Cashman spends July serving in Thailand

Cashman spends July serving in Thailand

Photo courtesy of Katie Cashman

Cashman has a great time bonding with the Thai children she worked with and teaching them English.

Giulia Imholte, Student Life Editor

When weighing potential summer activities, one rarely stumbles upon the option of taking a month-long voyage to Thailand for twenty percent of the original cost to volunteer by doing environmental work and teaching English to young orphan children. However, Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior Katie Cashman was presented with this exact opportunity.

Cashman applied for the trip through the combined efforts of Rustic Pathways and Two Strong Trees and found out in May that eighty percent of the cost had been granted to her, and that she had been given the ability to plan her own itinerary. “I got to design it. I chose to go for a month and I spent my first two weeks in a village outside of Udon Thani doing environmental work and living at the Ricefields Base. The second two weeks, I was up in the mountains in the town of Mae Sariang, and I taught English in the Ban Rai school and lived at the Hill Tribe Orphanage,” said Cashman.

Cashman was joined by students from Spain, France, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Africa, Hungary, and cities all over America. “My best friends were from New York, South Africa, Seattle, and Georgia, and we have Facebook chatted and texted nonstop since we’ve been back. Luckily, Facebook has made contact and global friendships available,” said Cashman.

During the week, the trip was focused on service, but on the weekends, Cashman was allowed to choose between a variety of weekend activities. She chose to participate in a Buddhist retreat with monks and stay overnight in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border. “I got so involved with the communities I was living in, and I ended up with 172 hours of service, I think. Just living there was enough of a ‘cultural activity,’ learning Thai and practicing Buddhism almost everyday and living with the locals,” said Cashman.

After spending a month being immersed in a different culture, it would be surprising if that culture and the experiences had in Thailand didn’t have some overarching effect. “The trip definitely impacted what I want to do with my life. I want to study international relations and sociology and be able to travel and do service for the rest of my life. I learned that people are only as successful as the opportunities they are given and these kids are brilliant, hard working, and so deserving, but might never have the chance to go to college or even leave their city. It made me appreciate the school I go to and the country I was born in,” said Cashman.

However, some cultural aspects of the trip were not things or ideas Cashman could acceptably carry back home with her. “Fish and bugs of all sorts are an everyday food item­; they would eat grasshoppers like chips. The bugs there are so terrifying. There would be tarantulas in the bathroom and cockroaches in my bed. But [I got] used to it. It almost wasn’t worth it [to shower]; I would get dirty so easily,” said Cashman.

While in Thailand, contact with bugs was more common that an email back home for Cashman. “Over the course of the month, I never got homesick once. Maybe that’s just the type of person I am, but I actually avoided email contact with home because I was so absorbed in what I was doing. A month went by in the blink of an eye and when I got home, it seemed that I hadn’t missed all too much anyway,” said Cashman.