Where are they now? – Sara Hutcheson

This edition of ‘Where are they now?’ features Sara, who was a volunteer coordinator and worked with ATMA SEVA for several months in 2010-2011.  We caught back up with Sara to check in and see what she is up to at the moment. Read her answers below to hear about her time in Thailand, with ATMA SEVA, and where she is now.


1) Tell everyone about yourself, what brought you to Thailand, and how you got connected to ATMA SEVA.

I went to Thailand with a one-way plane ticket in the fall of 2010 and a vague notion of finding a job teaching English so that I could stay for an undetermined length of time.  I ended up staying for just under a year and, about half way through my stay, became friends with Dave Poppe (Programs Director for ATMA SEVA) through another job that he had at the time. He told me about ATMA SEVA and, because of my background in English teaching and in non-profit program administration, I volunteered some time during my last few months in the country.

2) What was your involvement with ATMA SEVA?

Dave was working on a new website for the program at the time, so I helped with the writing and brainstormed with Dave about program development. I also got to co-host a few volunteer teachers and showed them the sights of Chiang Mai and Doi Saket and helped them with lesson planning.

Sara pictured above after one of our very first monk chats

Sara pictured above after one of our very first monk chats

3) What is your most memorable moment from your time overseas?

My most memorable time in Thailand was the motorcycle trip I took with Dave, his girlfriend, and another friend (4 friends, 2 bikes, 1 week). Our first stop was the Lawa village and for me that was the highlight not just of the motorcycle trip but of my year traveling in Southeast Asia.  We were only able to spend several days there but between the hiking, food, and meeting different people it was truly once in a lifetime.

Sara with the principle of one of the government schools we work with

Sara with the principal of one of the government schools we work with

4) Where are you living now? What are you doing?

I’m now back in my hometown of Philadelphia, working at a Thai restaurant on Sunday nights so I can maintain some little connection with the Kingdom. Although I was open to the possibility of never coming home, I always thought that I would.  So here I am, back in Philly, and with a much more highly developed sense of “sanuk” (Thai word for fun) thanks to my ten months in Thailand.  I still train volunteer English and literacy teachers at the library, but have otherwise, happily, left my former career in education (which was a main reason for leaving home in the first place) and am now in the middle of renovating a big old house in South Philly with my boyfriend.

5) Was there any culture shock or difficulty moving back to the US?

Nope! Just a terrible, aching lack of Thai street food.

6) How did your time in Thailand and with ATMA SEVA affect you?

An amazing trip abroad is sometimes all you need to remember  “there’s no place like home.”

7) What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering or traveling with ATMA SEVA?


Sara on the back of a motorbike with volunteer Rachel

Sara on the back of a motorbike with volunteer Rachel

By David Poppe




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