February 2016: Monthly Achievement Report: Community Fundraiser!
We at GVI Chiang Mai work very closely with the village in which we are based. The village itself is a traditional Karen hill tribe village, about 4 hours or so from Chiang Mai, so it’s a great experience to actually live here and become part of the community. Volunteers and interns who come to this project are encouraged to get involved with the community as much as possible, so that they go home really feeling that this was a once in a lifetime experience. The interaction is also good for the villagers, helping them learn English as well as learning about different cultures from around the world.
One of our interns has taken becoming part of the culture to the next level. Stefan, who is spending 6 months in the village as a biodiversity intern, has really become part of the community since starting here. He has made many friends within the village, both locals and westerners, and the relationship he has with his homestay is very strong. Part of the 6 month internship is to complete a group project together. Many groups decide to try and fundraise for the village, this group of interns deciding to fundraise for spotlights for the school football pitch, as well as putting money towards the meditation school which is currently being built. As part of Stefan’s contribution to the fundraising effort, he agreed to become a Buddhist Monk for a week. Practicing as a monk for a week is a common pursuit, with many Thai men doing this at least once in their lives.
Along with our head mahout, Dee, Stefan underwent the induction ceremony to become a monk. Three other younger men also joined Stefan and Dee in this process. Many volunteers went up to the local temple to watch and be part of the ceremony, and were consequently treated as part of Stefan’s family. Stefan’s homestay family also attended and offered to pay the donation needed to the monk/temple; indicating the string bond that Stefan has made within his host family. This was all after he had his hair, eyebrows, and beard completely shaved off!
During his week as a monk, Stefan followed the strict rules that monks abide by. He was unable to eat after midday, had to collect food donations while walking around the village barefoot, and was unable to touch woman, as well as several other rules which he had to follow. One of the toughest parts of his time as a monk was a 30km walk that he had to complete in order to reach a Buddha statue in another village. He completed this walk in crocs! Since this walk, he strongly advises everyone not to complete a long hike in crocs.
Stefan has truly attempted to get involved in the community as much as possible, the respect he already had around the village has increased even more, and everyone on project as well as his family are proud of his achievements. This is the first time that anyone within GVI has become a monk, but it is a testament to what a volunteer/intern can become part of while on the GVI Chiang Mai project. It’s definitely a case of the more effort one puts in to their time here, the more they get out of there experience.
The more time that GVI spends here in the village, the more that we become part of the large family that exists here. With help from volunteers and interns, such as Stefan, the interaction in the village continues to increase, and volunteers who come here continue to have once in a lifetime experiences.
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