Over the summer, 10 students volunteered at the Father Ray Centre (part of the Thai Children' Trust) in Thailand, spending two weeks with disabled and disadvantaged children and young adults. Sixth Form student Holly Weber reports...
After a long flight we arrived in Bangkok. It was only around 9am but as soon as we stepped out of the airport the humidity hit us and we were very thankful for the air conditioning on the minibus that took us to Pattaya, where we would be staying for the next ten days. Once we had left the airport I was immediately astonished by the Thai culture; a family of four all on one moped on the motorway and the general chaos that appeared to be so normal!
On arrival we were welcomed by Derek who gave us our itinerary and showed us a short video about three brothers who are supported by the Father Ray Foundation. It really hit home and reminded us of the importance of the work that the foundation does. We also learned about the cultural issues that the charity faces: due to a belief in Karma and the stigma surrounding disabilities, children and young adults often don't get the help they deserve.
The next morning we were all very excited to meet some of the students that went to the day-care centre. The children, who were aged 2-3 were all very cute and excitable; it was great to be able to spend time with them by taking them for a walk around the centre. We also had the opportunity to spend more time with the children later in the week when we used the resources we had brought to do some craft activities and parachute games. We returned to the day-care centre later on in the trip when we took the children to the local temple for a Buddhist festival. We really enjoyed taking part in traditional Buddhist ceremonies as well as helping to take the children to celebrate the feast day.
We visited a number of other projects run by the Father Ray Foundation, including the school for the blind where we interacted with some of the younger students. It was a heart-breaking experience but nevertheless heart-warming to see their smiles despite their circumstances.
We spent time with the students at the school for special needs, who were all very friendly and enthusiastic. As well as running some arts, crafts and games activities with them, we helped out with the weekly swimming lesson. It was great to be able to share one of their favourite parts of the week with them by helping them with their swimming; they never stopped smiling and laughing!
We also got the chance to take a break from volunteering in the projects and participate in a Thai cooking course where we made Pak Tai, Thai Green Curry and Sticky rice pudding with mango. On another afternoon we went for an elephant ride which was a fun (and slightly scary) break in the midst of a hectic two weeks.
Another highlight for me was taking the children from the drop-in centre to the waterpark on the last day. The drop-in centre is a safe and loving environment for the children to stay before they have found a more permanent home. They seemed to be so grateful for a simple outing to the waterpark and an ice cream. It was sad to say goodbye.
Our time in Thailand was such an incredible and humbling experience. It was great to see the impact that the Thai Children's Trust and Father Ray Centre are making in Pattaya and get involved with their work; I hope to return one day! A big thank you to Miss Murdoch who organised the trip, Mrs Cameron and Mrs Moore who accompanied us to Thailand and finally all the wonderful people who work for the projects we visited who were all so friendly and welcoming.
To see a full gallery of photos from our trip, visit the Celebrating section.