Monday, July 20, 2009

Drum Roll Please...

Yesterday, I opened my email to find a notice from ISV concerning my Project Overview. For weeks, I've been waiting to hear where my 2-week placement will be for the volunteer portion of my trip, so it was extremely gratifying to finally have something to dream about.

As it turns out, I will be working with a Hill Tribe in Chiang Rai (the northern-most region of Thailand) for the Mae Kok Foundation. This is the first time that ISV will be partnering with the Mae Kok Foundation; I'm looking forward to blazing a new path in Thailand. Mae Kok has several major components, but the basis of the project runs around preserving the culture of the Hill Tribes in Thailand, who experience extreme poverty and do not have enough land to farm on. The lack of resources has caused the native culture to be "demoralized and swallowed by the modern world", according to my project overview. Farming, education, and housing are built into the Mae Kok system of living, and encourages cultural development and sustainability.

In terms of volunteering, our team (7 in total) will be working on rebuilding the infastructure at the foundation (such as the girls' dormitories) and teaching English to the 32 children there, ranging in ages from 4 to 18. In addition, some of us may be working at the local schools in Chiang Rai.

Without organizations such as this in place, many of these children would be exposed to the cycle of drugs and sex trafficking that, unfortunately, is a large issue in Thailand. It is an honor and a priveledge to be working to keep these kids safe and prepare them for a hopeful future. This issue particularly tugs at my heartstrings because I intend on dedicating some of my career in human services to sex trafficking prevention and awareness. (For more information on modern day slavery, including sex trafficking, please visit

From watching my friends volunteer in Kenya this summer, I know that bringing books and other school supplies will be something I want to do. Although I'm not sure how much I can physically bring with me, I will be taking any donations people would like to make for the Mae Kok Foundation, including a limited amount of the following:

Toys and games
Arts/crafts supplies
Pencils/crayons/colored pencils
Simple English books
Books for teaching English as a second language

If you are interested in contributing to children in this socioeconomically-challenged area of Thailand, please email me with what items you would like to donate, or how much you would like to donate and what you would like the donation to go towards, and we will work out the details. Remember, even a little goes a long way and will be truly appreciated and used.

I couldn't be happier with my placement. Elephant babies aside, I know this is the right place for me to be. I'll continue to update you as the need arises.

With love and gratitude,
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Get ready, Get set.

My travel manual came in the mail the other day for my trip to Thailand. I'm traveling with International Student Volunteers (ISV) for a four-week excursion through Thailand, and even though I've been looking forward to this trip for well over a year, the reality hasn't hit me yet. This will be my first time overseas; what a shock this experience is going to be!

I was first attracted to the idea of traveling with ISV when I heard about it on Western's campus and decided to look into the program. A standard ISV tour includes 2 weeks of volunteer projects (conservation, community development, and research), followed by 2 weeks of adventure touring. All in all, an amazing month to look forward to!

I designed this blog to keep family and friends informed of my travels (Thailand and beyond), as well as keep a record of my own findings. Right now, I'm still in the prep stages, and looking through all of the gear I need to purchase/acquire is a little daunting, but I'm sure it will all work out.

If you would like to know more about my travel plans, take a look at ISV's website: The adventure tour itinerary is laid out, as well as possible volunteer projects.

I'll be writing frequently before I leave, and as frequently as possible while in Thailand, so keep checking back in!

Take care, everyone!
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