Project story: Volunteering at the Burmese Learning Centre

Our volunteer Daniel Washford shares his amazing experiences of volunteering in a Burmese learning centre in Thailand!

Project story: Volunteering at the Burmese Learning Centre

17 July 2015

Our enthusiastic volunteer, Daniel Washford, has just got back from spending 3 weeks teaching happy children in a Burmese School in Thailand. He has shared his amazing volunteering experiences with us, (leaving all of us stuck in the office very jealous)…

Burmese childrenTeaching the children

The Burmese Learning Centre

“We turned off the road after a 10 minute drive north of Kuraburi. After a few hundred feet of rougher terrain we arrived at the school. I’m not one for nerves or for feeling uncomfortable in any situation, but this was the point where I realised I did not know what to expect.

The children were all sat under a small covered area, I was told this was the registration area/lunch hall. They were all seated on wooden benches, hands closed in prayer reciting Buddhist scripture. After they had finished their minutes silence I was brought in in front of the 50 expecting faces to introduce myself. Timidly I said “Hello, my name is Daniel”, only to be greeting with a loud burst of “GOOD MORNING TEACHER” and a chorus of giggles. This was going to be fun!

My first lesson started that morning. The school was short of teachers due to the small budget it has to play with, so there is no time for inductions or small talk, it was straight into what I was there to do. I was taking the eldest year in the school for my first lesson, a class of 10-13 year olds. As I walked into the class, taking off my flip flops as I entered, the children all stood up and greeted me with the already familiar phrase “Good morning Teacher” with hands clasped together, a common sign of respect in Thai and Burmese culture.

The lessons are fast paced and energetic, the students won’t let them be any other way, they are as excitable as they are eager to learn, which makes for some great lessons. The standard of English is mixed, some 13 year old students speak great English, some not so great. A few of the 6 year old students can’t speak a word of English, others are good enough act as translators when prompted.

School group photo

The classrooms are basic, a white board, wooden benches and a couple of fans to try and tame the 30°c heat but you really don’t need any more than that. A million and one games can be played on the whiteboard and every student will volunteer to help when they can. The main hall that is used for registration, prayer and lunch is similarly basic. Wooden benches on a concrete floor with open sides looking over the playground on one side and palm tree forests on the other. I was seated at the front of the hall for my lunch, served on stainless steel plates by the schools cook. What amazing food it was! For my 4 weeks there I believe I only ate the same meal once. Different Burmese, Thai and East Asian food was served every day. The children wolfed it down almost as quickly as I did, even after we all were offered seconds and thirds. A quick game of football and a little rest in the office in front of a fan, and it was back to the classroom for afternoon lessons!

My accommodation in the town was perfectly comfortable. Double bed, bathroom, Wi-Fi and a balcony to enjoy my dinner on. It quickly became home, and as you will see when you are taken around the houses and areas where the students live, it was nothing to be sniffed at. Luxury in comparison, without trying to sound condescending, because although the children didn't have much, they were the happiest kids I’d ever had the pleasure to spend time with.”

- Written by Daniel Washford

Feeling inspired to head off to Thailand? Check out our Burmese Community Volunteering programme here.