11th of August was a very interesting day, I already added an entry about the volunteer program, so you can read the stuff which happened on this day there.
Thai Volunteer program
Imagine, you are a student at a big city somewhere in America or Europe. Someone offers you to talk to foreigners about the culture in your home country and show them the city you are living. To spend your spare time with people you don’t even know. What would be your first thought? Probably “How much do they pay? For students in Thailand the question is probably: Where do I have to sign?
But here is the whole story!
I already wrote about the Thai Volunteer program at the Bangkok International Youth hostel, but after staying here a few times and spending the past week at this place, I got a much closer look on the whole project.
“It’s a program where local Thai youth volunteer their time to connect and familiarise travellers thus creating cross-cultural exchange and enhancing a strong international friendship which result in travellers been guided around and shown the city and put in close contact with Thai culture. Instead of being a lost traveller or anonymous member of a large tour group, travellers are able to spend time interacting on a personal level with Thai youth, all the while learning about Thai culture, visiting local landmark with a new found personal guide and generally being welcome and save in a place which may initially save seemed intimating and foreign.” (That’s the description, written by Promvit, leader of the program)
I was invited to be guest at the opening ceremony of the 8th volunteer program (I was the only foreigner there). The volunteers change every fourth month, so other students get the chance to join the program. Mr. Ong-Ard, Director of the Thai Youth hostel Association took me to the ministry of youth, where the ceremony was set. Volunteers from the 6th and 7th program guided me around and introduced me to the new group of volunteers. A lot of students who join the volunteer program work on other tourism-projects afterwards.
There are more then 300 Thai Students, who want to join the volunteer program, but only twenty of them are finally chosen. My guide asked me to introduce myself to the students and I told them what I’m doing and that I’m travelling around for Worldsurface. The students then asked me questions about what I like in Thailand most, what I think about the program etc. The minister of youth also showed up at the ceremony, which is I think proving that the program already got some attention in Thailand.
First Mr. Ong-Ard talked about the International Youth Hostelling and the Volunteer Program. After that, the minister of youth started to talk. It seems that Thai politicians love long speeches just as western politicians do. They all spoke Thai, but fortunately one of the volunteers translated the important stuff for me. The minister was a very nice guy. He talked about his time as a student and how important the volunteer program is for Thailand.
He finished his speech with little quotes in English, which I also want to post:
Reason only is not enough, but feeling and emotion is equal important. To lead means to serve and to lead means to follow.
Unfortunately I had to leave the ceremony before the official ending, but it was very interesting to talk to the volunteers and meet the people behind the project.
If you come to Thailand and look for something special, (I’m not talking about the Khao San Road stuff.) then come to the Bangkok International Youth Hostel and meet up with the volunteers! It’s a great experience, which I can recommend to everyone!