Amy Park - High School Specials, Conservation in Thailand
I had just finished another year at school and summer break was fast approaching. Volunteering at my local community center has always been a big part of my summer vacations. This summer, I had just turned 16 and I thought to myself, “I’ve volunteered at the same places for three years now… I want to try something new.” At first I had thought of volunteering somewhere in the states or in Europe, but as I was searching online for volunteer opportunities abroad, I came across Project Abroad.
While looking through the different placements available, the High School Special Conservations project in Thailand immediately caught my attention. It seemed like a great way to try something new, contribute to our environment and experience a different culture. I immediately applied for it and a couple weeks later, I was off!
I have to admit, the prospect of going half way around the world on my own was quite intimidating, but upon landing I was greeted by Andy (one of our supervisors), and he picked me and another fellow volunteer up, and the three of us went to the Dawn of Happiness Resort where all our program volunteers were residing.
The resort was amazing. It consisted of many bungalows located right at the edge of the most beautiful beach I had seen my entire life. Each volunteer would share a bungalow with a roommate, and my roommate and I got along right away.
My Conservation Placement
Since our conservation work involved scuba diving, we were taught a course on our first week. Since I had rapidly finished the Open Water and Advanced Open Water course at home following my application, I was signed up to take the Rescue Diver course. I have to admit, this course was quite challenging, but the sensation of accomplishment I got when I completed it was definitely worth it. Apart from gaining new experiences, this placement was also a great opportunity to receive diving certifications. I also learnt first-hand, the importance of applying sun screen when doing activities in the water under the sun.
After the first week, my High School Special group got to work. Mondays and Fridays were our land based days and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays were our diving days. The weekends were our days off. On our land based days, we would help out at tree nurseries, join the community on tree planting campaigns, or work with sea turtles at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. On our diving days, we would dive into the ocean and perform reef check or debris clean ups.
I would have to say, the diving days were my favorite days of the week. We would all board diving boats and sail out to the many beautiful islands located along the coast and from there we would dive down and work among the diverse sea creatures. The things I have seen in the water still resonate vividly in my memory. The sea turtles, moray eels, clownfish, anemones… The waters of Thailand hosted an incredible diversity of life. After my first week, I decided to stay for an extra week after my High School Special project because I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.
Over all, I find that we had a good amount of free time during our stay to explore the area and the culture. On the weekends, we would take ‘tuk tuks’ (local buses) to the nearby town of Ao Nang where a variety of necessities, shopping and refreshments were available. We would also take part in activities organized by our supervisors such as hiking, kayaking, or visiting temples. I also took this time to complete a couple other diving courses, such as the AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty course, Peak Performance Buoyancy course and Nitrox.
The three weeks I spent in Thailand over the summer had been a blast and there would have been no better way to spend my summer. Thailand is definitely a place I will consider visiting again.
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