MegaStory based on 3 participants in Thailand for The Sharability Project.
In April of 2012, Know My World hosted a guest workshop for The Sharability Project at the EARCOS conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Genevieve and I were honored and excited to share the amazing stories we had already received and to acquire new ones while at the conference. Although we experienced a warm response by the participants at the workshop, we were unable to take with us new shares. In true form, we packed up our tablets and decided to back pack to lesser known areas of Thailand for our remaining time.
We believe that when one is simply open and unattached, then learning will ensue, and so we hopped on a 6 hour bus ride to an island off the coasts of Thailand and Cambodia called Koh Chang. While on the bus, Genevieve and I reviewed and discussed our belief that if we remain open to the people and just talk with them, learn from them, we will find new stories and learn so much to bring to The Sharability Project. As the bus stopped and picked up other’s who were island bound, we began to chit chat with a foreigner back packing his way through Thailand, and told him a little bit about what we set out to do. He was staying on the southern tip of the island and us on the north, and with little ways to communicate; we parted ways at the ferry. Our task looked difficult, yet even so the countdown began; 5 days on the island to create new stories. We arrived and after a long stretch, decided to sit down to dinner.
Sitting on a tatami mat in the open air among lush flora and twisting sandy beaches, I began to flip through a local magazine. I read through an article about a school on the island comprised of Cambodian children. Turned out that in the late 90’s when Koh Chang began development, Cambodian workers came here to make a living. Unfortunately, they did not have many rights as illegal immigrants and their children could not attend Thai schools. These kids were left home all day without education, health care and for some clean water. Two men, a Koh Chang local and a Dutch Philanthropist, created a school called Cambodian Kids Care to give these kids basic education, food/water, and malaria checks. The school has been in financial trouble and they are on the verge of closure. I slid the article across the table to Genevieve and she lit up, “We gotta go there!”.
We walked into town and bought some basic school supplies for the trip. We walked back to the hotel and asked the hotel manager where the school was. She spoke excellent English and was quite funny. “Oh, I am not sure” she said. “I know it is somewhere around Lonely Beach, but I don’t know for sure”. Genevieve and I decided we would find it somehow.
The next morning we hopped on a “cab” ride to go snorkeling (cab rides are had in the back of a pickup truck). Enjoying our open ride, we traced white sand to the right and jungle spilling onto pavement on the left. Coming up in front of a beaten dirt road and large banana trees, we saw a tiny sign that read “Cambodian Kids Care”. Looks like we were up for a hike.
We hiked into the jungle and discovered a small Cambodian village. A little girl who did not speak English knew what we were looking for. She motioned to us with a wide broken tooth smile as if she were saying “come on, this way to the school”. We followed her into the jungle and came up on a thatch hut with rows of tables and giggling children between the ages of 6-15. A Thai man came up to greet us. “Hello” he said. “Hi, we are teachers, we brought some supplies, can we teach?” Genevieve asked. “Alright, thank you” he said. We spent the morning teaching English lessons but were really dying to talk to the kids about their lives and experiences. We spent the whole morning laughing, showing the other sharability videos form different parts of the world to them on our tablets, and listening to them sing! I sat down with the director after a while and we began to talk. He told me about his challenges in starting the school, both financially and personally, but he did it anyway. I was absolutely touched, and I realized that this was his story. After a wonderful morning, Genevieve and I thanked them and headed back to our hotel.
The door had opened for true learning, and we decided to talk with the funny and charismatic hotel manager who tried to help us out. We sat for hours talking about her life, where she grew up and how she came to Koh Chang as a young single woman in a traditional atmosphere. She told us how she was an only daughter who wanted more than to get married and life with her family all her life. She wanted to learn about the world, find self-empowerment, and left home in her early 20’s to pursue her dream of exploration. She was working to put herself through college and enjoying a sense of her own personal freedom. Her story resonated with Genevieve and me as 2 young women pursuing a dream, and we began to discover a thread of commonality between her and out friend from Cambodian Kids Care.
The last of our days in Koh Chang flew by, and we still wanted one more participant for The Sharability Project. Although we made many friends with locals and experienced great hospitality, we were not able to get enough stories with the language barrier. We got back on the ferry the last day to return to Bangkok, and were at a bit of a loss. “Hey, it is you girls again” we heard from behind us. “Alex! Hey, how was your stay in the south?” We found ourselves reunited with our bus buddy from the arriving journey. Alex told us about a moving experience he had with a few Thai friends he just met during his stay on Koh Chang. He explained how even though they were so different, they were so much connected and he really understood how connected everyone is through the conversation he had with them. He had set out on this trip to spend a month alone before he began med school back in Quebec and discovered so much more than he could imagine. He said he was apprehensive and afraid to talk to them at first; shy, but he did it anyway and experienced a new sense of freedom.
Turns out English is a second language for Alex, so he recorded his story for us in French. We just had a friend translate it.
The Thailand Sharability Project is special to Genevieve and me because it is to us, a divine creation. Although we were connectors and catalysts in the development of this project, we were included in the process and enlightened personally by the incredible people involved. This is the power of what the project can do for anyone and it is as simple as just getting connected to someone else.
*Read the individual interviews: