by Jayden Wlasichuk

The farthest from home I had ever travelled before this summer was 2640 kms to attend university. Here in Phrao I’m over four times that distance away – an ocean, a date line and a 12-hour time difference.  I came to Warm Heart as a part of my Canadian scholarship program called the Loran Scholars Foundation.  As a Loran Scholar we are required to work in three different sectors over three summers.

This summer was my community development summer and I had the opportunity to live with a local family instead of the usual Warm Heart accommodations. Baasonn, my host mother, and her 15-year-old son, First, were my Thai family for the last 12 weeks. I feel so honored to have had the chance to live with them, even though they don’t speak English and I speak no Thai. They showed me more kindness and patience than I probably deserved and I will be forever grateful at having had the chance to get to know them.

Although I didn’t learn very much Thai from them, Baasonn taught me that kindness has no language, that love knows no ethnicity, and to truly make others a priority in your life, because we all deserve to be loved. Throughout my stay, my mindset has vacillated between ‘this world does not deserve Baasonn, because she is too good’ and ‘the world needs 10 million Baasonns’. I don’t know if I will ever be able to make up my mind which is the truth.

volunteer experience

Me with my host mother, Baasonn

While at Warm Heart, I have seen, experienced and learned far beyond what I thought possible. I’ve spent a few days in the field learning how biochar burning works and helping to clear the remainder of mango trees to be burnt. It was hard work in the sun, but it was a great chance to get to know the other volunteers and see first-hand what creating biochar would require of the farmers. Once farmers here are able to see the benefits that biochar can provide, they are more willing to work with Warm Heart and their biochar team.

I also had the opportunity to represent Warm Heart at a community event. The best part of this story is that Ashley, a volunteer from Florida, and I went completely unprepared. It turned out we were there to help the nearby Baan Hoi Sai village build a dam to reroute a small river in order to help protect the side of the mountain that could potentially wash out during the rainy season. We drove up to the “construction site” to see around 200 people standing near the river. There were people standing with shovels in the sand filling bags to pass along later. Many of the village men were standing in the river, anywhere from ankle-deep to chest-deep in the murky water, pounding bamboo sticks into the river. Ashley and I helped in both work sectors that morning.
volunteer experience

Rerouting river in Baan Hoi Sa

I’ve been involved with the public health program here at Warm Heart and feel so blessed to have met incredible local people during our weekly outings. On my first trip I met Tip and Theap, a cute elderly couple who are very popular with everybody volunteering in public health.  My favourite memory was when I asked them how they met. Tip smiled and told us of the days when they were young and full of energy. Theap was a dancer with a beautiful smile that got his attention and captured his heart. He told us this story with a smile stretched across his aged lips and shining stars in his eyes. Theap always smiled and giggled during our visits. They both had birthdays at the beginning of July, so I baked them a loaf of banana bread.

banana bread

Smiling Theap with their birthday banana bread

Each Wednesday, fellow volunteers Olivia and Jayni joined me on trips to see other locals as well. One woman I grew quite fond of was Whaow. She lives up in a village about 15 minutes from Warm Heart and has the biggest heart. I loved nothing more than to listen to her giggle and see her smile light up the room when we would walk in.

volunteer experience

Me, Olivia and Whaow sketching in
her hillside home

We were able to see so many different people and the ways in which the public health program at Warm Heart is able to help them, but it also made me quite sad to see that without Warm Heart, some of the people we help would be worse off health-wise, unable to make it to doctors’ appointments or even eat every day.

With the help of a few other volunteers, I’ve managed to organize an English class for the kids in my neighborhood every Wednesday. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know that English is a national language in Thailand; the kids are all learning English in school and they need extra help.  Every week I baked them a Western-inspired snack to eat during the discussion class. It’s so great to see how engaged these neighborhood kids are in coming every week and learning a new language. I recall when I was learning French in school I was nowhere near as excited and determined as these kids. Some of them are very quiet and don’t like to speak in front of the group, but they are slowly coming out of their shells.


My last neighborhood English class

But beyond these varied activities, my main project focus has been to develop microenterprises with the Warm Heart teenagers. Every Saturday Olivia and I would teach a business class, with the help of Michael, to help the kids create their own businesses. In the end, there were three groups of girls who had legitimate business ideas. Two groups have decided to grow and sell mushrooms, and the last group wants to bake snacks and cakes to sell at school. We were able to give them the resources they need to design, budget, and plan for these businesses which they will one day run by themselves. I’m so proud of the progress that these young girls were able to make.


Michael leads microenterprise
business class

As I prepare to leave Warm Heart, the thing I am proudest of are the relationships that I formed with the Warm Heart children. I’ll never forget the sounds of laughter from Obchui, A, B, C, and Jan. Those kids will always hold a special place in my heart, and I think they are what I will miss most about being in Thailand. At the end of my time here, I’ve come to realise that the relationships that were formed are the most important thing that I accomplished during my stay.


Me with Obchui

(Jayden Wlasichuk recently completed a three-month stay at Warm Heart)