Read what our past Office Fellows, Teachers and Visitors have to say about their time with us:
Evi Verdoodt, from Belgium, 2017
Phuket has been very good to me. The stories from past volunteers might all come down to the same positive experience and I can only agree with each story and repeat that volunteering with the charity is an amazing experience and an unforgettable memory. The English teachers are going beyond their job to not only teach English but also support and teach the children that every single one of them has a great personality and should believe in their skills and qualities so they can grow to become a confident student. I enjoyed going to coconut club to witness the residential children growing in confidence to speak English while playing games. The Birthday parties are another wonderful treat for the Birthday children where they are very grateful for, it’s amazing to see how the children share their presents with their friends even if they have so little. Those children are sometimes the best teachers in life. I truly enjoyed working at the office for six months, helping in organising fundraising events and coordinating with multiple stakeholders, in an international team that’s well attuned to one another. Thank you to all our supporters, my colleagues and managers to make my time in Phuket very valuable and instructive.
Ruth Hall, from the UK, 2016
Volunteering with PHBGTU has been an amazing year. From working with the dedicated team in the office to spending time with the students at school it has been a year full of experiences that I will never forget! During my time with PHBGTU, the majority of my responsibilities as an Office Fellow included marketing and social media, volunteer recruitment and looking after visitors to the Foundation. All of this was new to me when I arrived, but my experience here has taught me so much about life behind the scenes in an NGO and all the hard work that goes into running a charity. The past year exceeded my expectations and I could not have wished for anything more. I feel lucky to have been able to spend one year of my life here. Spending a day at school around the children you can see why everyone on our team gives their all. The teachers and volunteers are so dedicated to our goals and I am proud to have been part of the PHBGTU team!
Leonardo Ferrari Cestari, from Brazil, 2016
I had never worked directly in the nonprofit sector. I had zero experience with the day-to-day activities of a charity but I had the drive to learn new skills. During my time with PHBGTU, I learned the basics of fundraising, event management and building relationships with donors. One of the most exciting parts was the possibility of interacting with the children we teach and experiencing firsthand the reason we do this work. My favourite activity was Saturday swimming classes which offered the perfect setting to enjoy the beautiful beaches in Phuket at the same time as seeing the delight on the children’s faces. Seeing these children happily playing at the beach and interacting with us in English made it come together in my mind why the work I was doing and the mission of the Foundation were so important. It may be cliché to say “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, but the work the foundation does in Phuket is remarkable! I will always think fondly of my days as a volunteer, from the Pad Thai meals, the office cats to the amazing people I worked with. I left PHBGTU to continue on my life path but those smiles will never leave my heart
Lauren Holt, from the USA
Full-time volunteers with the Foundation sign six month contracts before they begin working here, but I knew after one day in Kamala that six months would not be nearly enough time with this amazing organization.
Working alongside this dedicated team for nine months has inspired and changed me in so many ways. Before deciding to volunteer in Thailand I had some experience in charity fundraising and understood how much effort goes into running a non-profit, but my abilities were limited. Because of the wide spectrum of tasks involved in continuing the Foundation’s mission, working here has provided me a wonderful and unique opportunity to acquire a much broader range of skills.
I feel so lucky to have worked for the Foundation—not only because of the professional skills I gained, but also because of the incredible work we do. The team’s passion is palpable. Just step into one of our classrooms or spend an afternoon in Coconut Club and you will immediately understand why we work so many hours for little or no pay. Our work makes a real difference in these children’s lives and their futures, and I am so proud to have been a part of that.
Hayley Mill, from Australia
What was supposed to be a 6-month stint in Thailand turned into almost 1 year. I was welcomed with open arms and I will always be thankful for that. These people became my family – through the good times and bad, birthdays and Christmases, we stuck together. Coming into a charity and working behind the scenes is what I love. It is surprising how many people ask what I do in the office, as they have no idea how much work goes into funding a small charity. There is always more work than hours in the day, but when you look into the faces of the children we teach you can see why so many people go above and beyond. There are so many people in the background working hard every day to make sure that our teachers have everything they need to give these children the best English education possible. They do late nights in the office before an event, early morning starts when coffee is needed before we can even function and 2am finishes after an event when we are dead on our feet. The people who do this give up 6 months or more of their lives to work for free because they believe in what we do. These are the sides of a charity that the public doesn’t – and shouldn’t – see, and I am SO PROUD to be a part of this team.
João Gonçalves, from Portugal
Phuket Has Been Good To Us was the perfect place for me to develop skills transferable to a future job, whilst having the satisfaction of lending a hand to children in achieving opportunities that otherwise might not be there for them. The office has a relaxed environment, the team is closely knit and passionate about the work it does, and the team work is inspiring (and essential!). This was truly a delightful experience from beginning to end. The team was there to support and teach me. As for the children, they will be the loveliest, funniest, naughtiest bunch you will ever meet! The residential children are also a source of inspiration: not only because they keep beautiful smiles on their faces notwithstanding their life stories, but also because these are children that both study and live together, forming a community of tiny people that take care of each other. All in all, volunteering full-time for six months at Phuket Has Been Good To Us has been the best thing that happened to me! (I must also thank the Portuguese Rotary Foundation, without the help of which this journey would not have been possible!)
Stephan Bundi, from Switzerland
I will never forget the very first day: All of the English teachers and the accompanying mob of students congregated near the teachers’ office where we filtered out our students and took them to our classrooms. My classroom was at the other end of the school, so once my students were identified, I queued them up and we took the five-minute walk to the room. They used the occasion to test the boundaries so brawls broke out, tears were shed, students went missing - I shook my head and quivered at the prospect of what awaited me for the next year. It turned out to be an absolutely wonderful experience and one I wouldn’t take back for anything. The naughtiness that I saw from the children on that first day quickly settled down. I will really miss hearing the students going wild calling - Teacher! as though an A-list celebrity had arrived each morning and I will miss the wonderful staff that make the organisation possible. Overall, this was a top experience. How fortunate am I that I can say that I have worked in a Thai public school!
Adam Meehan, from Ireland
It is truly amazing how life can be. I made contact with the charity in a totally obscure way - at a golf competition in Singapore! A long story short, I met Graham, the husband of Tina Hall the Director of Operations, he was very energised about the charity and that was addictive and attractive to me. A few months later I had arranged to stop work and spend 3 months in Kamala, Phuket. The charity really made efforts to get things arranged for me before I arrived - that was really helpful. The type of activities I was to undertake would be teachers assistant, after-school activity helper and helping out in the office a bit. To my surprise and delight, it was a pleasure to work with the staff in the office. There were no egos to fight with as you would have in a corporate environment and things could just get done. The range of activities was large from accounting to helping out with preparations for the May Ball - no stress and helping a good cause. The 3 months have just flown by and although the activities were different to what I expected it was very relaxing and very friendly. I will be back at some time and hope to stay for another few months. The volunteers may have changed by that time but I think the spirit will persist.
Tavis McGinn, from the USA
After teaching English for a month in Bali, I came to Phuket and took over the Foundation's after-school program, Coconut Club. This program offers active learning activities to the 150 children who live at the school because they do not have families or because their families can not afford to keep them. Through cooking, sports, art, and crafts the children develop relationships, learn new skills, express their creativity, build self-confidence, and practice speaking English. My favourite activity to host with the children was cooking since it allowed me to be like a big brother in the kitchen for many of the kids. The children here are incredibly sweet and it can be heartbreaking to realise that many of them will spend their lives at school without a home and without a family. I felt that the mission of the Foundation and the activities of the club were so important that I emptied my savings and extended my volunteering time from one month to seven months. If you are independent, patient, and passionate about working with or supporting underprivileged kids - I would highly recommend volunteering here.
Bronty O'Leary, from the U.K
Volunteering at the Baan Kalim School for The Phuket Has Been Good to us Foundation was incredibly enjoyable and an amazing experience overall. The Classes were very well planned and put together with fun games and challenges that helped the children expand their vocabulary. Working with the children was immensely rewarding because I learned so much from them, their ability to give when they had very little opened my eyes to the Thai community, like I had never seen it before. From field trips to the aquarium and the local Phuket University, the children got to practice their vocabulary that we learned in the previous classes, which showed them that learning the English language has become a necessity in their society. I had the best time being a teacher's assistant this August and I would like to thank the Phuket Has Been Good To Us foundation for giving me this great opportunity.
Carrie-Ann Pryke and Malcolm Garlick, from the U.K.
Back in England Carrie-Ann and Malcolm googled not for profit organisations to find a worthy organisation in Thailand where they could volunteer. They are delighted that they found Phuket Has Been Good To Us as they have spent a rewarding three months volunteering with the Foundation. Carrie-Ann and Malcolm have helped with fundraising initiatives and with testing of the students at the beginning of the term. Carrie-Ann has also volunteered as a teacher's aid in Kamala School and was delighted to go with 14 lucky students to the team building day organised by Coral Seekers. They are both looking forward to the start of Coconut Club on Monday 15th June to enable them to spend more time with the residential students. Carrie-Ann and Malcolm are keen to remain long term volunteers with Phuket Has Been Good To Us.
Karin Long, from the USA
Volunteering at the Baan Kalim School for The Phuket Has Been Good to us Foundation was such an enjoyable experience during my stay in Phuket. I found the English program at Baan Kalim School to be such a different and refreshing approach to teaching English. I feel that the hands on approach to teaching English works very well and the students seem to respond much better to it than other methods of teaching English. Volunteering for the English teacher, Sarah, was wonderful and I am thankful that I was able to go into her classroom and help out in any way I could. But the best thing about working at the Baan Kalim School was interacting with the students and getting to know them. I am glad that I was able to in some way contribute to their education and I hope I get the chance to see them again.
Chris Martin and CiCi Cheng, from the USA
Chris and CiCi travelled all the way from Athens, Georgia (U.S.A.) to volunteer for the Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation. Rajaprachanukroh 36 School and PHBGTU have provided an amazing experience for CiCi to fuel her passion for giving back to underprivileged communities. Chris received his Master’s Degree in Elementary Education in May 2008 from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. His biggest goal as an educator is to help those in the most need, and he was thrilled to come to Thailand to work with the Foundation, which serves many disadvantaged students—the beautiful setting was a nice perk! While working at RPG 36 School, CiCi and Chris devised several units for use in week-long camp settings with residential children. The goal for these units is not only to foster English-language development, but to do so in a recreational setting that is engaging to these students. The units integrate students’ knowledge of local cultural issues and daily life with English lexicon to promote as much growth as possible in a short span within pro-social learning environments.
Joy Spencer, from Canada
On my second trip to Thailand as a volunteer, I had the privilege of being introduced to the Foundation through a Rotarian in Patong Beach who was working as a teacher for Phuket Has Been Good To Us. I was very fortunate to be able to meet Kate Cope, the Director of Education for the Foundation, and able to observe and assist her in the classroom at Baan Kalim School. She impressed me with her visionary model of service delivery for English, that follows the new teaching methods I had come to appreciate. I was also lucky enough to meet Tom McNamara at a Board meeting and his approach convinced me that this would be my next volunteer opportunity. Tom McNamara’s philosophy was most impressive in that he adheres to the philanthropic vision espoused by Chuck Feeney in “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t,” in that you “give a hand-up, not a hand-out.” A cornerstone of my profession is to give back to the industry. I had many mentors and it is my obligation to assist, in a volunteer capacity, other child and youth organisations that are at the beginning of their formation.
Leana Cabral, from the USA
Leana graduated from Spelman College as a Comparative Women’s Studies major with a concentration in film and visual studies. Also a Fulbright Scholar, Leana is a native of Providence, Rhode Island, in the U.S. A. As volunteer with the Foundation in early 2008, Leana co-taught at Rajaprachanukroh 36 School and assisted with the Foundation’s ‘Be An Angel’ Christmas fundraising campaign.
Nuala Cabral, from the USA, 2008
Volunteering with the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation was a rewarding and memorable experience. My project was to produce a teacher training video to be incorporated into training workshops for Thai teachers interested in the foundation’s unique teaching approach. Helping as a teaching assistant during my first week allowed me to jump right into the program, learn the expectations and meet the students whom I’d be filming soon after. The second week I filmed classroom lessons and footage of the school yard. On the third week, we did narration, and I edited and completed the video. My favourite aspect of my volunteer experience was working with the dynamic team of teachers and volunteers who are committed to the student’s learning and personal development. Despite the challenge of language barriers, teachers taught with enthusiasm, creativity and tenacity, which inevitably rubbed off on their students. Volunteering with the foundation was inspiring, fun and rewarding. I felt I was able to contribute my energy and skills usefully while gaining new knowledge, a broadened perspective and fantastic new friends. To many Westerners, Phuket is known as a place where the Tsunami struck and destroyed in 2004. To me, it is so much more. It is a place where children smile, hope and dream, despite the suffering they have experienced. It is a place where volunteers are welcomed warmly, appreciated, and put to work! I thank the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation, for this unforgettable opportunity to both give and to receive.
Hazel Roberts and Gary Gleavey, from the U.K.
The Foundation’s first text book, “English is Good For You,” was designed by Hazel and Gary, who worked closely with the author, Kate Cope. Hazel and Gary donated their free time over a six month period to produce the book, which contains over 400 drawings.
Hazel is a graphic designer for Warrington Collegiate, with a BA First Class in Fine Arts from the University of Wales. She began her career as a painter. A specialist in education marketing, Hazel has produced advertising material for cinemas and billboards. She has won the “FE First” and “Heist” design awards, for college prospectuses.
Gary is a designer for the Brindley Arts Centre in Runcorn. Educated in Fine Art, graphics and multi-media, Gary has been a desk top publisher of children’s books, publicity material for children and young people. Gary is also an accomplished photographer in the field of education marketing and industrial photography; he has produced CD and book covers. His other skills include website design and video production.
Ian Prior, Jean Prior and Ethel Sellers, from the U.K.
Having persuaded my husband firstly, to take early retirement at the tender age of fifty and then my eighty-three-year-old mother to join us, we moved to Thailand. Why Phuket? Well, if you live here you already have all the answers to that question. I soon found that I really missed my charity work in the U.K., where I raised funds towards deaf children’s education, and I sought something equally fulfilling here. I found that the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation was working in Kamala School, teaching basic English to young children, to improve their opportunities in later life. As a result, the three of us, yes, including Ethel, plus our neighbour, Sally, now act as part-time volunteers, assisting the full-time teachers with English lessons at Kamala School. Many of the children there carry heart-wrenching stories and, as orphans, reside at the school. Deprived of the usual love and attention from a family environment, these children ask for nothing, but their faces light up when you make time for them and hugs are so warmly received and returned. The real benefits of this work will probably only be seen years down the line. However, any input, no matter how small, is better than none, in trying to “make a difference.” Although none of us has any formal teacher training or experience, we are more than happy to attend school twice a week, to help in any way that we can. Our reward? Apart from the hope that in the future we might just have made a small, but positive, difference to their lives, it really comes down to the appreciation shown by the children in those smiles and hugs. Perhaps you would like to join us in trying to “make that difference."
Rick and Anne Gartland, from the USA
Rick Gartland, recently retired from the motor industry and is enjoying spending more time at his second home in Nai Hahn, Phuket. When not in Thailand, he resides on a cold, chilly island called Grosse Ile (French for "big island"). His passion is book collecting and he seeks out books on the golden age of travel in the 1920's, specifically Asian travel. His wife, Ann, has now forbidden him from bringing any more books home, and he has taken up the new hobby of supplying English children’s books to people interested in learning English. Rick linked up with the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation through the Rotary Club of Laguna Phuket. He has supplied several hundred carefully chosen books to date, from a list designed to meet the English learning needs of children in Phuket’s government schools. Rick sources them from book sales in the U.S., and is delighted to be able to fill the library shelves at Rajaprachanukroh 36 School and Baan Kalim Schools with educational books seeking a second life. Rick and Ann were volunteers in February and March 2008 and came armed with a host of materials for running extra-curricular activities for the children at both schools. The activities included necklace, bracelet and paper airplane making classes, together with book mark-making and a captivating activity about "How Books Get To Kamala School," which used simple words and pictures to show the journey of the books from Grosse Ile all the way to Phuket.
Julie Goshe, from the USA
As a psychology major and Spanish minor, my interests in child development, language, and education led me to Thailand to work as an intern and teacher for the Foundation. I researched and designed learning materials and activities that were immediately implemented in the pilot classroom in the Baan Kalim public elementary school. With the guidance of Kate Cope, I spent my afternoons co-teaching grades one through five, and coordinated after-school lessons that incorporated a “structured play” approach to practising English. My time spent teaching and working with the students at Baan Kalim School was incredibly rewarding. I became committed to them as learners and as people, and my favourite part of my day was walking into the school to be greeted by my students, who would surround me with hugs and exclaim “hello Teacher Julie!” Every step forward they took with learning new words and improving their English made me as happy as I can imagine it made them. As a first-time teacher, I ended up having almost a whole school full of “favourite” students. Saying goodbye to them at the end of my internship was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. My internship enabled me to explore my interest in the interconnections among psychology, language, and education, and allowed me to apply the knowledge I brought with me from my study of children and language. Through my work with the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation, I was able to both gain experience that has shaped my academic and career paths and contributes to Thai society in a meaningful way through education.
Amanda Watts, from the U.K.
My time here as a volunteer with the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation has been an invaluable experience. I have been able to learn about the educational programme and the children themselves from a number of perspectives. Firstly, in the classroom where I had very welcome support from Teacher Laura, then during the testing period and marking processes where I learnt about the stringent analysis behind the programme, thirdly as an assistant taking photographs of the children for their own personal records and lastly using my previous experience to help on the communications front for the Foundation. Kate and Steve have been on hand throughout this time answering all my questions and offering advice. I have felt very much at home in the village of Kamala, there is always a friendly face to greet you on your way to school and make you feel welcome here! It is clear from the delight on the children’s faces that they find the English lessons great fun and they run to class always excited to learn something new. I will always remember the kids and their enthusiasm, they are honest, bright and happy students and I know they will only go further with this teaching. I wish I could have stayed longer!
Jane Saunderson, from the U.K.
It was a heart warming experience for me to volunteer in this program. I was quickly accepted by the children and getting out of a “Tuk Tuk” on my third day and having the children shout “Teacher Jane, Teacher Jane” was very touching. The children are so warm and wonderful, giving you hugs and holding your hand. Seeing the children so eager to come to classes and wanting to learn is so rewarding. I had the opportunity to work with a young boy, “Sag.” We developed a special relationship. He was eager to learn. He was very caring and loved the extra attention. Leaving him will be very difficult for me. I hope in the future that I will have the opportunity to assist in this program again.
Norman and Helen Dawkins, from Phuket
Norman and Helen are a retired couple, who moved from Wales in the UK, to live in Phuket. Norman met Tom McNamara at the Laguna Phuket Rotary Club, where they were both members, and he was immediately impressed by Tom’s drive and enthusiasm about the then new Foundation. An invitation to visit Kalim, and a realization that they shared similar views on education, quickly saw Norman ‘join’ the Foundation. “I was a career educator for most of my working life, but never imagined being back in a classroom so quickly after retirement. I began assisting in the classroom, then leading some classes. This Helen taught Prathom 6, and misses them. During my time at the Foundation I have spent time in the classroom, administered a Rotary International Grant for Teacher Training, and now serve as an Education Advisor on The Management Board. If you are looking for a fulfilling experience and have time to donate, come and join us."
'Placement in Phuket'- three high school students from Sweden, 2007
Sofia Stadin (pictured below, left): My friends and I worked as English teachers. When you have been singing and dancing and hopefully taught the children something, you want to stay and see all the progress that they make. To see the happiness in all these children’s faces every day, really made you feel that you made a difference in their lives
Emelie Nassen (pictured right, centre): As a volunteer, you can contribute with more new ideas of activities and ways of teaching. Phuket Has Been Good To Us is a wonderful organisation with people who have children as their highest priority.
Frida Nassen (pictured above, right): To have been given the opportunity to contribute to the meaningful work that Phuket Has Been Good To Us performs has been very special to me. The most wonderful thing about these two weeks was knowing that my work with the children actually made a difference in their lives. Leaving the school was extremely hard, as the children really have made an impact on me. Through this incredible experience, I have gained new perspectives on the world.
Diane Nice, from Australia
As we frequent Phuket a couple of times a year for holidays, I decided I was able (as my own children are now 18 & 21) to be abroad for a longer period of time so that I might do something I've always wanted to do - volunteer work. I got in contact with Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation. I am at a time in my life where I can redirect some of my energy into something that I may be able to make a difference with. My involvement in the foundation was both rewarding and gratifying, and I recommend to anyone who has a passion for helping others less fortunate to undertake this adventure. To volunteer your services to help others is so rewarding; it gives you a new outlook on life. These organisations are working so hard to make a difference to children’s lives; I have nothing but admiration in the fine work they do for the kids. I wish them all the success and will certainly continue to offer some help whilst visiting abroad. I strongly recommend anyone to take a few moments out of their holiday, no matter how little time spent, to step up and offer some help. Half a day or a couple of hours here and there will help the kids in school and there are so many different tasks behind the scenes of great value, like preparing lessons and materials. The children’s smiles and hugs are priceless. I would only hope that more people can step outside of their own world and give to others without the expectation of being paid a sum of money. The reward is so much better, and knowing your small contribution of time has made a difference is so uplifting, so, come on, one and all, give it a go. You'll love it!!!
Lois George, from Canada
I recently had the good fortune to spend time with the children of Baan Kalim School. After volunteering for just one morning in “Teacher Mark’s” class, the children greeted me enthusiastically the following day as I walked across the schoolyard. “Teacher Lois” they chanted cheerfully. Although my time was limited to a couple of weeks, my involvement at the school was such a full, exciting, and rewarding experience. Getting to know the boys and girls of Thailand was truly the most pleasurable part of my vacation time. I only wish I could have stayed much longer! There is great anticipation when they enter the classroom, ready to learn and eager to join in the English lessons. Their enthusiasm is contagious, as they not only inspire one another, but also, as a volunteer, I was truly inspired by the students themselves. There are so many possibilities when children are so keen to learn! You start to realize just how motivated these children are to say the next word, or recognize a sound, or even try to speak a complete sentence in English. The Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation made it so easy to get involved in making a positive difference to the lives of the children at Baan Kalim School. I hope to help again, whenever possible; to see the smiles and warmth of the children in the program.
Peter Adams, from Canada, 2006
I was a volunteer teacher at Baan Kalim School for five months, in 2006 and 2007. After 35 years as a secondary educator in Canada, I believed I was about to begin an extended vacation in South-East Asia. Within a week of my arrival in Thailand, however, I read an article in the Bangkok Post describing a special English language program in Baan Kalim School, Phuket. I was greatly impressed by the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation’s efforts to help children in a village that was ravaged by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. A week later, after being accepted as a volunteer teacher in the school, I was on my way to Phuket. What a wonderful experience it has been. The children, ranging in age from six to twelve years, are an absolute delight. Eager to learn, the pupils energetically engage in every classroom activity, in the same way, they would join in playground games. Kate Cope, the Foundation’s educational director, has put in place a wide array of learning materials. The children eagerly move about the classroom examining maps, posters, books, games and models of everyday objects found in the home and the market. I am constantly being served with impromptu meals of model sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, fruit and vegetables.
I came to Thailand to see the sights and learn something of the culture. I had no idea that my insights would be provided by the pupils of a primary school in Phuket. I have been led to conclude that children all over the world love to learn and are eager to help each other. Given the appropriate setting both of these can be accomplished in a co-operative and supportive fashion and at an astonishing rate. In my case, the teacher has become the learner.
Natasha Sale, from Australia
I was travelling throughout Thailand for six weeks and decided to participate in volunteering while I was in Phuket. Although the school had finished by the time I had arrived I still enjoyed helping Stephen and Kate in the office with teaching materials for the new school year.