If I had to think of one word that comes to mind when I think about the GVI Project and Volunteer Base in Phang Nga, Thailand, it would be development. This is not only a focus of the projects and UN Sustainability Goals that are the foundation for everything it does, but also paramount to the lifestyle that the volunteers themselves lead, and are encouraged to by the field staff there.
With three different community projects currently running in Phang Nga, the base is home to a collective of individuals with very different skills, natures and interests who somehow come together to make the overall impact a positive one.
The projects currently running are Conservation, Teaching and Healthcare, and offer volunteers a great scope of ways to get involved with the local community while still having a positive impact on that local area and contributing to the UN Sustainability Goals that I already mentioned. Personally, I was a Conservation Volunteer and did different things everyday; cleaning turtle tanks and the adorable hatchling turtles that inhabited them, cleaning the beach, preparing and delivering lessons in a local school, completing surveys of the local wildlife in the area and more recently, surveying the coral off of the nearby coastline.
This was something that I was particularly interested in doing, as I was fortunate enough to be able to complete my PADI Open Water Diver certification during my four weeks in Thailand. I have wanted to do this for a very long time and it wouldn’t have happened without the support and knowledge I received from the field staff, encouraging me to pursue one of my dreams in my weekends off. As an asthmatic diver, I had to obtain doctor’s permission for me to complete the course prior to beginning, and this was also done with the recommendation of a hospital by the base manager, translation for the appointment to be made by the community liaison and company to attend the appointment itself by a fellow volunteer. Everyone looks out for everyone else there, and helps to ensure that you enjoy your time while feel like you’re really making a difference, if only to one person.
In terms of the base itself, it is very well set-up and surely able to overcome anything life throws at it, such as torrential downpour so loud you can’t hear yourself think, or being cut-off from the mains water supply forcing you to use all the excess rainwater for.. everyday tasks. Accommodation is basic but all you really need and serves as a good reminder that many people survive and live contented lives with so much more than we.
I’d be lying if I told you that it was easy and wasn’t without many challenges, but spending a month with GVI Phang Nga is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m definitely not ready to finish working with them yet. If you are considering volunteering abroad and think that Thailand might be for you, consider GVI with the knowledge that you would be helping to continue building a community that has lost so much but come so far. I found the experience truly humbling and would go back to lend a hand tomorrow if I could.