Visiting Cross-Cultural Solutions – A Service World Partner
By Kevin Quigley on Friday, July 16th, 2010
Khun Pimsuda, a former Thai Peace Corps staff, founded the Thai program of Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) nearly a decade ago. Since then, she has been organizing volunteer programs for approximately 150 volunteers a year.
That’s more volunteers than Peace Corps, although the CCS volunteers stay for much shorter terms: a week, a month, or a semester.
CCS volunteers like PCVs receive cross-cultural training and have a specific project assignment, depending on their skills and interests.
Recently, we had a chance to visit CCS and a few of their projects in Thailand. On a bright, hot and humid Monday morning, Khun Pimsuda met us at the ferry landing on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phya River in Bangkok. She then took us to Kositsamosorn School, quite close to the world famous Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). There we visited four classrooms, ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade.
In the fourth grade, Fiona, our nine-year old, lead a spirited drill in which the students practiced pronunciation of the English language consonants L, R, V, and B.
For a former TEFL teacher in Thailand, it was déjà vu and despite what Tom Wolfe says I was home again.
After visiting the school, we headed to a senior citizens center where the CCS volunteers assist with physical therapy and simply conversing in English with the center’s residents, a number of whom are former English teachers. The residents seemed to thrive on these interactions with international volunteers.
Of course, one wonders how short-term volunteers can have a sustainable impact. Pimsuda provides the short answer: “continuity.” By working with the same projects over an extended period, CCS builds up a rapport with the local staff. Together, they find innovative ways to take great advantage of short-term volunteer help.
A lot has changed since the Peace Corps was started nearly half-century ago. CCS volunteers have been as young as five (coming with their family) or old as 85. While many are Americans, not all are. They serve shorter assignments and even pay their own way.
However, in places like Thailand it is clear that the Peace Corps approach, model and its people continue to have a profound effect on international volunteer programs like CCS.
(Learn more about the Service World Coalition here.)
(NPCA’s President Kevin Quigley (Thailand 76-79) is in Thailand with his family, mixing a little business with pleasure. He sends this post.)