Name : Philip Lee
From : Singapore
Period : August 2011, 2 weeks
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Year 2011 Mid August late morning, as I stepped down from the train at Nongkhai Station, which is the last station for the N E Line, and there to meet me, Jack and another volunteer Jeannie. They came to pick me, as that was my 1st ventured to that remote part of Thailand. I was not sure then, whether Jack & Jeannie were surprised, picking up an old man, still keen and brave enough to volunteer there. Prior to making up my mind to embark on this program, I did sounded out to Jack about my age, and Jack assured me that it would be perfectly all right, that in the past, there were other volunteers of similar ages doing fine without problems. After brief exchanges, we headed into Nongkhai town for local coffee and thence to a nearby bazaar to see if there was anything we would needed. Jeannie and I bought some chocolate for the kids, and thereafter, took the pleasant drive of about 50 KM to the town of Phon Phisai, where Jack lives and co-ordinates his volunteering works. Phon Phisai is a small, clean, quiet and peaceful town where everyone know Jack and his services to the community, where life in this small town was, and still is going at a very laidback pace. Given another chance, and if my other commitments permit, I will be back.

Philip teaching


All volunteers working for the program will be putting up at jack’s house, where all daily necessities will be provided. The house is spacious, the environment peaceful, the vicinity surrounded by paddy fields and matured trees, some fruit trees and creepers like mangoes, guava and passion fruit. with a fish pond nearby. To me, it was like turning the clock back, to the good old days when I was growing up in a rural district in Singapore. Leaving the concrete jungle of Singapore, ending up there was a pleasant change of environment, never thought that I would be able to relish the country way of life again. In the early evening, when the weather permitted, we would jump on our bicycles and rode to the bank of The Mighty Mekong River to catch the sunset. Backdrop against the serene and swift flowing water of The Mekong, it was just beautiful, watching the kids played football and other carefree rural games was indeed refreshing. Dinner followed, either at Jack’s paternal grandfather’s house, or a short drive to town for simple, but tasty and clean local fare. Being there will an experience you will remember for life.

Philip and Mom


Jack is the only child of the family and he lives with his parent. His father is a government official looking after the welfare of surrounding villages. Well known and well like by the people, courteous and speaks simple English. And this is Jack’s mum, one of the most gracious lady I have met in my life. Courteous, friendly and she single-handedly took care of our daily needs, such as breakfast, laundry and keeping the premises clean and tidy. In addition to plain rice, with simple accompaniment, fruit(s), she would also prepare glutinous rice for us for breakfast. She is a great lady. His nephew of about 10 years old will come daily to play with the dogs, games on the computer and hang around the house. He is a nice friendly boy, well behaved and with him around the house, one would not feel lonely or out of place.



Jack assigned me to teach English at a nearby village primary school name Pak Suay School. This school is located about 5KM from where we were staying, and Jack would fetch us there and back, occasionally staying back to help out with the lessons. The staff there are friendly, and glad that we were there to impart our humble skill on conversational English, simple nursery songs and games normally associated with primary school kids. The kids came from nearby villages, were well behaved and attentive. Being 8 to 12 years old, do not expect the kids to be able to express themselves in English, and being so, I felt that some were too shy to interact with the volunteer teachers. However, as the days went by, the dividing wall between us slowly vanished and we were like one big family. Happiness all round. My simple gift of chocolate bought from Nongkhai was well received, especially the nice little plastic box/container was highly sought after. There was not enough to go round, so I made the kids to participate in a fair lucky draw and the lucky ones get to have the plastic containers. Going back again, I will think of some simple but nice gift, and I will make sure every kid in my class will get one. Lunch was provided for the children, by the school, and we teachers also have our lunch there, sharing the same food as anyone else. During lunch, seeing the children being so well behaved, returning the utensil and helping to tidy and clean up the lunch hall was gratifying and moving. It showed the inculcation of good mannerism in the Thai education system, and this is one area I felt that developed countries should implement for their schools and education system.

New flooring


This village school have 2 wings (Old & New Wing) and I was assigned to teach at The New Wing. Though know as the new wing, the first thing stepping into the building, I note that the bare concrete floor was in a bad stage of deterioration, dusty, uneven, surface chipping off and the rubber caps of the tables and chairs were completely worn or missing. I was wondering what I could possibly do to help/improve the situation, so that the kids can have a cleaner and better environment. I consulted Jack whether wide vinyl sheet cover for flooring was available in town, and was told it should be available, the only problem was whether there was enough for what we needed. Went into town the same afternoon and started looking for the vinyl sheet, and we were lucky to find one shop with the item in stock. Spent quite a while looking for vinyl covering of very light color suitable for classroom application, and at the same time, have sufficient quantity needed. We were lucky to find slightly more than 2-1/2 rolls of very light blue vinyl which was suitable and sufficient for two classrooms and the Children’s Sick Bay. We decided, and told the shopkeeper that we would be coming back the next day to purchase. Next we went to the hardware shop to buy the rubber caps for the legs of the tables and chairs. We bought all that was in stock, still slightly short of what we needed. We told the shopkeeper to inform us when new stock arrived as we needed more. Came Thursday morning, and I told the kids to move all the tables and chairs to the corridors after lunch, for cleaning, and at the same time to clean up the classrooms’ floor. Out came the blooms, dust pans, rags, pails of water etc and obediently and eagerly carried out as instructed, not knowing what was happening. Jack and I drove to town and came back with the vinyl coverings. When told what we were about to do, the kids were very happy and delighted. With knives, scissors, cutters and any useful tools we could have, we managed to complete the floor covering for two classrooms and the sick bay. To Jack, the school’s handyman, Jeannie and other staff of the school, my sincere thanks. From the photos, you will note that it was tedious, messy and each process was well coordinated, it was worth the effort, and I hope the vinyl covering will last for quite a while. Next I would like to have the a few classrooms and the corridors with new coat of whitewash. Any volunteers or contributors would be welcomed to join me.

Philip farewell


On my last day at the school, and just immediately after lunch, the school conducted a short and simple presentation, where each of the students gave me a stalk of rose, as you can see in the photograph. The school board presented me with a Certificate of Participation, and two traditional Isaan shawl, symbolizing that I will be tied to the province for a long time to come. On my return, I took the plane from Udon instead of the 14 hours train ride to Bangkok.