By Youjin Moon

In Korean society everybody is trying to get to the top and nobody wants to get left behind. Until I came to Warm Heart, I was the same. Funny thing was that by not really knowing what I wanted, I ended up running all the time and just blindly following other people. After working at a job which I didn’t like for over a year, one day I realized that there was no point doing work that wasn’t suitable for me. So I took a big step and quit my job. I decided that I really wanted to travel, have new experiences and volunteer to help people in need.

My first project was teaching English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Volunteering at Warm Heart was my second project. When I first got here, I found everything very peaceful but it took me a long time to get used to living and working at Warm Heart – the volunteer accommodations, riding a motorbike, living in the countryside – everything was new for me. For the first couple of weeks, I hardly went anywhere. Even going to the volunteer office was difficult because everyone seemed so hard at work on their projects whereas I was still struggling to figure out what I was going to do.  


Volunteer accommodation on Warm Heart campus

At first I was really worried that I might not be able to do anything. Finally one day I realized that I had needed to give myself time to really look around at my surroundings and get used to living here.  When I stopped pressuring myself, gradually I began figuring out what to do with my time. That’s when I began to really enjoy the wonderful opportunity that living here in rural Thailand has given me.


Having dinner with Aenie (l) and Minjoo ® in outdoor kitchen in front of my room

In the end, I didn’t do just one big project. In fact I did many mini-projects and helped other volunteers with their work. Minjoo, another Korean volunteer, had started a Korean language blog which she wrote about in her recent blog. Neither of us had ever written a blog before but we decided that two heads were better than one. She taught me about the technical part and we shared lots of ideas for the content. We certainly hope that the blog will spread the word about Warm Heart in Korea and that more Koreans will volunteer here.

Also, as Minjoo has already written about, she and I collaborated with a weekly English and music class for the Warm Heart children. We really enjoyed our class but I have to admit the class was not perfect. Still I learned a lot about teaching and more about what children want. If I have chance to teach children again, I want to prepare more and be a better teacher.  

Most of my final month was spent doing research for a feasibility report about an Eco Resort. Warm Heart has access to a big plot of land in Phrao that Michael would like to use meaningfully, possibly creating an eco-friendly resort. The land is located about 20 minutes from the Warm Heart campus. The countryside is beautiful with hills and small streams. After visiting the site, we talked about our resort’s concept and other details; my past experience in the travel industry was useful here. I worked with Fei, a professional architect, and did research to support her work. I studied other eco resorts in Thailand, making a shortlist of 10 interesting resorts and how they are conducting eco-friendly business.  


The land for possible Eco Resort project

Whenever other Warm Heart staff members or volunteers needed help, I always made myself available. One day Aom asked the volunteers for help making biochar fertilizer. Several of us went with her to a farm and we made fertilizer together. Right after my arrival at Warm Heart, I helped organize a two-day biochar fertilizer training session with about 100 local Thai farmers. But actually making the biochar myself helped me understand more about the entire biochar project and how it works.


Making biochar fertilizer

One Saturday Aom and P’jiang took the volunteers to a hill tribe village on the road to Chiang Rai for a new year festival. We drove up a mountain road for over an hour. When we finally arrived, I couldn’t imagine there could be a village in the middle of nowhere on a mountain. The people lived very simply but they looked so happy and they welcomed us. We really enjoyed the festival dancing and eating traditional dishes together. After seeing how they live, I realized that I have too many material possessions. So I decided to live a more simple life and I am trying now.


Hill Tribe Festival

Before coming to Warm Heart, I was always putting pressure on myself. The biggest lesson I have learned during my time here is to keep trying to do my best in every situation. With that attitude, I will find both what I am good at doing and really enjoy doing it. Instead of rushing around and worrying, I learned both to take it easy and then to take one step at a time to find my own way.

(Youjin Moon who recently completed a three-month stay at Warm Heart)