Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Ahern


Jessica Ahern is from Massachusetts and traveled to Sing Buri, Thailand in June 2012 for a two-week volunteer trip. Jessica is studying psychology at Framingham State University and is graduating in May 2014. She loves volunteering, reading, traveling, meeting new people, writing, and learning new languages!

Why did you decide to volunteer with GoEco in Thailand?

Jessica: I have wanted to go to Thailand ever since I was in elementary school. I am fascinated by Buddhism and Thai culture. I also really wanted to experience something drastically different from my everyday life; I wanted to grow from traveling and meeting new people so I chose the most adventurous program I could find. I had never left the country before, let alone by myself, so I was not quite sure how to go about it. GoEco made it really easy for me and they were one of the best priced programs. On their website, they have blogs from previous travelers and those were very reassuring. They were also really supportive and I called the American representative several times during the process and she was extremely helpful.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Jessica: We would wake up around 7:30 every morning to have breakfast at 8:00 A.M and go to the orphanage around 9:00 A.M. At the orphanage, our supervisor would tell us the tasks that had to be done for the day and we would split up into groups to get them done. My favorite thing to do was teach English but we also painted the building, tiled the floors, and did other tasks that had to be done. We would have lunch around 12:00 P.M at a local restaurant and then go back to the orphanage until 5:00 P.M. We were exhausted everyday but spending time with the children made it all worth it. Every day when we left, all of the children would gather around outside and wave good-bye to us, which made all of us excited to come back the next day.

Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?

Jessica: I do feel like we made an impact. We spent our entire days there and not only did I see improvements in the children’s English speaking ability but the orphanage always looked better at the end of the week than it did at the beginning. We made the environment more loving and fun for the children and I believe it is crucial to a child’s life to be around passionate and driven people. I truly think that the children learned as much from us as we did from them.

What was the hardest or most challenging part of your experience?

Jessica: One of the most difficult parts of my experience was being the only American. At first, it was hard because everyone else was European and would speak to each other in their own languages. Even when they did speak in English, there were a lot of words that they did not know and our conversations were very short. With time, I learned how to talk more with body language and simple words and it quickly stopped being a problem. It was actually a really great learning experience for me and now I am really happy that I was the only person from America.

Another challenging part of the experience was leaving. I became really attached to the children and I could not help but be worried about how their futures would turn out. I still keep in contact with the orphanage and my family even sent donations to the orphanage for Christmas. Still, I plan on making my way back there as soon as possible.

What do you miss the most about Thailand or your experience?

Jessica: I miss the kids! I really miss seeing them every day and I miss working with all the other volunteers. I loved learning about everyone and to give back to the world. I would love to go back and make volunteering at the orphanage a part of my daily life.