Kim Byrnes

Marist Centre for Migrants, Thailand

Kim teaching English

Kim teaching English

It has been my absolute pleasure to volunteer as an English teacher at the Marist Centre for Migrants, Samut Sakhon.  With around 115 students ranging in age from the cutest prep-aged kids to fun loving teens, the centre is filled with personalities. The kids are simply fantastic and have a lot of warmth, laughter and joy to give. A warning though: the students repeat words with the same way you say them and it can be quite salutary to hear how very Aussie your accent really sounds.

The people involved in the project and the community were very welcoming and inclusive. I spent the most time with Br. Andrew and have never met a more dedicated and thoughtful person – he even ensured I found Tim Tams at the supermarket.

The [home] visits were definitely eye opening but they were a good experience.  The living conditions of the students and their families were quite basic and small. It made me appreciate where the students are coming from and the odds that are stacked against them but they are still happy. It also made me realise that what I consider as a problem back in Australia is small and petty in comparison.

On the weekend, we went to the village of Pala-U where the villagers lived mostly in wooden huts and I stayed the night in the Brother's hut.  That superseded the home visits in terms of eye opening experiences but it was a wonderful opportunity to see how people without a lot of material possessions are very rich in other ways.  The country side was also incredibly beautiful.

Volunteering with Marist Volunteers Australia has been more than a rewarding experience; it changed my outlook on life. The people you meet do not have much, but what they do have, they offer to you.  I’ve had experiences that reached beyond the classrooms at the centre and extended to climbing pagodas and making connections with the wider community. If you don’t know much about the Marist brothers or their projects, all you really need to know is that they offer a chance for you to enhance yourself through working with others.