Even though as one of the Founders of Courts for Kids I have been on numerous trips- I have to say that it never gets old. I am continually inspired and convicted by these communities unwavering hospitality and unconditional love, and this experience in Thailand was no different. One of our unwavering values is that we partner with communities and work together with them and this project was no different. Below is the perspective of our team AND the community (via the Peace Corps volunteer).
It’s always such a unique experience going to a brand new place. My default is always finding the things that are in common with my reality and then immediately being aware of the many things that are different. On the long plane ride over I was trying to figure out my feelings and honestly I had no idea what to expect. I just knew I was extremely excited and praying to God that I wasn’t going to get attacked by mosquitoes. Honestly, this Courts for Kids trip ended up being one of my favorite experiences ever! In a time where our news is flooded with negativity and I honestly wasn’t sure how we were going to be viewed as Americans, I was humbled to be accepted into this little community for a little over a week and share this experience of building a court together with them.
One of the many things I love about Courts for Kids mission and heart is that yes we are going to help build a court, but more importantly we are there to build relationships and embrace the community we are visiting. Everyone was so excited to have us and so lovingly welcomed us into their lives whether it was by having us join their ceremony one night in their temple, feeding us amazing Thai food, or welcoming us into their home. Fortunately we did get to finish the court and see the excitement and joy of the kids playing on it the following few days before we left. In addition to building with the Thai community, our team formed such a unique bond. We all had different backgrounds and experiences, different religions, and different ages but we were a family for those 2 weeks and my heart is now so much more full because of the things we learned from each other and the experience we shared. I’m so thankful I made the decision to go to Thailand with Courts for Kids and I can’t wait to join them for another trip.
Raquel Dorshkind,Trip participant
It was your average Sunday afternoon in rural Thailand; I took my usual 8km bike ride in 100 degree heat, to sip on a sugar laden iced latte, sitting friendless in a cafe off the main road. Relatively new to site, bright eyed and bushy tailed, my eyes widened with excitement while scanning a routine email from my beloved program manager.
‘Fits YinD framework, sports as a tool, basketball court, apply by August 31st’. Easy! My school was going to get a new basketball court (looking back on the first few months of the application process, my naivety about what I was about to undertake is jarring, but, I digress).
Fast forward to about 2 months before the project was set to happen and here is what I knew for certain: my community was going to host 27 Americans for 1 week to help build a basketball court for my school. To acquaint you all with the absurdity of that statement, my community is made up of 10 small villages, located in-between rice fields one bigger than the next. Most people in my village have never seen a group of foreigners larger than 4, let alone a group that would primarily be younger than 50. While my coworkers and students asked me weekly with growing excitement when the volunteers would be arriving, my answer was filled with growing apprehension that they would be coming in mid-July.
In true Thai fashion, a work ethic that I have come to know and reluctantly, trust, the majority of our preparations didn’t begin until….3 days before the volunteers arrived. Leaving the day before to greet the volunteers in Bangkok, I left my site with a to-do list that wasn’t quite yet…done; and for the first time in my life (probably), I was ok with that.
Being completely immersed in Thai culture, day in and day out, it was hard for me to see how much of my Western norms had melted away, dripping down my arm like an ice cream cone in the heat of Thai summer. Doesn’t the power normally go out when it downpours in America? Did the volunteers just get to breakfast 10 minutes EARLIER than we told them? No, the spiders in your house aren’t poisonous, just uncomfortably large. I promise you I cannot separate those dogs stuck together.
This basketball court was the biggest undertaking of my Peace Corps service thus far, and without a doubt will be the most difficult. Navigating the stormy waters of work terms, deadlines, start times, and general logistics in one culture and language is hard enough, let alone with two cultures and languages that sit on opposite ends of the spectrum. Learning how to weave Thai and American styles together was truly exhausting, but in the best sense of the word. Each day I woke up, body aching, eyelids heavy, stomach tense. A body ache, from working alongside people willing to sacrifice their time and days off to the back breaking work that is pouring cement. Eyelids heavy, from late night laughs with my best friends (hi, Anna, Carly, Pablo, and DJ). Stomach tense, from binging on all the American snacks that were generously gifted to me.
Over the span of a week, my emotions ran the gamut; from nervous-wreck to slightly less nervous-wreck to bursting with pride. Watching my two worlds come together, through an act of service nonetheless, was everything I could have hoped for and more. I am forever grateful to Courts for Kids for making this court a reality for my students and my community, as well as my counterparts and co-teachers, whose saint like patience saved the day (multiple times a day). And last but not least, my amazing, impromptu speech giving, American food bearing, incredibly supportive PCV family, I would not have been able to do it without you all…we did it!
Written by Thailand Peace Corps Volunteer, Genevieve Montreuil
Full, unedited, version of the article can be found here: https://pctmagazine.org/2018/09/10/more-than-a-court/
“What I learned about the world . . . is that all (or most) people want the same thing out of life- they want to form a bond with others, regardless of cultural differences. People want to be accepted and generally speaking, people want to do good.” – Dan
“Through this trip I learned wherever you are in the world we are all human and have our similarities- we all like to have fun and no matter what language you speak, you can’t go wrong with a smile.” -Kevin
“This trip changed me to understand that courtesy, generosity, and respect does not matter where you come from in order to have it.”- Danielle
“One stereotype I had was that the community would not be as happy or content as us because they don’t have the money to own what we can. This is not true at all and I know this because the happiness these kids have with so little is just as stronger or stronger than ours with a lot more.”- Ella
“This trip has changed me because it taught me to try new things that I would never do back home- like try new foods and face fears. This trip opened my eyes to what I can experience and see and it makes me want to go travel the world more.” -Tyler
“I never imagined I would have built up such strong friendships with people, especially because of the language barrier and different ways of life.”- Joey
“The world is full of contrasts: poverty, wealth, joy, sadness, hard work, laziness . . . the differences among cultures is vast and we realized some this week. The importance going forward for me is to remove all those labels and to see the good and redeeming qualities in one another, and to inspire one another simply by embracing the common thread of humanity.”- Cindy
“There is an idea that Americans are lucky to have life so good or that our lives in general are better than less “Americanized” places. Being here I definitely see things that could make the society better (gender roles, education, opportunities) but the people here are so happy and carefree it is hard to say whether thy have it worse than us (because) from their attitudes it seems like they have it better.” -Emma
“I learned that I can find happiness in such simpler things here than at home. I was definitely happiest I’ve been in a while here and I didn’t have my phone or superficial things that make me “happy” at home.” -Madeleine
“I learned that this community is centered around love for one another. Here it seems like anybody will do anything for anyone. It is cool to see to see a community that cares for one another like this one does.” -James