“But I’m not a teacher,” I said. “Surely you’d like a qualified teacher instead?” “All you need is love,” was the reply.
We were discussing an opportunity that had recently arisen to volunteer with the Marist Asia Foundation in Ranong, Thailand. This was an interview like none other, not that it was an interview as such. Usually when I’ve applied for jobs or other opportunities I’ve been critiqued on my skills and experience, how I deal with conflict or what value I’ll be able to add to the business. But love, that’s not something that people usually openly discuss in such a situation. This was different. Love, I thought. I think I can do that.
And so, having expressed a willingness to love and share my abilities, a few short weeks later I packed my bags, left my home of comfort and flew to Thailand. Laden with children’s books and gifts of chocolate, new sandals strapped to my feet and The Beatles tune ‘All You Need is Love’ playing in my head, I arrived in Ranong last week. So close is this city to the Myanmar border, that many Burmese have migrated here in the hope of obtaining a better life.
While Thailand presents better economic opportunities for Burmese migrants than their homeland, the daily struggle for many Burmese families to survive is ever present. Marist Asia Foundation’s education project aims to provide Burmese migrant children with an education, which will hopefully lead to an alternative future to one working in the local fish and charcoal factories or the sex industry. I’m told that being able to speak English, in addition to Thai and Burmese languages is invaluable for future career and life opportunities. Over the next few months, I’ll be doing my best to teach English and other subjects to a range of ages.
So, here I am, aware of my privileged upbringing and opportunities I’ve had to get an education, to travel and to have stable well-paid work. I have arrived to share my language, knowledge and experience, but most of all to love. And I’m not talking about romantic love. But love in action. The kind the world needs a lot more of. I am ready to give, ready to learn and ready to challenged. I’m sure this new turn in my life will present many ethical dilemmas and different threads that will become interwoven into my story. This journey begins with love and I guess I’ll find out whether that makes a difference or not.