave their health until the very last and critical moment.

This is often too late for many people, meaning that they live with excruciating conditions that leave them unable to do anything, not only is this incredibly saddening to see but it also makes the patient increasingly more depressed and feel as though they are a burden on their families.

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Rachael doing some stitching on a patient who should have attended a clinic much sooner than he did

The way that we here at Starfish are helping these local people is by working along side local health clinics that have been set up by the government. These clinics require volunteers to do health checks, immunisations, sexual health clinics as well as lots of different locally required clinics such as diabetes, hypertension and blood test clinics.

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Whitney health checking a baby who is only a few days old! So adorable!

Day to day, volunteers will also work in local clinic buildings which will be visited by villagers who often have work related issues as well as common and sometimes not so common diseases and conditions.

As well as the clinics the volunteers are also very lucky to be able to have the opportunity to work within the local community itself by visiting the homes of patients and some very sick people who are unable to or have decided that they don’t want to attend hospital.

The work that volunteers get involved with is very typical work for medical staff which means that our volunteers get a true feel for healthcare in Thailand and gain experience that many people in the industry do not get to have. Every volunteer we have had on our medical project speaks very highly of the work that they have done and the incredible experience they have gotten.

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Whitney giving new supplies of medication to clinics whilst also ensuring their current supplies are in date and up to the standards they should be

Volunteers do need to keep in mind that they are in a second world country that is not as developed as the West and works to a different set of ethics and rules that may at times be confusing or completely different to what they are used to. We do have a member of staff on hand at all time to help you adjust to the new way of life and the way of working within the healthcare industry in Thailand.

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The Lane Community College Nursing students on a home visit with a woman who felt the need to bless each and every one of them as a thanks for the incredible donations they gave as well as the free healthcare they provided.

As long as you are open minded and ready to experience the most incredible learning curve then you will have a wonderful and life changing experience with us that you won’t ever forget.

To see what volunteers experience from their own voice take a look at the National Student Nurses Association President, Jesse Kennedy’s blog that he wrote whilst him and his class came to volunteer with us.

Global Nursing In Action

To take a look at the Starfish Website to find out more information about our Medical project as well as the other that we do. Have a ganders at the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page or the Starfish Tumblr to see some photos of what we are up to everyday.

Definitely make sure you check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages which are constantly being updated with everything that we are doing and lots of my own personal adventures as well!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Sandwich Making Wendy

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to help with the volunteers in the Special Education School just outside of Surin. I had managed to coax my last remaining Elephant volunteer into coming along on the project as well, which is actually under our Medical Project banner-head due to the conditions of the children that attend the school; that being said, there was in fact one medical, one teaching and one elephant volunteer that joined us on that very hot day.

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Anna and Henry 😀

Having never been at this school before and not knowing a huge amount about the way in which special needs were catered for outside of Bangkok, I was incredibly curious to what the school, its grounds and the teaching and care that went on within were like. I would say, somewhat to my own surprise, that the special education school is actually the best fitted school that I have seen in my entirety of staying in Thailand. The buildings are beautiful and very well maintained and the teachers there are beyond compassionate and have such a high levels of dedication, professionalism as well as love towards every child that is there.

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Cas looking pretty stocked for the Special Education School

Luckily for us, we were actually helping with a meet up that had around 50 children with special needs attending as opposed to the usual 15 or so that attend the school full time. It was wonderful to see so many children that might normally be ignored or pushed aside because of their needs, actually being shown that they were appreciated and being shown an amazing day that I know they will remember for a very long time.

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Cas showing his name on his Team Green name name card 😀

When we first arrived we had to sign into the school register and also write our names on a piece of card that was to be strung around our necks for the rest of the day; little did any of us know they would also play a much larger role as well. Next we all took seats as the teachers and head teacher said some words of thanks and explained about the days activities. without giving to much away of course 🙂

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Teachers and staff explaining about the day 🙂

We then had to line all of the children and staff up on the grass in around 6 lines where we all had to sing and dance to the first few letters of the alphabet; and for anyone that havn’t heard the Thai alphabet before, it is a little different from the Western one. They don’t just sing ABCD they actually sing the letter and then a word which has that letter at the beginning, not only does this create a very strong word association it also teaches Thai children when to use certain letters. For example the first three letters all sound very similar to the sound ‘kuh’, a little like a lower case C; now seeing as there are three sounds there are also three letters and one of them is not used in general writing but it is still required to know for formal writing so, of course, everyone has to learn it.

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Aow striking his trademark smile!

It would seem like non of my volunteers knew about the alphabet either so were rather confused as to what was going on and why they were being asked to sing and dance! After I explained and we had all learnt the words and motions we coaxed the volunteers to stand up at the front and to show of their new moves to everyone. Of course whenever any music is sung I always end up doing the Gangnam dance which later lead the sound guy to play Gangnam which all of us, including the children joined in with; if you would like to see me making a fool of myself whilst dancing to Gangnam then check out my Twitter @WendyAVReece and you shall see that piece of magic 😀

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Yeah you show them how to do it!!

After our dance session, we all held hands and played a very brief game that I still do not quite understand the rules of! Next we were told to go to the flag that matched the colour on the piece of card that our name was written on; very cleverly Oam and Aow had both matched their colours to a volunteer so that they would have a translator present for them, they didn’t tell me this so I had scribbled my name down onto a pink piece of card, when none of the volunteers had done the same 🙂

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Cas representing Team Gangnam

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Two lovely boys in Team Pink

So I was sat with the pink people whilst we all wrote our names on our new notebooks that we would be using to write down the names of 6 vegetables, animals and fruits that we would find on our nature walk. I was quite happily sitting down playing with two lovely boys in my pink team when I glanced over at Cas, my last elephant volunteer, and realised that he was having a bit of an issue understanding what was going on so I bounded on over to help him. After getting him to write his name, age and class down we were then taken to the first stop on the nature walk. This was actually to the garden that the children plant and learn in everyday, Cas was asked to explain in English the colour and name of the plant he was given and then he had to plant it in the ground and water it. Cas is Dutch and didn’t know the name of the plant in English and neither did I sadly, we were saved from huge embarrassment however by a wonderful girl nicknamed Deng (Red) who yelled out ‘KEO’ as the name of the plant. Keo is actually the Thai word for the colour green and was the source of roars of laughter from the other children in our group.

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Cas teaching the children about plants

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Cas planting his new plant into the vegetable garden at the Special Education Center

Next we received our bags of snacks, milk and water to take on our nature walk. Me and Cas had to explain to the children what the pictures of plants, animals and fruits were in English and how to write them down as well. This was again a source of great amusement as me and Cas have very different accents so the some children were speaking with a Dutch/American accent when the others were speaking with my, very RP, British accent. The children in the special education school are just like every other child in Thailand, all they want to do is learn and their disabilities might aid them at times with learning, speech or movement but it in no way changes their desire to know about everything and anything.

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The kids definitely out run us on the nature ‘walk’

One thing they do try to teach in this school is how to eventually make these children have a level of independence that they otherwise might not get, Thailand is very supportive of special needs but at times parents often mollycoddle their children and don’t allow them to do things that children of the same age could do, for fear of either failure or inability to do so. So after our lengthy, and very hot nature walk, where you will be happy to know every child in mine and Cas’ group got every plant, animal and fruit, we went back to one of the main school buildings for a rather interesting practical lesson.

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Look at all of those ingredients

Now everyone remembers food tech classes at school right? You know the ones where you would make bread, or pizza and that one kid would always burn their food whilst another forgot all of his ingredients? Well we were actually in place to teach three different classes about how to prepare (and eat :3) sandwiches – hence the title of this blog!

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Anna dishing out the vital pieces of bread 🙂

Now this was certainly one of the funnest lessons I have taught, even if our teaching volunteer Henry did make it that I was on toasty duty! We showed the children how to butter, with salad cream, add your salad and meat and then how to toast your sandwich. I have never seen so many children so enamored with the different concoctions and ways in which you can make a simple sandwich; one of the teachers at the school made a rather strange burrito style sandwich that lead to all of his salad cream seeping out of the one open end and melting all over the toasty maker!

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Burrito Sarnies 😀

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Cas expertly showing the kids how to butter the bread; with salad creme

The children in every class loved their lesson and especially loved eating what they had made as well, even letting us sample some of their creations whilst also having teachers make us our own individual sandwiches along side the ones we had already made ourselves. I think I ate about 4 on my own and this was just after lunch as well so needless to say I was around 80% carbs after all the rice and bread 😀

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One of our sandwich classes 😀

It was all worth it though just to see these children have a wonderful day at school, meeting and making new friends and developing skills that were very new to them whilst also showing the parents that were in attendance that their children are able to undertake tasks that children of their own age can do as well.

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A little girl nibbling at her sandwich before it reached the toastie maker

After sandwich practice we all gathered to take near a thousand pictures for the school and teachers and then we made our goodbyes to the children that had made our very hot day a very happy and fulfilling one, both with their smiles and their sandwiches 😀

To be able to work with these wonderful children you don’t have to medically trained in anyway you just need to want to teach and have fun, whilst bearing in mind that some children can’t do certain things. So if this sounds like you, or you want to take a look at any of our other wonderful work with the Thai community in and around Surin then you need go no further than the Starfish WebsiteStarfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page or the Starfish Tumblr page as well.

Alternatively you can also look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see what I am getting up to everyday.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Medicinal Wendy

Lane Community College

 The wonderful nurses of Lane Community College of Eugene, Oregon

I am not one to often get ill or need to go to the doctors or the hospital so I really don’t ever spend any of my time with medical professionals but this all changed on Friday when I was lucky enough to be able to shadow the Lane Community College Nursing Students who came to Surin all the way from Eugene in Oregon to undertake their Starfish Medical Project under the watchful eye of our very own beautiful manager, and my Thai sister, Nam.

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Shes such a cutie!!

Not knowing what to expect and having had only 2 hours sleep after a rather impromtu staff night out I wandered over to the 7/11 to wait for Nam and the mini bus that would take us to the Prasat hospital which is around a 40 minute drive outside of Surin. We turned up at the hospital and then met up with one of the female doctors who wanted to say thank you so much to the Lane Community College for all of their help over the last week and to wish them all the best in their future.

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The medical team at Prasat Hospital

The Lane Community College Nurses both in Surin and back at home in Oregon all clubed together in order to collect money and supplies to donate to the hospital. This included lots of new clean needles, gloves and other medical goodies that I know will be super useful at the hospital if their reaction was anything to go off.

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 Pretty dusty!!!

So after all of the pictures were taken we then drove out to a rather remote village where the students would be undertaking health screenings for villagers that had no way of getting to a hospital. Prasat Hospital has a huge emphasis on community health, something that Lane Community College shares a passion for, and they send out a team of nurses to surrounding villages every day in order to keep an eye on the community and to check on how patients are doing when they have left the hospital to go back home.

The students were split into four different teams that were accompanied by a nurse or two and they were then dropped off in different locations around the very spread out village in order to see as many patients as possible.

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 Mary taking a patients blood pressure

Once in their locations each group undertook health screenings of the hoards of people who had come down to get checked, this included checking blood pressure, blood sugar levels and taking weights and measures. This is very important for Prasat Hospital so that they can keep an up to date ledger of villagers and how their health may be improving or deteriorating and isn’t something that is just ‘put on for the white folk’ like some of the other medical volunteering projects I have heard of around Thailand.

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 Jolene taking a blood sugar reading

I was amazed by just how proffessional the nursing students were, and I know it sounds really stupid, but part of me thought that seeing as they were students they may not have the actual knowledge about all of the different conditions and drugs and what not as most of the students I know in England aren’t even sure what their course entails. But these guys were so incredibly proffesional and they worked so efficiently and so well with each other, they were even using Thai wherever possible and were very respectful to every single patient, making them feel important and cared for.

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Sarah and Emily listening to a patient talk about the pain he is feeling

I know from the times I have been in A&E and the doctors that sometimes nurses aren’t the most gentle of people as they have to see so many people in one day but the Lane Community College nurses were so kind and caring and were always checking that the patients were ok and what really impressed me was that they were giving incredibly detailed advice on some techniques that might help some of the patients.

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Debbie making a patient smile whilst pricking his finger; must have a magic touch there I think!

For example one man had an incredibly sore chest and was short of breath after falling down some steps and the two nurses that were dealing with him were telling him that he needed to do specific breathing exercises and muscle relaxing techniques and it would relieve the tension that he was feeling.

So after seeing what seemed like every person in the village we all jumped back into the minibus and drove to a local town in order to pick up some bits and pieces that the nurses were going to give to the afternoon cases that we would be visiting. The things they picked up were such insignificant things to you and me but luxuries to the people we were going to see, the things included, shampoo, soap, blankets, milk and rice. Now this might not seem like very much to you but the four cases we visited were people who were very poor and were too ill or old to work so this was a big deal to them.

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Jesse and Debbie doing the health check on the 102 year old woman

The first case that we went to was of a woman who was 102 years old!! You wouldn’t think to look at her though that she was, now I don’t know anyone who is 102 but I always pictured them more crumbly looking than this lovely lady. She was so overjoyed to see all of the people coming to see her and sat very patiently as Jesse and Debbie undertook her health check. After her check, which came up very good indeed, she took both Jesse and Debbie’s hand in hers and wished them good health, lots of wealth and strength to live a long and beautiful life, after this the team presented her with her gifts and she began to cry. It was so moving to see someone so happy with the actions of another person, the fact that they had thought about her enough to buy her gifts was more than she could ever have asked for. She then told Nam that she had nothing to give them in return to show her gratitude but I knew whilst I was looking at her staring into Jesse’s eyes and holding his hand that she had given him more than he could ever ask for just from seeing her so happy. You never see gratitude like that in the Western world and you could see on the face of every one of the nurses that this was why they loved what they do.

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Jesse and Debbie getting blessed

She also told us that the secret to long life was to not drink whiskey, to eat lots of vegetables, fruit and fish and to never stop smiling. She has more wisdom in that one sentence than I think most of the people who run our countries ever speak of.

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Jolene and Emily undertaking a health check

Our second visit was to another woman who was living on her own who had hundreds of silk worms that she used to make her own clothes from. I can knit myself a pretty awesome scarf, but this lady??? She had woven silk trousers that were multicoloured, I think it is safe to say that she had much better skills than me!! She was suffering from very sore and tight legs which meant she was not able to bend without excruciating pain, this was made worse by the fact that she had no help from family as they were all working in Bangkok and only occasionally came to see her. Jolene and Emily made sure that she was well looked after though and the only issue that occurred was very high blood pressure as she was so overwhelmed and excited by how many people were visiting her!! Nam then spoke to her about some exercsises she could do that would decrease the pain in her knee and hamstrings and would mean that she would be able to move around comfortably again.

Jesse really made me smile, and Nam blush, when he called her a Super Nurse becuase of all of the amazing work and time she puts into the medical project.

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 The next patient we saw was a 95 year old Cambodian man that, despite his age, could tell you every single thing about when he was fighting in the Vietnamese war when he was younger. He had hundreds of silk worms in his house and his family were kind enough to show them to us and even cooked up a couple of them for the nurses to try; naturally I was found cuddling some kittens that I found. If you ever can’t find me just follow the dogs and cats and I will be with them 😀

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Who needs pots on shelves when you can have cats there instead?

So after their snacks the nurses set to work on their health checks and despite being 95, the only medical problem that the man had was moderate hypertension. If you compare that to the nurses who were treating him they could learn a thing or two! I have never seen any people pop pills as much as these guys, they kept joking that they were a walking pharmacy and they weren’t wrong there!!

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The team getting blessed

When Nam told the 95 year old man that the nurses were all the way from America he took hold of Jesse’s hand and smiled, Jesse then thanked him, wished him luck and good health. The old man then started to cry, took hold of both of Jesse’s hands and then blessed every single one of the nurses with good health, long life and the strength and determination to conquer any obstacles that they may face in life. He told Nam that he wanted to make them some Holy Water to keep them safe but we didn’t have enough time in the day to go back to his village so he said he would make some for when they come again next year.

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Auf and Nam

After that we travelled to see the tallest man in Thailand who was recently released from hospital. Auf measures 8” 7’ tall and came to the attention to Prasat hospital about three years ago after he had a fall that made it impossible for him to stretch his legs out or to even sit up unassisted. When I first arrived in Surin I spent some time with a volunteer called Ben who worked with Auf as a physio and he asked me to send him pictures of how Auf was doing and when I sent him a picture of Auf being able to stretch his legs out, sit up and being able to nearly stand, I got such an amazing response as 1 month ago Auf couldn’t do any of that and it was thanks to Ben and the other physio volunteers that he is on his way to walking again.

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Aufs story makes me so sad though.

He tried to commit suicide twice in the last three years as he felt so awful that he was such a strain on his family as he couldn’t do anything to help them, and when the harvest came and he couldn’t help it broke his heart and he was in tears. He has such a beautiful soul and it made me so sad to think that this amazing person might not have been in the world if he had known that due to his size he would have to take two to three times as many pills to commit suicide.

But, thankfully, after meeting the Starfish volunteers that have been coming to see him he has gained so much confidence and encouragement to stay alive and to get better so that he can help his family again.

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He is doing so well!!!!

Now one of the saddest things about Auf is that because he is so tall he and his family can’t find clothes in Thailand that he can wear. He now only owns 5 tshirts and 2 pairs of shorts; that’s it. It makes me sad knowing that in the Western world we have whole industries and sectors of the retail world that dedicate themselves entirely to tall people and their clothing needs, not only that but the clothes are inexpensive as well, whereas here in Thailand he has to find clothes that fit or have specially made ones. Now that is far too expensive for his family so all of the Lane Community Nurses have decided that they are going to have a clothing drive in order to get Auf some new clothes.

What I would love to do as well is to get everyone who reads this blog to help as well.

Clothes are so inexpensive in the Western world and a donation of one T-shirt or a pair of trousers in a size big enough to fit him would be the most amazing and selfless thing you could do this year. Make it your New Years resolution to find Auf one thing to wear and send it to the Starfish Surin Office and we can collect everything together and present him with it all. I know I have already asked everyone I know back in England to help out and now I am asking you to as well, this is the season of giving after all and this is such a worthwhile cause and will genuinely change Aufs life and give him one more reason to stay alive and not try to take his own life again as he will know he has the support of people all over the world.

So if you would like to donate something to Auf, and I truely hope you do, then just leave me a message on here, my instagram or even my Facebook just letting me know and I will give you all of the details you will need to send over everything you have donated.

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 The team and Auf

If you are a medical student or physio and you want to help people like Auf then take a look at the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, the Starfish Website or even the Starfish Tumblr page. Alternatively you can also check out the Instagram page which is #starfishvolunteers or even my person Instagram which you can see by clicking the blue Instagram icon below 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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