Volunteer Page

Volunteers at KTBLC

Fred, Orillia
From the moment one boards the jet from Canada and travels the 16 hours to Thailand, the adventure begins. The sights and sounds of Bangkok, the hustle and bustle of the border city Mae Sot, and the most beautiful ride up along the highway to KTBLC. The trip alone is an experience but once at the Learning Centre, one can’t help but become enveloped by this loving community of Karen refugee students and teachers, and fellow volunteers of all ages from around the world. It is such a profound and powerful experience. It is a privilege to be able to share a part of one’s life with others, especially with those who have demonstrated incredible inner strength in the face of such human suffering. I wondered what these students would be like when I arrived at the Learning Centre. What I found was a group of students who were respectful, self-disciplined, motivated, committed and interested in learning. More importantly, they were like youth found anywhere in the world, questioning, spirited, with a love of life and a genuine concern for their families, their communities and for each other. Celebrating their cultural traditions is most important at Kaw Tha Blay and central to this is music. It is such an important part of their lives and they expressed this freely when given the opportunity. As a Social Worker and a person who has spent a career in post-secondary education, I have had many profound life experiences but my time at Kaw Tha Blay was truly life altering, and provided me with new insights into myself and the human condition. Whether you are a freshly minted university graduate or just retired from a career, if you ever have an opportunity to volunteer at Kaw Tha Blay Learning Centre, take it. It is an experience of a lifetime.

Dani, Nanaimo, BC
I am not going to explain how incredibly sweet, determined, and loving the students and staff at KTBLC are, or describe the profound experience my time with PUB was. But I will tell you that not a day goes by that a thought of my students, my friends, KTBLC, Burma, or our memories does not cross my mind. My heart now belongs to two very different worlds. These astounding young people deserve every opportunity to become something great and leading a healthy, happy, hopeful life. I feel we have the option, and even onus, to make this happen, and I can say first hand that the students of KTBLC do not take for granted the opportunity they are given.
Emma, Orillia
My summer teaching at KTBLC was nothing short of inspirational. Getting to know each student personally and being able to understand their pure love for education was refreshing. The work ethic of the students and their desire for self-improvement pushed me to provide them with the best education possible. My memories from the border will always remain close to my heart. Yah thinaw nah ah-ah, joepoe laweh.

Craig and Sally, New Zealand
We volunteered as teachers at Kaw Tha Blay at the start of 2013. It was an authentic, unique and immersive volunteering experience that we will always remember. The students are such appreciative and lovely people and we learnt so much from them during our time at Kaw Tha Blay. If you're thinking about volunteering at Kaw Tha Blay, bring along a flexible, independent attitude and a sense of adventure. You're sure to have a challenging, rewarding and exciting time.
Portia, Vancouver
In February I offhandedly asked a group of female students what they thought of Valentine’s Day. “We hate it,” they said sternly, I figured for different reasons than my own. The girls told me a famous Karen leader was assassinated on this day a few years before, meaning the day should be one of reflection and commemoration. This is one example of how proud, compassionate and political these people are. I learned a lot from them about forming families while away from home and being deeply proud of who you are and where you come from. We also had lots of fun – and, while commemorating the passing of a leader on February 14, covered the campus in sparkles and paper hearts.
'Computer' Mike Cariaso, Washington D.C.
PUB addresses a tremendous need, in the most direct way I can imagine. Over the years, I've watched KTBLC grow from a need, to an idea, to an action. The progress is evident in the facilities and resources, and in the abilities of the students. Seeing former students return as teachers is particularly gratifying, validating that the students have benefitted, and that they want to continue and extend those benefits to others. This is not a short-term project, and the work is not done.
Anne, Germany
During my sabbatical, volunteering at KTBLC, I found out that teaching is all about human rights. “You taught us reading, writing, and thinking”, the students thanked me at the end of my stay. I had certainly unsettled them in class, always asking “why”? Having to think for themselves was new to the students, but that is what enables people to make their own decisions. During a year full of travel experiences, it was my stay with the students that inspired me most. To say it in Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Kaitie, Orillia
At Kaw Tha Blay there is always a lot of activity, from early in the morning until bedtime. There are classes to plan, assignments to read, songs to teach, timetables to adjust, volleyball to play, questions to ask and answer. But Kaw Tha Blay is equally as quiet as it is busy. Sitting is also an activity, and while sitting with my students, friends, teachers, I have been welcomed into a different world. At the least expected moments I’ve seen new little pieces of it, and watched my students see bits of worlds that are new to them. We will always share those bits and pieces of understanding.
Graham, Orillia
Living and volunteering at KTBLC was a wonderful opportunity and one that I will never forget. It opened my eyes to the experiences and history of a whole ethnic group. At the school, you're not just a teacher who comes to teach and then leaves, but a part of the school community – a wonderful community to be a part of! You’re involved in everything from helping the students during study time, to playing badminton or going for a run after school, to watching movies on Saturday night. On the teaching side, it was amazing to see students improve so much and to be a part of that learning.