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Job shadowing in Thailand

Sa-wad-dee ka! – my Job Shadowing in Thailand

From March 3rd to April 1st 2017 I got the chance to take part in a job shadowing with the Partner association “Always reading Caravan” in the region of Phrao (Chiang Mai, Thailand).

This job shadowing was part of a larger project called “Strength through Solidarity”, a capacity-building project between 8 partner organizations from Europe (Poland, Germany, Belgium), South America (Brazil), Africa (Uganda) and South East Asia (India and Thailand). “Strength through Solidarity” aims to gather experiences and good practices from different associations around the globe, in order to create an online platform with e-courses for associations, youth workers or individuals who want to know more about youth work or about how to improve their motivation, sense of initiative or perspective.

But let's go back to my month abroad, and the exchange of practices and experiences that I had with fellow associations from Northern Thailand. I can only start by saying “khob-kon” (Thai for thank you) to Yoshimi Horiuchi, founder and co-ordinator of my hosting association, for organizing a diverse, rich and exquisite programme of meetings, practical activities and observation.

Being part of the Always Reading Caravan (ARC) team for a month gave me a better insight into the projects that it organises and enabled me to observe its work on a daily basis.

Anca and ARC team in the library

Anca and ARC team in the library

Rang Mai Library is a local library, open every day for people living in the Phrao area. The library's purpose is to make reading accessible to people of all ages. As another means to encourage people to read, ARC added another valuable member to their team: Haruno , a mobile library, with which they organize many reading activities in the surrounding area, mainly for kids. They also provide individual services for readers with fewer opportunities (e.g. due to distance from the urban centres, motor disabilities, etc.): they visit them every two weeks and bring them books, magazines, CDs etc. Furthermore, they set up two early childhood literacy centres: “Sunshine Kids Center”, for Akha and Lahu kids, and “Litlle Smiles Center”, for Lisu children, targeting hill-tribe populations in remote areas. All of this sounds quite local, doesn’t it?

However, since 2014 they've also started a volunteering programme open to international volunteers wanting to get involved in their local projects; Move Lanna, is an amazing self-funded volunteering opportunity for all persons to get involved in local projects in Phrao.

My job shadowing also enabled me to understand and meet other Northern Thai associations from Chiang Rai province/Maesai district, such as “Childlife Ministry and Community Foundation” and “Maesai School for the Blind”. The first project targets street children and wants to ensure they get access to education and basic support until they turn 18, whereas Maesai School is one of the 10 private schools for the blind in Thailand; it is still pretty new and it currently only hosts children up to 12 years of age. There are two other public schools and vocational centres for the blind in the country.

The third project I visited, Run Arun Project (Organic farm/Wiang Pa Pao district), also in Northern Thailand, has been run for 20 years by a Japanese lady, Ms. Hozumi Nakano, with the purpose of creating a vocational training centre for young people wanting to learn and practice organic farming and thus strengthen their vocational skills.

One of the major benefits of this job shadowing was that I got to understand how ARC manages fundraising aspects. Actually, ARC relies on private donations, but it uses different strategies to approach and maintain the donors. Of course, there are private clubs like Rotary Club, but ARC has developed different partnerships, mainly with private schools in Bangkok, in order to foster reading and solidarity. For example, it's been partner with the International Australian School from Bangkok for already two years, and kids from this school are engaged in a “Readathon” activity – their families will donate a certain amount of money to the ARC library project depending on how much they read. In turn, ARC runs some awareness-raising sessions about visual impairment, so that kids can discover how blind kids read and write in Braille, and understand concepts such as mobility, white cane, etc.

While I was in Bangkok, two other very interesting meetings took place: one was organized with the Youth Health Foundation, the main purpose of which is ensuring that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to reading and leisure time activities. The other meeting was with the Thai National Institute for the Blind, a national association with branches in all the 76 provinces of Thailand. The Institute also runs a school for the blind in Northern Thailand and several vocational training centers (e.g. physiotherapist, carpenter, office manager, etc.). Furthermore, the Institute runs a library for the blind in Bangkok, which has the amazing peculiarity that members can also listen to audio books on their phone, just by calling a free number. The Institute also manages projects supported by the Thai government, especially those related to law regulations for blind and partially sighted people.

As I said in the beginning, this job shadowing aimed to facilitate the exchange of good practices and reinforce local youth work. Together with the ARC team, we prepared and ran a half-day training course for reference persons (teachers) to host foreign volunteers in their institutions. The training focused on concepts such as volunteering, intercultural communication and promotion of our online training course platform, which will be !ready soon.

People present at the training

People present at the training

Of course, I also had the opportunity to discover and enjoy the Thai cuisine, nice landscapes and some sightseeing both in the Chiang Mai region and in Bangkok. And, above all, I had the chance to appreciate Thai smiles and kindness.

This job shadowing was really a unique experience and this is just the beginning of new collaborations for Views International in the coming years!