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The day care centre I worked at was run by a group of averagely terrifying nuns, who didn’t like me to pick children up or show them much compassion; something I found really hard to handle.I ended up very confused about what was the right way to care for a child in difficult circumstances, and I left this place with a bitter taste in my mouth.It made me realise, more than ever, that spending four weeks volunteering with a group of children is simply not long enough.For around six weeks I worked with a PR company and eventually with an events management company as a social media consultant for a music concert.I taught seven different class groups each week with students aged 15 to 16 years old.
The kids in Thailand are so eager to learn and they were incredible to work with – even turning up at the farm in the evenings for more impromptu lessons!Although I love to travel, after a while I tend to get somewhat aimless just going from place to place when I have no specific activity or goal to work towards.Plus, despite the fun elements of spending time with other tourists and foreigners, there’s something hugely rewarding about becoming part of a local community and reaping the benefits of befriending the people living and working in the country you’re in.Most of my time was spent co-ordinating activities, presiding over meal times, chaperoning at the evening disco, and trying to stop the youngest kids stealing the teenagers’ cigarettes and hiding in the bushes to smoke them.Eventually I discovered that handing over my camera for them to play with was a good deterrent from developing their under-age nicotine habits – and it also resulted in photos like this.
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From Nepali orphans, Lithuanian teenagers and the English homeless to Indian celebrities, Thai farmers and Icelandic rockstars, I’ve found that volunteer work allows me to discover the essence of a country – and to connect with its people – like nothing else.