Orphanage

Men's Volunteer DormIt’s barely six o’clock in the morning and I begin to hear the hustle and bustle of thirty children getting ready to go to school. I stumble my way out of the mosquito net that surrounds the bed. The bed is made up of two or three long cushions that are usually placed on a wooden frame. In this case, a handful of cushions have been stacked on each other on the concrete floor. The rainy season and the leaky metal roof has made it so they are damp and sometimes smell of mold.

The noise outside continues as I reach for my glasses and peek out the door across the courtyard where the kids are running around taking care of last-minute details or eating their rice porridge breakfast. Some of the boys have not managed to get into their school uniforms yet while the girls were helping each other with their hair. As the breakfast bowls are put down, the kids make their way to the back of an old pickup truck. Some of the older kids drive off on mopeds, while others drive off on their bicycles. As the pickup truck drives away there is a silence left behind that reflects the mist of the early morning that has settled on the orphanage.

Since I arrived in Chiang Rai the weather has shown to manifest in any one of the variations of rain. From light drizzles to pouring monsoons, the season is wet. Your senses adjust to the diffused daylight and the moist air. This afternoon, for just a couple of minutes, the heavy clouds part to make way for the sun. The sun brings a bright, lovely color – painting the landscape in vibrancy. This experience is best described by the sensation of taking off very dark sunglasses after wearing them all day. The contrast was such that it felt feels like a different place all-together. Moments like this increases my appreciation of the simple things I often overlook.

I fall asleep with the sounds of heavy raindrops hitting the metal roof of the men’s dorm. The evening sky just finished an encore performance. A fantastic show of lightning and thunder that keeps replaying in my mind as I close my eyes. As I feel sleep take over my consciousness, a large dense fruit falls from a nearby tree. The fruit bounces off of the  metal roof causing a very loud noise that echos within the small shack. I smile as I am reminded I am not home anymore.

This entry is part of a series of posts on my trip to Southeast Asia in August of 2008. You can see all of the posts in this series the post: A look back to my trip to Southeast Asia.

Lunch at the BLC

Saturday morning I spent with an experience group of volunteers at the Boston Living Center. I am making a bad habit of arriving ten minutes late to places where I volunteer. I am still trying to get the hang of things and how to get into Boston and park and whatnot…In my defense, I am usually the volunteer that travels the most, but that is certainly no excuse! I’ll have to leave earlier next time, and I’ll be taking the T into Boston.

I spent most of my time in the kitchen making sure the larger pots and serving trays and other food containers were washed. It was a different atmosphere since most of the volunteers at the BLC were "veteran" volunteers who have been volunteering there for years. Everyone knew what they were doing and what they had to do to run a flawless show. I did my best to make myself useful and be as much help as I could.

Having kitchen duty, while not bad at all, somewhat limited my interaction with the folks that came in for lunch. Instead, I had an opportunity to chat and learn from the other, more experienced volunteers.The really busy time in the kitchen is just after folks finish eating, which sounds so obvious, but being so used to serving at other places, I was somehow expecting it to be busy as folks arrived.

Another great experience volunteering in the Boston area. If the opportunity arises, I’ll definitely sign up to help out at the BLC again. 😉 

Destination: Chiang Rai, Thailand

Half of IHF’s mission is to educate the poor and the other half is to educate the world about the poor. Our vision is to strive for a world of leaders and citizens who have interacted with, and are truly knowledgeable about the world’s poor.
– IHF Website

IHF OrphanageIn addition to various sponsorship programs such as classroom or orphan sponsorships, the International Humanity Foundation (IHF) operates multiple orphanages in Indonesia, Kenya and Thailand with a focus on creating a nurturing environment for the children where they can make their education a priority. The IHF presence in Thailand is located in the city of Chiang Rai, Thailand. Nestled in between Burma to the west and Laos to the east is the northern-most province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. This summer, Chiang Rai will serve as my introduction to Southeast Asia as I will be volunteering at the orphanage in Chiang Rai as part of my trip to Southeast Asia.

I have been volunteering online with IHF since March 30th of this year. The volunteering work has consisted primarily of reviewing volunteer applications and determining which role would fit them best by reviewing their skills and experience against the needs of the organization. Compared to other volunteering opportunities around the world, IHF out-of-pocket costs for volunteers are relatively small. IHF accomplishes this by having most of the administrative work be done by volunteers online before they arrive at their center of choice. The requirements to log hours volunteering online are strict but well worth it.

This entry is part of a series of posts on my trip to Southeast Asia in August of 2008. You can see all of the posts in this series the post: A look back to my trip to Southeast Asia.

Musings

So, I probably look like a complete slacker. I’ve not updated this thing in a bit I must not be doing much!

Not the case!

So what have I been up to? I was actually scheduled to help test out some computer systems for donations couple weeks back, but since i was not feeling well at all that weekend, I decided to cancel it.

For the last month or so, I’ve been volunteering from home for the International Humanities Foundation. I have been placed in the Volunteer Task Team; specifically, I help assign new volunteers to different tasks. Things started a bit bumpy. The organisation was in the middle of making some changes to their application process and, at first, I was a bit lost. Now that I’ve spent many weeks with the process and working with the folks, I am becoming very comfortable with my task and doing my best to get it done.

While I’ve volunteered locally less, I still have continued volunteering. It may not be for a couple of more weeks before I do volunteer locally again. With Mother’s Day coming up, I will be spending a weekend delivering flowers throughout the metrowest area.

I’ve also been trying to sneak in a bit more personal time on the weekends as well. 🙂

Women’s Lunch Place

This past Saturday I spent a good portion of my afternoon helping out at the Women’s Lunch Place in Boston. As the link will explain, the Women’s Lunch Place (WPL) is where poor or homeless women and their children can go to for a hot meal.

I got involved with WPL through BostonCares. Specifically, I was there to help serve the wonderful ladies and help clean up once meals were finished. Once i got in and strapped the apron on, I felt very comfortable being in a large kitchen. Just shows you how all of those years helping my mom and her catering business really provided me with some skills i could put to use. The contrasting difference, is the complete lack of stress when helping setup and serve the food at WPL.

Volunteering there really was a great pleasure. It was a lot of fun to help them out and to treat those ladies as if each one was a special guest in a fancy restaurant. I hope that the great meal and the warm service has made them smile. 🙂

Because the organisation wants to provide a more personal touch, the servers take the already made plates to the ladies at their tables, as they would do if they were in a restaurant.

The kitchen staff, our project leader and the rest of the servers were really great. I even ran across another volunteer that i worked with previously at another one of the BostonCares projects. Everyone was very helpful and everyone worked together to do their best. Our project leader was wonderful and took the time to personally meet with just about everyone of our guests.

Once the dessert was served, I volunteered to take over the pot-scrubbing duty and did that for pretty much the remainder of the afternoon. Everyone helped out with cleaning up the kitchen as well as the hall.

Comparing this experience to my other volunteering experiences, this was the first time where I could interact with the people that i am trying to help out, while the other volunteering projects I’ve been involved with I had to ponder the impact on those I was trying to help.

Working at the WPL is one of the very hot places to volunteer at BostonCares and I most definitely will volunteer there again. The slots fill up fast, but I’ve already signed up to help out in one of the Saturdays in May. Though, I will have to plan a bit better my trip into Boston so that i do not end up paying $26 for parking at Copley Place again. I am looking forward to it 🙂

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