J completed three months of volunteering as a teacher for KHT. Here is a look back at her routine, her experiences and her reflection of her time with the Karen people!
“A typical day at Khun Yuam Wittiya starts at 8:00 am, we’d attend the school assembly where the school director would speak. I would have anywhere from 2-6 classes a day, teaching English and Mandarin, to the ages of 12-18. The morning is a bit colder than the afternoons but it never reaches below 20 C even in December. The teachers would kindly offer me tea if I didn’t have a class for a period, so I’d stay in the English teacher’s office. By the time lunch starts, it’s around 11-12, I would eat out with teachers or eat at the school cafeteria. The cafeteria food is inexpensive and tasty, noodles, sticky rice, side dishes as well as plenty of snacks. My day would end around 3:00 and I would typically go to the school gym before going back to the KHT office.
Being a KHT volunteer meant that I had the opportunity to teach English, which isn’t my native tongue, however am fluent, but I understand the struggles of learning it just as well as the students. Travelling and living thousands of miles away from home is undeniably an eye-opening experience to see the most rural villages in mountain ranges, as well as attributing to my personal growth.
During my short stay, I attended the Loi Krathong festival with my host family. It started in the evening on the 12th month of the Thai calendar full moon. The lanterns were decorated with many flowers and candles and made from banana stalks, they were bought to be floated down the river which would later biodegrade. I also saw the Buddhist pagoda temples decorated with many colourful lanterns. In mid-November, I also attended the Bua Tong festival, which lasted 7 days with blasting music, carnival food, games, stalls that sold local goods as well as a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) ring. Khun Yuam Wittiya also performed a peacock dance during the festival. The festival celebrated the blooming of Mexican sunflowers, tourists flock to Khun Yuam during this time so it was great for the local economy. Among the flower fields, the breathtaking scenery of the mountains, and the cool fresh air, all of these will be the unforgettable charm.
During my stay, I was living with Nootsabar who’s a staff member at KHT. The host family’s nieces usually catered all my meals, despite the language barrier between us it was enjoyable to be in their company as we’re of similar age. Nootsabar’s home grew plenty of fruits and herbs, I would occasionally enjoy coconut milk or oranges from the garden. Or lazy around on the hammock under the trees with a cat. I would sometimes attend church with Nootsabar, I would talk to the Catholic priest and assist with their English speaking at the very end of my stay. I also had to adjust to flushing toilet paper after I returned to England since Thai sewers cannot handle the amount of paper foreigners use.
During lessons, I would co-teach with the teachers and correct pronunciation if needed as well as grammar in writing lessons. The teachers were all very warm and welcoming, they were willing to learn and improve their English and sometimes taught me a couple of words in Thai. I would usually eat with the teachers at lunch and occasionally go for coffee. As well as this, sometimes teachers would invite me for dinner at their homes. I attended a Thai wedding with a teacher as well as toured Mae Hong Son.
My favourite moment during the trip was the sponsored KHT annual trek. I met some of the Thai trustees, and construction staff and hiked through the Thai jungles near the Burmese border. I didn’t bring my hiking gear, which made it slightly challenging, but still greatly enjoyable experience. I probably would’ve slipped off many ledges and downhills in my worn-out trainers if it weren’t for the staff that accompanied us on the trek would chop the surrounding greenery on the route. Whilst hiking I was leeched, which at the time with the adrenaline felt like nothing. I thought I had a wine stain on my knee. I immensely enjoyed the company of the trustees, being surrounded by nature and without any phone signal was so refreshing. During the trek, the Karen staff would carve a bamboo rice cooker during lunch, a spoon holder and shot glasses for alcohol.
As well as this, another favourite moment was when I went to a mountainous cafe in Mae Chaem, where elephants were kept as pets by the villagers. The coffee was really good and the straw they served it with was made from bamboo.”
Volunteering with KHT is a unique and life changing experience. If you would like to volunteer or know anyone who would, get in touch with us today! We are very grateful to J and all our volunteers for their hard work and eagerness to learn about the Karen!