Going the Extra Mile
A 5000km ride on a 110-cc motorcycle sounds like a painful venture any way you look at it. It starts to sound even more painful when it’s going to be done over a mere ten days. When I first spoke of this ride to family, friends and colleagues, words like passionate, insane and impossible were thrown my way, amongst many others. I have done five trial rides to date and honestly, they’re not wrong. Fatigue, dangers of the road and saddle-soreness are merely some of the challenges one encounters on these longs rides. Hopefully, at the end of this article, many more will understand why someone would embark on this difficult journey.
Phuket is a tiny island in Southern Thailand that is populated by both Thais and a large number of foreigners. Every year, slews of tourists come from all over the world to see the infinite beauty that the island holds. Being a foreigner working in Thailand with Thai children has allowed me to see the island through their eyes. The time that I have spent here has given me a deeper insight into things that are beyond a tourist’s perspective.
I teach English with a nonprofit organisation here called Phuket Has Been Good To Us, that places international fluent, English-speaking teachers in local government schools for free. The charity’s goal is to teach the children English, with the knowledge that they are able to enjoy more rewarding vocational opportunities than a non-English speaker. We teach over 1,000 students aged from 3 to 18 and work after school with over 170 residential students who are simply here because they are unwanted, abandoned or in some cases, abused. Still, with a small team of only seven teachers, the outreach and time spent is limited. We need more teachers so that we are able to teach a larger number of students for a longer sessions.
We try to spend as much time as we can with the kids every single day. One September afternoon as I sat in the school courtyard, watching the children play, I thought about how they needed to put in so much more just to get basic education. Growing up in Singapore was easy with loved ones all around and a conducive learning and living environment. The residential children sleep on straw mats and have no familial figures to turn to in times of need. They have holes in their socks and shoes (if they have any at all) and are so hungry to learn English. English to them is a ticket out of their current plight; a hope for a brighter tomorrow far away from the quandaries of today.
This realisation made me decide to do the same and go the extra mile for them, only in a more literal sense. It was at that very moment that I decided to do a charity ride, over and above the daily teaching that I already do. Weeks later, the details worked out to a 5000km ride all along the border of Thailand in order to raise money for the charity foundation that I work with. The plan is to do this on the back of a trusty 110-cc motorcycle. The ride will commence at the school in Phuket and see me initially heading all the way up north. The ride will then cover the North-eastern border, before heading towards Bangkok. Finally, I’ll be heading southwards back to the school, where I began.
This fundraiser would enable us to hire more teachers and continue doing the good work that we do here in Phuket. I urge all readers to dig deep and contribute directly to the ride at fundrazr.com/campaigns/a13qe7.This fundraising site also has regular updates of the progress of the ride and our lessons and interactions with our students.
With all that said, teaching here in Thailand is by no means an easy feat. Language barriers and cultural differences are just a fraction of the difficulties that all our international teachers face. The additional behavioural issues, which manifest from problematic backgrounds, only add to the long list of challenges that stand in the way of us effectively doing our jobs. However, the most trying part of the job is probably hearing the circumstances that these children come from.
Many students prefer not to talk about their pasts and when we learn their histories, it’s quite plain to see why. As teachers, we’re expected to have the answers to the questions thrown at us; we’re expected to be there for the students and wipe every tear off their faces; we’re expected to be that rock that they can depend on when things get difficult. Then again, what does one say when a 6 year old is standing there crying by herself because she misses her mother? What does one say when a child says that their mother is away working in a bar? What does one do when a child tells you that they feel lonely? How does one help a child understand parental love when they live in school and only have the teachers to care for them?
The time I have spent here hasn’t given me any answers to these questions. I am part of a group of teachers that have reconciled with the fact that it is impossible to answer these questions. All we can really do, over and above just teaching, is to attempt to fill the voids that exist in each and every one of these children’s lives. We try our best to do this every single day that we are on the job because the children deserve it. Here’s the truth, our group of teachers is not alone. Every single donor, volunteer and supporter of our cause has been the scaffolding that holds us up when we’re down. With that said, I’d like to personally thank Motor Culture Asia, who has been a huge driving force behind the ride and shown their support in so many ways. The awareness that they have helped raised has directly contributed to this ride.
Still, I must admit, there’s nothing I love more than long, open roads. I am determined to make this ride happen because I wish to be an inspiration to my students, inside and outside the classroom. The long, hard road that they’re on makes me feel like they deserve hope and a better future.
The foundation accepts donations through cheques mailed to 80/14 Moo 3, Kamala, Kathu, Phuket 83150. Alternatively, donations can be made easily online at fundrazr.com/campaigns/a13qe7 and donors who give above 10,000 baht will receive unique ‘Thank You’ cards handmade by the children themselves. We also have a direct Paypal option using your credit card to the the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who are visiting Phuket, please feel free to drop by the office to pledge a donation in person. Also, if you have a Thai bank account, transfers can be made to Siam Commercial Bank Savings Account number 601-2-71944-7 (Swiftcode: SICOTHBK).
To all those who have already contributed to the ride, know that your contribution however small is going a long way to help these underprivileged children. Contributions are still welcome all the way up to 10th April 2016.
Forever two wheels..