Josie Haworth is the Head of Year 13 at Salesian School in Surrey. Here she shares her experiences during her first visit to Thailand with the school who annually take a group of students to visit our projects.
After a hard year of fundraising, finally on the 17th July 5 sixth form students and 2 teachers flew to Bangkok to go and work with Thai Children's Trust in Pattaya.
Following an extremely long flight the first impression of Thailand is the immense heat that hits you as soon as you step outside of the air-conditioned airport. On arrival we were met by a driver who took us to our accommodation and the first day was spent getting to know the local area and being informed about the itinerary for the next 2 weeks. Everyone was very friendly and we were lucky enough to arrive during the time that the students in the disability school were having their sports day. There was wheelchair racing, swimming, badminton, basketball etc. It was extremely inspirational to watch.
The trip was very well planned and each day we had different projects to visit in the morning and afternoon. A driver would be there to pick us up at 9am after breakfast each morning to take us to our destination. Generally we would return for lunch at our accommodation and then go a visit another project in the afternoon. We visited the Children's Home and Children's Village which is for children who perhaps have sadly lost parents or whose parents just cannot afford to look after them. Our students had organised games to play with them and the Thai children had also organised a very competitive water balloon chucking contest! For one of the afternoons we took the kids to a water park where they spent the afternoon going up and down on slides and mucking around in the swimming pool . They rarely get the opportunity to do this so it was lovely to see them having fun.
Another project which we visited was the blind school. It was an incredible experience to see how the children learn to cope with their disability and we were lucky enough to take them to the beach for the afternoon. The blind children loved the feel of the sea and sand beneath their feet and spent quite a while building sand mountains!
We visited the Camillian Centre which is a place for adults and children who suffer from HIV. We had a wonderful guide called Jimmy who showed us round and explain exactly how they care for the patients. The students spent some time in the afternoon playing with the children and balloon popping was very popular!
On the site we were staying at there was a nursery for very young children whose parents needed to work in the day and could not afford to look after them. These children are given a safe place to spend the day, playing games and learning English while their parents try and make some money. A lot of the pupils lived in "slum" areas and we had the opportunity to go and visit some of their homes. Our students bought lots of rice, oil, sugar and milk to give to the people who lived in the slum. It was unbelievable to see what some of the homes were like and made us realise how important the fundraising and support of Thai Children's Trust is.
We spent a couple of mornings visiting the local orphanage where we were informed that they use up to 800 nappies a day! Playing with the little toddlers was gorgeous and they all seemed very happy even though many of them had quite a few sad stories on how they ended up at the orphanage.
Our students spent a morning teaching English to some of the older orphans and some were excellent at the numbers! On this same site there is also a school for the Deaf and we spent an afternoon playing with them and watching them practice a dance that they were going to perform at a big show.
Our accommodation was in the same location as the disability school. This was brilliant as it meant each evening we would spend time with the students who attended this school and we found out so much about their lives. So many of them had been shunned from Thai society because of their disability.
Due to a deep belief in Karma in Thailand many people believe that if you are disabled it is because you did something bad in your last life. This school was incredible as it gave these students an opportunity to learn English and a qualification in website design, mechanics, tourism etc. so graduates could potentially enter employment. So many of the students came from such poor families but thanks to the school they had been given an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Each evening we tried to do a different activity. We took the students to a Thai market, massage parlour, cooking course, dinner, cabaret show and we also took them to the centre of Pattaya for an evening to a place called Walking Street. This was a shocking experience for all.
Sadly, due to lack of wealth and education, many women in this part of Thailand find they have to prostitute themselves to earn money. Unfortunately, Pattaya is a main area for sex tourism and due to this it links together many of the projects that Thai Children's Trust fund. We spent a morning at a women's centre where they teach ladies different practical skills such as Thai massage, hair and beauty and also give them English lessons so they have an opportunity to make a living in another way.
It was an incredible trip and all of the students gained so much from it. Thai Children's Trust is an amazing charity and it was great to see all the work being carried out in so many projects. I would definitely like to return!