From the get go, our team had some huge challenges. Whether it was delayed flights or even adjusting to the weather, our teamwork was a success! It wasn’t easy to leave Thailand because of what the country, the people and our work meant to us. Ask any of our team members and they will have different answers for what their favorite memory was, but when it comes to the overall experience, you’ll likely receive a smile and perhaps a few tears. Thailand meant a lot to us because of what we accomplished as a team for people who were in dire need of our help. We helped people who were considered foreigners in the country and have moved mountains with the amount of groundwork we’ve done. In a brief summary, here are some of the amazing accomplishments — the biggest of which are the sweet relationships that were built between the Mokens and our team.
Medical: We’ve helped create and stock medical supplies for the Moken community on the island, as well as teach hygiene and more sanitary methods to handling feminine hygiene with our hundreds of handmade menstruation pads. We’ve also helped instruct mothers how to take better care of themselves and care for their baby during and post-pregnancy.
Education: Every student on the team had well-prepared lessons ranging from the alphabet, to animals, to anatomy. Education helps foster and grow young minds, and it helped the Moken community branch out from their limited world on the island. The children are their future, and we certainly acknowledged this by providing a ton of school supplies and hand-made backpacks for the kids.
Vocation/Micro-enterprise: The common phrase of “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…” certainly applied with our team as we helped teach the Moken community the basics of business and vocation skills. Hopefully with our prepared lessons that included the “Four P’s” the Mokens will be able to generate more wealth and a steady income.
Culture: Total culture shock! Not only did we break the grounds of introducing our culture to a remote one, we’ve done it with happy smiles and laughter with the likes of “Cotton Eye Joe”, our national anthem and eventually, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” not only in English, but Thai and Moken as well. Also, we’ve helped document a rare language and stories created from the generations of being a nomadic tribe of traveling people. It’s only the beginning as we want to treasure and retain their amazing culture.
Construction: Dirt…and we moved lots of it… enough to make our own island. Jokes aside, because of our work the children at the inland Mercy Center can enjoy a newly paved basketball court and refinished bathrooms. On the island, the Moken community will be able to enjoy cleaner water with the new facility we’ve helped establish. We’ve cleaned-up a ton of debris from the tsunami, moved supplies, hand-painted beautiful murals and handled the infamous dirty sea-shells.
This is just a brief snapshot of the large amount of work our team accomplished. Every day we handled not just one, but two different sites, with one requiring boat-rides across rough waters and rainstorms. Because of our dedication and presence, we’ve hopefully bridged a poverty-stricken community to a brighter future.
Don’t be surprised if your jet-lagged child has come back with daily requests for white rice and spicy food, or the need to dig up dirt in the yard. However, what you can certainly expect are bright, future leaders – young adults who want to make a difference not just in the community but anywhere in the world, including remote areas others wouldn’t even consider venturing into. The spirit to volunteer was certainly fostered, and the lifetime humanitarians of Team Thailand 2013 will never forget this amazing experience.
Team Bloggers Itzak Lefler, Emily Kwok and Eleanor Johnston.