Tomorrow begins the expansion of the Sanuk My Saturday volunteering project into the Yommarat community. I’m excited, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. Looking for funding to sustain this project has forced me to articulate some of the goals I have. Today I want to share them with you, because you’re already investors in this effort through your comments, donations, and help spreading the word.
1. Build strong relationships - This is the most important part of what we’re doing. Why? Because it allows us to assess the specific needs of the families. For example, we found out one of our students not only has trouble paying some of her school fees, but sometimes doesn’t have money for food. So we’re talking about providing scholarships for students in this situation and brainstorming what we can do about larger issues such as alcoholism, gambling and drug abuse that have lead to these circumstances.
2. Fuse learning with fun - This is not a replacement for school, which is free in Thailand. Our role is to reinforce what’s happening at school and to step in where problems like not having money for uniforms or supplies could derail their education. We do that by having a good time while exposing the kids to English, often one on one with an English speaking volunteer. A few hours on a Saturday may not seem like much, unless you consider that most of these children’s parents have never had a meaningful encounter with a foreigner, let alone interact for over an hour. Furthermore, in government schools, they are not likely to have a chance to study English until high school. If nothing else, I hope all the photo updates I’ve posted of the last few weeks have convinced you we’re enjoying ourselves, but there have been other signs of success also. We’ve seen shy kids initiate activities and watched as over the past seven months the entire group has completely dropped any inhibitions they may have had about foreigners.
3. Engage change makers – This is where the volunteering comes in. We’re making it easy for Bangkok residents and sojourners alike become familiar with these communities and encouraging them to get involved. We plan the teaching, so volunteers mainly need to show up and engage the kids. This is not a hard sell, as other volunteering opportunities in Bangkok are scarce and the kids can be very convincing. Since the start of the program we have hosted about fifty or more volunteers and I’m hoping to get more locals active in the program this year. I want the volunteers to really see that they can make a difference and begin to take more ownership of the program.
Tomorrow will be a challenging day, as we begin to earn the trust of this new community. Not to mention adjusting to teaching new students when a freight train comes through your classroom regularly. However, we are optimistic about growing and constantly improving this program. I appreciate your constructive criticism and continued support. We will definitely be adding to this list of goals as the year goes on.