Matthias, Staff at DEPDC/GMS
Get to know some of our staff and volunteers in our series ‘Staff Profiles‘!
“My name is Matthias Lehmann and it has been almost two years ago that I first joined DEPDC/GMS as an intern. Back then, I was enrolled in a Master’s degree programme at Kyung Hee University in Korea, and an internship was part of my degree requirements.
Since my thesis research centred on human trafficking, I wrote to DEPDC’s founder Sompop Jantraka and requested an interview. To my pleasant surprise, he replied in great detail and agreed to be interviewed, but he also explained how he felt researchers often build their careers on information they gathered from visits to NGOs like DEPDC, without giving much thought about how to reciprocate. I offered to volunteer my time for DEPDC as an intern and he readily agreed. A few months later, I arrived in Mae Sai, Thailand and joined a team of Thai directors, staff and international volunteers.
It is difficult to summarise the many thoughts that come to mind when I think back to my time at DEPDC. One of the first things I did was join Child Voice Radio, DEPDC’s very own community radio broadcast. Child Voice Radio has a daily English show and I recorded a few new jingles for it. To my surprise, the silliest of them became one of the most popular.
DEPDC/GMS Blog Jingle
DEPDC’s blog had been dormant for two years and I suggested relaunching it. Thanks to the contributions of many writers, and of course, to the many events and activities held at DEPDC, the blog has since become quite successful and records up to 2,000 visits each month. I then created a Facebook page for DEPDC to further promote the important work the NGO does, and as time went on, I became more and more involved with anything media-related.
At DEPDC, one should be ready to help whenever and wherever necessary. One of my favourite memories is teaching English to several novice monks at the Community Learning Centre. The four monks worked their way through our English grammar class, culminating in the first English exam they had ever taken – and everyone passed! I will never forget how rewarding it felt when they told me that they had enjoyed the class, although it had been quite difficult for them.
Novice monks taking an English exam at the Community Learning Centre
After I completed my time as an intern at DEPDC, I returned to Korea to finish my degree. The knowledge and first-hand impressions I had collected proved invaluable as I wrote my thesis about comprehensive methods to prevent human trafficking. After my graduation, I returned to DEPDC – this time to join as a staff member responsible for public relations.
Much had changed during the time I had been away. The international team had expanded, but the funding had dwindled. Many NGOs are faced with the challenge of implementing their projects and helping their target groups in uncertain economic times, while also having to satisfy the demands of their funding organisations. Funding organisations rightly deserve accountability and transparency but meeting those demands becomes increasingly difficult for some NGOs and can lead to a strain on human resources.
As far as the work of the International Department was concerned, things had gotten easier. When I re-joined, the department had 10 members with great ideas and plenty of enthusiasm, so the work could be distributed evenly. It allowed me to split my time between DEPDC and Baan Doi, a local NGO helping children (often) from an ethnic minority background who live with or are affected by HIV/AIDS.
After six months, I decided to return to South Korea to conduct an independent research project exposing the negative side-effects of uneven anti-trafficking policies. I currently reside in South Korea and my research is coming along steadily. There is hardly a day that goes by in which I am not in touch with one of my former colleagues at DEPDC.
I learnt a great deal at DEPDC, and it has greatly helped me to further my research, just as I hope my work at DEPDC continues to help them.”
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