When stepping into Freedom House you cannot help but sense you are in a supportive and caring environment. That is certainly what I felt when I first stepped through this Thai style house, nestled within a cozy part of Chiang Mai’s inner moat area. The house itself has a community spirit, with every inch of the building covered in a piece of artwork created by a Freedom House child.
After much hard work and innovation, Lisa Nesser has managed to transform a once old and lifeless building into a creative art space for children to learn and escape harsh realities for a brief moment. Freedom House has an open door policy and as a volunteer you are overwhelmed by the warmth and friendliness of both Lisa and her employee Nong, who is also a student of the school and extremely keen to learn English.
Spending several weeks at the House gave insight into the operations of a small non-government
organisation (NGO) providing underprivileged minority children, a majority of whom have fled Burma with their parents, an education. A basic human right they are not afforded due to Thai laws and policy on the immigration status of these children.
Several of my own perceptions have been quashed for sure and when undertaking a variety of tasks, I am reminded of the mammoth task it must take one women to keep such a project running. Especially a project which so many families and children within the community are dependent on for basic education.
I have been lucky enough to see the beginnings of the recently established Freedom House Café , Free Bird Cafe that is based on the grounds. A quirky and neat little business run from the house by Lisa and the students, which helps provide some income for the organization, allowing it to be more sustainable.
I have been lucky enough
To try Lisa’s homemade cookies and hummus, as part of her trial run before she finalizes the café food menu, (which I may add is all vegetarian) was a delight. There were certainly no complaints from being the taste testing guinea pig.
Above all, the lasting memory that will stay with me from the entire experience will of course be the children. Amongst the many interesting things I have been doing for the school, I have especially enjoyed teaching English to the kids and young adults, who everyday show me affection and an enduring spirit of hope, despite their uncertain fate ahead.
The children’s lessons were always interesting and certainly kept me busy; devising lesson plans for classes which included the crafting of windmills, learning parts of the human body, shapes and colours as well as the creation of a Shan folk story book (with the view of being published).
Leaving Chiang Mai after spending almost a month in this eclectic city, I am revelling in the fact that an exceptional lady is caring for the children, and I have learnt so much and will miss the friendships I have made. This is an experience I would truly recommend to anyone interested in volunteering in this area of South East Asia.
Thank you, Sofia