In our latest installment in “Where are they now?” we check in with Alison who volunteered for one month with our Wat Doi Saket project in October of 2011. Read below to find out about her time in Thailand and her reflections about her time with ATMA SEVA!
Back in the summer of 2011, I decided to take a sabbatical from work and travel/volunteer abroad. I sent an email to friends and family asking for any suggestions for volunteer options or recommendations for specific programs. My friend Chris Poppe responded that his cousin was running a volunteer program in Thailand. After reading some scary reviews of various programs, the idea of having a contact I could trust was very appealing. Coincidentally, I was invited to a wedding in India around the time that I planned to go abroad. Thailand and ATMA SEVA quickly became the best option.
2) How did you like teaching English at a Thai government school?
Teaching at the school was absolutely amazing, although the road to amazing is not always a straight one. Initially I found the teaching to be incredibly stressful. I didn’t feel I was bringing enough value to the children and it made me feel like I was failing. Once I learned to relax and just enjoy being with the kids, everything changed.
3) What were some of the challenges you faced?
I felt very isolated in the guest house I initially chose, classes were canceled often, and the teacher didn’t always show.
4) What is the most memorable moment from your trip?
So many wonderful places and people were a part of my time in Thailand – Wat Doi Saket, the kids at Ba Mai Dang School, the Australian missionary Peter (also known as the most positive person I’ve ever met). I’m not sure what would be the most memorable, but I can say that the most “spectacular” moment of my trip was watching my lantern fly up into the sky during the Loi Krathong festival!
5) Where are you now and what are you doing currently?
I’m back living and working in New York City as a Director on the regulatory consulting team for Kinetic Partners, an asset management consultancy.
6) Any travel plans on the horizon or other places you’d like to visit?
I’m heading to New Orleans next week for some jazz and a sazerac, but the next big adventure on the horizon is South Africa.
7) What did you learn from your time in Thailand and volunteering with ATMA SEVA?
Although research and planning is usually a good idea, sometimes you just need to let a place wash over you.
8) What advice would you give to someone who is looking to volunteer overseas?
Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about every aspect of the trip. The more information you have about your day to day activities and down time, the better. I was lucky with ATMA SEVA, but if you do not have a connection to the program, I would also recommend asking for testimonials from prior volunteers and the ability to reach out to them if desired.