Sawad dee krub!
Hello everyone, my name is Stephen Jordan. This year, I won an Access Award with EIL Explore which has allowed me to volunteer abroad this summer. I’m currently studying English in Trinity College Dublin. I am passionate about social justice issues, particularly those affecting LGBTQI communities. I am volunteering this summer in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ll be working with MPlus+, an LGBTQI rights advocacy group who provide outreach to the local northern Thai LGBTQI community.
I’ve heard and read a lot about culture shock, and before arriving to Chiang Mai I felt somewhat anxious about how I would experience it. I cautiously assumed my arrival would be a jarring, disorientating experience. Though, fortunately, I was lucky enough to be able to travel with another volunteer from Ireland for the entire 17 hour journey from Dublin to Chiang Mai. I didn’t get any sleep on the airplanes, so perhaps I should chalk up my relative calmness about landing in Asia for the first time to a delirious fatigue. Arriving at the Cultural Canvass Thailand volunteer house made things seem even smoother. All of the staff and volunteers were incredibly welcoming, and immediately began sharing tips about navigating day-to-day life around the city. At first, the currency difference is somewhat confusing, but easy to figure out within a very small amount of time.
All of this being said, I’m still not used to the heat, I don’t think
I will ever adjust to the heat!
With the MPlus+ team at ‘Love is for All’, an advocacy panel and event in conjunction with the U.S. Consulate. I have the privilege of volunteering with an organisation called MPlus+ who provide outreach to LGBTQI people in Thailand and also people who are sex workers. Thus far, I have only had an orientation at the MPlus+ offices. I was invited to meet with all the employees and given a tour of the building. Everyone there was really friendly and welcoming, and in their offices they have an STD/HIV testing clinic and laboratory which provide free and quick blood tests to people who wish to have them. Before I had officially started working , I could already tell the people at MPlus+ are very compassionate and were doing outstanding work. In my first week I attended a vigil outside the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai held to honour and mourn the passing of the victims of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Florida which recently took place. While there, I saw the employees of MPlus+ holding banners signs declaring love, grief, and solidarity with the queer community in America. The director of MPlus+ also spoke at the vigil. It was truly moving to see the Thai community and MPlus+ rally together in support of our fellows in the queer community currently going through a horrific point in history. Since then I’ve begun working full time with MPlus+, and have been assisting in some very large annual events and important day-to-day work. In my next blog post I’ll be recounting the Miss Healthy Thailand 2016 beauty pageant for transwomen from all over Thailand, and how I assisted in its organisation.