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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Our Once In A Lifetime Experience – Community Service Thailand


We loved our time in Chiang Rai learning about elephants! But alas the time had come to journey on. Our team jumped aboard bamboo rafts and took a lazy boat ride down the Kok river. We arrived on the sprawling, peaceful grounds of the Huai khum resort.  Our rooms were quaint bungalows made of bamboo with stunning views of the rice terraces below.

Upon arrival, we enjoyed pool time and Gabby, David and Andrew used the large green field to play soccer.

The next day, we headed right behind the resort into the village of the Lahu hill tribe people. Here in this old world village live 19 families totaling around 80 people. We toured the simple village made up of bamboo huts. Carter and Emma had the opportunity to meet a pet monkey living in the home
of one of the families.
The hill tribe people have beliefs in Christianity and the center of the community is their church, which sits at the top of a hill out of reach of any sort of vehicle. Our mission: begin to build a communal kitchen by the church for the entire community to benefit from.

With enthusiasm our group pulled out the work gloves, flexed our muscles and carried pound after pound of sand, rock and bamboo to the top of the hill. We supported one another and although it was a difficult task we persevered. Sarah is proud to say she made 26 trips to the top of the hill!

While there, Britt noticed that many of the village children had scabs and cuts on their legs that didn’t look properly cared for. Feeling concerned the group began to speak with our tour guide, Berm to find out some more needs of the community.  Generously and in addition to the service we were
doing the group collected 6500 baht ($200USD) to help purchase some items for the community. Britt, Eric and staff member Leanne then went to the Lotus Superstore ( think a Thai Wal- Mart) and purchased new clothes for the children, toys and much needed basic first aid items like anti-bacterial ointment, band aids, and rubbing alcohol. We even had enough funds to buy every villager a new toothbrush and toothpaste.

That night, we headed to the village to sing and dance with the Lahu people. We presented them with our gifts and Ashley performed a song using only her beautiful voice and a cup as an instrument. Then the rest of our group joined in to sing ‘Build me up Buttercup’ and teach the village ‘The Hokey
Pokey.’ Our tour guide even surprised us with his own musical talent and played Beatles songs on the guitar. Alexa and Sydney had the opportunity to hold one of the babies in the village as everyone celebrated. The chief of the village showed thanks by presenting us with a handmade and gorgeous woven basket.

The next day, we had a once in a lifetime experience, we divided into three groups and actually were invited into the homes of the Lahu people. We were challenged to make lunch from scratch. Our tools: rice (still in the husk) onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, pineapple, broccoli and chicken wings. After we learned to mill the rice and separate it from the husk, and only  using basic tools and a fire pit TMs created their own lunch. Rachel S, Rachel B, Lola, Lizzie, Sarah, Julia, Margaux and Elizabeth made a delicious pineapple fried rice. Lauren, Gabby, and Phillip’s group experimented and ended up with a tasty sweet and sour sauce and chicken wings. Daniel says he learned how to enjoy the simpler things in life by cooking in such a basic environment and thoroughly enjoyed devouring the best chicken of his life (he says: sorry grandma!) We cheated a tiny bit- as Berm had purchased the group French fries
as a treat. Aliza was ecstatic and said French fries taste the same all over the world!

We wrapped our experience up by slapping on some long socks and making our way to the rice terraces. Our TMs stepped into the shallow, muddy water, newly plowed by some friendly water buffalo and began to plant rice.

Our time with the Lahu people truly was a unique experience. We left with a new appreciation for living in the moment and an understanding that you can be happy, even with the most basic items.

Next update, details about Chiang Mai and our service work teaching English and  beautifying an elementary school!

The Westcoast Blogger

Do you want to be part of this community service program? Check out our Thailand trips for students and get ready for the experience of a lifetime with Westcoast Connection.