Cyrus Ebadat, 130 YinD
A few weeks ago, I had finished my first project with my community that was completely planned, organized and executed by my community and me. Before I had started working in my community, the only activities that were organized for the youth were organized and facilitated by outside organizations or the Scouts program (like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in America), which leads to greater expenses to put on the activities. My community wanted me to put on a camp that involved Sexual Reproductive Health and Drug and Alcohol Abuse activities, and I wanted to put on a more overarching Life Skills Camp which focused on more fun for the kids because it was right before summer. At the end of the project, I would say that I am more than happy with how it turned out because the kids learned and also had a great time with their friends for their last week of school. I decided to put together the finished product in a video showcasing the activities that we did as a way to also show everyone what part of my job consists of and to celebrate the successes of the project. What the video doesn’t show you is the weeks of planning and discussions I had with my community counterparts, the set-backs both before and during the project, and the stressful moments throughout. However, there are three life lessons I have learned so far while working in Thailand, especially when doing this project with my community.
- Don’t have expectations. During this project it was hard not to set expectations for how each of the activities would go or if the students would like what I had planned for them. However, I would have been setting myself up for failure. When working with kids I have learned that you cannot please all of them with the activities that you are going to do. Some of them may even wish they would be playing on their phones and texting the person next to them rather than play fun educational activities (yes I am biased). Also, the lesson I am trying to teach them may not come to all of them right off the bat. It is alright if the only lesson the students got out of the kickball activity was that they shouldn’t trip their teammates as they run to catch the ball. Once there aren’t any expectations it’s easier to celebrate the smaller successes, like the students having fun watching me make a fool of myself or my students helping each other understand the activity after I excruciatingly try to explain an activity in my broken Thai. If at least one student had a good time at the camp, then that would exceed my expectations.
- No worries, roll with it. The problem with running a camp in a culture that is defined by the “keep calm and carry on” phrase is that you constantly have to roll with it, and that’s ok. The other Peace Corps volunteers and I were the only ones at the school besides the kids at 8:30am, but I planned for the camp to start at 8:30am. No worries, I just throw out one of the energizers that I had planned to do before breaking off to the different activity stations. The lunch one of the days was running late. No worries, we had all of the students do a meditation break in order to kill time. Some of the activities ran shorter than planned and none of the other activities were finished yet. No worries, we just played a large game until all the other stations finished. The point is, if I stressed over all the little setbacks or hiccups that happened throughout the camp then I would have spent most of my time stressing and not enjoying the work, leading to my last lesson.
- Have fun. When working with kids, another big thing to realize is that they are like sponges of energy and attitude, so if I came to the camp stressed and low energy the kids would feel the same way. One time when I was teaching one of my classes, I was working on emotions in English, but instead of just saying the word to them I acted out the emotions in the most dramatic way possible as well. We couldn’t stop laughing because they misunderstood my angry face for constipation, and I will forever remember that day. I will make myself the biggest fool when I work with these students because everyone in their lives want them to be respectful and behaved, but they are never given the opportunity to be themselves in a learning environment. When you see me dancing or being a goofball that is just me being my best self I can be to show these kids that its ok to have fun even in a work setting. At one point, I do get on the floor to dance, and I will admit that would be one of my best selves.
I take these lessons to heart and I cherish the moments I have every day with these students, and sometimes I feel like I am the one learning more than the students are. I am proud of all the work my community and I have been able to accomplish over my first year here and I look forward to learning even more with my students. I hope you all enjoy the video I put together down below!
Be sure to check out Cyrus’ personal blog here as he journals his experience abroad.
Also, read his most recent Sticky Rice Article here about Mind over Matter.