The first KVV volunteer reports back

Q & A with Shannon Frederick

Tell us a bit about your background and why you decided to volunteer:
I am a traveler, an adventurer, a social worker by day and a humanitarian at heart. So when it comes to take time off for a vacation, I always want to explore the world while giving back in the process. This time, I was just finishing grad school with a Masters in Social Work, specializing in child welfare and emergency response. I started looking into volunteer opportunities, but everything was so expensive – I didn’t want to pay $2000 to volunteer, and I couldn’t commit to 27 months with the Peace Corps! So when I heard about KVV through a friend, it sounded like the perfect match: impactful volunteering at minimal cost.

Where did you go and why?
I already had a plane ticket to Thailand by the time I heard about KVV, so I ended up volunteering in Chiang Mai, at the absolutely wonderful Children’s Shelter Foundation. It was an absolutely seamless experience from start to finish; after KVV connected me with the Children’s Shelter Foundation, I emailed with several women from the organization to set up my stay.

How much time did you spend at the orphanage?
I ended up staying at the Children’s Shelter Foundation for 7 or 8 days, which was a jam-packed week! I chose to camp on site for the duration of my stay, but it was luxurious camping! Some of the boys boiled water for me each morning so I could take a bath and lit candles for me at night; I slept on an air mattress and was completely comfortable.

What did you do while volunteering?
So much! While I was there, the Foundation was actually hosting an international school from Chiang Mai for a three-day weekend so these kids from Germany, Japan and all around the world could learn about sustainable gardening from the Foundation’s kids. And in turn, the children at the Foundation could be exposed to these international kids. So we would go work in the garden, learn about composting, and then harvest the food grown there; they really are running a sustainable operation. I also went with the kids on their camping trip, where we rode elephants, went whitewater rafting, and made big bonfires every night.

What were your initial hesitations and fears?
Although I used to teach third grade, I didn’t have experience with kids with disabilities, and many of the kids at the Foundation are deaf. So I was nervous, initially, that I wouldn’t know what to do in this situation, or how to help the kids. Bit these kids are so amazing beyond compare: they have such street smarts and wisdom beyond their years. I watched them work together to run an efficient community and was instantly drawn in to the whole experience.

Were you traveling alone or with others?
I was traveling with my boyfriend, although he was sadly sick the whole time. I ended up staying an extra three days because they needed more chaperones to take the children on a camping field trip. This ended up being more fulfilling for me anyway, since I got to get outside the orphanage with the kids and enjoy them in a different context.

What advice would you give to first time volunteers?
Be prepared to “be in it” and just give it your all! Go with as much motivation and enthusiasm as possible, and don’t be tied to expectations. One of the best parts of my experience was how many different activities I did – from harvesting lemongrass and cooking, to bike riding to local hot springs, to just hanging out with the kids. Be flexible with timing as much as possible. Bring donations and gifts like pens and paper – after all they do for you, you’ll want to give back as much as you can!

Would you go back?
Definitely! I would love to go back and volunteer, or help the Foundation in other ways, like doing a fundraiser here at home.

© 2011 Karma Volunteer Vacations, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization


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