Before I left for a three-month volunteer teacher position working with Burmese migrants in Ranong, Thailand (which subsequently turned into 15 months) I pondered some of the issues raised in my last blog: We Need to Talk About Voluntourism: A Commentary Was I doing the right thing? Was I really needed there? What would the impact of having someone from another culture and no knowledge of the local language be? Were my experience and qualifications adequate to do the job I was tasked with? Rather than become part of the problem, I wanted to empower, build capability and inspire.
A while back a friend sent me an article written in The Spinoff entitled "We need to talk about voluntourism". 'Voluntourism' or volunteer tourism, is based upon the concept of doing something good while travelling, and has been gaining popularity in recent years. NGOs connect people wanting to give something back with projects (usually) in so-called developing countries. This may include assisting with construction, conservation and environmental projects, teaching English and the oft sought after orphanage tourism. While it is often possible to help for long periods of time - months or years, tourists often dedicate part of their holiday to a project, say a few weeks.
Aleisha Keating writes of the barriers to schooling and the value education gives in the lives of Myanmar migrants in Thailand.
Teaching Burmese migrants here in Thailand, I hear of their stories, their struggles and their aspirations: their predicament often dominates my thoughts. While working with a migrant population is a new experience for me, migration itself is woven into my heritage. Aotearoa/New Zealand, where I grew up, is a country founded on migration. My ancestors predominantly… Continue reading The Migrant’s Plight
The student's caring bespectacled eyes beckoned me, "Teacher! Come and have some of my lunch. Please!" Dishes of vegetable, chicken and rice were quickly exhibited. "Oh thanks! But, I already have my lunch," I replied. Some two hours later, having changed out of my teacher's uniform, I was wandering through school carrying a small backpack. "Teacher! Where are you… Continue reading The Guilt of Privilege
"Stop where you are Under fading stars This is the world we've made There is no better place, it's true Light a fire where you are" ("Stop Where You Are" by Corinne Bailey Rae (2016)) December 1st. The first day of the last month of the year. The beginning of advent. And World AIDS Day.… Continue reading Stop Where You Are
After almost three weeks here in Ranong, Thailand, I am almost at a loss about what to write about. So many new experiences and perspectives, faces and names, foods and words. Should I share some of my experiences in learning to live in a place whose cultural and political context contrasts other places I've lived?… Continue reading Initial Reflections: Life on the Thai-Myanmar Border