Back in 2010, I resigned from my job and returned to university to pursue my dream of finishing my degree. While attending university, I thought that I could be a volunteer teacher in my spare time. I searched the internet for a volunteer teaching assignment that would suit me. My thought was that I could teach art – drawing, painting and that sort of thing.
I came across 4dekdoi.com. I checked them out and learned that they were a charity organization aimed at helping hill tribe children at Aomkoi District, Chiangmai Mai Province, Thailand. I liked the idea of working with hill tribe children and visiting that part of my homeland. After verifying that they were a reputable group, I expressed my interest and volunteered to lend a hand.
While introducing myself to the group on their webpage, I met Khun Bes. He’s from Northern Thailand and is fully involved in charity and volunteer work. He spends his whole year working with the group. Either raising funds or traveling to the tribal areas and working with the children and locals to implement projects of various sorts – building and rebuilding schools, setting up generators for electricity, installing teachers for various villages, etc.
He asked if I would like to join his group and journey out to the hills with them. I said “yes!” and never looked back.
That’s where’s the story begins. We maintain contact via Facebook. We design and make T-Shirt for sale to raise funds. We organize over the internet and then meet in various places in Thailand and head up north three or four times a year.
The first project that I joined, we re-furbished the classroom and library. We also installed a new outside latrine and shower. We brought medical treatment for the children. Each time we go, we feed the children three meals a day. This might be the only time of the year that these children eat this well. We collected clothing, books and toys to give to the children. We also play educational games.
All the while, we camp out in tents spending all of our time on site. We have to stay on site as it’s an 8 to 12 hour journey to each village and we stay five to six days each time.
On the first trip, we traveled to Salate School in Amkoi, Chiangmai. It was a great success. We had enough money for food and activities AND to build them two toilets. Yeah!
I still remember the day that we arrived. My friends and I arrived at the meeting point. We met the other volunteers who would make the journey with us from Bangkok to Chiangmai. We all came from different parts of the country. It was a great feeling to come together to do something good for people who were less fortunate than we. We loaded up and prepared everything for the journey and headed out for Aomkoi! However, the school was not in the central district. When we arrived in Chiangmai, we had to change vehicles. We needed 4WDs to get into the tribal areas. Amkoi is far into the hill tribe area. The roads are mostly mud trails through mountain passes and over ridgelines. Up the hills…down the hills…and back up again…until
finally we arrived 10 hours later at our destination. It was a rough ride.
It was great experience. The roads were mostly muddy or partially concrete but all around us was lush greenery — the forests and jungles of Northern Thailand. We were surrounded by nature. The air was crisp and fresh. The atmosphere was peaceful and wonderful. I was so happy that I burst into tears. I was proud to have made the journey and to be in that place doing some small part to help others. I believe that all of my friends that would join in this endeavor would have that same good and wholesome feeling. It’s a fairly serious trip up to the hill tribes. One wrong turn or a slip could send us off the side of the mountain to certain doom. You need skilled and experienced drivers. The hills are very steep. The roads are, for the most part, horrendous. When you arrive, though, it’s worth every risk and every bruised body part.
At journey’s end, I saw a tiny roof through the forest canopy. I screamed; “Yes, we’re here.” I was a little excited. We reached the school. The villagers all came out to greet us. They helped us carry all of our cargo and bags and tents and such. The children…the children…they stood around us smiling beatifically. They were happy and shy and beautiful smiles and, oh so cute. They were simply precious.
We spent the new seven nights teaching the kids, playing games with them, building outhouses and installing plumbing, feeding the children and generally having a wonderful time. It was a much more blessed experience than I had expected. I was grateful to those children in that village. They had showed me the joys of helping others. For certain, it was a challenge. It was worth every second, every dollar or baht and every bruise and piece of paint in my hair.