There are few things in the world better than a child’s smile. That non-jaded, pure joy, utterly happy kind of smile that radiates deep in your core. The only thing better than that smile is knowing you are the reason for that. I experienced this kind of smile this past November while volunteering in Koh Phra Thong, Thailand.
The small village of Koh Phra Thong was destroyed by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2006. The lives of these people were forever altered, as families lost loved ones, their possessions and their livelihood. The one thing the tsunami did not take was their resilient spirit. Despite enduring unfathomable hardship, the people of Koh Phra Thong steadfastly endeavored in rebuilding their community and with the help of STA Travel, were able to do that.
By 2011, an entirely new village in Koh Phra Thong was built, with new homes, a new school as well as a new community center. I was fortunate enough to be there to add the final touches to the community center before the big grand opening. We spent a week building, painting, gardening and working with the local children to make sure the community center was built just for them. We capped off the week with a giant celebration with the entire village. We feasted on traditional Thai dishes, gave tours of the new center and danced till dawn with the village children.
Seeing the gratitude and happiness on their faces is why I volunteer.