Some time in mid July, as I was riding home from work through miles of rice patties catching the evening sun, it hit me that I would not be taking my students home with me. It was at that moment that I made my official and final decision that I would be returning to Sold, by whatever means possible, to continue my program.
My realization of the success and importance of what I had been doing for these children came one night as I was sewing together their individual patches for an ’emotions quilt’ (each student received an emotions word that they had to express in shapes and colors on a patch of felt). For me, the quilt served as a piece of tangible evidence of the program’s success and the difference it appeared to be making in the way these children process the world in and around them. As I was piecing together patches of the quilt, I began piecing together my plans for the future.
In the short run, I plan to learn a lot more Thai, and take as many relevant art and psychology programs that my schedule will allow. A little while into the future I plan on looking for a masters program in expressive arts, and connecting art with self exploration and social justice. Not everyone is lucky enough to find work that makes them smile as they ride home at the end of the day, and I plan to take this experience and run with it as I try to find a similar and perhaps even more effective and rewarding experience in the future.
In terms of my advice for other students, I would strongly recommend pursuing your passions. If they don’t currently exist in in the ‘world of work’, find a way to make them fit. Carve a path for yourself if there isn’t one cut out in the world already. And from a logistical standpoint, give yourself plenty of time and rest for planning and contacting as many organizations as you can!
My ideas around social justice and developing a sense of the greater world and its needs were strongly influenced by my experience at Sold. The necessity to adjust the western view of the world that I’ve been granted was difficult but essential in relating to the children and forming meaningful connections. While many of the children’s stories were difficult to digest, it was also incredibly important to keep in mind the reality of their situations, and the possibilities and realistic limitations in terms of my abilities to impact their every day lives. The most important lesson I learned is the necessity to make a sustainable impact, not just swoop in, have fun and take off. That’s one of the main reasons that I will be returning to Sold- to forge the skills and thought processes necessary for the children to convert the activities of this summer into helpful, lasting practices to use in the future.
– Zoey Hart ’13