Get to know some of our staff and volunteers in our series ‘Staff Profiles‘!
My name is Nicola Gladwell. I’m Canadian and I have now returned home from volunteering at DEPDC/GMS as an English teacher for 6 months. I ache as I write; I think of the children and friends, of the strong relationships forged, and I hope that I will be able to return soon. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies at St. Stephen’s University, the smallest University in Canada located on the East Coast. During my second year, I travelled to South-East Asia with my class as a mandatory component of our program. I had studied about Human Trafficking and made it somewhat of a concentration in my coursework; when I came to Thailand with my class I knew that I had to return: to learn the language, and to learn the reality of my studies. I got accepted as an English teacher at DEPDC/GMS and returned to Thailand once I had earned enough to support me while I was there – only 6 months after I had left with my class.
My favourite aspects of volunteering at DEPDC/GMS were the time I spent with the children, the close bonds I made with the other volunteers, spending three evenings a week with novice monks teaching conversational English at the Community Learning Centre, and the great adventure it was to direct ‘Peter Pan’, the first ever English theatre production at DEPDC! Some of my favourite memories are of one of the girls who lived at Centre; perhaps nine years old, she would sometimes wait for me after evening classes, and we would sit and look at the stars, chatting about the constellations, about family and about life. I learned more than I could have imagined and I still regularly e-mail with the volunteers as well as the English-speaking Burmese and Thai friends I met there. Since I’ve been home I have been speaking at Church gatherings and high school classes about culture, the issues of structural violence and oppression evident in Thailand, and of inequality, discrimination, lack of human rights awareness, and the reality of human trafficking. I am also advocating on behalf of a very poor migrant school I became familiar with while I was in Thailand, seeking people to sponsor Burmese-speaking orphans and migrants’ children, allowing them to attend school. After learning Thai, some of the students transfer to DEPDC’s Half Day School. If I get the chance to return to Thailand, I would like to become fluent in Thai and begin learning Burmese. Volunteering at DEPDC and living right on the border of Thailand and Myanmar was an experience I will never, never forget.
If you are thinking of volunteering with DEPDC/GMS like Nicola, please visit our website to learn about the work of DEPDC/GMS and the application process for prospective volunteers. We look forward to hearing from you.