The decision to volunteer my time to help refugees in Bangkok four or five years ago was one of the most rewarding and challenging decisions I think I’ve ever made.
I quickly found out raising and administering funds to provide food, shelter, and a bit of joy for a dozen families was an exhausting and endless task. There seemed to be always something to do, someone to visit, or some emergency beckoning.
Thankfully that period didn’t last forever.
While we still have the large undertaking of providing for the basic needs of several families, this year we’ve slowly been building on those initial programs.
Earlier this year we started addressing education needs with extra tutoring for children who weren’t able to go to school. The extra time with the kids paid off when they were allowed to begin school this past spring.
Fast forward to this week when I purchased uniforms for some of those same new students, whose good test results earned them the right to move ahead two grades, edging steadily closer to catching pace with children their own age.
This weekend we also have the second term of classes beginning at the volunteer run pre-school we’ve been supporting in a poor migrant community. The idea behind the pre-school is to catch ‘em young and orient the kids to being in a classroom while also teaching some basic English. The language barrier between the kids and volunteers was a big hurdle for the first few weeks of classes, but at the end of last term the kids had caught on to the routine, mastering some basic commands, their names, and counting.
We’re still rounding up volunteers for the second term, but those already on board are excited about the classes beginning again. This is especially true since we’re expanding into an extra play area for the kids. The new play area is a big deal for both the teachers wanting to do activities without the kids falling over each other and for the little ones who’ll be happy for an excuse to expend even more energy during the three hour edutainment sessions.
Food, shelter, and a fun learning environment — the basics and yet giant steps toward improving the quality of life for children and their families in underserved communities.