Four Weeks in the Land of Smiles

Throughout the past four weeks in Thailand, I have learned that giving yourself to others is ultimately the greatest way to influence change--not only in the lives of others, but in your own life as well.  Despite only being here for four weeks, I feel like each experience I had will last me an entire lifetime.

As you work alongside a villager outside of Fang, deep in the jungle, you become humbled by their incredible work ethic, ingenuity, and kindness. In past weeks, we have completed a retainment wall at the House Bethesda Orphanage and a water filtration project in the village of Baa Sii. While we typically complete one physically-intensive project per week, we completed three this week.

To start the week off, we completed a tire installment project at a local community center. While painting the tires was fun, getting them installed in the ground was quite the challenge due to the hard clay. Thankfully, the sweet smiles of the children attending pre-school at this time lifted the burdens we felt as we swung the hoe into the unforgiving dirt. Knowing that this project was for them made it that much more special.

After a long day in the sun, we travelled to Santaad, a village that has been working with Help International for over six years. The impact of Help International has made here is extremely prevalent from the moment you step off the back of the truck. Each child here is extremely loving and comfortable with us, despite only meeting us for the first time. While development work takes years of efforts and involves building an infrastructure in impoverished communities, the result is ultimately seen through the lives of the children. It overjoyed me to see how far this village has come, giving me hope for the other villages we are currently working with. During this visit, I was extremely grateful to form a special connection with a boy named Kan.

The next day, we had the opportunity to help plant rice. As each hour passed, each member of our team gradually became quicker and quicker. Being knee-deep in mud and surrounded by strange bugs was alarming at first, but overall an amazing experience. Needless to say, we have never been more grateful for the rice we eat here in Thailand and back home!

Following the rice planting, we spent two days at the village of Huay Bu helping install a new dam and water pipeline. This was by far the most physically challenging project we have done yet. However, it became increasingly more meaningful the further we got into the project. Although we were all extremely sweaty, dirty, and hot, I have slowly become grateful for times like these because they build the most character. Learning to persevere and exhibit grit is not something you have, but rather something you learn through experiences like these. Furthermore, the projects we reap quickly become the foundation of future relationships. Each drop of sweat you share with their village becomes the means of breaking down walls and creating bridges. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I am so glad we have been able to experience a variety of challenging projects while here in Thailand.

To finish off the week, we taught English lessons at two different schools. Seeing your students repeatedly and seeing them grow is an incredible feeling. Their enthusiasm for learning makes teaching more enjoyable and extremely worthwhile. While education, clean water, and many other necessities have been repeatedly taken for granted in the United States, people here in Thailand are still striving for it each and every day. I have gained a huge appreciation for the blessings in my life and I hope the work being done here will continue for years to come.

Overall, I have learned so much during my short time here in Thailand. Four weeks may seem long, but it goes by in the blink of an eye. I will never forget hugging my new best friend, Kan, in Santaad for the last time or the smiles of the villagers in Baa Sii after we completed the water filtration project. The relationships and friendships I have gained here will forever be the most important part of my journey and I am so grateful I was able to be here in the Land of Smiles.


Jeffery, Thailand Volunteer