Effie Bigum, 24 years old, Australian girl, is now a current volunteer in AHHA Education.
She is placed in Buri Ram province, Thailand, the headquarters of our international NGO.
Effie has shared her experience and thoughts about the organization. Let’s get to know her better!
1. Effie, it’s a pleasure to have you here and we really want to thank you for your time and all the work that you’re doing with us. To start, can you tell us a bit about your current role in the organization? What are your main tasks?
You’re more than welcome. Well, to start, I have to tell that the organization in Thailand is a bit different from the other countries AHHA is working in. Right now we have a contract with Thai government to check if it’s possible to implement the AHHA English program in Thai public schools. My team is basically working towards that goal right now: to show how good the program is and display to the government and other schools, so they can be able to use it. It’s a big step for our organization and, if everything goes as we expected, also for the country.
I have started to help in the evaluation of the students, to be able to track how well the program is doing within the school. We constructed the evaluation test, collected all the data, put in the database so we can clearly see the results. It’s also helpful for the teachers so they know which areas they need to focus on. We are preparing a monthly test to track the students’ progress and to be sure that the AHHA English system is working.
2. It’s really an ambitious and a big step for the NGO to use their own English program in all public schools in Thailand. How about your daily routine? Can you describe it?
We start the day with a talk from Big Teacher, (Dr Madenjit Singh). It could be about any topic such as a motivational, spiritual, marriage, or it could be a talk about being a mother. The aim of these talks is to help all the team members understand about their character and limitations, giving them the knowledge required to transform themselves in order to live a fulfilled life.
I’m constantly reminded about the work that AHHA Education do by talking with the Cambodian exchange students and hearing about their backgrounds and how studying with AHHA really helped them to develop themselves into functioning and helpful members of society. This may not have been possible without AHHA Education.
After that, we begin our actual working day, we eat lunch and then we have a break to rest a bit or to spend some time with the people who live here. Then we come back to work again, we have our dinner and sometimes we have an evening program: watch movies, play games, karaoke, it depends. Some days we just relax, other days we have deadlines so we need to finish our work.
3. You mentioned that in the center you do many activities and spend lots of time with other people who also live there. How is it to live in that kind of environment?
One of the main feelings you get from living here in Thailand is the community atmosphere. You’re living, working and spending a lot of time with a really great group of people. The people here are just wonderfully lovely, I have made really great friends.
In terms of the demography in the center, we have the management team – they are the main teachers who have been is AHHA Education for quite a long time. Then you have the exchange students, who are graduates from AHHA and are qualified to teach. Most of them have already been teachers for 2 or 3 years in other countries like Cambodia and Laos. They have been brought here because they are under training as part of their 2 year International Exchange Program. They are preparing to be sent out to teach in 40 Public schools around Thailand.
We have quite a few international volunteers here at the moment; 8 in total, from Spain, USA, Czech Republic, Germany, England, Portugal and Malaysia. I am the only one in the education team; everybody else has their own task here, like working in web design, communications or administration. We all get along really well.
4. You’re volunteering in the headquarters of an International NGO. Maybe you can’t directly see the results of your work in the lives of others, but the truth is you’re helping many people to have free access to education in Asia.
Do you think volunteering in AHHA Education will make a difference in your life? And in other people’s lives? Are you proud to be here?
Well, my work here is quite dynamic and the people that I’m working with are really open to new type of ideas that you have so, in that sense, I think I’m getting lot of good experiences.
In relation to other people’s lives, as I said, I think that understanding the background of the exchange students and the kind of impact that AHHA Education made to their lives makes me see the contribution that all of our work does. I also spent some time in Cambodia, at the main center, and I could see where the students here in Thailand were 5 years ago and the kind of progress that they have made in that time – just coming from little or no education, really basic English to be able to have complex conversations with me and also to teach the language.
5. Lastly, would you recommend this NGO to other people who are looking for volunteering opportunities?
If you are willing to commit yourself to volunteer in a developing country then AHHA Education is a great choice. You really have to understand the conditions that you’re living in and I need to emphasize that you should do lots of research before you leave – about the country that you are going to, the organization and their values. It will be always completely different when you get somewhere, it will never be what you expected (in a good way).
Thank you so much for your time, Effie, you’re doing a great job with us and you are really contributing for the good will of many people. It was wonderful to talk with you!