To say my first week in Chiang Mai was eventful was an understatement. From the moment I stepped off the plane and was hit with what felt like a wall of heat, I knew I was most definitely not in Ireland anymore. Of course this is when the nerves and self-doubt began to creep up inside me. Had I made a terrible decision in coming here? Would I spend the next two months sitting in my room alone? Would I get along with the other volunteers?
Thankfully all my worrying would prove needless as upon being introduced to my fellow volunteers I knew there would be no awkward silences amongst us. Each and every one of them immediately made me feel welcome and safe in my new home and I’m incredibly thankful to have them by my side for this journey.

Of course as soon as I had begun to settle and feel more at ease, I was thrown through another loop when I began my first day of actual work with ARI. I could only describe my feelings as a bizarre mixture of excitement, fear and severe sleep deprivation as we arrived at our first workshop with an amazing house that cares for children with disabilities called Hope Home. Once again all my worries were dashed almost right away as I came face to face with the sweetest, most energetic kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I think its safe to say that the children of Hope Home have stolen the hearts of the ARI volunteers.

I never could have imagined that making jellyfish out of paper plates could be such a heart-warming experience, especially considering the fact that the flu was running rampant in the Home that day, I feel I gained a real appreciation and insight into the hard work and dedication of the 24 hour workers and volunteers in Hope Home. This experience was definitely a highlight of my first week.

The rest of my week carried on similarly by doing workshops with various groups such as Healing family, a facility for adults with disabilities that have been taught how to weave and generate their own income by selling their products! This was an incredible place to work with and the workshop was made even better by the fact that everyone in healing family is unendingly kind and joyful. We did a project called secret pictures with them which involved disassembling a large picture and then decorating the individual pieces. We then put then back together to form a collage, this workshop definitely was a hit and I can’t wait to go back next week.

We also went to multiple Buddhist temple schools which are always a good time as the kids are incredibly willing to participate in whatever workshop we had planned that day. I even gained the nickname ‘snow white’ from some of the kids in the temple school Wat Pa Pao! In Wat Pa Pao we did a really fun workshop where we created our own islands! The students really seemed to get into the activity and it was fantastic to see the amount of individuality and creativity there is amongst the students.

One of the things I will remember most about this week is my first real outing in Chiang Mai to a temple on top of a mountain called Doi Suthep. We arose at 4 in the morning and lumbered our way up the mountainside in order to see the sunrise and it most definitely worth it. Seeing the sun rise above the beautiful forested landscape is something that I will never forget.
It’s unbelievable that I’ve only been here a week as it feels like a lifetime, I can’t even begin to image leaving this new home I’ve found here. I look forward to the weeks to come.