Second week of volunteering in Chiang Mai
The first week of volunteering went by quickly! One of the Thai volunteers at the agency asked if I would go with him on Saturday to a hospital in the area, to represent the agency in the International Children's Day activities that were being held there. We started out early that day and got to the hospital around 9:00 am. There were lots of people there, probably at least 2,000, mostly children with their parents. It was like an outdoor carnival in an open area next to the hospital. My agency had a game booth and handed out prizes to the children that played. We also gave out information on HIV. It was a fun day!
On Sunday, our group of volunteers went to the elephant sanctuary. We learned about elephants and their role in Thai culture and history. We also got to feed them and ride them. We rode the elephants for about an hour, and bathed them in the river afterwards. It was a great experience, and they're really not that difficult to ride!
Now came the final week of my volunteering, and there was sort of a sense of urgency on my host agency's part to take advantage of the time that I had left with them. In the beginning of the week I helped analyze their website visits and assisted them in putting that information into their monthly report. Their website host evidently is an English speaking company because all data was in English. There is only one staff person there that had the ability to read the information on the website administrator's web page. I was able to help them get the report done more quickly that they usually do on their own.
Monday night I went to dinner with Carlton and two other volunteers. We were meeting the editor of Out Thailand magazine. He was doing a story on our program and wanted to get some inside information from us. He's an expat from England I think, and I enjoyed meeting him. He was very appreciative of our spending time with him, and he turned out to be a pretty fun guy. He sure had some good suggestions on where to go for whatever nightlife you were looking for!
On Tuesday, the agency I was volunteering for asked me to write a letter in English describing the work it did in the community and asking for donations to help further its mission. They wanted to give this letter to English speaking owners of gay oriented businesses in the Chiang Mai area. So by the end of the day I had a letter written that met their approval. They printed a few to distribute the following day to some businesses that they had identified. I'm very interested in hearing what the response was like from the businesses. I'll follow up with them to see if they are getting any donations.
On Wednesday, I was asked to help the staff think of a new name for the agency. According to them, the current name was "too gay" and they were concerned that some MSM were avoiding using the agency's resources because of the name. We really spent a lot of time discussing this issue. By Friday, we had come up with a list of a few possibilities. I don't know what new name they will choose, if any.
We had a huge party with all the volunteers and staff of all of the host agencies on Friday night. Lots of good food and entertainment. It was a great way to connect with everyone for one last time before we said goodbye and to celebrate all that we had accomplished. There are several people that I will keep in touch with in the future. As I write this summary, I am making plans to return. My experiences with Volunteer Positive, my host agency, and the Thai people that I met were incredible. I can't wait to go back!