The Asia Expat: Giving Back to the Community

Jane Estes and Thai classroom

Jane Estes and her Thai classroom

A home is more than the house you live in.

No matter how you personalize it, how much care you put into your home, how much time you spend in it – your home may be your “castle” but your castle is part of a community.  You are part of the community.  No matter where you live, it is important to be a contributing member of the community.

Spending money in the local economy is a contribution of sorts but that benefits you as much as anyone else.  Giving your time and talents not only benefits your community but can be oh so personally satisfying.

 Your home may be your “castle” but your castle is part of a community.

As an Asia expat couple, John and I have become integrated into this Thai beach community.  We are recognized and greeted by our names almost everywhere we go.  People notice when we were gone and welcome us back upon our return.

What can we do in return for their acceptance?  Having taught in both public schools and museums in the USA, it was only natural that I found my place in a classroom. SE Asians know that learning English can make a difference in the quality of life – better jobs to be exact.

English is taught in the schools but more often than not, except in private schools, it is taught by people who barely know the language and pronunciation is way off the mark.  With almost no contact with Westerners, the kids don’t get a chance to use what they do manage to learn.

Retired expats aren’t allowed to be employed in Thailand as part of the retirement-visa requirements but volunteering to work with students is a great way to enrich both your life and that of the kids.  Teaching experience isn’t necessary nor is curriculum.  Just talking with the students, interacting with them in English can make a big impact.  I’ve taken it one step further.

At my local public elementary school, very small with 28 students and 4 teachers, I go in twice a week for two hours.  I design the curriculum which is heavy on activities and art; most of their regular learning is desk work.  I theme each week’s class, for instance the first class was designed around colors, the second around optical illusions, and the third around animals.

Will my presence as an Asia expat make a difference in their language skills?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I do know the kids enrich my life and I’m pretty sure I enrich theirs.

Reading list for the expat lifestyle

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