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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

‘Rice’ and Shine

‘Rice’ and Shine 1

The T1 community service program has continued to amaze staff and locals with their enthusiasm and commitment to projects. A lot has happened in the last week – we’ve traveled to our hotel by boat, mixed cement by hand and have all stepped out of our comfort zones, molding into a better version of ourselves. 

The drive from Chiang Rai to Mae Salak was filled with joy and laughter. Sami, Grace, Brian, and Piper occupied themselves in the car by having a musical theater sing-along. From Hamilton to the Book of Mormon to Miss Saigon, they covered all of Broadway! 

We took small 6-person boats to our hotel in Mae Salak and settled into our beautiful bamboo huts. We were introduced to the local Lahu Tribe, who we would be working with for the next several days. We were humbled by their graciousness, as they not only invited us into their homes for dinner but let us play with their kids as well. Despite knowing no English, the kids and our trip members found that certain things are in fact universal such as monkey in the middle, piggyback rides, and sharing French fries. 

By the second morning, we were excited to get to work! Upon arriving, we had to work as a team by creating a human conveyor belt as we passed buckets of sand down the line. The music, snacks, and water kept our spirits high. Our eagerness to work was embodied by Avery, who constantly looked for additional ways to help – often having to be reminded to take breaks! The locals then showed us how to make cement by hand – which involved mixing sand, cement powder and water together. We mixed, we sweat, we laughed, and soon, we had supplied enough cement for their bathrooms to have brand new floors! Upon returning from a long day of service, many trip members relaxed by the pool, while others played games in the pool. Right before bed, some of our trip members decorated the breakfast area in preparation for Stella’s birthday the following day!

Our second day of service with the Lahu Tribe involved taking a large leap outside of our comfort zones and the theme of the day was “rice”. We began by removing husks from rice grains via mortar and pestle. We then took off our shoes, put on special socks, and jumped into the muddy rice paddies. We planted rice for the remainder of the morning and our group got to experience the journey a grain of rice takes from seed to plate – all while helping out the local community by filling two of their paddy fields!

We spent the afternoon resting at our resort. We returned to the Lahu community later that evening for a cultural exchange. The tribe performed a ceremonial dance around the fire for our group and the children had dressed themselves in their traditional attire. In exchange, we performed the “Cup Song” – a rhythmic tune that had half the group making the beat with water bottles, while the other half sang. 

After our days of service, some time for reflection was needed. Some of our program members were curious to try meditation, so our program leader Sasha helped guide them through a short five-minute session. This gave the group time to not only reflect on themselves and the service they had done but on the effort the tribe had gone through to host us.

This week, we’ve learned not only how to give, but how to receive. An exciting few weeks await program T1 and we can’t wait to keep sharing it with everyone! 

Until next time, 

The Westcoast Blogger

Want to volunteer in Thailand next summer? Check out our 25-day Thailand Community Service program! To browse through all our summer programs, click here.