Adventure With a Purpose
In February of this year, volunteer Christine Rose came out to Thailand to join us at The SOLD Project’s Resource Center. Here’s what she has to say about her time here!
Earlier this year I had the privilege of spending a few weeks living in Northern Thailand, volunteering for The SOLD Project.
Spending time in SouthEast Asia is not new for me. When I was single and looking for safe and affordable “adventure travel” destinations, SouthEast Asia was my favorite for so many reasons – a kind and gentle culture, fantastic food, incredible sites. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, they all spoke to me.
So imagine my delight to take that passion to an entirely new level – I call it “Adventure with a Purpose.” Building relationship with the amazing in-country SOLD team, connecting with young people to hear their hopes and dreams, and doing my very small part to make a difference….trekking through remote and beautiful parts of the world is all good and fine, but pales in comparison to this level of fulfillment.
My 2-week assignment with The SOLD Project was to interact with the students, community and staff, and come away with stories that would resonate with our donor community to convey the remarkable work of The SOLD Project. Guess who came away most impacted?? You guessed it… me!
I have travelled extensively in the Developing World. What continues to be the most astonishing to me, is how open and welcoming locals are to this white stranger from North America – they open their homes and huts, share stories of challenges and resiliency, with no sign of the barriers we typically encounter right here at home. I would never share the depths of my personal struggles with a perfect stranger – would you?
My experience with The SOLD Project was no different. Let me share one small story with you – there are so many choose from it was hard to pick, but here goes!
After making the long (and very picturesque) motorbike drive into the Akha hill-tribe village of Hoi San with a member of the SOLD team, I met Lek*. Lek is 15, and lives with her grandparents. Lek comes from a broken home – her father is not around anymore, and her mother has remarried. Lek’s mom has a new baby, and has decided that she wants nothing to do with Lek – when she sees Lek, she hurls insults and degrading comments at her.
Enter Lek’s grandparents; he is the pastor of the local Akha church in Hoi San Village. Her grandparents are kind and gentle, and have worked hard with Lek over the past few years as she dealt with anger issues and lack of maturity in many ways.
I would not have sensed that, meeting Lek! She recently received a scholarship with SOLD, and is going to High School. She is beautiful, poised, and is taking English as she hopes to be a tour guide someday. She enjoys playing guitar together with her grandfather, as well as singing.
When I asked Lek why she felt it was important to get her education and a good job, she said that she wanted to take care of her grandparents and family. Considering the poor example she was given from her immediate family, I was impressed!
When I asked her how she keeps her resolve to keep going to school and not getting distracted with the village kids who have no vision for their future, Lek says “because I am special.” Oh, if all kids could really own that message that they are special! That they are too special to settle for a life of poverty, too special to sacrifice their young bodies, too special to throw away their dreams.
As Lek’s grandmother poured tea and served fresh mango (delicious!), it was clear that she was struggling with something. Finally she tossed the tea from a bamboo mug, wiped it clean, and handed it to me. Through translation, she said she wished she had something to give me to thank me and all the others who are supporting kids like her grand-daughter. But she had nothing to give, so she gave me the one thing she could – the bamboo mug hand-hewn by her husband. To say I was touched is to speak the obvious.
I felt humbled to be the one to receive this gift that represents so much – but I also know that I was purely representing something else. I represented all of you – those who give willingly every month to fund education for kids that you will likely never meet, send letters to kids who can only read them through a translator, and by the very presence in their young lives you send a message of encouragement and “you are special, you are worthy!” which is priceless. Guilah hui ma. (Thank you in Akha.)
Give me “Adventure with a Purpose,” any day! In fact, I’m already booking my next trip to Thailand…
*Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the students.
Thank you, Christine, for your enthusiastic efforts and for sharing your experience with us!