Volunteering at Muangkud School, Thailand
My half-day excursion to Muangkud School, located in Mae Taeng district of Chiang Mai, came as a wonderful surprise to me. When applying to become a volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park, there was no mention in the application or on the website about the extras that the volunteers got to do. Going on a half-day outing to a local school was one of those extras. Volunteering at an orphange, teaching English overseas and assisting in a school environment has been a huge dream of mine since I was very young and when I was told I would be spending a day at a local Thai school, I was ecstatic. After powering through our morning chores, all three volunteer groups at ENP hopped in vans and the back of a truck for the drive to Muangkud School. Sitting in the back of the pickup truck, ducking every once in the while in order not to be impaled by a rogue tree branch, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of a Thai school, especially one located in a somewhat remote village. However, as soon as I set foot on the school grounds, one of my most treasured memories began.
Before anyone could speak or direct the volunteers, a swarm of Thai girls and boys came running from the classrooms to grab onto our hands. The boldest children came first, clinging to the arms of every volunteer. It was only a matter of seconds before I had two girls holding onto my hands, bouncing up and down and flashing me excited smiles. I spent the next few hours in the Kindergarten classroom, playing and reading with the kids. That morning I expanded my knowledge of the Thai language from “Hello” and “Thank you,” to “What is your name?” and “How old are you?” in an effort to interact with the children. Unfortunately, I remember neither question today. I know basically no Thai and the kids knew very little English, but somehow we managed to communicate and understand eachother for the duration of our visit. That entire morning was all about fun. It was interesting to see how the girls and boys interacted with one another. The boys in the Kindergarten room were extremely rambunctious with eachother, to a point where some deemed it violent: throwing sharp toys, punching, kicking, etc, leaving a friend in tears. However, they would be back playing again fifteen minutes later. The girls obssessed over my hair. The little girl holding my right hand quickly slipped the elastic off my wrist, had me sit down and immediately went to work braiding, brushing, and tying my hair up in random pigtails. Her friend, still holding my left hand, quickly joined in until I had two little girls giggling and doing my hair in any crazy way they could think of.
That morning I got to play for hours with Kindergarten children, spinning them around and around until we were all dizzy and falling over, playing games like Duck, Duck, Goose or Ring Around the Rosie, and answering their curious questions. Other volunteers got to teach English or Math, help girls make bracelets that the school sells each day, help students bake cookies for the volunteers, play soccer and volleyball outside with the older boys, or even get a foot massage to watch and learn about the massage training that students can take. Although I only spent a few short hours at Muangkud School that day, it has deepened my interest of volunteering in an orphanage immensely and I will never forget the adorable smiles and curious faces of the kids at that school.