I attended a VFP cultural exchange workcamp in January of 2007. The project was in a small village in the most rural, and poor part of Thailand (Issan), where no foreigners had ever visited before. We stayed with a family, and from the first day, were welcomed as members of the village. During our time there, we learned Thai language, taught our language to students at the local elementary and high school, met with members of the nearby police department to teach them some useful English phrases (“Please slow down.” “May I see your license.”), visited a monastery, helped on a farm, learned traditional Thai dance, and much, much more. At the end of our two week stay, the entire village threw a party with everyone dressed in traditional costume, giving dance performances, and sending us off with a very moving goodbye/thank you ritual. I will always feel that we are family.
There is no way that I could have gained such incredible cultural insight, developed such strong relationships, or had as many “real world” experiences as a tourist. This volunteer camp absolutely exceeded my expectations.