Tell me another story!
My husband and I set off on our adventure to Chaing Mai in mid-May.We were not sure what was expected of us as volunteers but we were heading off full of excitment and enthusiasm for the task at hand. Three flights later we arrived in Chaing Mai tired and hot.We were met at the airport by Wad, who we soon learnt would help us in any way he could and was there to answer any questions we had . Our accomodation was fantastic with much needed and appreciated fans in the bedrooms and we were aslo spoilt wth Pilah's amazing cooking.We were staying in a volunteer house with four other volunteers, we all got on fantastically and headed off on tours together at the weekends.
My husband was working with a migrant learning centre in the mornings, which provides free English, Thai and Computer Skills classes to Burmese Migrants. In the afternoons he helped out in the workshop of an organisation which dedicates itself to providing free mobility aids, wheelchairs and home visit therapy to young and old people living in poor rural and remote areas of Northern Thailand. He also helped the Thai staff of this organisation to improve their Computer Skills.
I was working with EIL’s partner organisation in Thailand, giving workshops to different groups. I had been in touch with the organisation before I went over with an idea for a project. I was suprised at how fast everthing started to move from the minute I walked into the office.
The project was to create a small story book comprising of fables and stories from the Shan people from Burma now living in Chiang mai. The Project had 5 main objectives:
1. To celebrate and preserve the heritage, culture and stories of the Shan people
2. To design a beautiful and unique storybook which could be sold for profit in coffee shops, markets and relevant tourist outlets.
3. The book could be used as a teaching tool as the stories were in three diffrent lanuages - Shan, Thai and English.
4. To create fun and interesting workshops where the students told the stories and created the illustrations for the book.
5. On returning to Ireland to do similar project in schools and introduce the Shan book to students in Ireland and tell them about the way of life for some kids in Northern Thailand. Hopefully this would raise awarnesss and funding to send back to relevant organisations
The EIL partner organisation in Thailand put me in contact with a non-government funded, non-profit school. It was set up to assist displaced burmese families in Chiang Mai. Many Burmese families who come to Thailand are denied citzen status, basic human ritghs and education. Many Burmese families who come to Thailand are at the mercy of their employers, who place the entire family on construction site camps with limited access to water, no plumbling and little electricity. Workers are expected to work a ten hour day for as little as $1.
The workshops in this school were great fun and every one got stuck in from the start.The students at Freedom house ranged in age from six up to twenty. They all enjoyed the collecting of the stories for the book, which came from their own heritage. More stories were brought in throughout the making of the book but it was too late, time was too short to add the new stories to the book. The whole project got the group asking parents, relatives and friends about Shan stories and brought their stories back to life. They all worked hard on the project and created beautiful images for the book and, most importantly, had fun.
Staff in the organisation were fantastic throughout the project and organised the translation of the book from Shan into Thai and English.
I have just recieved news that the books are printed and ready for sale.
I am in contact with some teachers in schools in Cork who are willing to work on the project with me over here and I am also in the process of apply for funding for the project. So all things going well we should be bringing the Shan Stories into some Irish schools for a few hours and working on some new stories with the students of these schools.
I was also working with a group who help support children with cerebal Palsy. I did four different art workshops with this group which were great fun and very rewarding. The workshops were with 3 young boys who very happy to see us arrive with our paints and brushs and building blocks every friday afternoon.
I had an amazing time in Chiang Mai and my only regret is that I hadn't more time.