On November 15th, nineteen eager high school students and three vigilant teacher-chaperons departed for Chiang Mai, Thailand where we would all participate in a week of volunteering in a rural village just a few hours outside of the city. With our duffel bags fully stocked with clothes for tiring days of hard work, and a level of excitement that could not be matched, we all felt physically ready to take on a week of manual labor under the hot Thai sun. Admittedly, upon arrival at the village, our initial feelings of enthusiasm shifted to those of apprehension. Our tour of the area revealed the mosquito nets and sleeping bags we would be sleeping in, the Thai style toilet that we would be using, as well as the river that we would be showering in. To say the least, the accommodations were a contrast to what the average ASIJ student was accustomed to.
Our days of volunteering began every morning at 8:30 am, when we would all report to the school in the village. Here, we would begin construction on a library. Instructed by the local villagers, we hauled buckets upon buckets of dirt and rocks, and used shovels and hoes to mix the cement. We would then form an assembly line to hand off buckets of cement to fill the flooring. Through this process, we came to learn that teamwork was key, and it was truly a great bonding experience to work towards a common goal. Our hours of volunteer work, however, were broken up with breaks, where we had the opportunity to interact with the local school children. We were able to overcome the language barrier by playing catch together, singing songs, and playing games.
Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of the entire trip was seeing the joy and gratitude of the people in this village. On our last day in the village, we had the opportunity to give the children clothing donations. It was so humbling to be able to see how overjoyed the children were to be able to pick out something new to call their own.
In Retrospect, I feel that this trip could not have come at a more fitting time. During the Thanksgiving season, I felt extremely appreciate for the perspective and sense of gratitude that this trip helped to restore in my life. Although we were unable to stay for the completion of the library, we left Chiang Mai with a deep desire to contribute more. I am certain that we will carry this experience with us for the rest of our lives, and it will compel us to keep the spirit of volunteerism alive. (Mali Shimojo, Grade 11 student)