At the end of June this year, I will be travelling to Thailand to volunteer with the charity ‘Volunteer Teacher Thailand’ – an organisation that provides free English language teaching to children and adults. English is a very important skill in Thailand as it gives people the opportunity to work in the popular tourist industry. However, children in less affluent areas cannot afford to go to schools that teach English, which puts them at a disadvantage. Volunteer Teacher Thailand aims to give all children an equal opportunity by running English Camps in schools. I decided to take part in the project to put the skills I’ve learned throughout my degree to good use and to do something good and help others, all while experiencing and learning about another culture.

As the project is organised by Leeds Beckett, applying to take part was really easy. The application process involved reading the project information on Leeds Beckett’s website, and deciding whether this particular trip was right for me. There are loads of different international volunteering opportunities which Leeds Beckett organises – including trips to Greece, Costa Rica, Uganda, Fiji and India. To apply to take part in this project, I simply registered my interest and filled in the required information. I also downloaded and filled in the supporting information form, where I answered a few questions about why I want to volunteer, and the skills I could bring to the project.

I’m looking forward to the trip for many different reasons. I hope to gain more awareness of other cultures, and overcome the challenge of adapting to, and living in another culture. While running the English Camps with other student volunteers, I hope to improve my team-working, leadership and problem-solving skills – which will all be really useful when I go for a graduate job. Teaching children English, and therefore improving their future career opportunities, is also sure to be an incredibly rewarding experience. I hope this will give me the confidence to potentially pursue a career in teaching once I finish university.

In order to take part in the project, I had to pay for my project fees and fundraise at least £100 for the charity. This sounds like a lot of money, but the university has been great at helping me with fundraising ideas and supporting me in executing my plans. During regular pre-departure meetings, my group discussed and organised fundraising ideas to raise money. For example, I took part in ‘The Great Big Volunteering Abseil’, organised by the university, which involved abseiling down the 164ft Portland Building! This was a very successful way to gain sponsors to help reach my fundraising target.

Image of the view when abseiling down the Portland Building, City Campus

In addition to this, I organised a sing-along night to Mamma Mia. This involved booking out a lecture theatre, creating posters, putting them up around campus, promoting the event on social media (including the Student Union website, and on MyBeckett) and getting other people involved with the event. This was a really fun and exciting way to raise money for the charity. Another fundraising event I have taken part in was hosting a bake sale at a local office, the Airedale House Business Centre. This was a great way to raise money as we got to bake lots of cakes and meet lots of new people – plus the staff at the business centre were kind enough to donate some of their own cakes, which was a bonus.

Ellen and a friend's charity bake sale

Although I haven’t actually been on the trip yet, I would still definitely recommend it to others. Through the pre-departure team meetings, I have already made a large group of friends which I otherwise wouldn’t have met. In addition, organising the fundraising events has been fun and it has challenged me. Organising them has allowed me to build up some key skills, all while raising money for charity. I’ve also learned lots about another culture, which will be useful for me for the rest of my life. I can’t wait to go on the trip now – watch this space for my blog all about it once I’m back.

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