Who knew my last day, would be my best day?!

For the last 2.5 days, I have been volunteering here in Bangkok. My days have been filled with refugee visits, playing with street kids, eating amazing food and sharing moments with some fabulous friends -oh, and keeping Dwight in line. At night, I have struggled with staying awake long enough to write a post so you knew what was happening. In the morning, I would slowly roll out of bed and get ready for the day.

This morning was similar to the rest of my mornings in Bangkok. I woke up mid coma and slowly got dressed for the day. I then made my way to the Siam BTS to meet two fabulous volunteers, Sarah and Jamie. Together, the three of us made our way to the Bangkok Refugee Center (BRC) to meet with a couple families. Unfortunately, neither family was able to make it.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
-Nelson Mandela

Our next mission was refugee home visits -something I had been looking forward to. We visited with four families today, ‘The Johnsons‘, The Wades, The James’ and The Bryants (All names will be changed for the safety of the refugees). As we left the BRC, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Usually home visits can be quite heavy and draining. It’s hard to sit and listen to their struggles and stories, without feeling weighed down afterward. However, today was completely different. I swear, these families never cease to amaze me.

Instead of enduring the afternoon with a heavy heart, I spent the afternoon laughing.

Each family we visited had prepared food. We’re not talking a couple of sandwiches, we’re talking about a full meal. My eyes almost fell out of my head when I saw them lay out all the food. As with Thursday night of this week, Sarah, Jamie and I were the only ones eating. Each family had an excuse as to why they were not eating at that time. So, there we were, eating delicious Sri Lankan food while the family watched every grain enter our hungry mouths. At first it was awkward, but after a little while we focused on enjoying the food and complimenting the cook (s).

The food -although it was delicious- was not the highlight. The highlight was the dancing. Yes, I said dancing. As we sat on the edge of the bed, children from each family performed a traditional dance for us. Usually the music was Indian, as were a lot of their moves. It was beautiful. The girls moved with grace and elegance, while the boys radiated energy and spunk. I was immediately jealous. There is no way I could ever dance as well as them, and the youngest child was 9 years old!

Each family we visited today had smiles, laughs and joy to share. This is what amazes me the most. To be able to find bits of happiness and joy when your life is full of turmoil is an amazing gift. It’s something we can all learn from. These families only have each other. They struggle for food and rent. Yet, this doesn’t change who they are as individuals. Their circumstances are dire, but their spirits are for from it.

These families rarely have visitors -other than family members and friends- so when a volunteer does visit, they are over-the-moon happy. They offer you the best seat, their best food and their best beverages. They want to honor you and thank-you for coming to see them. They open up their hearts and their lives and it’s hard to leave. Each family member has become a part of me. Each person has made a difference in the way I view the world and interact with the people around me. I have learned from their example and as I prepare to fly back to Canad in the morning, my mind is racing. I want to continue to help these families, and to find a way to help more refugees in Bangkok.

As we left the today, two of the families gave us each a gift. It was something completely unexpected. As I sat in a taxi, stuck in Bangkok traffic, I decided to open them. Inside each bag was a hand-embroidered pillow case. They’re beautiful and I will cherish them always. Tonight, I will go to bed, thinking of the wonderful people I have met and have had the pleasure of getting to know better. Tomorrow, I will still be thinking of them. As well as the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that…

Read more about my volunteer work in Bangkok!

Abc’s in Bangkok

They Call Me Auntie

The Pick-Me-Up That I Needed

An Afternoon With Refugees

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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7 Responses

  1. Annie

    What a beautiful story! It’s so great that you had a chance to get involved in this and re-tell the stories through your blog. I want to volunteer one day as part of my travels and I would really enjoy doing something like this.

    Have a safe flight home!

  2. Andrew

    Indeed, what a great story. Amazing how families with so little are willing to give so much. Most of us could be better off just being able to give like that.

  3. Audrey

    What a lovely way to end your visit to Bangkok and with these families. You are now part of the family and the kids and everyone feels comfortable enough with you to laugh, play and just have fun. Although you’re away from Bangkok now, I imagine you will still find ways to stay in touch with these families. Now, hope you’re getting a long rest for the holidays!

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