One of the most rewarding things to do while visiting any country is to offer your time as a volunteer.
Not only are you able to really witness another culture, but hopefully you can also help out on a project and be an example to whoever you are helping.
When I was in the Philippines, I was able to volunteer with Gawad Kalinga, an organization dedicated to helping people build homes and build their lives in the process.
I had an invaluable experience.
I learned about the Philippines and its culture in a way that I could never have read about in a guide book nor learned in a classroom.
In the Philippines not only was I able assist in construction, but I was truly blessed by the remarkable Filipinos I met along the way (they also made sure to feed me some of their favorite Filipino dishes)!
In Bangkok, when I have time I enjoy volunteering and helping my friend Dwight and his various projects he has going on with In Search of Sanuk.
On January 14, 2012, it was national Children’s Day in Thailand.
I had the opportunity to volunteer in the Yommarat district of Bangkok.
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Yommarat is a poor neighborhood in central Bangkok that straddles the railroad track. Makeshift homes back straight up to the hazardous railroad where trains frequently pass through at high speeds and with little warning.
What is Children’s Day in Thailand?
Well basically children’s day is a day in Thailand set aside to celebrate children. You know Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Children’s Day is the same idea, but of course for children.
Kids around the country are given small gifts, have permission to eat lots of sweet snacks (like cookies and ice cream) and schools and community centers set up fun activities.
For Children’s Day, the community of Yommarat organized a get together for local children and some of their families (mother’s) as well as a crew from In Search of Sanuk.
We arrived to the Yommarat community center and there were just a handful of kids there, but it didn’t take long before the premises was filled with children and adults all excited to particape in the events of the day.
I thought this guy was pretty cool, a real artist in the midst of heaps of paper!
Look for his masterpieces on the world market soon (I’ll let you know).
Among the activities planned for the day were some craft projects like making paper hats and boats and also coloring flowers.
Instead of folding her paper into a paper hat, one girl decided to draw a little princess and write “I love you,” on it.
I’ve always been amazed at the natural artistic ability for many Thais. So many of these young Thai children are such great artists, able to draw cool things without even thinking about it (it would have taken me hours to draw that).
There was singing and a few girls even danced to upbeat tunes. There were lots of smiles and lots of happy shrieks!
After the children received their gifts from the community center, it was time for a quick bite to eat.
There were little nuggets of fried chicken and French fries (a real treat for the Thai children in Yommarat), and of course Thai noodles and fish balls.
This little guy had trouble holding still, but was still able to enjoy the noodles of the day!
If you have 3 minutes right now, I’d really encourage you to watch this VIDEO:
(if you can’t see the video you can click here to watch it on Youtube)
Volunteering in Yommarat (or anywhere else you travel) is a way to be of service, to encourage others and to be encouraged.
Overall, it was a was a day to recognize the joy and blessing that children bring, and with their joy and laughter it was really a day of fun for everyone!
Do you enjoy volunteering when you travel?
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