How long were you here for?
I originally planned to volunteer in Nong Khai with Openmind Projects for one month. I saw the volunteer idea as a cool way of structuring an overseas experience. However, I was really enjoying living in Nong Khai, experiencing the Thai culture and being a part of the OMP community, so I ended up staying on for nearly five months in total!
What did you do?
I arrived to a warm welcome and participated in the cross cultural training programme with two other volunteers, both from very different backgrounds to myself, who quickly became good friends. I found the training programme greatly helped me in attempting to understand the Thai culture. The language classes were particularly valuable. Local staff members, Joiy and Golf, did a great job of teaching the course.
At first, I taught English at Tessaban 3 School, helping students aged thirteen and fourteen. Classes were as big as 30 pupils but luckily I had Best, a trainee from OMP, to help me. I found classroom teaching challenging due to language barriers but good for building confidence speaking in front of large groups. The experience also provided a valuable insight into classroom teaching and a Thai school environment.
After classroom teaching, I largely worked tutoring trainees at the Centre in a smaller group or one on one environment. I personally found this really rewarding as I could see more progress with my students whilst building good friendships. I also helped with staff PowerPoint presentations and made some videos to help promote the organisation and Nong Khai area in general.
I took part in a school holiday camp in October where I taught groups of school students about other countries and how to make PowerPoint presentations. This was fun with football and other games and activities mixed into the camp programme amongst the classroom learning.
I also tutored a novice Buddhist monk one on one. He was a university student and very motivated to learn. I got an interesting insight into Buddhism through this experience.
Where did you live?
I lived at the Training Centre for the first month and enjoyed rooming with another volunteer from the USA. After that, I moved out of the Centre and lived in an apartment close to the Mekong river with my American friend for a month and then lived with two local Thais for the rest of the time. It was very rewarding and I was lucky to build such good relationships.
What do you think of Nong Khai?
Nong Khai is not a tourist hub and if you want to be a tourist I would suggest going down south to the beaches. However, if you want a more authentic taste of Thailand, Nong Khai can certainly provide it. English language is not prominent within the community and there are few foreigners, mainly either mature expats or people crossing to Laos. I found that if I was respectful and smiled the locals seemed to welcome me. There are some fun local bars along the Mekong and plenty of roadside restaurants to eat local cuisine. I found Nong Khai a very cheap place to live.
Do you have any advice for future volunteers?
OMP is an awesome organisation supporting very worthwhile causes and providing good opportunities for both locals and volunteers. It is a grassroots operation and not a big corporate gig. Many staff are from Thailand and Laos and their culture and social customs can differ greatly to those of a Westerner. I think it’s really important for volunteers be tolerant of the cultural differences within the organisation and be prepared to be accepting and positive during their volunteer experience. Everyone wants to help and see progress but that can be restricted and at times potentially frustrating when dealing with such a diverse range of people and limited funds. Smile and just go with it.
I had an awesome time and found it hard leaving all the people I got to know. I wish Openmind Projects all the best and highly recommend them as a volunteer organisation. I look forward to returning one day soon.
Blog posted from Prajak Sillapakhom Alley, Nai Mueang, Mueang Nong Khai District, Nong Khai 43000, Thailand View larger map