During a recent trip to Thailand, I was lucky enough to have the chance to sit down with a current volunteer and learn about her service. Seated on the patio of a restaurant in Chiang Mai, I interview Anna McGillcuddy, a Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer in northern Thailand.
On this Episode:
- Celebrating Songkran, Thai New Year
- Learning Muay Thai, fighting her students, and being a strong female role model for girls in her community
- Learning to accept the process and her abilities as a volunteer
Photos from Anna’s Story
Anna McGillicuddy’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I am a current Peace Corps volunteer serving in Loei, Thailand in the Youth in Development program. In this program, we focus on functional English skills, sexual reproductive health, physical and mental health as well as life skills such as teamwork, confidence, self-esteem etc.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
One of my favorite Peace Corps memories was a really small moment. One of my schools had a scouts day camp where the students were required to do a variety of teamwork-based activities. One of my oldest male high school students (age 15) was paired up with one of my youngest female students (age 9) and they had to do a relay race together. The goal was to hold one tennis ball between their foreheads while walking to the end line and back. She was very nervous and doubtful of their ability to complete it but I watched him patiently, gently coach her through the whole thing. Whenever the ball dropped, he smiled and just encouraged her to try again. They were able to complete the race and I was so proud to see him work with her and be a true leader.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
One of the most challenging parts of my service has been getting my co-teachers involved in projects. My co-teachers tend to be appointed by the Mayor and are not always interested in working with me. The counterpart I was assigned for Thai Youth Theatre, an annual Theatre festival during which youth groups present their own plays in English, was not very helpful. I ended up coordinating the club by myself with minimal support. However, my students did an incredible job at the festival and I could not have been more proud!
What will you miss about the Peace Corps?
I will miss everything – this incredible feeling of community, the food, being totally alone and needing to trust yourself fully, living in the present moment, knowing you’ll make mistakes and being okay with it. Of course, I will miss the people who’ve opened their hearts to me during my time here the most.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
I’ve learned how to be alone and I’ve learned how to trust myself and this process fully.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
Nam Jai – Heart Water – a spirit of generosity and giving. If someone has nam jai it means they pour out this generosity from their heart.
Mai bpen rai – don’t worry about it – used a million times per day here and is a reminder that everything really will be okay – don’t worry.