Thanks for your responses on National Volunteer Week. Especially to Charlotte who wrote to say that in addition to her regular volunteering gig, she went to the Bangkok airport with supplies and toys for people who had been stranded by flight cancellations in Europe.
There are more people out there like Charlotte who are doing and giving what they can to help people. I asked some of them to help explain what exactly “sanuk” is and how they had been involved with In Search of Sanuk. Enjoy reading their great answers.
“Sanuk is fun; in terms of what we do, sanuk is having a good time while helping out.“
[Involvement] The first thing I did with ISOS was help put together the ‘Taste of Sri Lanka’ refugee fundraiser event nearly a year ago. From there, I began volunteering at Sanuk My Saturday (in Pinklao). I was really enjoying it, and Dwight needed more help with the program, so I agreed to become the program coordinator.
[Sanuk is...] Sanuk is fun; in terms of what we do, sanuk is having a good time while helping out. We want you to come to our events and enjoy yourself. Volunteering should be fun, a break from your daily (perhaps tedious) day jobs. We want you to look forward to coming back.
[Top Memory] This is a tough one…there are so many! Mine is not so much one memory, but two little girls. Tam and Om, two of the regular Pinklao kids, have a special place in my heart. They make my Saturdays awesome, and remind me each time of why I’m involved.
“I believe in making a positive difference in the community that I live in.”
[Involvement] I believe in making a positive difference in the community that I live in. The number of nonprofits is growing in Bangkok but the number of people supporting them is dwindling. With ISOS, there are always opportunities to volunteer but fewer hands to help. I was very happy to be one of the volunteers at Sanuk My Saturday a month ago.
[Sanuk is...] to have a good time, to enjoy myself from the pleasure and joy of doing something good and fun.
[Top Memory] It was the giggles and smiles from the chidren. Some of them sneaked behind me and gave me a big sneak hug!
“They say they will never forget us all for as long as they live. How often do you get to impact people’s lives like that?”
[Involvement] I am involved with ISOS because a group that I organize has been featured on the web site. I organize groups of people to visit refugee families at the Immigration Detention Center. For each person that visits we can get one refugee out of their room for an hour. Children are roomed with one of the parents, so the other doesn’t get to see them unless they each have a visitor. One of the families has 7 members, 2 men & 5 women, so if we want this family to be able to have a visit, we need 7 volunteers to come sign them out. One of the daughters had a birthday recently, her 13th and what she wanted for her birthday was to get to see her father and brother! WOW, how many 13 year olds do you know who would be asking for that for their birthday? The things we take for granted! ISOS has been instrumental in bringing in a steady stream of willing & enthusiastic volunteers to help with these visits.
[Sanuk is...] I actually have no idea what it really means, but I know it’s Thai. To me it means enjoying life to the fullest in a meaningful way that makes you & others feel good about yourselves. For each of us it will be something different, which is why we each have to “search for our Sanuk!”
[Top Memory] My favorite ISOS memory is the day we had enough visitors to bring out the family of 7 for the first time. The women had not seen their son/brother for 2 1/2 years, because he’d been in detention for that long & the rest of the family was newly arrested. They were all crying & hugging each other. I was overwhelmed by how a simple act of 7 people taking a few hours out of their day could impact a family’s life. Also the letters I get that thank the volunteers for helping them keep the faith in humanity & the knowledge that they’ve not been forgotten. They say they will never forget us all for as long as they live. How often do you get to impact people’s lives like that?
[Involvement] I am a fellow traveling micro-philanthropist and mentor to Dwight Turner. Sometimes I funnel funds or contacts to support the work of Sanuk.
[Sanuk is...] fun in Thai. So Dwight is having fun while helping others.
[Top Memory] The videos showing In Search of Sanuk in action.
“… Dwight and other friends took me to the beach for the very first time in my life.”
[Involvement] The art show and party was the first time I was involved in ISOS. The event was trying to raise money and awareness for urban refugees in Thailand. I was a refugee myself at the time, which made me a beneficiary of the event, so getting involved and helping out seemed to be very logical thing for me to do. Later on, I became a much closer friend with Dwight and started volunteering as much as I could in ISOS’s activities. Eventually, Dwight made me coordinator of some the programs such as Sanuk my Saturday and participating in the planning of some the fundraisers we’ve done in the past.
[Sanuk is...] the Thai word for happiness or something worthwhile to do. The way I think of ISOS is that it’s not just about helping others, it’s also about how you can live differently. To me when I’m helping someone, their happiness is a reward that cannot be replaced by material things. I think “Sanuk” is a life style that each member of the community should embrace and it will have a transforming effect to the world we live in.
[Top Memory] The time when Dwight and other friends took me to the beach for the very first time in my life. Even though it wasn’t officially an ISOS event, but it was the very idea and group of people of ISOS. Even today, Dwight is still saying that my laugh from that trip was the most rewarding thing he received from me.
[Involvement] I’m currently a supporter in spirit from overseas (USA), trying my best to input an additional point of view.
[Sanuk is...] the joys that go beyond our skin encapsulated ego. Happiness only real when shared–a quote from the movie Into the Wild.
[Top Memory] Hmm…I haven’t had any direct experiences with ISOS yet (hopefully soon). Anyway, my favorite parts are probably when I hear about how curious and enthusiastic the kids or the communities were about learning or other creative activities, or how much fun they had despite their regular hard days.
“Volunteering, giving money to charity, and doing good for others doesn’t have to mean complete sacrifice and loss.”
[Involvement] I built In Search Of Sanuk’s website, have helped organize parties and mixers for charity, donated some money through my small business Thrilling Heroics Consulting to ISOS, and gone on volunteer trips with Dwight to Chonburi and Sangklaburi.
[Sanuk is...] fun, and to me, Dwight’s passion and exuberance are a symbol that you can do good things for others and have a blast at the same time. Volunteering, giving money to charity, and doing good for others doesn’t have to mean complete sacrifice and loss. Dwight is making it easy for all kinds of people to help give in small ways in Thailand, and he shows us that when you’re giving to someone else and sharing in the experience, it can put a big smile on your face.
[Top Memory] I think two of the most incredible and rewarding experiences I’ve had were taking a boatload of the kids from Chonburi Children’s Center on their annual trip to the beach and horse-playing with them all day, and visiting Baan Dada, a home for orphaned kids—many of them refugees—and just being influenced by those kids: making music together, playing football, learning from them.
“It was a magical affair. Plenty of volunteers, lots of creative energy flowing and smiles all around.”
[Involvement] I’m involved In Search Of Sanuk through the Saturday tutoring programs at Yommarat and Pinklao. I’m also helping to raise funds to sustain and expand ISOS.
[Sanuk is...] Fun? Living life as fully as you possibly can. Bearing witness to God’s grace and goodness.
[Top Memory] My favorite ISOS memory was the first “Big Fish” book day held at Pinkloa in January 2010. It was a magical affair. Plenty of volunteers, lots of creative energy flowing and smiles all around.
“…sharing love with children and people in disadvantaged situations is really meaningful…”
[Involvement] I am a friend of Dwight and enjoy catching up on how he helps people help other people, especially the children in the slums on Saturdays. I have also attended some of his cool fundraising social events.
[Sanuk is...] sharing love with children and people in disadvantaged situations is really meaningful; and it’s really fun when we partner up with others who share this compassion for fellow human beings to help them in a more powerful way than we can by ourselves.
[Top Memory] Dwight organized a team last fall to visit and play with the 35 orphans in Chonburi Center, and to take them out for a beach outing. They especially loved the buffet bbq dinner afterwards! Me too!
“Sanuk is the look on a detainee’s face when they are reunited with a family member they haven’t seen in a long time.“
[Involvement] I became involved with ISOS when I arrived in Bangkok after almost 2 years of travel, and wanted to give something back to the communities I’ve been visiting. Friends in Bangkok pointed me toward Dwight and his many worthwhile projects. Having worked on asylum cases on a pro bono basis when I was a lawyer, I wanted to get involved with his
visits to IDC. I’ve been going to the Immigration Detention Centre to bring food, supplies and smiles to those who are there. I’ve also tried to mobilise the Twitter travel community passing through Bangkok to spend a morning in IDC. It’s important to give the regular backpacker a taste of what life is like for the many people who cannot leave the country.
[Sanuk is...] Sanuk is the look on a detainee’s face when they are reunited with a family member they haven’t seen in a long time. And for me, sanuk is being able to take something so decadent – travel for the sake of travel – and use my time for something worthwhile.
[Top Memory] Definitely seeing one of the detainees with a young baby be reunited with the baby for a brief moment – he was allowed to hold his child for a few moments, and the undeniable joy on his face was palpable and wonderful to see.
“I have only been involved with ISOS for a short time, but it has been such a fun experience so far.”
[Involvement] I have only been involved with ISOS for a short time, but it has been such a fun experience so far. Meeting the kids in the program and practicing English and playing games with them has been a blast. The program is such a great way to reach the youth of Bangkok and support learning and of course FUN! I look forward to becoming an active member and participating in ISOS every week!
[Sanuk is...] the Thai word for FUN. ISOS means getting kids involved in learning by having FUN! Promoting learning through games and other fun activities is a great way to keep the kids interested and passionate about English!
[Top Memory] Although I have only recently joined ISOS, my favorite memory has been meeting all the kids and volunteers and playing fun games! Its a real bonding experience and they call it Sanuk for a reason!!
[Sanuk is...] a type of billiard game (or pool in the US) … It’s fun!
[Top Memory] The attempt at interviewing the mute homeless guy would be it, especially when we both don’t write Thai that well and he couldn’t read Thai which makes writing Thai well pretty pointless.
“I do remember sharing a Pepsi with Dwight in the middle of Klong Toey Slum.”
[Involvement] I am a friend of Dwight’s and a pastor in Bangkok. One of the things I’ve run into in Bangkok is that there are a significant number of people who would like to volunteer their time and expertise, but it can be hard to do. There are language and reliability barriers. Dwight is working to overcome the barriers and make it easier to do good. We have a common vision in that sense and so I’ve tried to provide my own contacts, support and referrals to ISOS.
[Sanuk is...] good clean fun. As a pastor I think another way to define it is abundant life, which is why Jesus said he came. Could you say Jesus came that we might have more sanuk? Maybe.
“I think it best translates as freedom.“
[Involvement] I’ve volunteered to take photos of ISOS events with the aim of providing some images to help raise awareness of the project. I feel that it’s a really worthwhile endeavour but, as is always the case with such projects, making people aware of the work that’s being done is crucial and I hope that I can offer a little assistance with that.
[Sanuk is...] In the context of In Search of Sanuk, I think it best translates as “Freedom”. ISOS offers the opportunity for people to explore things beyond their usual frames of reference. It’s about facilitating and enabling people to offer assistance where it is most needed and it provides a friendly and nurturing environment for those who benefit from ISOS work.
[Top memory] My first outing with ISOS where volunteers arrived at a school to be greeted with great enthusiasm by the children who had been awaiting their arrival. It was quite moving and testament to the positive impact that volunteers can have on a community.
“Sanuk is putting a smile on other people’s faces by having a smile on your own face…”
[Involvement] I am involved in a lot of random and often spontaneous events associated with ISOS. Chasing energized kids, splashing elderly ladies with flower water during the Songkran Festival, helping out with little jobs, and sampling the latest Sri Lankan food, have all been part of my role with ISOS.
[Sanuk is...] Sanuk is putting a smile on other people’s faces by having a smile on your own face, and often the smile on your own face is derived from others.
[Top Memory] There are many, but randomly showing up at the 2009 Christmas celebration at the school in Pinklao takes the cake. Upon arriving, Dwight and I were asked to perform an impromtu song infront of at least 200 happy kids, Little Thai kids dressed like Santa with green afro wigs and huge smiles is a priceless and uplifting sight. Following was a delightful feast of sen yai latnaa (rice noodles smothered in pork gravy). A fantastic way to celebrate Christmas and an awesome memory!
Thanks everyone for participating. I enjoyed reading these so much that I will include some of what people said on the website permanently. If you have something to add, please make a comment.