Thailand 2022

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During my stay in Mae Sot, Thailand, I continued my unpaid internship work with Equal and Opposite at Minmahaw School. It was wonderful to be able to spend each weekday in the school and meet with my colleagues face-to-face, rather than on Zoom! Key projects that I was able to complete during the visit included: interviewing students and staff from different ethnic groups to better understand their backgrounds, motivations for applying to the school and future aspirations; using interview information to create a bank of future social media posts for the school; drafting grant proposals to two foundations; creating a slideshow presentation for the school and working with the management team to design and implement a new social media strategy. I also assisted with Social Studies teaching by presenting about British culture to students and helping them to prepare and deliver their own presentations about their identities. These tasks were driven by the priorities of the school staff, and I continued to receive guidance from my supervisor at Equal and Opposite to support my work. I was also able to spend recreational time with staff and students, enjoying activities such as playing chess, volleyball and football. As a result, I have a much better understanding of both day-to-day life at Minmahaw School and its organisational structure and priorities. I feel that this insight, alongside the stronger relationships I now have with staff and students, will enable me to write more effective fundraising proposals that better reflect the ethos and activity of the school throughout the remainder of my internship.

Whilst in Mae Sot, I visited other non-governmental and community-based organisations working with migrants and refugees. These included Borderline Tea Garden and Shop, Kickstart Art, the Hospitality and Catering Training Center, the Burma Children Medical Fund and the world-renowned Mae Tao clinic. Speaking with people from across these organisations has deepened my understanding of the struggles faced by people from Myanmar when living both in their own country and in Thailand. I found it particularly interesting to speak with those of a range of nationalities who had lived in Mae Sot for many years, who gave their unique perspectives on how the town and political situation had changed following COVID-19 and the military coup in 2021. It also became clear that local organisations are often at the mercy of not only the political situation in Myanmar, but also the responses of the global international development industry: for example, the progress made towards democracy in Myanmar prior to the coup meant that DFID withdrew their funding from the Mae Tao clinic, instead relocating money and personnel to Myanmar. However, many foreign organisations are now moving their staff and resources back into Thailand, highlighting how often it is decisions made abroad that have the most significant impact on the situations of local organisations and the people whom they support. 

The political situation of Mae Sot makes for a highly diverse and fascinating local culture with a fusion of Burmese and Thai traditions. I really enjoyed experiencing the music and food of both cultures and visiting the Saturday night Thai market was a particular highlight. During my weekends, I completed a Burmese cooking class led by staff at the Borderline Tea Garden, which was a great opportunity to support the valuable work of the organisation whilst learning about the local cuisine and culture. I also visited the westernmost point in Thailand, local temples and a nearby reservoir.  

Through my time in Mae Sot, I have developed professional skills such as conducting interviews and facilitating team meetings despite a language barrier. I have also grown in confidence to quickly build relationships with new people. I initially felt a little unsettled not knowing anybody at all and being unable to speak the local languages. However, these challenges were overcome with the kindness and generosity of those I met who helped with everything from taking me along to social events and tourist sites, to finding a suitable ATM machine after my bank card was repeatedly declined at several in the town centre! I am now more confident that I can handle the highs and lows of travelling alone, I and have enjoyed a sense of increased independence during the trip.  

As I settle back into life in the UK, I will continue to reflect on my time in Mae Sot. My own experiences and the insights of those around me have certainly opened my eyes to the difficulties faced by people from Myanmar, as well as the opportunities and challenges of working abroad in the future. I will hold this experience in the forefront of my mind as I start to think about life after graduation and what the future may hold for me both professionally and personally. 

Thank you again for your financial contribution towards this experience. I am incredibly grateful for your support in making my travel to Mae Sot possible.


Minmahaw School building

Reclining buddha at Wat Thai Wattanaram

Pumpkin curry, a traditional food of the Karen people of Myanmar, cooked during my class at the Borderline Tea Garden.