I heard about the Fr. Ray Foundation through a friend of mine who volunteered in 2004-2005. She had spoken very fondly of her stay, and it sounded like a very meaningful and heart-warming experience. So after finishing university, I signed up for half a year of volunteering, and it turned out to become six unforgettable months.Asbjørn from Denmark

I arrived at the Fr. Ray Foundation in October 2009. I still remember coming in through the gate. I remember the traffic and noise of Pattaya and the contrast of tranquillity and green environment I found, tucked away from the hectic life, and the bustling, polluted city on the other side of the gate. With lots of trees, plants, ponds, and beautiful buildings, this place really stood out from anything else I had seen in the – not always pleasant – Pattaya.

Asbjørn from DenmarkAfter two relaxed weeks of settling in to things, and getting to know the other, very friendly, volunteers from all over the world, I was assigned to teach at the ’Job Placement Center for People with Disabilities’ (or in daily language, ’Job Center’). Together with another volunteer, I was going to be in charge of teaching English for one double lesson every weekday. Mainly we would be teaching graduated students from the ’Fr. Ray Vocational School for the Disabled’, but also disabled people coming in from the street or from other schools to seek help in finding a suitable job.

To begin with it was quite a challenge: neither of us had ever taught before! But soon we settled into the roles of teachers, and quickly gained very meaningful relationships with our students. I found all of the students to be hard-working, very polite, interested, eager to learn, and very respectful towards us as teachers. Many of them repeatedly expressed their deep gratitude towards us for taking the time to come to Pattaya and teach them some extra English (on top of whatever they had learned in the past at the Fr. Ray Vocational School or elsewhere).Asbjørn from Denmark

As the term progressed and the students found jobs, they would leave the class, and new students would be assigned. It was great to see the students being able to find jobs, so in a way we were glad to see them go. But at the same time it was sad to say goodbye. So, we were happy when many of the students returned to visit us later in the year. All of the 20-something students we started out with in November, left the class at some point because they found jobs. It goes to show just how qualified the students graduating from the ’Fr. Ray Vocational School for the Disabled’ are, and how effective the people working af the Job Center are at finding jobs for them. I still keep in contact with many of my former students by email. Even though most of the emails I receive have definitely been through Google Translate, they are all very heart-warming to read.
Asbjørn, Katay & Sandy at the Job Center Nee & Asbjørn

When not teaching in the Job Center, I was involved in many of the other projects that are run by the Fr. Ray Foundation. About once a week I would take either Mr. Lee, who sadly passed away during autumn, or Auntie, both residents at the ’Fr. Ray’s Home for Stateless Elderly’, out for a walk. If it was Mr. Lee, I would take him to the snack shop and by him a Coke, which was his favourite drink. Or else I would take him to Carrefour. On the way their he would wave and say hello to just about everyone on the street. If I was taking Auntie out, I would take her to the statues and the cross, where she would spend a few minutes praying at each place.

Three afternoons a week I would go with the other volunteers to ’The Fr. Ray School for the Blind’. Here we would either teach English to some of the older students, or sing, dance, and play games with the younger kids.
With two students from school for the blind

Once a week I would go to the ’Fr. Ray Children’s Home’, the ’Fr. Ray Children’s Village’, or the ’Drop In Center for Street Kids’, to either teach English, play with the wonderful kids there, or – despite my complete lack of artistic skills – draw pictures of ”Se’pider-Man” (Thai for Spider-Man) for very enthusiastic kids cheering me on, saying ”dee, dee!” (”good, good!”).

Asbjørn from DenmarkEvery Friday afternoon I was part of a small group of volunteers, who would spend time at the library learning a little bit of the Thai language under the guidance of our teacher, Khun Wan. Learning a few sentences and some basic grammar gave me an important insight to what makes it difficult for Thais to learn English. Learning just a little bit of the language really helped me in teaching English to the students at the Job Center. It made me understand why they made some of the mistakes they did.

Last but not least I would like to mention the social life among the volunteers as something positive I will bring home from my stay at the Fr. Ray Foundation. On many occasions we would go out to eat, go to the beach, or go to the cinema together. And we would celebrate birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays together. Other than that, the great relationship among the volunteers meant that guitar lessons and yoga classes where readily available to those wanted to join.

All in all I had a fantastic time during my six months of volunteering at the Fr. Ray Foundation!

Asbjørn from Denmark

October 2009 – April 2010

Categories: Volunteer's Stories