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Volunteer teaches gambling!


When I took an early retirement package last year, the newly won freedom and independence was very inspiring, and I started doing lots of those small and big home projects that had been waiting through many years of work, most of the time travelling. But I felt the urge to do something more, to find a way to help underprivileged people. Then I found Openmind Projects on the internet. I contacted them and they were very understanding and flexible about finding a project that met my wishes. While volunteering certainly had its challenges, my classes went very well, from teaching Math to 14 year olds to getting lots of hugs from kindergarteners. In the end I felt like I made a difference and had the experience of lifetime!

Working around home was all great and fine, but after several months of working by myself, I started to feel an urge to contribute to helping other people. Sure, one night a week I was doing volunteer teaching in maths for Swedish high school students, but I still felt I wanted to do more. Furthermore, with the October, November, December weather being even more wet and windy than normal in Sweden (i.e. really miserable weather!), I felt I wanted to go somewhere nice and warm.

So, googling around I came across Openmind Projects, which sounded a great organization. I had been to Southeast Asia several times before, so I knew already that I would love everything, although the volunteer teaching itself was unknown territory. At the time, I felt rather insecure about teaching small children. Instead, I felt that I would would be more in my comfort zone teaching Maths, and thereby English also of course, to secondary level students (13-15 years old). When I asked the OMP team about doing this, they were very helpful. The team suggested that I complement the Maths teaching with English, which sounded fine to me. In actual fact, I ended up teaching Maths, English and Social Sciences as well!

Math class with the 14-year-olds went super, actually! After the first I was a bit sceptical. I think pretty much all of them got a fair grip on Pythagoras, but introducing the concepts of statistics and probability was challenging. They woke up, however, when I started using examples from betting and gambling! Finding things they were interested in meant they were more motivated to learn.

Although secondary level dominated my agenda, I also taught English to primary level and kindergarten, i.e., to all the kids, from 4-15 years old! For older students I used basic conversation topics like 'at the restaurant' or 'showing directions'. My English class became great, with competition and lots of enthusiasm. I was also asked to come to the kindergarten where I spent some time with simple vocabulary and ended up in a great handshaking and hugging event with millions of kids at the same time!

Some days nothing went according to 'plan', but great it was! There was no problem filling up the day. Everything was super, and I feel this experience was extremely rewarding and memorable.

On the other hand, I have failed completely in learning Thai - my vocabulary still consists of two words: Hi and Thank you... Perhaps I was too lazy in learning Thai, but I think the main reason is that the languages and sounds are so fundamentally different.

I have to be clear, though: teaching doesn't come without challenges! As long as there is another Thai speaking teacher beside you, mastering at least some English, team teaching works great. However, very few Thai teachers master even very basic English - and very few are comfortable doing team teaching. So, very often you are left by yourself with the children. Sure, body language and theatre takes you a long way, but nevertheless things can get a bit out of hand. Then again, I shouldn't sound negative - the kids are so incredibly adorable and charming. A truly amazing experience!

For the somewhat older students there is very often a large degree of shyness. In particular, when you meet them after school, most of the time they absolutely don't dare to talk to you. Nevertheless, I felt that this shyness gradually decreased during my three weeks there, so if nothing else, I feel that I made at least a tiny contribution to breaking down intercultural barriers.

So, if you want an absolutely unforgettable experience and have the opportunity to do so, don't hesitate to try volunteer teaching with Openmind Projects! With the Southeast Asian people being so warm, friendly and helpful, it is impossible not to love this adventure. And with the help of some body language, Google Translate and an Open Mind, it will be a success!

Blog posted from Krabi, Thailand View larger map

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