Mae Sai!

This is a recent blog post I wrote for VIA.  Thought I might as well post it on GSW too.

After eight weeks of travel spanning two continents and three countries, I arrived back at my post in Mae Sai, Thailand on September 1st.  In December 2010, feeling discontent with a job in a law firm that no longer challenged me, I up and quit and booked a ticket to Southeast Asia to volunteer in human trafficking prevention. From February to July, I worked as a self-funded volunteer with the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (DEPDC/GMS). DEPDC/GMS is a Thai-founded, Thai-run non-governmental organization working in human trafficking prevention in the border region of northern Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).  The organization works to reduce cross-border trafficking among the most vulnerable and at-risk populations in this region. Its staff and volunteers work on a grassroots level to provide education, vocational training, and accommodation to youth who fall through the cracks of the Thai and Burmese systems. They also promote prevention education, increase community awareness, and build strong regional anti-trafficking networks. DEPDC/GMS is currently operating in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan Province in southern China.

My volunteerism changed me in ways I never imagined.  My time in Mae Sai with DEPDC/GMS was some the most rewarding, fulfilling and happiest days of my life.  My work involved teaching English to stateless youth and adolescents, deejaying a weekly radio show on Child Voice Radio, researching and writing grant proposals, networking and liaising with international donors and partners, writing and designing a comprehensive volunteer manual, collaborating with documentary film makers from Al Jazeera, tabling an awareness concert and campaign with MTV EXIT, and writing articles for the organization’s newsletter and blog.  In short, my tasks were varied and challenging, and there was never a dull moment!

When July came around I had run out of money, had no work permit, and had an expired visa that forced me to leave the country every 15 days.  I couldn’t bear to leave but it seemed impossible to stay.  Enter Volunteers in Asia!  I was able to apply for the program at the last minute and had the fortune of being accepted. It allowed me to return to my post in a more sustainable way for an additional year. It truly is a gift and I am honored to be in this new network of incredible people.  Thank you, VIA!

I’m back to teaching English and deejaying my radio show, managing the blog and Facebook account, gearing up to be at the helm in grant and report writing, and otherwise getting back into the swing of things. Seeing my students again after eight weeks that took me away to the U.S., Cambodia and back to Thailand, was amazing.  Their smiles light up the room and they bring me incredible joy.  These young adults are so gifted and bright. I can’t wait to see what the year brings and I am looking forward to making my contribution to human trafficking prevention in the region.

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4 thoughts on “Mae Sai!

  1. wonderful blog. enjoyed reading your posting. the pictures did not show up on my computer. maybe it just takes a long long time to download. its so great to see how happy you are there in thailand. I don’t think I have seen you so happy. keep up the fantastic work. love, mom

    1. Thanks Mom! Chan bpen kwaamsook maak laeh. I am very happy indeed. Who knew life could be so good? I guess when one decides to follow their passion despite the risks involved and winds up surrounded by incredible people who share the same passion, this can lead to an unbelievably fulfilling existence. I am incredibly honored, blessed and grateful for every minute of it. Including the AMAZING people in my life both in the West and here in Southeast Asia.

  2. Hi!
    this message may come as a surprise to you, but after coming across your blog by accident (by now I almost forgot what I was looking for..lol) and after reading some of your posts and liking a lot the way you write and describe your life experiences and your passions… I felt that I should write a few words and say hi.. but now even more after I found this post on DEPDC.. cause believe it or not… I am currently one of the international volunteers here. Well, Ive been here for 9 months already and have about 3 more to go..
    Anyways, I share with you the drive to contribute to the end of sex trafficking, and I would also would love to stay longer around SE Asia.. I would appreciate it a lot if you had the time to maybe give me some advice about what steps to take to find paid work around here (in the ngo sector).. by the way, where are you based? I live in Chiang Khong.

    ok I leave it here and if you feel like it, you can get back to me here:

    patriciaolivermartinez@gmail.com

    Best and keep up the good work!!

    Pat

    1. Thanks for your kind words Pat. So you are working at the Chiang Khong shelter? Give my kindest regards to P’Tu and the girls. She was always one of my faves. As far as staying and finding paid NGO work, it’s not an easy path but it can be done. There are many NGOs in Chiang Mai, Mae Sot and Bangkok so I would target those areas. Try http://www.idealist.org or local listings. As is the case in most of the region, network, network, network. Most NGOs are willing to take interns or volunteers but this doesn’t help to pay the bills. I was stubborn and stayed in the region until I got back into anti-trafficking work after DEPDC. It was a long, arduous road and I’m not sure if it was worth it or not to be honest. The field is tough all the way around. You can also try surrounding countries if you are willing to relocate. Just make sure you do your research and do not work for just any NGO. Make sure you know their mission and agree with it. That’s my two cents! Chok dee na ka!

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