Friday, August 13, 2010

Bathroom Project

One of my latest projects was just approved to be a part of a great initiative called Water Charity. Check it out and/or make a donation at:

Village Meeting Hall Bathroom Project - Thailand

Village Meeting Hall Bathroom Project - ThailandLocation
Non Khun District, Sisaket, Thailand

Community Description
Ban Phrong Village is located in the district of Non Khun in Sisaket Province of Northeastern Thailand.

The village has a community meeting hall, which is often used for a variety of events including health talks, government meetings, meetings to prepare for local festivals, and senior group meetings. Most villagers attend a function at the meeting hall at least monthly.

Currently there are no bathrooms in the meeting hall, and people must use the toilets in the surrounding homes, if available.

Village Meeting Hall Bathroom Project - ThailandProject Description
This project will provide two bathrooms, one for men and one for women, in the community meeting hall.

The project will be carried out under the direction of the Non Kor Sub-District Administration Office.

Local villagers and health volunteers have already completed a plan for creating the bathrooms and will work together on the construction.

Project funds will be used for purchasing materials, as the villagers have agreed to undertake the labor themselves.

Village Meeting Hall Bathroom Project - ThailandProject Impact
There are 429 people in the village that will benefit from the project.

Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
Sarah Brooks

With the bathrooms installed, community groups, including those groups making local products, will be able to meet and work in a clean and safe environment.

This project follows up on the prior project successfully completed by PCV Sarah Brooks, the Non Khun School Water Project – Thailand. The villagers of Ban Phrong were inspired by that project, and decided start one of their own.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In-Depth into PC Work

For those of you that are curious about what I actually do here, then this is the post for you!

Once I find motivated people to work with, we assess the current situation of their school, village, etc. and brainstorm ideas to make things better. Oftentimes, after that I end up working with those people on grants to receive funding to turn our ideas into a reality. This work is tedious and a little risky, as you are never sure if you will be funded or not. You never know, unless you try though!

Here is an example of a project from a grant that we just wrote and applied for. Fingers crossed our idea is funded!

Project Name: SOI (Sisters of Isan) Environmental Awareness and Activism Campaign

Start Date: October 2010 Finish Date: January 2011

Funding Amount Requested: $1,988.43

Applicant Organization Name: SOI (Sisters of Isan) est. 2006

Main Organizational Activities:

1. SOI promotes leadership and personal development in young women, through instilling a sense of social responsibility in its members towards the local community.

2. SOI members work to expand their knowledge about the environment through trainings, research, and practice of specific eco-friendly skills in daily life, while having fun and working with other like-minded and highly motivated young women.

3. SOI works to spread awareness and inspire activism amongst youth and adults of the Non Khun District, specifically concerning eco-friendly living and thinking as well as recycling.


The youth group Sisters of Isaan or SOI is an all girls’ youth group that was started by two Teacher Collaboration and Community Outreach (TCCO) Peace Corps Volunteers during their service from 2006-2008. The group’s name, Sisters of Issan derives from the Northeastern Region of Thailand known as Isaan. Isaan is the agricultural center of Thailand wherein Lao traditions passed down from generation to generation largely influence the culture and language. Though it is the poorest region of the country, Isaan’s people take great pride in their culture and work, specifically concerning agriculture and farming. This is evident in the group’s name, SOI—young women bound by sisterhood and culture in Issan.

As the poorest region, the average household income of villagers in Issan, level of education, and overall opportunities available are considerably low according to the National Average[1]. Therefore, due to economic and educational shortcoming, youth in Issan are at a disadvantage as compared to their peers in the rest of the country. Despite hardship and lack off opportunity, SOI continues to thrive with students from the local high school (25 members) who are eager to collaborate with their peers in attaining leadership skills and personal development. They are also very committed to community service. Since the departure of the Peace Corps Volunteers in 2008, the girls’ former teacher, Mrs. Thichaya Wongyai, has managed the group. Upon arriving in Non Khun during April 2009, the current Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Brooks of the Community Based Organizational Development sector has attended meetings for the group and engaged the girls in activities such as community mapping and goal setting.

In September of 2009, two SOI members, Mrs. Wongyai, and Sarah attended the annual Peace Corps Thailand Youth Conference. During this conference, attendees were given the opportunity to discuss their communities and formulate methods through which local issues could be addressed. During this activity, the girls decided that pollution is a major issue in the local community and they would like to pursue a project focused on how to take better care of the environment. The two SOI members were quick to point out the multitude of environmental problems in Thailand (and indeed the world) that people seemed to be unaware of. Together, they recognized that if community members remain unaware and unchanged by the environmental degradation around them, they would not be equipped to address the issues, therefore causing more severe environmental problems. Both Mrs. Wongyai and Sarah, the Peace Corps Volunteer, were impressed and inspired by the girls’ acute sense of their surrounding environment and motivation to improve it.

This awareness is particularly impressive since environmental studies are not taught in schools, and even though the society is mostly agrarian the majority of Thais do not consider the environment and important issue. Since the conference, the SOI leaders have set many goals for the group and outlined a project dealing with cleaning up the community and leading a recycling initiative. Following a Peace Corps development model, SOI members and Sarah conducted a community assessment, to make sure that the community would likely support the project. The group found that many teachers, village headmen, and other community members had heard of the recycling initiatives in Thailand and were excited about the possibility of starting a recycling project in this community.

Subsequently, SOI has built, opened, and now operates a recycling center based out of the primary school. Construction of this center was funded by the local hospital, in-kind donations via labor from community members, and a grant awarded by the Thai government. Students and teachers alike are now recycling waste from the school and more and more students have been bringing recyclables from home. In June 2010, SOI hosted their first community clean up day, in which more 200 villagers gathered to clean the streets of the six surrounding villages. During this time, SOI was inspired to start an environmental campaign and expand their recycling initiative.

The Environmental Activism and Awareness Campaign Project Description:

The Environmental Activism and Awareness Campaign will serve to further train and educate the members of SOI and enable them to expand their recycling program.

Phase 1 Training

Through a seminar led by the local hospital, SOI members have learned to make several products from recycled waste, such as purses, tote bags, wallets, key chains, and recycled paper notebooks. However, at present SOI lacks the proper knowledge needed to market and sell these products. Peace Corps Thailand fosters a global initiative group known as the Community Enterprise Committee. This Committee is comprised of 3 individual Peace Corps Volunteers holding degrees relating to business and or applicable experience. These committee members generate a business manual, updated annually, that consists of a curriculum and activities pertaining to the aspects of business—specifically, as related to the way business is conducted in Thailand and generally, worldwide. For instance, some topics include: Accounting, Group Administration, Marketing, Label and Logo Creating, Formulating a Business Plan, Group Dynamics & Responsibilities for Small Income-Generating Groups, and Re-investment. With the help of Peace Corps Thailand’s Community Enterprise Committee (CEC) in conjunction with a two-day seminar, SOI members would receive the proper training in relevant aspects of business needed to start a small business. In order to hold such an event, funding is needed for the transportation of three CEC members to the community of Non Khun, as well as for all materials that are required. This training will give the girls the opportunity to strengthen their business plan, interact and interface with well-trained, passionate Peace Corps Volunteers, and learn skills that would valuably serve their futures.

Phase 2 Training

A second training will focus on the group’s ongoing vision to promote educational understanding and activism. This specific activity will allow members to expand their knowledge of environmental conservation and protection techniques. For this training, members will travel on a field-study trip to

Khon Kaen University, Isaan’s oldest university. At the University, the girls will learn from professors about making organic fertilizer, new uses for recycled material, building and installing biogas generators (an alternate, natural source for propane). This trip will not only teach the girls important concepts for the environmental campaign, but also provides a visit to a University, inevitably inspiring them to set higher educational goals for themselves.

Phase 3 Training

A third training will synthesize the new knowledge of business skills and environmental preservation techniques as the girls prepare to lead their own seminars to all youth of the six surrounding villages (100 people). Meeting with 2-3 Peace Corps Volunteers from nearby sites, members of SOI will work together with the volunteers to plan activities and information sessions for the youth seminars. Specifically, the Peace Corps volunteers will train SOI in activities specific to environmental issues in Thailand. This training will be modeled on the training that the Volunteers received upon their arrival in Thailand, and will include how to search for resources, games for younger students, and how to teach youth to think critically about the environment. Since this training will take place after the business skills training and field-study trip, the Volunteers will also help the girls to synthesize the new concepts. After coming up with a comprehensive plan the members of SOI will lead six seminars on there own, one in each village. Funding is necessary for the transportation of volunteers and for the implementation of the seminars (materials and food). Working in small group, the girls will plan their activities, put together a materials list, and be given a certain amount of money in order to implement their plans. This will teach them the valuable skills of planning and working within a confined budget.

Phase 4: Implementation

The final component of the campaign concerns the implementation of a recycling collection and pick-up program for the six villages. After talking with community members and village headman, SOI has strategically mapped out locations where recycling bins are needed and will be used. Funding is needed for the construction of 21 such bins and SOI has received a donation from the local hospital that will cover some but not all of these costs. SOI has designed a model for the bins and created a prototype. SOI members will be responsible for all construction. As part of the pick-up program, SOI will purchase a motorcycle side cart, which will enable the girls to travel from village to village and pick up the waste on their own, without relying on an adult with a car to do so. Funding is needed for the purchase of such a cart.


All aspects of this project lead to increased confidence among a group of smart and motivated young women. Though women, especially young women, are traditionally not as respected as much as men in Thai culture, SOI is already gaining the skills they will need to be leaders of this community in the future. What is more, they are setting an example for females young and old by proving their ability to initiate and start something overwhelmingly important and positive in the community.

Given the nature of the business training, the girls will be able to apply these new skills not only through their work with SOI but also to any business endeavor in their future. They will be learning concepts not taught in school and thus are gaining advantageous knowledge. In a world where basic business concepts are extremely practical in everyday life, there is no doubt that this business training will give SOI members a head start in their adult careers.

The series of “Environmental Camps” will teach youth to think about the environment in new ways and spark changes in the everyday lifestyles of these youth. They can take what they learn back to their homes and share with family, friends and neighbors. Additionally, the presence of recycling bins at important places in the community will serve as a reminder to those villagers to recycle and to be more eco-friendly citizens.

Working with Mrs. Wongyai and Peace Corps Volunteer Sarah Brooks, SOI has created an action plan to monitor and evaluate all activities should their project be funded.

[1] According to the National Statistics Office, Kingdom of Thailand (2007) Household Socio Economic Report. Available at:

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I was running out the door this afternoon to meet Pi Jam to go over the latest copy of a project budget that we have been writing, but as I grabbed my flip flops I noticed something squirming underneath them. "Oh, it's just an old worm I thought", but then remembered there is a lot more than worms that squirm around when you are living in Thailand; it had to be a baby snake or one of those weird millipede things.

I bet you are hoping it was the latter. Turns out that those weird millipede things are way more poisonous than the little snakes around here, of course I was left face to face with its squirming body and its hundreds of legs.

I had seen my host mom kill one before. She chopped it in two with a butcher knife. Now, the knife would be found in the kitchen and I was in my bedroom. Also I'm not too fond of chopping living organisms into tiny pieces. A simple beating would have to do. I grabbed my broom and set to work.

After about 10 swift blows that millipede finally died. I felt pretty proud as I swept his body outside. I had conquered a poisonous animal! Then about two seconds later a chicken came by and gobbled him up. Ah, the circle of life....guess it's not poisonous for chickens???

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Wow, I have tons of catching up to do. I’m ready to write….are you ready to read?

Given the amount of time that has passed since my last update, and the amount of information that I have to share, I will divide all my commentary into categories in attempt to explain everything in an organized manner.


I guess, it’s not really work because I am technically a volunteer, but I definitely consider my time, duties, and activities here as a real, live, job.

Towards the end of May and all through June I spent the majority of my time at what I call “camps”. These include teaching English through games for two days, teacher trainings or supervising students leading their own camps. I worked with my amazing friend and counterpart, Pi Jam on all these activities and we completed 5 such camps in 5 weeks. It was exhausting, but in a good way. These activities are not always super productive, but always fun, as is life in Thailand. It seems I am finally starting to understand and accept this concept that is so important to Thais: fun comes before work, and if people are having fun then that is the true test of productivity.

Now I have to tell you about my favorite of these camps. You may remember that I started a reading club at the elementary school to teach motivated students to read the English books that my mom sent from America and those donated by Books for Thailand. The group is a success and they actually learned to read 6 simple books ranging in topics from birthday cupcakes to bees on a bus to dressing to play in the snow. To test their skills and let the students develop some leadership capacity, Pi Jam and I let the students plan a two-day camp in which they would lead 6 stations about the 6 books in order to teach the younger students some reading and some new words in English. Those older students that are not a part of the reading club were asked to act as supervisors and mentors for each group, leading them from station to station and helping them with activities; they were also in charge of time-keeping and handing out snacks and drinks. Thus everything seemed organized and we had all the students involved.

The actual days of the camp were pure chaos. Imagine 35 fourth, fifth and sixth graders in charge of about 70 first, second and third graders. It was crazy, adorable, and amazing to see. Most stations were a success at least on the part of the student trainers. This activity had them in a leadership role, employing creative teaching methods and games, and reinforcing what they had already learned. I’m sure some of the little ones also learned a few English words and I’m sure everyone had fun. Again that’s what really matters.

In July, I hit a lull with projects of my own. I spent a week in Central Thailand at a friend’s site helping her with two English camps. I guess I’m developing a reputation as the volunteer who is always up for these types of activities.

Pi Jam and I traveled to Bangkok to present our recycling bank operated by the girls’ group to a large group of teachers with similar, innovative projects.

I also spent time writing letters in Thai to send to various members of the community about my ideas and hopes for the next 8 to 9 months.

Now that we have reached the first week of August, those letters are starting to pay off. I am busy helping people organize their ideas and writing proposals. I am working to secure funding to build two bathrooms at the community hall for one of the larger villages. The HIV group has finally decided that the four families who are open about their status will raise crickets as a secondary income. I have an idea for a funding source, but we are still in the planning stages and need to write the budget for such an endeavor. This is proving to be quite difficult, as I know absolutely nothing about raising crickets. Any advice would be appreciated!

SOI (the girls’ group) is looking to expand our recycling project and I have several leads on funding. They have also caught the eye of an outside research team that is doing a study in our community. The research team has asked SOI to develop skits about youth health, drug/drinking issues, and sex education to present at the local village meetings. The girls are honored and excited to help this team out.


I am still loving living in Thailand and have had the chance to travel around recently. Of course there were several trips to Bangkok, a city that I love more and more each time I visit. While there, we discovered new restaurants, new areas of town and spent time dancing until sunrise on more than one occasion.

At the end of July, in accordance with moon, Thai people have a holiday that marks the beginning of Buddhist lent. This meant a four-day weekend for us non-Buddhist volunteers. About 15 of us headed to the island of Koh Samet for some fun in the sun. Though it rained everyday, we made the most of it, and I enjoyed the sand and sea everyday we were there. I even managed to get out on boat for a few hours one day.

Mental/emotional status:

Though I tend to report on the great trips that I take, the wonderful projects that I work on and the funny happenings of living in Thailand, not everyday is a walk in the park. There were definitely some bad days thrown in there, combined with a mid-service crisis or two.

As always, its hard when people don’t listen to your ideas, or when you can barely communicate your thoughts. The weather has been stifling hot and I’m really starting to miss having a car, iced tea, and air conditioning.

Today is a good day. That’s probably why I’m blogging right now. This week has been full of project developments. I’m pumped for the next 8 months.

Yup, only 8 months left. Though I miss home, friends and family, I can’t believe that I will be leaving so soon. Even though I have lots to work on right now, I can’t help but to think about/stress about the future. Right now I am considering graduate school, possibly a Master’s in Development Practice or International Development. I’m taking the dreaded GRE in October and spend much of my spare time studying. Of course, I’m exploring other options as well. I’m considering working in development abroad in Thailand or elsewhere, or extending for up to another year with Peace Corps to stay and work on more projects here in my community. We’ll see. Nothing for sure yet.

That’s about it. I’m fully aware that I should write more often, include more details, anecdotes, etc. and I will try to do just that.

Until then…..