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.