Friday, January 17, 2014

2013 - A productive year for GVI Phang Nga

The start of another new year marks the one year anniversary of the GVI Phang Nga Hub. 2013 was a great year for us. We started two new programs and developed partnerships with over 15 key organisations to support both conservation and education initatives in the Phang Nga area. Just one year later and we've already achieved so much thanks to the amazing dedication, hardwork and enthusiasm from all our volunteers - we can't thank you all enough! We are so excited to keep moving the projects forward and support our partners to achieve their objectives over the next year.

The healthcare program started in January 2013 and focuses on working with the Camilian Social Centre for children with disabilities as well as promoting health awareness at local schools. Volunteers helped with rehabilitative therapies including physio and art, teach English and provide much needed social support through a lot of fun and games.

And stretch on the count of
Things started to get really creepy around halloween.
There was plenty of time to get festive over Christmas too.

Santa even came to pay us a visit at our Christmas party:

Marine Coastal Conservation
We successfully started our marine coastal conservation program in January 2013. The program aims to support both terrestrial and marine conservation initiaitives in the Phang Nga area. We work closely with two national parks and conduct biodiversity surveys, support sea turle breeding and monitoring programs, and assist the Similan Islands National Park to monitor the impact of tourism on the environment.
Hiking through Thai Muang National Park

We scrubbed a lot of these turtle tanks
All for these little fellas.
We collected over 200 bags of trash on beach clean ups this year! 
We started working, I'm being serious!

I'm still not joking - we conduct tourist behaviour surveys right here....yes, here!
Teaching Children
The teaching children program has had a great first year in Baan Nam Khem. We're now teaching at Baan Nam Khem School, Ban Muang School and the Ban Tam Namchai kindergarden and orphanage.  

TEFL and Teaching English to Communities
The TEFL program has developed a strong partnership with the Non Formal Education Centre in Takuapa. We've taught over 50 students here, as well as providing bespoke English language support to several community initiatives including the Saori Centre in Takuapa.

Happy new year everyone!

UPDATE: To make it easier for you to keep up to date with all the happenings at GVI Phang Nga, we will be fully integrating our blogs into our new website, which will be live by the end of January and thus, we are moving. Blogs will be available on and Other live news, updates and goings on are published on Facebook and from our twitter account.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thoughts from a newly qualified TEFL teacher

This week, being the last week of the teaching term at the NFE Centre in Takuapa, myself and Michael have completed all work to qualify for our TEFL qualification.
Dang receiving her certificate of attendance and me congratulating her on moving up a level.
During this week, I have had the pleasure to work one to one with one of the students from the community, who is the sweetest most wonderful lady I have met in Thailand. The experience was great. Dang, 58, was so grateful for me to give her a one to one session that she bought me the biggest and most delicious bunch of bananas I have ever laid eyes on! For you westerners, bananas DO have seeds! The ones you buy from the supermarket are genetically modified to contain zero seeds and are larger than they should be! So the herb in discussion (commonly mistaken for a fruit) usually have hard black seeds and are tiny with an unfamiliar strong taste. These bananas bought for yours truly were like soft, delicious gold dust. There taste was out of this world. Immense. The whole GVI team was desperate to have a try that the edible gold disappeared in less than a minute. So, sorry to my friends who missed out on this timely event.
The infamous bananas. My dad will be jealous!
25th-28th November wrapped up the final week for myself and Michael's training. We completed over 100 Hours of TEFL training in under 4 weeks, and can now officially teach English as a foreign language-anyone offering any jobs? 
Michael getting excited about the next game with our level 3 class.
During our intense and enriching 4 week I have; taught 11 hours and 15 minutes, had 40 hours of ‘input’ sessions (taught by our experienced GVI TEFL staff), at least 24 hours of lesson planning, 6 hours of experienced TEFL observational teaching, 15 hours of peer observation, approximately 16 hours of feedback sessions and weekly evaluations and also extra hours for the completion of 3 assignments.
The students and GVI teachers at the end of term ceremony
All in all, myself and Michael have progressed so much from being only the newbies to becoming a strong part of the team here in GVI, Baan Nam Kem, Phang Nga. 
The whole level 3 class minus Po: Michael, Deng, Nui, Alex Lukepad, Amy and Jason
Amy Hickie – TEFL project volunteer


Monday, December 9, 2013

From the corporate board room to teaching with KG

Paul joins us as a two week volunteer on the teaching children program all the way from sunny England.  Paul has taken a break from his high pressured corporate job to volunteer and travel around South East Asia.  During his time on the program he has taught children aged from KG to middle school. Definitely a change from the corporate setting!

Paul tries to master his takraw skills - it's kind of like playing volleyball with your feet
Having taken some much needed unpaid leave from my high pressure corporate job it seemed apt that my first job should be to sing 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' to a group of 5-year olds. We were teaching body parts to a handful of Kindergarten children and the song proved a good method of distracting them from clambering over each other and generally bickering. They came for the ride as I added more and more pace to the routine and they struggled to keep up. Later however, the Hokey Pokey seemed to baffle them and they watched motionless. A few seconds in, after I'd put my right arm in and shaken it all about, I knew it was going to be a solo performance and there are photos to prove it.

But these were just brief exercises to keep the children entertained. By the end of the class they could recognise, say and point to around 12 body parts. Everyone's favourite (it's ok to have favourites i'm told) was Bell who is so smart he practically acts as interpreter between us and the other children. He did go off topic towards the end and pursue his favourite hobby of drawing Angry Birds but we could overlook that.
Paul and Hayley with KG
Paul demonstrates head, shoulders, knees and toes
Some (including me) wondered whether kindergarten is too young to start these children learning English. However, once you begin to teach the older children in the school you can see that they would have benefited from earlier exposure. GVI has been in Ban Nam Khem for under a year and it will take a while until we create a major shift in English standards. At the moment there is not a wide difference between the 4 year olds and the 15 year olds when it comes to speaking. But I'm confident that Bell and many of his friends will have a much better grasp of English than his elders currently do and that they will benefit immensely from this in their later life.

Paul gets involved in some serious colouring time at the orphanage
Paul at the orphanage after teaching some English
Paul impresses everyone with his iPad.
Paul Currigan – Teaching Children Project Volunteer


Monday, November 25, 2013

Michael's epic week on the TEFL program

Michael joins us as part of an epic six month round the world travelling adventure.  He also spent some time volunteering with our friends over at GVI Laos where he taught English to novice monks. After his six weeks with GVI Phang Nga on the teaching English to communities program, Michael is heading to China to study martial arts for a few months. We've never met anyone so motivated or willing to literally try anything!

Greetings from Baan Nam khem!  What a week it has been for the GVI team. A new cook has been hired to help out with the GVI family, internet has finally been installed in the staffing house and all the projects are moving underway smoothly. As a member of the 4-week TEFL program, I can say from our end that we are working hard! It seems our day is filled nearly 12 hours straight from 8:30-7:30 at night. Lessons consume our mornings, lesson planning extend through the day, teaching goes into the night and then group meetings finish out the day. It is busy busy busy here, but it’s well worth it. 

Michael leading his level 3 class at the NFE centre
Teaching the Thai students is more than rewarding with their seemingly rapid progress they are making. The teaching aspect is very different than I would have imagined, as a great deal of what makes a teacher appeal to the students is showmanship. It seems the more energy, movement and interactive you can be as a teacher the more that it resonates with them. I look forward to working more and more with the students to really see how far they will come. Well I best be going. The weekend looms ahead of us that always make things all the more exciting. Having exotic beaches and fire shows only hours away is quite convenient. Stay tuned for the next blog.

Nothing like a nice competative fly swat game to concept check!
Michael Langer - 6 week TEFL volunteer


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hamaira's volunteering experience leaves her filled with warmth and sunshine

With great pleasure, I, Hamaira Kauser from the United Kingdom, share with you my experience on the healthcare program at Ban Nam Khem in Thailand.

Hamaira with Ploi and Men at the Camilian Centre
My initial highlight was the crawly insects and the unknown species that crossed my path and sent shivers down my spine, entertaining me through the night, during the day and on every path of my way. Although with it being my second week in it has now NOT become nature as old habits' die hard! Enough said about my relationship with the creatures!

We have literally stepped out of the monsoon season and now the weather is simply great with occasional monsoon effects leaving the land wet, yet not too cool when the sunshine lets off radiant heat giving us our daily vitamin D!

Now I would like to introduce to you my actual memorable part: being at The Camilian Centre where I taught on average 7 children varying from age 4 through to 17 with physical, mental and social disabilities. The teaching style adopted was to suit the need of these children to help improve their quality of life.

Hamaira and the boys - always ready for a photo session!
During the physio sessions, the concept of colours were introduced with a great deal of repetition to allow the minds to develop. This is something that the children really enjoyed. We generally wrapped up these sessions with some basic stretches that amused the children, especially lifting the legs up towards the sky; the centre would fill with joy and laughter.

The theme adopted during my duration on the program was to teach body parts, thus making use of flash cards, demonstrating creativeness and making it a fun exercise to stimulate the mind so that the children can recall easily. Example - A jigsaw of body parts was formed where the children would fit these into place and apply a background theme using colours.

Men and Som practice drawing the parts of the body
To ensure focus was maintained, these activities were for a short duration of time and the day would be brought to a close by playing ball games.

Hamaira and the boys find time for a photo after a hearty game of football
The children at the centre have shown a great interest in the activities introduced to them thus having their attention during these sessions. Their passion and willingness' to learn and general development of social skills have encouraged these children to attend the centre on a regular basis.

The finished works of art showing the parts of the body
The Camilian Centre and GVI have proven to be a success, exceeding both their expectations and goals. This is evidenced by one of the children who has made incredible progress with his English language skills. With regular one on one support from the GVI team, his English language skills have developed. He has now been offered an opportunity to work as an operator, taking calls at a luxury resort in Khao Lak. This particular young man has had weak muscles since the age of 9 and was informed by doctors that his life span would be no more than 2 years. Yet, with the rehabilitation and his positive spirit, excellent results have been achieved as 3 years have gone by.

Craft time:  drawing our krathongs for the upcoming loi krathong festival
It is such a warm feeling for me to be a pair of helping hands. Knowing that I have passed on my knowledge to these children and helped them in some small way will always remain a tremendous sense of fulfillment for me. Having observed the incredible development made, of course lets not forget the incredible work put in by the Centre that was established after the Tsunami in 2004 and the support GVI is providing I would like to say with warmth and gratitude. Thank you for a wonderful experience which I will always remember.

Hamaira Kauser – Health Project Volunteer


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Correy gets a taste of paradise

Not very many people can say that they get to wake up- early I may add- and go and work on absolutely breath-taking beaches, hike through stunning rainforests and get to swim in some of the most serene waterfalls that you can only imagine up inside your dreams, or find in some paradise magazine at your local travel agency. 
One of the beaches at Thai Mueang National Par

A lot of people also don’t get to go out and work with absolutely adorable little baby sea turtles! I mean, let me give it to you straight, these crazy little things are undoubtedly the most adorable things you could ever lay your eyes on. Especially when you’re walking amongst them and there all just whipping around like insane maniacs and all you’re doing is trying not to step on them!

One of the many tiny turtles at the turtle centre

Having never been on a plane before, let alone been outside of Ontario! Flying across the world to the fabulous place I now get to call home for the next 3 months, is an incredible and life-changing experience. There are no words to describe how excited I am to be a part of something like this, and I can only thank everyone who’s helped me get here and also the people of GVI themselves for accepting my quirkiness and weirdness into their lovely home.

Volunteers Correy and Kaela on the beach 
Correy Nuttal - Marine conservation volunteer


Monday, October 21, 2013

Going for Gold!

Although the TEFL course can seem challenging and intense, there are some pretty cool activities that help take the edge off and provide healthy competition for all the TEFLers. It may be considered to be a great way of learning as well as a laugh.   

The Tefolympics was the latest event that hit the GVI team this week.  There were three participating countries: The Empire of Flying Lanterns, The Dunces, and Swerica, competed to be crowned the champions of the TEFL course. It was definitely an intense battle, starting off with rounds of Pictionary.  It wasn’t all about fun and games, there were some serious teaching abilities portrayed in all of the games. Points were obviously scored for clarity of instructions, the effectiveness of the game itself and the attitudes of the country’s competitors. Each country was scored by all the others, but don’t worry, there was no tactical scoring anywhere near these games. It was all just a bit of fun and all the competitors came together to make it an enjoyable experience for all.

Burning with pride and teaching prowess - our TEFoLympics torch
Don’t go thinking that it was all a breeze though. It is always challenging to come up with inventive ways to execute an activity, and even harder when you are against the clock. Five minutes was all they had to come up with their ingenious plans to go for that gold medal at the end. Talk about pressure! The tasks that were set became harder and harder to plan as the games reached their final rounds. More and more resources were being used and less and less sufficient time was being given.

Our TEFoLympics champions - Matilda and Andy

Sweat began to form as the TEFLers eagerly awaited the final results. The room was tense and we leaned forward with baited breaths as the two judges took to the floor. The Bronze went to the Dunces; it was between The Empire of Flying Lanterns and Swerica. The look of those two gold medals was too tantalizing. Seconds ticked but it felt like forever before finally, the winners were called: Swerica!

Grace Mathers - TEFL Intern