This week we would like to introduce you to Matt, one of our new international volunteers currently volunteering in Mae Sai. Matt is a university student from Sydney, Australia, and was with DEPDC earlier in January as part of a short volunteer program organized by International Student Volunteers (ISV). While they were in Thailand at the Swimming Home, our site in Mae Chan, the ISV group helped with a DEPDC project to build a day-care center and the experience was so rewarding that Matt came back six months later to work with DEPDC again. He knew nothing about human trafficking and very little about Thailand when he first came, but after he was told about the situation he felt like he had to become more involved in human trafficking prevention.
“From where I live in Australia I knew there were problems in the world, but they were so distant from everything I was surrounded by that, to be honest, I rarely gave them much thought. I was at university one day and an ISV spokesperson came into the lecture I was in and said ‘we offer these volunteer programs, they’re affordable and we arrange a lot of the details for you, come along to one of our on-campus seminars if you’re interested.’ I’d thought about volunteering before so I figured I’d go along and see what I could find out. After about thirty minutes I was sold on a volunteer program in Thailand which eventually sent me and eleven other students to work for two weeks with DEPDC. I actually worked with another NGO after DEPDC, called Mae Kok Foundation, which I also love and am still in contact with, but I was so inspired by DEPDC’s approach to human trafficking prevention and by the tireless, passionate work of DEPDC’s staff that by the third night I’d decided I was coming back later that year. Even though in a perfect world I’d like to work with both, I had to choose, so I stuck with my decision, deferred my degree for a year and the rest is history.
“I love being here in Mae Sai, the work we do is always rewarding. It’s also the kind of work where you can see the achievements, especially with teaching, so even when it’s hard or you’re tired you can rely on the kids and the successes to keep you happy and positive. The atmosphere is great as well, all the staff being really nice and welcoming. Of course, you’ve got to take it in stride when everyone breaks into hysterics at your attempts to speak Thai, but it’s all in the family, so it’s always a good laugh. There’s no doubt there are lots of problems here in Mae Sai, and in Thailand and the world in general, but it’s a privilege to be part of an organization which is doing something about them. This time I won’t be here for very long in the scheme of things, only about a year or so. But I hope that this is just the beginning of a long relationship I have with DEPDC, Thailand and human rights work, and if I work hard and I’m lucky then I think my ambitions will work out. But whatever happens in the future, I’m here now and I’m already lucky to have come so far from listening to a spokesperson in a lecture theatre in Sydney back in 2012.”