Reflections on Volunteering Abroad by Ruth Hall
When I arrived in Phuket to start my 6 months volunteering with Phuket Has Been Good To Us I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but it wasn’t that I would spend over a year here working with the Foundation. What started out as 6 months quickly turned into the best year of my life. I have met some amazing people who will be friends for life, had the chance to explore new places and gained new experiences. Most importantly I have loved getting to know the children and working towards giving them a better education to benefit their future.
During my time with PHBGTU, the majority of my responsibilities as an Office Fellow included marketing and social media, volunteer recruitment and looking after visitors to the Foundation. During the last few months I got involved with running our fundraising events, specifically planning A Night at the Opera 2016. All of this was new to me when I arrived, but my experience here has taught me so much about life behind the scenes in an NGO and all the hard work that goes into running a charity. I learned so much from everyone at PHBGTU that I know I can take with me to my future.
Every afternoon I would try to make it to the school to join in Coconut Club activities. This is always the best part of the day for anyone working or volunteering with the Foundation. After a tough day in the office, there is nothing better than heading down to school to see your all your favourite students. We spend the afternoon playing games, painting pictures and having fun. At the end of the hour, you find yourself with paint on your face, glitter on your arms, feathers in your hair and a million selfies on your phone. It’s hard to put into words how much I will miss all the children at school and the crazy afternoons at Coconut Club.
As much as I loved Coconut Club, Saturday swimming was always the highlight of my week. Every Saturday afternoon you can find a group of residential students, teachers and volunteers marching down to Kamala beach or one of the local hotel pools. There are always a group of students waiting at the teachers’ office hoping to go. This gives them the chance to leave school for an afternoon and have some fun while learning to swim. The children are so excited to be playing in the water and the sand, throwing frisbees and doing handstands. Thanks to Kamala Green Club who donated gloves and bags, during this time we also get the kids to do a beach clean on their way. It’s fun to see how pleased they are when they manage to find the biggest piece of rubbish. It is also a great way to expose them to some extra English without them noticing they are learning!
During my time in Thailand, I have been lucky enough to travel and learn about Thai culture. From weekends being a tourist in Bangkok, beach days and rock climbing in Krabi, scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi, getting to know elephants at an elephant sanctuary, and exploring tea plantations and cities in Malaysia I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to see some of the incredible places in and around Thailand. As amazing as all of this has been, most of all I have loved working with the team and getting to know some amazing people and kids. I am sure that I will be back to visit my PHBGTU family in the future, but for now, I feel lucky to have been able to call this beautiful country my home.