What Would You Buy A Wendy

After looking at the essentials and getting lots of people asking about what else would make your journey more comfortable I thought I would look into what I always tell myself I will get and always forget to, these ideas are great for when family and friends ask you what you want as a gift to take travelling with you.

I know that before every trip I take, both my mum and my dad ask me about what I think I might need for my trip, in all honesty I never really give it a thought because I have traveled so much with all the things that I usually take that I never give thought to new things in the market that might be really useful for travel.

Having had a look around the Internet and on some of my favourite travel blogs I have noticed that there is a definite trend for what people now use as their staple travel items. So when your parents or friends are fussing and asking what they can give you to make your trip easier then just hand them this list of useful items and let them pick out whichever thing they think will be best, just make sure to remove anything from the list that someone buys you or you might be stuck with several of one item ūüôā

Now the things on this list vary from relatively inexpensive to the more pricey side of life, this is mostly down to ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Some people are very lucky to have more money in life than others so this list is made to accommodate everyone, no matter what their monetary income.

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Portable Harddrive

As I have mentioned before, a portable harddrive is one of the number one things that everyone should have when they travel. Harddrives vary in size from as small as 1GB up to a 1TB, chances are you won’t be needing a one terabyte harddrive, but 16GB to 32GB is a perfect size. It will allow you to free up so much space on camera memory cards by transferring pictures over to a hard drive, not only that but you can fill a harddrive with movies as well which can be great to watch when you are stuck in an airport or on a bus or car for a long journey. You can get harddrives from anywhere on the Internet and they vary wildly in prices but you can expect to pay around 40GBP for a 16GB portable hard drive

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Swiss Army Knife

My Dad gave me a Swiss Army Knife when I first traveled to Thailand, I must admit that when he first gave it to me I did give a look that I often do with my Dad. My Dad is a cross between Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis and Grant Mitchell, he is very protective of me and is constantly concerned that, much like Liam Neeson, he will need to come and rescue me at some point in life. Over the years my Dad has been the person who has wanted to put a tracker in my phone, have direct numbers to ‘friends’ at the Embassy and to break the legs of every boy that’s ever made me cry, so needless to say when I told him that I was going to Thailand he insisted that I have a Swiss Army Knife, to use not only for the useful tools it possesses but also as a weapon if I ever get into a situation. Now I haven’t had to use it as a weapon but I can’t count the amount of times that my Swiss Army Knife has come in useful as a screwdriver, bottle opener and pair of scissors.

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Back up ATM or Bank Account

Credit cards and debit cards are totally fine to bring out to Thailand with you when you volunteer, the one thing I would suggest that people organise is a secondary back up account that has emergency money in. The details and card for this account should always be kept separate from your normal account, if anything happens to your regular card and account then you have a back up there to help you. This isn’t really something somebody can buy for you but many people are concerned about volunteers when they leave for Thailand, having an account which they have put money into for an emergency can ease people’s concerns about your safety and also provides you with some help if you need it.

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Travel Towel

This might sound really silly to some people but everyone should bring with them a Travel Towel, a normal towel is perfectly ample, but if you get a specific travel towel they are normally very compact, light weight, made of quick dry material and nearly always have their own pack away bag. I have one of these and it is great to just clip onto whichever bag I am taking with me for the weekend, the week or however long you are travelling for; especially as not every hotel or hostel will have their own towels. These kinds of towels are also great to use as blankets on flights or buses and as pillows as well, the amount of times that I have been sat on a bus absolutely freezing is just too high, but thankfully I have had a travel towel on hand to keep me snug, warm and comfortable.

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Adapter Plug

You HAVE to have an adapter plug for when you travel to a new country, it is just something that comes with travelling, not everywhere has the same plug and voltage so having the right plug is important. The best one you can buy is one of the universal plugs that you can make every other plug from, but if you can’t get one of these or just don’t think you need one that makes every plug then you should pick up a US adapter. Thailand uses the two prong plugs so US plugs work just fine here, they cope well will the voltage difference as well, I have two that I use every day and they haven’t failed me yet.

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Power Box

There are never enough sockets in any room that I have ever stayed in, in any country in the world, so having a power box that allows you to increase the amount of outlets you have is a god send and will save you time with charging everything up at once as opposed to one at a time. I personally always carry with me an iPhone, iPad, 3DS and my Thai phone so I need at least 4 plugs in my room, something which never happens. I normally have to unplug a fridge or TV in rooms I stay in to individually charge items which is not only a pain but is time consuming; having a power box eliminates the need to wait for one thing to charge at a time.

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Amazon Kindle

I personally don’t own one of these, yet. I keep looking at them when I have a snoop about on Amazon for things I need, and I keep wanting to buy one. They are so small, lightweight, robust and have access to thousands of books through Amazon. They work in the daylight as well with some strange magic technology that, in all honesty, sort of freaks me out, I always think the screen looks like it is just one of those paper ones that phone shops put on phones back in the day when you didn’t have real phones to test. At the minute I use my iPad as my e-book reader, it is great and has all the books I want but my iPad gets heavy and chunky when I read from it for a long time, so I think if you are just wanting an e-reader for your trip and you don’t already own a tablet then a Kindle will be your best friend. Here is the link to the current Amazon Kindle section.

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Books

Some people just prefer to have a physical book in their hands as opposed to an e-book reader or tablet, I can completely sympathize with everyone who thinks like that. I really miss having an actual book in my hands, the smell of the pages and the glue and the actual feel of turning the pages and being able to see how far you have read through a huge tome of a book.

Books are hugely space consuming however and also weigh your bag down more than you will realise, but if you insist on having books then just be prepared to deal with the weight of them. I always have to have a physical copy of Lonely Planet guides, I find they are perfect to travel with and read through when you have a spare hour or so and I can also highlight and mark the places and things I want to see.

Don’t think you have to have just travel guides with you though, bring any book you fancy and when you have finished it you can swap it with the books that we have in the volunteer houses. I personally have recently finished reading all of the Game of Thrones books, which I can tell you are much better than the show gives credit too. They are however very large books in part so I read mine on my iPad.

Here is a link to the Lonely Planet Travel Guide section of their website so that you can have a look and pick out the guide you think will suit you best.

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Journal

I think that everyone should journal every day when they travel. I know it seems tedious to do it everyday but I promise you that when you get back to your home country you will wish that you had done it. If you make note of every hilarious quote and situation you won’t ever forget them and when you look back to your journal years later if will bring back all of the memories as if they were yesterday. For me, I love to have leather bound journals with recycled paper pages, I think they feel and look beautiful and filling them up feels amazing. Knowing that in a few years I can look back at my journals and remember everything makes me very happy.

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Cards

Playing Cards are an invaluable item to take whilst volunteering or traveling, no matter what language you speak or the people around you speak, everyone understands the universal language playing cards. They provide hours of entertainment without the need to have electricity or batteries, something which can be incredibly useful when you are in the Elephant Village on our Elephant project or you are on the journey to and from any other project. Cards can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, just as long as it is a standard 52 card deck of cards, Bobs your uncle.

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Waterproof Money Belt

Now I always have a little giggle to myself whenever I see volunteers with these money belt things, they always come across as really uncool and completely unnecessary to me. Thailand is not a place that has crime enough for you to need an underclothes money belt; I have lived here for 9 months, I can assure you that having a wallet is just fine.
I will say however that the money belts, especially the waterproof ones are perfect for keeping all your valuables in like your passport, money and booking confirmation papers in. You don’t need to wear them with you everywhere you go as the volunteers houses are secure and safe and you won’t get your passport, money or other possessions stolen.

I wish that I had had one of these at Songkran in April as I must admit that my phone and money did get absolutely soaked and having a waterproof money belt would have been a god send.

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Travel Pillow

Much like with a travel towel, a travel pillow might seem like a silly idea to some people but I can assure you that these amazing, squishy, comfy pieces of cloud can make a stressful, long and normally uncomfortable journey into one where you can sleep your way through it. They might look silly, but I assure you that they will make you so comfortable that you won’t care if you look silly or not. They are inexpensive and easy to find so there is no excuse to not have one ūüôā

Now that you know all the smaller things that you can bring with you to enjoy your time with us here at Starfish Volunteers, you can go to the¬†Starfish Website¬†and the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page to find which volunteer program will be your once in a life time memory.

Then as always check out my own¬†Twitter,¬†Tumblr¬†and¬†Instagram¬†pages to see what else I am up to on a day to day basis ūüėÄ

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

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Wendy and Nikki

Last week you may have noticed that I left out the post about who exactly will be your coordinator over your time on the Starfish Volunteer Teaching Project, the reason for this is that we are currently training up a new member of staff to replace our old staff member Arm.

Our new member of staff is the very lovely, and particularly handsome Nikki.

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Looking productive at Teaching there Nikki!

Nikki studied Education Technology at one of the local Universities, Phranakhon Rajabat University, and did very well indeed! He is super hard working and dedicated to everything he does, especially what he loves.

Nikki is well known in Surin for being the front man of the Regge Band that plays at Surins Regge Bar ‘Jar Bar’, hes great at pumping up the crowd and making everyone have an amazing time. Goodness knows he manages to work all day on the Teaching Project and then all night being Thailands very own Bob Marley; major props to him!

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Playing the front man for Jarbars House Band ūüėÄ

Our newest Starfish has great English skills, he is still very new to speaking English for several hours a day so just be patient with him and try not to over complicate your language to much with him. He is by no means a novice English speaker but I know from speaking a different language for several hours a day that people forget how quickly they talk; I am terrible for this. I speak very quickly which, for people who aren’t used to it have trouble understanding it and it is the same with Nikki, just talk a little slower and then everyone will be happy and understanding each other.

So play nice with our newest Starfish, we think he is pretty amazing and I know that you will as well, he has the most welcoming smile, an incredible nature and temperament and he also has beautiful hair as well; the most important thing I think haha

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To see what Nikki is up to with our incredible teaching project then take a look at the¬†Starfish Website, if you want to see what other projects we do then take a look at the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page or the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page, these are filled with photos and tales of all the projects we do.

Also make sure that you check out my own Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram pages to see more of what I am up to everyday; its all pretty awesome , even if I do say so myself!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

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A Wendy In The Know

Hey, hey people of the world! So today is my ‘hints and tips’ blog for the Starfish Volunteers Teaching project – lets get started then shall we?

The first tip that I can give you is a small one that you probably wouldn’t even think would need to be thought about if I didn’t mention it, and that is your shoes. When you get to your classroom at school you should always make sure that you take your shoes off, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t, but I would advise you to just remember to do it. The kids all take theirs off so maybe seeing their holey socks will kickstart your brain to remember to take yours off as well ūüėÄ

The kids socks are really holey though, no heels or toes on most of them; it would be much easier to just not even wear socks haha

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Sasha working very hard to teach the kids about time, which is definitely not an easy subject to teach

I think the most important thing to remember is to be patient. I can’t talk enough of how much of a difference it makes to be patient with our students, English is not these kids first language so this is hard for them. Learning a new language is difficult enough anyway but for these kids they are going from a Sanskrit based symbolic language to a Germanic language that is letter based.

I can tell you from my personal experience with learning Thai, that that transition is hard, learning any language is hard but it is even harder to learn a new language that has completely different sounds to your native language. All native Asian language speakers have the same difficulties with learning English and that difficulty is pronunciation. The most obvious pronunciation difficulty is the letter ‘R’, Thai people especially have difficulty when initially learning the ‘R’ sound as they don’t have it in Thai. It is hard to teach this sound not only¬†because¬†it is entirely new but all Thai people don’t want to ‘loose face’, and by this I mean they don’t want to make a mistake or look silly and this sometimes holds people back from learning.

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Getting the kids up and doing something silly breaks their fear of looking silly in front of others

From teaching my own lessons I have learnt that the best way you can get the kids to relax is to be patient and to make your lessons fun, I always get the kids to make silly and stupid faces as well as making stupid noises, this helps everyone to relax and have fun. A friend that I am teaching is having difficulty with the ‘R’ so the way that I have been teaching him is to try to roar like a lion. Yes this sounds stupid but it really does work, you have to make an ‘R’ sound when you roar like a lion and it is just shorting the initial roar to the ‘R’ sound; and bobs your uncle.

Just be patient and fun, people always remember more not only when they are having fun but also when they are relaxed and being calm always makes you more relaxed. Just think about how you would have liked to have been taught when you were back at school. I hated having vocab drills in my German class, they did not help anyone and made the lessons feel like boot camp! They just made the class feel regimented and constricting, I think when learning a language you should learn without realising it; this happens through games, being competitive and letting your inhibitions go.

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Henry teaching one of his lessons outside with some of the boys, they look like they are just messing about but Henry is teaching them new vocab which they remember more because they are having fun

Teaching can be daunting for those who have not done it before but just remember that the kids are there to learn not to criticize or judge what you are doing. Once you get into the swing of learning you will be able to take it all in your stride and you get so engaged with the children and build up genuine bonds that make you even more passionate about what you are doing.

One thing I must stress though is that kids learn at different speeds. Some children already know a little English, this can be for a multitude of reasons whether it be that they have learnt through music, television, the internet or they just paid more attention. What this also means is that there are some kids that don’t know as much or even any at all and it is these children that need the most amount of help. When I was at school I picked up everything straight away, I was bright and intelligent and so got targeted by teachers as it is always easier to teach a child who understands as opposed to one that doesn’t. It is very easy to ignore the children that aren’t as good and concentrate on the ones that are, but this isn’t the right path to go down. Have a contingency plan for if your class has some very bright children, have extra work set up for them for when they finish the lesson but don’t just move the whole class along¬†because¬†they are finished. You need to concentrate on the children that need the most help, bringing those children up to the same level of the brighter ones is hard at times and can be frustrating for both you and the children involved but when they get there, and I promise with hard work from you, that they will, it is so satisfying and makes teaching, on a whole, much easier.¬†If everyone is the same level you can all move forward together as opposed to lots of people going off in all sorts of directions.

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Kids are great at boosting each others learning process, often the brighter children will come to the aid of the children that aren’t quite as quick to learn

English is your first language not theirs and even though you might not understand why one kid can’t say ‘three’ without it coming out like ‘tree’ just remember that there are going to be words that you can’t say in Thai that they can do with ease. It isn’t that they are stupid it is just that they are learning something completely new. Speaking is natural for humans which is why we can all do it, but a Westerner learning Thai or a Thai learning English is pretty much learning to speak again so be patient, be¬†encouraging¬†and have fun.

Being¬†encouraging¬†is very important when teaching a difficult subject such as language. I always find that volunteers feel as though there is no bridge between them and the students as they can’t communicate in any way. I think the best way to combat this is for you, the teacher, to bridge the gap by learning some key phrases; nothing too difficult just some basic encouragement and questions that will make it easier for the children to understand what you want from them.

Here goes.

The first thing you need to know is

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No

No in Thai is pronounced as¬†‘Mai’¬†try saying¬†‘m’-‘eye’. When it comes to teaching I try to use ‘no’ as little as possible, I always try to just ask them to try again instead.

The next is……………

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Yes

‘Chi’¬†is the way to say ‘yes’ in Thai, try saying¬†‘ch’-eye’ This is something that hopefully you will be saying a lot as the children will be doing well in your lessons!

Next up………………..

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‘Dee Mak’¬†pronounced¬†‘dee’-‘mark’, and this means ‘very good’. This is one of my most used phrases at school, I think that kids should be praised instead of chastised so I am always saying ‘dee-mark’.

Another one that is really useful is………………..

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‘Samsong’ this means ‘try again’. The way to say this is ‘saam-sorhng’. I use this a lot, so definitely try to learn this one! This is a better phrase to use instead of ‘no’ as ‘no’ is very negative whereas ‘try again’ is more supportive.

The last thing I think that you should know is……….

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‘Nee-Kursintee’ this means ‘What is this?’ It’s pretty easy to pronounce even though it looks really long. Try ‘Nee-khur-sin-tee’ pretty simple huh? This is great to use when you are trying to find out if a child remembers something themselves.

All of these phrases are super useful and will make your time teaching so much more enriching. Being able to communicate with the children in a way that they understand breaks the wall that separates you and them and helps to bring you closer with a better understanding of each other.

Hopefully all of these tips are helpful for you and make your volunteering time with us even better than it will be anyway. If you haven’t already signed up for our teaching project and want to then you need to check out the¬†Starfish Website. Take a look at the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook and¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†pages to see what is happening with all of our other projects.

My own  Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram pages are updated several times a day with everything from blog updates, what I am doing on the projects as well as my own adventures in Surin.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

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A Lesson with Wendy

As with each of the other projects I have looked at, I am going to look at the specific bits and pieces you will need for teaching.

Schools in Thailand have a strict dress code for students as well the teachers and other staff that work there, this is something that volunteers also have to adhere to.

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What Kay is wearing is perfect for the teaching project

The dress code for school is very similar to that of our Childcare project, this means, ‘no bendy bits’. You have to ensure that your shoulders and your knees covered up at all times, our new school also insists that volunteers and staff have no low cut neck lines and nothing that is thin enough to show underwear. So¬†unfortunately¬†you can’t wear the Borat mankini that you have packed, well not at school anyway!

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It might be fetching but it isn’t quite right for teaching

In all honesty that is the only specific thing that you need for this project. You can of course bring things with you if you think they will be helpful, we often get teaching volunteers bringing supplies with them like books, pens, pencils as well as English learning programs including books and tapes. Everything that volunteers bring with them to donate is appreciated more than I can ever explain, it makes such a difference to have up to date English learning guides as well as new supplies.

The schools that we work in are not huge state schools, they are small village schools that need our help as they can’t afford to bring in a native English speaking teacher, so having extra new supplies is always hugely welcome.

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Shiny new books at Kor Gorayong School ūüėÄ

You can always buy things whilst you are out here, not only does it make it cheaper, meaning you can buy more, but it also means that they local community is supported; also means you can have more space in your suitcase for fun mementos of your trip ūüėÄ

Well that was a pretty short blog post huh? Ummm how to fill the time of your day you would usually spend reading more words from my brain………………………………………………………………………………………

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Now isn’t that a nice panda/puppy ūüėÄ

To look for more information about our teaching project and the work you will be doing then take a look at the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page and the¬†Starfish Website; you can even look at the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page to see what other bits and pieces that Starfish is up to.

Also take a second to check out my own Tumblr and Instagram pages, especially my Twitter which is always being updated with new tales of my adventures on Teaching as well as other projects.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

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A Back to School Wendy

This is the third week looking at the projects that we, Starfish Volunteers, do here in Surin. I wonder what we will be looking at this week? Well the answer to that question is…………………………………………

Teaching

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Teaching is actually the first project that was set up in Surin and has been doing incredibly well ever since it started. We have worked with several local schools to improve the language skills of students in the very youngest class to the very oldest. If you read my previous posts on teaching you will have seen the photos of Taryn and Ben teaching at our previous location of Ban Beung Bow Oon School, well we have now said goodbye for now to that school and have moved onto our new location at Kor Goh Rayong (I have no idea if that is how you spell it in English but that is basically what it sounds like)

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The reason we moved to another location this year was that we have worked so very hard with Beung Bow Oon and have set them up with a finite plan of how to teach English better; this meant that we could leave the teachers to it and go and help another school. We did have a very fun few last weeks with the kids at school, especially at the huge English Camp that we put on where a lot of the students spent their last few weeks in Primary school, this meant lots of tears from both the kids and from us as well. I have never felt so blessed as I have saying goodbye to a very smart girl in P6 (Year 6) called Quan, she was in floods of tears as she didn’t want us to leave and she didn’t want to think she wasn’t going to see us ever again. We had had one volunteer teaching continuously for three months who had built up a very strong bond with the children, he was having to fight back the tears when saying goodbye to the students that he had worked so very hard to improve the language skills of. You can see the amazing progress that Henry and the other teachers made in this Youtube video that they made for a class project. Just click the link or stay tuned and I will post it here as well ūüėÄ

So moving onto our new school!! It’s located around half an hours drive from Surin and is the center of learning for nearly 500 students, that’s 400 more than our previous location; the volunteers¬†definitely¬†have their work cut out for them!! This school has so many students because it isn’t just a primary school, it also teaches up to the age of 15 so has very different teaching environments to experience and enjoy.

The youngest students are still learning their ABC’s whilst the eldest students are able to do much, much more. It is incredible to see the difference that is made from a few hours learning English a week over a series of years. I know I always had that sinking feeling whenever I had a German class as nobody ever wanted to go as it seemed so pointless; there is only one country that speaks German and chances are, I am not going to move to Germany so it all seemed like a waste of time to me (Still got A’s in all my exams though so I must have been paying some kind of attention!!) English here however is not the same as learning German or French, here in Thailand, if you can speak English you have access to a whole new life. Jobs pay more. You have the chance to learn abroad. You can even work abroad. Speaking English is so incredibly important to the people of Thailand, even in small villages with no more than one hundred people, the children are still taught English in the hopes that one day they may be able to develop theirs skills enough to get themselves a well paid job.

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The kids at the school in the Elephant Village, a school with no more than 80 children in it

One of the most sort after jobs in Thailand is being a tour guide. To be able to qualify for a tour guide license you MUST be able to speak English fluently and this only comes from hours and hours of dedication to learning English. Not only does being a tour guide mean that you can travel around all of Thailand and see the amazing country that it is, but it also means that you have access to a world of¬†opportunity¬†that so many others don’t have, you have the¬†opportunity¬†to make decent money. I have spoken before about how low the average monthly wage of Thai people is and the difference between that to the wage of a tour guide is HUGE! A tour guide at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, can make ŗłŅ1000 in an hour, that is around 25GBP or 40USD; that’s a lot even in the Western world so think how much that is to Thais.

They can only get jobs like this though from learning English and this is where you come in. We need volunteers to come to Thailand and help teach children English, believe me when I say you don’t need to be a teacher to teach; I’m not a teacher but I have still taken classes on my own and gotten great results. You just need to be enthusiastic and want to teach.

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Wordsearches are like sugar to the kids!

So a typical day at school starts at around 8-8.30am with volunteers being picked up and taken to school, around about a half an hour drive. Once there, volunteers have a briefing about what class and topics they will be teaching for the day, if they will be doing it with other volunteers or on their own and then you are off, off to mould the minds of the future!!

A typical lesson is about an hour long, some classes are doubles so they are two hours and you can be teaching anything from colours and shapes to animals and numbers. There really is no end to what volunteers can teach or they way that they teach it. We follow a curriculum given to us by the government and the school and we have the help of some amazing language teaching books as well, so don’t worry you aren’t expected to think up your lessons the week before and you certainly won’t be left to fend for yourself! There is always a member of staff available to translate to the students but at Kor Gor Rayong we try to speak in as LITTLE Thai as possible; the best way to learn a language¬†after all¬†is to be completely¬†immersed¬†in it.

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Some children work better outside of the classroom

At the beginning of each lesson, students will introduce the class, greet the teacher and then even ask how you are! How very polite! You will then commence to teach your lesson, you can do this in any way you like. If you think that your students are better suited to learning directly from a book then teach them like that, if you think they are more the kind of students that need to be up and moving to remember something then you can take them out of the classroom to do that; this is especially useful and a very effective tool for learning with the younger students as their attention span is around about 15 minutes. Not only does it keep students engaged by mixing up the way in which they are taught but it also makes them excited to go to lessons to see how they will be learning about animals this week, it will leave them remembering more after having a lesson where they got to touch and feel the things they were learning and not just look at words in a book.

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Kay undertaking the most competitive game of ‘SimonSays’

I won’t lie, teaching can be challenging at times, especially teaching Thai people English. They don’t have the same sounds that we have an visa versa so getting a new to speaking English, Thai person to say the word ‘three’ without it coming out like ‘tree’ can be frustrating as it may take a half our but there is no better¬†sense¬†of satisfaction as when you hear them say it perfectly the next lesson. Teaching isn’t something that always shows its effects in one lesson, it may take a week of lessons to teach one topic, it may take a month of lessons but you can see the progress these students make the longer you are here; which is why I can’t¬†recommend¬†people enough to stay here for as long as possible. If a volunteer comes for two weeks they make a difference to the overall learning of the students but they may not see the rewards whereas a volunteer who comes for a month or hopefully a term, will see the amazing progress these children make when they are taught by people who WANT to see them progress.

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Our first three volunteers at our new school

Everyone remembers that teacher at school that was just amazing, made them want to learn and actually made learning fun; for me I was lucky enough to have several of these teachers and to know that you can become that teacher is a very overwhelming feeling. I know that I will remember Mr, Offord or Mrs. Antoun until the day I die and to think that you can be that person for someone else is wonderful, I know that I will always remember Quan from our old school beacuse she was such a great character and she loved learning and I HOPE she will always remember me as the teacher that taught her origami at an English camp and would always make fun of the fact that she had a crush on another teacher. Memories like that are made by the effort that you put in. You don’t know how much of a passion you may start for learning in the very youngest students, or even creating the idea that a student who previously didn’t do so well is actually much better than they think they are, and with the right amount of dedication can do anything they want to do.

I know that you will do an amazing job when you come to teach at our new school and I will hopefully get some pictures of our first week, which starts today. I know that the volunteers we have now will be doing an incredible job and will right now, as you sit and read this, be teaching a child one more thing about English, and then another, and then another, and then another until they have as much of a love for learning as we do for teaching.

Yes we do get naughty kids, and their will be times that you will have to discipline the kids and this can be hard. It is very easy to leave out the naughty children as it is too much effort to teach them but these children are often the ones that need the help the most. Don’t be scared to assert your dominance in a class by chastising a student, in Thailand this is often done by putting the naughty child into a situation where they are incredible¬†embarrassed¬† for example I have made students do the Gangnam Dance if they refuse to stop talking in my class. It is a funny but effect way in which you can get children to realise there are consequences for their actions; which are often hilarious for other members of the class as well as you.

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These faces mean you won’t ever have a bad day!

Just know that teaching is one of the most rewarding of projects and I have never left a day without a smile on my face, the children have an incredible ability to improve everything about your day just by managing to remember something you taught a week ago or even by remembering your name; I always loved when students were able to remember my name, it really does make you feel as though they care.

If you haven’t already signed up for our teaching project then you can do so here at the¬†Starfish Website, if you want to see what other projects we do then take a look at the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page or the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page, these are filled with photos and tales of all the projects we do.

Alternitively you can check out my Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram pages to see what I am up to and which project I am working on that week.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

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Wendy and Tuk Tuk

Last weeks blogs were all about the Elephant Project, what you will do, need and who you will meet there, this week the blogs will all be about our Childcare project here in Surin.

So before I get onto what you will be doing and where, I think I will first introduce you to your coordinator.

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This wonderful woman you see before you is Tuk.

She is amazing.

I Love Her.

And I promise you will as well!

Tuk is 32 and has been working for Starfish for 9 months. She is also the sister of our Elephant Coordinator Worn and cousin to another member of staff named Aow.

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Tuk and her cousin Aow at our Staff Meeting in Cha Am earlier in the year ūüėÄ

Tuk started to learn English when she was working for a company in Phuket that do high wire adventure challenges,  something that I find very strange as Tuk is scared of heights! The main reason behind her taking 8 and a half months of working with us to FINALLY get up and ride an elephant; even if it were only for 10 minutes haha

Tuk will never agree with me that her English is as good as it is, I prattle on at a mile a minute and she can still understand me; I don’t even have to change the complexity of what I am saying as you so often have to when speaking with non native speakers. She does have a pretty thick accent that even I ‘Tuk’ (so hilarious) one or two days to get used to. Once you get past that I promise you will think the same as me and have no issues talking with her.

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Using her expert knowledge to buy the best kind of fish for the pond at Childcare

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Just some of the children that Tuk takes volunteers to look after everyday

Tuk works primarily with Childcare, though does occasionally work with the Teaching and Elephant projects. She is incredibly adaptable and one of the hardest working people I know, she never shys away from any kind of hard labor, she actually loves getting stuck in and muddy more than she does being in the office!

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One of the 50 children Tuk looks after with volunteers everyday

Saying that, she is always asleep every time she is in the office…………………. you can tell her and Worn and brother and sister from their ability to sleep at anytime, in any place!!

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Tuk and Worn have legendary Napping Skills ūüėÄ

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This is the pond that Tuk single-handedly built in the Thai sun!!

Whilst working for Starfish Tuk has done so much more than her job, she has single-handedly undertaken the upkeep of a huge vegetable garden at DREAM Surin, dug and stocked a catfish pond and spent hours in the boiling sun fixing everything from water pumps to fences and roofs; there is nothing that Tuk can’t do. Not only has she been doing¬†maintenance¬†on everything and anything, she has spent her own time and money in further improving the school life and learning experiences of the fifty something children that regularly attend Childcare.

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The kids are so much easier to look after when they are asleep!!

Tuk is definitely the loudest member of our team here in Surin, her laugh carries from one side of Thailand to the next and her smile is incredibly infectious. She works so insatiably hard for every volunteer she has, she is the big sister of our group and often the mother for me. Tuk has looked after me and the volunteers more than I can ever give her credit for and she gets nothing but positive feedback from the volunteers because of all of the hard work she puts in everyday.

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Tuk, Me and Taryn – one of the many nights Tuk has looked after us all

For everyone that is coming to Surin to do the Childcare project you are going to have an incredible time anyway, but I can assure you that your time with us will be even better because of Tuk, she will give you anecdotes and memories to keep forever. Tuk has some of the most amazing one liners that even thinking about them now, cracks me up.

For example, me and an ex volunteer who came back to visit, were sat outside our 7/11 chatting to the staff and Tuk turns up, more than a little tipsy, on her moped and begins chatting with us. I notice that she has way too long a threads coming off her jean shorts so I pull off the ones that look ridiculous, this is then met by Tuk asking me

‘Why you take off my fashion? This is my fashion, you want, you buy, you no take from me ok???’

Both me and the volunteer I was with cracked up into fits of giggles as Tuk took the piece of thread from me and retied it back onto her jean shorts, hoped on her moped and left, shouting back to me that

‘Next time, you no take off my fashion ok??’

As always it is all well and good me telling you how wonderful I think Tuk is but it is better to hear it from the mouths of people who have actually had the pleasure of having Tuk, not only as their coordinator but as their friend.

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Tuk, Taryn and Denise (Sisaket) at the local Silk Village

‘Your life has just improved once you have Tuk. She is full of love, kindness,a wicked sense of¬†humor¬†& a passion for looking after volunteers. Her laugh & cuddles will stay with you forever! She will go above & beyond to ensure that you have the best possible experience in beautiful Thailand. The kids love her, the volunteers adore her & I know she is invaluable to Starfish. I miss my Thailand sister! Can’t wait to go back & see her!’ – Taryn Hayler

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Nick is the one with the sunglasses one

‘Real helpful and overall a cracking lady’ – Nick Port (Another very long and insightful quote from Nick there; typical Aussie)

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Esther with one of the elephants at the Study center we spend time at on the Elephant Project

‘The most beautiful laugh, that’s what you will hear all the time when you around Tuk!’ – Esther Meewezen

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Anya working as hard as ever with Tuk on the Elephant Project

‘Tuk is an incredible person to be around, she’s always enthusiastic and will never stop making you laugh x’ – Anya Gartside

To see more of what Tuk is doing then you can always check out her Facebook¬†or her Twitter. I won’t lie, Tuk is not a computer person, she is a jungle girl so checking my own¬†¬†Twitter,¬†Tumblr¬†and Instagram pages are probably the best way of seeing what she is up to on a weekly basis.

Make sure you look at the¬†Starfish Website,¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page or the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†if you haven’t yet signed up to hang out with Tuk ¬†and you want a little more info about the Childcare project. You can always stay tuned for my blog tomorrow though as that will all be about a usual day on the Childcare project!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď 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 ūüėÄ

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 ūüėÄ

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 ūüôā

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Teachers and staff explaining about the day ūüôā

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 ūüėÄ

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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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

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 ūüėÄ

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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 ūüėÄ

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One of our sandwich classes ūüėÄ

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¬†ūüėÄ

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 Website,¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page or the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page as well.

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

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

Instagram

Building a Wendy House

So yesterday saw my first visit to the rural Wat Tung childcare centre which is set in the grounds of a very beautiful temple and an even more beautiful rural village about 40 minutes drive out of Surin.

The Temple which the childcare centre is in the grounds of

The Temple which the childcare centre is in the grounds of

This small childcare centre, which caters for around 30 of the most adorable, smile faced children I have ever come across, is currently in need of some very kind hearted volunteers to help to renovate the current building and also to help to finish the current build of a new community hall.

The volunteers we have had recently to Beung Bow Oon have helped to paint both the inside and outside of the main childcare building, built and fully planted a garden and vegetable patch that supplies the centre with much of it’s food and finally they have helped to build the foundations of the newest building that is set to be either the community hall building or even the new childcare centre.

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Nam looking as busy as always ūüėÄ

What we need out here right now though is hard working volunteers who are willing to get stuck in and get down and dirty with this very important building and development project. Not only will it help the community with giving them a building that they will be able to use for the important rituals and ceremonies that are so prevalent in Thai culture but it will also allow us to provide the children at the childcare centre with a more hygienic and safe place to play and learn.

We also are wanting to develop the current garden and vegetable patch so that it will grow even more tasty veggies and herbs for the staff to use in the preparation of the childrens food; it will also provide an extra form of income for the centre when they have surplus produce as they can sell it at one of the many amazing local markets.

Not only that but we are also looking to use the land surrounding the temple to grow rice, which is a staple of the Thai diet and something that can also be used to sell when extra is grown. We already have our very own co ordinator Worn, who grows his own rice in his village, tell us everything we need to know about rice farming, irrigation and harvesting.

The other project we are looking at undertaking, is to renovate the current pond on the grounds so that it can support a breeding fish colony that will not only provide food but also eduction of the children in the centre. Thailand is a country where a huge portion of the country produce their own food and crops and being able to arm these children with fishing, farming, literacy and english skills is really setting them up for a very positive future.

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All I can think of is children armed to the teeth with fish guns now.

That isn’t what we are going for but I am pretty sure that would look badass.

Anyway!

Back to the point in hand.

We all want the very best for these children and we need you to help us achieve that as all of the money that you give to us will help us to hire diggers, builders, equipment and to provide the centre with food and equipment. We are so desperate to make this centre sustainable as it really will make a huge amount of difference to these children and also to the community as well.

Now don’t try and fob me off with saying that you are too old, that you have never even held a shovel or that you have no DIY skills in any capacity as there is ALWAYS work that you can do. We work very closely with the engineers and the monks to make sure that all of the work we do is structurally and religiously sound as the new building will be of such importance to this community. Thai culture is hugely well known for their elaborate ceremonies and this will finally give this community a place to uphold their religious beliefs and also a clean and safe place to teach their children so don’t be telling me that you don’t want to be a part of that.

And for those of you that may be skeptical as to how you will be remembered for the walls you built or the pond you dug, we always make sure that volunteers sign the work that they have undertaken in their weeks with us. This means that you will always be remember in the years to come as thousands of children and villagers make use of the building and facilities that you put so long into making.

You won’t be forgotten.

And if that doesn’t sell you, the daily blessings and thanks by the monks and the children might; or maybe the incredible tan you will get from working outside in one of the sunniest countries in the world is one of the perks that you will enjoy ūüėÄ

Either way, there is no excuse as to why you think that you won’t be able to make a difference. Everyone makes a difference in Starfish and the level of difference you make is entirely up to you. You can sit in your house and not make a difference or you can come out to this amazing country with its beautiful and grateful people and show them that you care and that you want them to know that they can have the very best education and care for their children even if they don’t have a huge amount of money.

And as for all the people who are saying to themselves that they aren’t a builder or a gardener? Well neither am I. Neither is Nam, or Tuk or Al but we were all getting stuck in with making all natural pesticides to tackle the current caterpillar menace that is plaguing our veggies and herbs. We were going and collecting the leaves they use to make the pesticide. We were helping with moving plants to more space and watering and tending the current ones growing.

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Doing a cracking job their Nam; for a change!

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Aroy Chi Mai? ‘Tasty?’

There really is no excuse or reason as to why you shouldn’t make a difference.

So go.

Right now.

Go!!

Oh wait, you need the¬†¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page, the Starfish Website¬†and also the¬†¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page where you can see the video of some of the building work we have already done in Thailand. Not only that you can check out the¬†#starfishvolunteers Instagram which has pictures of all of the fun things we get up to.

Like meeting this guy in the garden yesterday;

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You don’t have to be a builder to build.

You just have to want to make a difference to people that need your help.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

Instagram

Good Morning Teacher! An educational Wendy

So over the last two days I have been lucky enough to accompany the Teaching volunteers here in Surin and those of you who know me pretty well know that I am definitely less of a children person and more of a animal person; dogs and elephants specifically. Kids are cute and everything but I always get the feeling that they know something that I don’t and I know that they aren’t going to tell me, which rather unsettles me. Plus whenever I think of children I think of that creepy kid from the Ring movie, you know the little Asian one? Pretty sure all children do that whole ‘standing creepily over you’ thing whenever I close my eyes.¬†

But, despite my apparent fear of children I can honestly say that I have never had so many warm fuzzy feelings in such a short space of time like when I was hanging out with the school kids. I wasn’t even teaching the class, I was observing and seeing how lessons run and what we can do to really boost these children’s language skills. The children were still so desperate to try and involve me or at the very least, stare at me as I wasn’t just another white person, I was a white person with tattoos, one of which is written in Thai, snake bite piercings and a stretcher in my ear; something which isn’t the norm here in Thailand. So needless to say I was the object of so many lingering stares.

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Do you remember your language lessons at school and how little you would pay attention until it was your turn to stand up and read a passage from a book? Well kids here in Thailand aren’t like that. They are so enthralled by learning English and they will spend hours copying down English in their neatest hand writing and getting the volunteers to mark their work. I can never remember ever seeing a child in an English school being so desperate to see if their work was right. That just shows me how much these children care and are interested to learn another language; but not only that, it shows me how much effort the volunteers are putting into each class to keep students interested and engaged; having taught English myself before I know how difficult this can be.¬†

English classes in Thailand start out the same way no matter where you are in the country, at the beginning of every language class every student recites the ‘Hello teacher’ greeting which, even though I have heard it about a thousand times, still makes me smile as it is so wonderful to see such a level of respect that is promted by the students themselves and not the teachers.¬†

Respect and very good behaviour is something you get by the bucket load in Thai schools, unlike the Western counterparts, and I think that this level of respect is something that makes each teacher that Starfish brings in, feel like they are actually a teacher and have a presence of authority as opposed to some foreigner teaching their first language. Having these children look at you as a teacher obviously brings about a feeling of pressure but we always have one of our Thai members of staff in the classes with our teachers to aid in translating any of the children’s issues and to explain another game that the children can add to their overflowing knowledge ūüėÄ

Children in the Starfish schools are so encapsulated with learning that they will use their English on anyone that they think might even speak the smallest bit of English. I was sat in the back of a class observing Taryn’s (one of our Teaching volunteers) lesson and two girls from one of the oldest class came up to me to ask what my name was and to try and find out where I came from, where I lived, what my favourite colour was and why on earth I had the word ‘elephant’ tattooed on my arm. Now I always make a point of not answering students in the generic ‘My name is Wendy. My favourite colour is green. I like horses’ way because I don’t think that it helps the students comprehension levels so I will always answer in flowing sentences and ask them questions back. Yes, sometimes it takes a little more time to get an answer or for them to understand, but there is no mistaking that little smug smile of satisfaction when they know they have the right answer.

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They really want to see the board huh? – Principle Wendy

Students here actually want to learn; and they want you to teach them. They are like sponges, as cliched as that sounds, but it’s true. A better reference I think is you know when you have a pair of really nice jeans on or a particularly soft jumper and a cat comes and sits on you and just makes you look like Chewbacca? Well the students in these classes are the nice jeans or the particularly soft jumper, and you? You are that pesky cat that leaves your mark for far longer than even you could comprehend.

Understandably these children do meet a lot of volunteers so there are lots of cat hairs on their nice pairs of jeans but I think knowing that you are part of that hairy pair of jeans is actually quite a nice thought. To know that I helped build on what a previous volunteer taught and that the next volunteer will use that as a building block to even more understanding for the students makes me feel, and I know it makes the current volunteers feel, as though they are actually teaching English and not just providing entertainment for a few hours a week. 

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Now I know a lot of people immediately throw out the idea of teaching English abroad as they assume it isn’t for them, now this may well be true for some people; I know I wouldn’t want the Marquis de Sade as my teacher, but if you aren’t a prolific French ‘playa’ from the 1700’s then you might want to reconsider your decision. The most common reason I hear for not choosing to teach is down to the volunteers accent or their own use of English, now in my opinion, this is far and beyond underestimating the ability of these students. The class I observed for a large portion of the day was being taught by a South African born Australian who spent her childhood growing up in Hong Kong, now you can’t tell me that that is the typical ‘Queens English’ accent can you? And did the students have trouble understanding Taryns accent? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NO! Thailand has accents as well so these kids aren’t oblivious to the fact that there are different ways to talk depending on where you live.

I would say that having an accent only helps these children more as it exposes them to several different new ways of saying a word or a sentence and knowing that just because they don’t talk like the Queen of England doesn’t mean that they won’t be understood. The Thai language has many sounds that English doesn’t, which makes it very hard for English people to pronounce Thai words, but it also works both ways and makes it hard for Thais to pronounce certain English sounds. Students, for example, understand that ‘L’ sounds like the ‘L’ in lemon but they way they have been taught to talk, naturally makes their ‘L’s sound like ‘R’s like it does in many Asian languages, and to constantly be asked to repeat it because it isn’t as quaint as the way the Queen might say it can be very demoralising. If students are shown that there are several ways to pronounce the same sound and be understood makes them far more comfortable and confident to use their English skills, not only in front of a class, but in general life as well; this is something that only comes about when teachers with different accents are present. And after all if these children are going to be using English in their jobs or their own life they may well not even come across someone that speaks like the Queen, they might come into contact with a Geordie or a Scouser and if they have never been exposed to that accent before, how are they supposed to understand?¬†

As long as you are kind, helpful and want to have a ridiculous amount of fun teaching students who are genuinely interested in learning then this is the right volunteering experience for you. When you see how desperate the students are to learn and how much love they will give you for teaching them you will wonder why it took you so long to volunteer in the first place.

Even a 5 minute conversation will bring the biggest smile to these childrens faces and they will go out of their way to show you how thankful they are, a good example of this is when I was asked by one girl in an afternoon class, what my favourtie sport was. I answered that it was horse riding and then motioned the obvious, well to me it was obvious, sign for horse riding which is looking like your hands are holding reigns. This was greeted by gasps and smiles and the very distinct word that is ‘Gangnam’, now if you don’t know what Gangnam is you should be ashamed quite frankly! The children were so hyped up by singing Gangnam that we used it as a reward for finishing work and then proceded to dance to Gangnam with a group of students who could not stop laughing, giggling and joining in. At the end of the day one of the boys that had raced to finish his work in order to listen to that particularly catchy Korean song came up to me and gave me a piece of paper which you can see below.

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I had literally spent 5 minutes talking to that one boy who then took it upon himself to write me an I Love You note! You can in no way tell me your heart doesn’t melt a teeny bit at that???

There are literally no words to describe just how happy, funny, charming and willing these children are, you just need to come out here and see it for yourself! Come and see the smiles that made Taryn teary when she was saying goodbye for the last time. Come and see the children who visibly become more confident in themselves because they are speaking English and they are also understanding it as well. 

I won’t lie though, teaching isn’t easy. There are times where you will get frustrated because the kid you have been trying to help for 10 minutes still doesn’t quite grasp plural and singles but you have to remember that they are only primary school age and they are learning a whole new language; it isn’t the easiest thing in the world for them. But when they get it, and they always do, even if it takes some of them a little longer than others, it will be because of you, these children only get what you put into their lessons so if you give it your all then so will they and they will continuously astound you with their ability and their want to learn. It is also pretty cool to be that awesome and cool teacher at school, everyone remembers the super cool teacher at school. Mine was called Mr Offord and he would make my English language and literature lessons so much fun that I would dread hearing the bell as it would mean I had to go to all of my other naff lessons. You get to be Mr Offord, or Mrs, or Miss Offord, or whatever your favourite teacher was called.

By now you should all know what to do……. You need to go to the¬†Starfish ‚Äď Volunteer Thailand¬†Facebook page and sign up to the¬†Starfish newsletter. You can also check out the¬†Starfish Tumblr¬†page and our very own¬†#starfishvolunteers Instagram or even my own Instagram which I am always updating with pictures of my goings on¬†#wendyreece

Now if you need any more convincing about how rewarding teaching is here are the pictures of Taryn saying goodbye to her students, who were very sad to see her leave and made her an incredible amount of pictures and notes saying how much they loved her.

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Build. Protect.Teach. Care. ‚Äď The Starfish Motto

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