One Overview of DaLaa activities in 2011

One overview, because it’s not complete, because it’s a bit orientated by my views, even if I tried not. DaLaa is 7 years and we try to be more mature or let’s say more conscious in our activities. Not easy when we start with a hard environmental and moral handicap: make travel our participants thousands of kilometers of pollution and rely on their fees for our salaries (even if small). Nothing is right in this global society and we balanced back this black side of ours with supporting joining and promoting projects we believe will make a change, will make the change. Of course this change we have to start it inside, with ourselves so it can have an effect outside.
Last year, we didn’t make any general overview, because there was not any English writer. Also importance of reports and summaries is not well given around here; I hope this one would be useful.
If, you don’t know DaLaa organization well, reading information on our website (www.dalaa-thailand.com) would make it easier to understand this overview.
Alex, believer in DaLaa since 2004
I- Kok Payom MLTV project
For this third year of cooperation between Kok Payom community and DaLaa, Sakkarin decided to move himself in there, as an inhabitant of the village and main coordinator of the project between locals and international volunteers:  “This year we realized our role, it’s Klong Toh Lehm academy, for the environment and the future of local kids”.  Klong Toh Lehm is the name chosen for the learning center situated on the other side of the river, in the mangrove forest. On Sundays, they will organize alternative school for interested kids in this place with activities linked to their environment and ways to live according with it. Have been built there already two buildings, the first to gather and the other one is the kitchen. Garden and toilets are started and 2012 is planned for the dormitory and transform the gathering place into classroom. Later on, it could be the place for volunteers to stay. A big difficulty is to cross the river as volunteers don’t have their own boat. The rest of the time, volunteers are helping teaching English at Kok Payom School, organizing activities with kids or adults where they stay at the meeting center (Salaa) of the village, or joining any activities or helping with local people.
There are 6 or 7 families really active and implicated with international volunteers, other support especially when their kids are joining activities. “This project is still working well thanks to the strength of the community, its traditions and location but a kind of conflict within the community also weaken our work (even if it’s not directly linked to us). That’s why Klong Toh Lehm is a nice project, we started it and we don’t need to follow on any leader.”
An other difficulty for Sakkarin is in the communication with volunteers. It’s not easy for him to make them understand clearly what their role in the project is and what they are doing there. He needs to show them what is happening in the community. He would like to have some long term volunteers helping him with planning and organizing.
Finally, a big part of his work is to involve villagers in Klong Toh Lehm, show them it’s their project, and to discuss what they would like from it. Anyway, kids enjoy it.
From other DaLaa people and long term volunteer there, here are the main thoughts about Kok Payom MLTV project:
1- Volunteers and locals go together in the same way to preserve the community life and nature.
– Welcome of the community, still open after 3 years, easier to understand each other, nice place (the nature, the river, the mangrove).
– The community-family sharing with a kind of basic self-sufficiency: rice, fish, rubber (money).
– In the community, nothing is said, everyone know, no one move, need to feel from villagers, they won’t tell you if something is wrong. Bang Bat as the mirror of the community, a very nice man. Villagers are so good.
2- Make clear the objectives for next year, a vision shared and understood by everyone.
– Need to take more in charge the team, direction to go in the free time
– Why School English teaching was presented as the 1st aim to everyone when it is Klong Toh Lehm?
3- Already much better after the start of Klong Toh Lehm, bring back motivation
– Work more on the other side, buy kayak or have a boat volunteers can use.
– Be careful on the continuation of the projects: crab farm, garden
– On Sunday, why volunteers are often thinking and organizing activities by their own, they would like to connect to villagers aims more
4- Big problem of education at school for volunteers, teachers are not able to control the kids, it makes the task of volunteers very hard. Kids getting lazy and do what they want. It needs to be solved together with the community.
5- Separation in the community (conflict), project more leaded by Sakkarin than villagers
– MLTV volunteers cannot take decisions, doesn’t feel like Sakkarin is expecting anything from them; maybe he doesn’t know how to involve them. No interest in what they are doing in daily life (from a volunteer evaluation)
– Sakkarin looks tired from some volunteers (too young)
– not enough communication from Sakkarin with others in DaLaa.
II-Roi Wan Phan Pba alternative school in Kuan Mai Bong (started in March 2011)
It happened as planned, rather faster than expected thanks to local people and volunteers. We have been able to cope with all obstacles. Now, the hardest work part is done (the school, the main house…). It looks like with one more year, it will need only gardening and farming anymore, when all the buildings will be finished (sleeping huts, kitchen and library) and big trees planted. It has been done by very different people and so it was kind of challenging (with minor problems occurring) but results are very good. The great times for Pi Ju: When they could get money to start the school; when everyone was working so hard in the forest (never someone complained); meeting of DaLaa 7th anniversary helping understanding each others. There are about 20 close families really included in the project. Understand food is a basic of the project. Pi Ju would like volunteers to be able to use the garden for cooking.
For Aleef the great times are: the start with nothing and the 9 month later; when hard work together. His big difficulty is translating between Pi Ju and volunteers especially when stay with local people. He felt sometimes impossible (rude or impolite) to translate some ideas in one or another way. For him, he thinks teaching kids is difficult because they are already attracted to the city and lost many “good” countryside habits. It’s very hard to bring them back to that culture that everyone around is leaving. Also he thinks people outside the local area maybe did not get the aims or the project.
For next year, some plans have been made to join 2 schools in the neighborhood. They will come to join in Roi Wan first, then volunteers will join a 2-3 days camp and after this maybe volunteers could help with teaching at school once a week, not like main job.
Pi Ju is also thinking to make some volunteers stay in Roi Wan Phan Pba 1 in Baan Bang Liang, 15 km South from the project, where volunteers could stay in an already all planted for self sufficiency area, he built some years ago in his home village. Activities would be less exhausting and there is the river for relax. Volunteers would join with the local school. It is not clear yet how to deal with volunteers, one month in each place, Pi Ju coming and going between the 2 places and how to be careful about the team spirit- to be discussed.
From other DaLaa people (and through them some ideas from international volunteers), here are the main thoughts about Roi Wan Phan Pba MLTV project:
1- The strong motivation and experience of P Ju, good speaker and do it for real, strict (father role), make it very benefic for the project. The other side of the balance is that volunteers are dependant on him for everything (boss-leader-wise). Everyone needs to believe in him. Need to ask for each little thing we do there, not easy to feel comfortable with this.  Maybe it is the project of villagers, but it still looks like Pi Ju is the owner.
2- This project is very good and fresh, well organized, very active, with self sufficiency views, results are fast and easy to see. Minor difficulties come from the communication and translations between P Ju/ locals and volunteers. It’s not easy to understand and deal with the difference of background between western and Thai. Also, a strong point of the project is the foot print left from everyone joining.
3- Everyone can feel the strong support from villagers (even if a small group), the energy used for work, for preparing food and money help to buy material, the warm welcome and hosting volunteers, trips to the main road (Not easy to get in or out without them), the trips to the market,… of course this project is for them, for their kids but it would seem not so easy to accept all these changes.
4- The one who join the start of the project with the neighbor big community of Kuan Mai Bong all wonder why nobody from over there is joining anymore the project. Are there any tensions between villagers, don’t they feel concerned? And it is the same concerning the kids coming on week-end; the group is still small and only from very closes houses.
5- The teaching is the part where volunteers should concentrate their effort and the communication with DaLaa could be made easier (newsletter every 2 weeks as planned, phone to give news…) but the way of DaLaa people joining for about a week each month is working well.
III-Report of Activities from DaLaa office – August to December 2011
DaLaa team in DaLaa office in August and September: Ni, Joe and Alex.
From October to December: A, Joe and Alex
Ui is also part of the office work even if she always work from her home.
They are the link between all DaLaa activities, people and organizations.  They work to make sure that everything is going right. It includes all preparation, following and continuation of volunteers’ activities and running an official association with an office. Compared to the past, we can deplore that there are not many members to support their work.
In August, when Alex started to work full time with DaLaa, we reorganized all documentation, re-wrote the infosheets of the two long term places and wrote the ones of the short-term projects in November and December. Then, we promote them on our website and the database of our network’s partners (every time a different presentation, more or less information!). Ui is taking care of the contacts with network organizations. She promotes our activities and is the first one to get people interested usually through e-mails. She has often to contact with us, or people in charge on the projects to deal with questions or to inform/remind about outside DaLaa communication. In the office, we often double-check e-mails to keep informed but usually do not reply them ourselves.
We get prepared for incoming volunteers, make and send them documents needed to get visa (A and Ui usually deal with this part), pick them up and take care of them (often Joe who is living in the office), and for Middle and Long Term Volunteers, we organized a 2 days introduction and an evaluation. Alex is responsible but we always do it together with present people in the office. From August to September we welcomed 18 MLTV in 8 introductions for our two MLTV projects and had 14 MLTV evaluations discussions.
For introductions, we try to innovate each time not to make it boring for us and them. Each time are included a presentation of DaLaa, of their project, discussions about their motivation, Thai culture and life in the project and finally some language lessons.  Depending on the team and situation, we organize games, going to market and cooking, or visiting some close members, try to give an idea about the way of living around here and culture differences. It is always nice if we have 1 current volunteer from the project or the coordinator coming to help the introduction, but not too many people.
A big responsibility for us is to join often with activities and especially in MLTV centers Roy Wan Phan Pba and Kok Payom. Spending time in the project, to understand what is going on, to benefit from our “boring” office work, to be a part of the change. Ni was first going often to Roywan project then Joe and Alex used to visit MLTV centers 1 or 2 times each month depending on activities, A could go less often (Amanda) and Ui only once in each place(other work).
We keep all information about each project, about each participant, and their evaluations in files, and make overviews useful for the future. Most of the documentation is in English. Alex is taking care of it and waiting for someone to do the Thai part of reports but it seems difficult to do or useless for other people working here.
We meet with DaLaa organizers every 2 weeks to discuss about every day maters and every 3 month with DaLaa committees for more complete discussions. It’s not always easy to fix a date (we couldn’t meet one time in December for example)and the difference between people make some discussions long and difficult (boring sometimes). We had a committee meeting in Roy Wan Phan Pba in July where we spent a lot of time to exchange about people feelings and in Kok Payom in October, where we tried to imagine our future with welcoming Mooy to our team. We also did our 7th anniversary (Jamboree) in Kuan Mai Bong in October and even if it was not like a typical DaLaa anniversary for us and our members (depending on the hosts for the activities), it was a great time to get closer to the local community.
In late November, we also organized a MLTV seminar for 3 days and it was a very nice time where we could exchange a lot between volunteers from both centers about the meaning of our actions. It happened in Bangklam thanks to our host and partner P ChanChai we know we can rely on for future cooperation. We had week-end workcamps almost each month in Kok Payom with some members and we really wish to organize others special activities with more members, volunteers or other family days.
We started again a monthly newsletter that can be read on the website and on Facebook. This one is in English and Thai and we try to focus on coming events for interested people who have opportunity to join.
We have also to take care of the office with all its small but daily tasks, and which is used as a guesthouse (sometimes without enough respect) by all DaLaa people, visitors and friends.
A difficult task is the accounting part, done by Ni and since October, by A again, that takes quite a lot of time, also because we need to do it in English and in Thai for the official way. Hours in front of computer with numbers, any other volunteer?
Since August, we went 3 times to Wipawadi at the community fruit garden of Jean-Luc in Surat Thani, to help with taking care of trees, discuss and learn about environment and spirituality. We will see how we can manage future cooperation with this conscious project.
Since some times already, we want to find another place outside city around a nice community where we can do other projects, like agriculture or activities with kids. We could mix with office work that indeed doesn’t take all our time (about a full week per month). Wipawadi is open but a bit far for some of us.
Also…We are always asking for the 2 MLTV places to give some news every 2 weeks but it’s not working.  We got our first official Thai volunteer of the year Maprang… for our last camp in December. We sent an overview of KMB to all international volunteers who joined in 2011. We printed a new model of T-shirts. We got the visit in August from Heinz, a member of SCI committee and of Bird, the president of Voltrateer, an organization from Hong Kong with who we could organize a special camp in December. We had a miscommunication with KNCU Korea, which make cancelled our bilateral camp in January 2012, but the one in February is still going on. Someone close to the office stole money several time these last months, we changed the keys and are more careful. We changed the phone and repaired the computer recently. We didn’t get any news from Ni after her trip in Italy. We plan and promote STC for next year: January to April plus June and August. Joe and Sakkarin, join Mooy to organize “Just peace” seminar in December. A big Thanks to Antoine, who help us in the office many times during his presence. Aatu is still ready to help if needed. Sun joined Dalaa quite often these last month. His project in Baan Pa Kao Ma that we have been visiting and joining often is changing for a café/book magazine shop planned to open next March in Songkhla.  And to finish, Mooy is coming to work with us, soon.
We are receiving each a salary of 8 or 9000 Baht (3000B for the part time of Ui).This money is coming from the fees of international volunteers; we don’t forget it and really hope we could decrease them (the fees, not the salaries!).
IV- DaLaa organization through each one
Interviews realized by Alex in November and December 2011
Have been interviewed main actors in DaLaa joining the whole year (A, Ui, Sakkarin, Pi Ju, Joe, Aleef, Antoine and Alex)
Is mainly missing: Ni (who didn’t give news after her volunteering in Italy), Chui, Sun…
1. Biggest changes in 2011
Joe: slow down STC, changes in positions (Sakkarin, A and Alex), much less members activities
Sakkarin: feel improve: look for more effective work with our own skills; Thanks to DaLaa, he can go back to simple life, where he wants to be. Better understanding on world situation, what we should do; Realizing our weak points and try to repair them; Take a step back but not stop, ready to start again
A: no more STC, slow down, look tired from the past
Ui: each one goes on different places, not enough communication, less work in office
Alex: stop regular STC, start KMB, stop Klong Dan, becoming staff
Aleef: easier communication, clearer for volunteers directions (before, only for fun)
2. What about the decision of stopping regular STC in 2011?
A: fine but not so happy, everyone is tired and not so much work left in the office team
Ui: good for real work, but not so good because STC were helping to spread our action everywhere and of course it’s less money entries (to have salary for our staff)
Alex: Good mainly because people are not forced to do something they don’t like (leader), but like to see more STC with members and Thai volunteers
Joe:  yes but why not to organize 1 month wk, 3 or 4 places a year and come back to the same places, enjoy the support of the community
Sakkarin: happy, put STC at the right place
Aleef: feels happy with STC included in MLTV, easy to see benefits
3. Other ideas concerning STC:
Joe: Help from members for leading the wk
A: more activities with kids (girls usually are more comfortable and different atmosphere), look for more different places so we can meet different people.
Ui: It should be decided 6 month before for a good preparation.
Alex: More PR to promote STC in Thailand, think more about MLTV joining STC
4. MLTV: Finishing Klong Dan project
Joe: It’s a pity for kids who were joining often but there was not much will of locals for this project; the decision to start this MLTV was too fast.
Alex: Relieved for nobody could take care of making understand the aims of DaLaa to the community and take in charge the volunteers there.
Ui: disappointed, it was getting better but the project was not so well understood by leaders of the village, and too much asked from schools.
Sakkarin: better to stop than to hear bad things about the project. Think about ourselves first, focus in what we can do. There was nobody to take care of this project. The community didn’t really get the benefits of volunteers there. It was a bit strange that the researchers called us and left much before.
A: not beautiful ending, did not really choose, MLTV group took the decision to leave; no more motivation; not enough strong relationship with locals (nobody to help to organize)
Lessons to remember from this experience
A: the local community need to be strong; we also need someone we can trust to take care of volunteers; enough projects, not only English teaching, self-sufficiency is good
Alex: be understood by all community, not only 1 or 2 contact
Need to understand both sides’ aims, motivated people and possibilities
Make sure to find a leader/a leader team in the community
Need a coordinator from DaLaa team accepted by locals
Join each other activities before to take any decision
Find an actor from the project who can be translator too
Joe: Ask someone who has more experience before to start MLTV, make sure everyone agree in DaLaa
Sakkarin: Make sure someone is interested to run and live in this project
Ui: know well the place, the people, the leader, the responsible of the project in the community, in DaLaa, need responsible people
5. Role of DaLaa staff
Sakkarin: doesn’t like the word “staff” but rather organizer (7 people). They can have salary or not, important is the involvement in their mind. They put their life in, understand DaLaa and are able to speak about. We can trust them. There are two ways and it’s not clear which one we took: separate the official association and the organization (in this case we need 1 people for administrational thing, he thinks about A) otherwise we need to smooth the association rules with the reality. They are the main roots of DaLaa flower
Ui: Each one her/his responsibility, believe in the aims, not profiting, reliable
Alex:  run the organization (administration), believe the aims, coordinate the projects, link with partners organizations, join and support the projects, be responsible, promote volunteering and good ideas (self-sufficiency)
Joe: Connect between local people project and inter and Thai volunteers in any way
A: Take care of your responsibility, try to help each other and come to join, help to organize activities. It’s not easy to find new people with our aims. 4 full time staff is ok depending on the activities.
6. Role of DaLaa members
Sakkarin: DaLaa has to be enough strong to accept different and new people, be able to train them and let them involved, management is very important. We need to put members in the right place. If organizers are the main roots, they are the smaller roots.
Alex: support by the way they like too because they believe in DaLaa aims and actions
Joe: Doing something good for social; learn from multicultural environment
7. Strong points of DaLaa in 2011
Alex: – Join MLTV (week-end)
– Meeting more often
– More meaningful projects
– Friendly to volunteers
– Administrative things
Joe: decide to move the office
Sakkarin, Ui: our friendship
A: we can continue because we have strong partners. Actually they can go on by themselves
8. Weak points of DaLaa in 2011
Ui: not united in DaLaa
Alex: – Communication
– Very few members
– Tell what’s going on, what are your plans
– Boring meetings
– Not concerned about others work
Joe: – Didn’t move the office yet
– Experienced people need to teach youngers, stay in the team before to go out
A: DaLaa is not good organized. Don’t take time to speak to each other. Some don’t have enough motivation to continue (personal problems). DaLaa has no own project. Not really proud, everything depends on others
Sakkarin: communication (difficult to say things)
9. Other activities than STC and MLTV worth to do:
Joe: Give a chance to new generation to join volunteering (in or abroad); more cooperation with network in Thailand
Ui: prepare a group for natural disasters; join other network in Thailand
Alex: Week-end, seminar or visit with members and/or volunteers
Sakkarin: Outgoing but they need to know DaLaa first
Centers relationships (with kids or adults)
Members jamboree, doing something together
10. Tasks you enjoy to do in DaLaa
Ui: E-mails, infosheets
Joe: STC; members activities; WE camp; family day; support small projects outside (Ban Pa khao Maa)
Sakkarin: MLTV project coordinator
A: don’t have
Alex: Intro/evaluation; HR: try to make people speak out; join activities
11. Tasks you dislike/are bored to do in DaLaa
Joe: reports, paperwork
A: meetings (nobody listening to others), nothing improved, baby volunteers to take care like parents
Ui: camp leader, public speaking, entertain
Sakkarin: STC leader, get bored with energizers, daily tasks… don’t like to speak too much anymore
Alex: bored quickly with computer; when you cannot feel the team; need to take responsibilities for others
12. Living together Inter volunteer with locals
Joe: locals usually feel volunteering is good for their community (+ excitement at the start); for international volunteers, way of thinking of locals is difficult. They usually need some time to get used to.
Alex: – for Inter vol, to be able to forget western/modern culture of organizing, planning everything; Nice meeting totally unuseful because changes arise, people who was not in the meeting take over (KP)
– Inter vol. don’t have the skills but want to do; locals don’t let them do because they think they cannot; lazy to explain or too difficult?
– Understand the way of life/vision of others
Ui: background differences, mindset, food mosquitoes, freedom on volunteers’ side and locals usually love foreign volunteers more than their child, English language is a difficulty
Sakkarin: different understanding of the word “development”, difficult to match the 2 ideas. The way inter vol. see locals is not always good, think funny about some traditions. Locals are not enough open for volunteers to learn to do things
A: plans always changing are hard for inter. Vol., when they really want to do something in short time.; language barrier, Locals have usually good motivation and they love volunteers as their kids
13. Inter cooperation
A: more exchange with neighboring countries
Alex: different ages, generations is always benefic
Sakkarin:  NVDA has a nice vision, but now, looks like only focusing of increasing volunteers’ number.
Joe: Keep in mind that useful projects are the most important
Ui: Volunteering is not a business, like to decrease fees
14. Money
Sakkarin: sometimes unclear about which budget is used for what; What can we do with the money saved since the beginning. It may be time to use it, for a long lasting project or social problem (like flood). But also we could be open to financial support if we can trust donators. Hope for less and less volunteers fees. Try also to get money entries in each center.
Aleef: He is often missing money for small things, usually transport or eating. He feels it looks stingy from DaLaa.
A: nobody is interested to know what’s going on, to take decisions
Alex: clear enough but need updates more often
Joe and Ui: clear enough
15. Others
Ui: concerned about the new generation
Sakkarin: Felt bad when Ni try to change the structure; we’ll improve in joining in DaLaa and feel happy. Something good for motivation: see together the structure of DaLaa tree and compare it with our organization
Pi Ju: – Be careful during introduction of new volunteers, they are not tourists; don’t need to bring them to visit tourist places.
– Be sure to understand every aspect of each camp
– The office is really not at the right place but he knows we are trying to change and that’s not easy.
– We should say things more straight forward within DaLaa team
– Joe misses responsibilities
A: Try to do our own project
Aleef: Be careful about each one feeling
Joe: – worry if Sakkarin can take full responsibility of project if no salary from DaLaa
– We need a new generation who can continue
We are friends, DaLaa is my family
Antoine: DaLaa knows too much about volunteers’ expectations; try to give too much the directions
V- More info about our activities  in 2011
Short Term Camps:
– 5401CON Construction Work 9-22 January 2011 Bangklam, Songkhla (5 participants)
– 5402CON Construction Work in Kok Payom 6-19 February 2011 Kok Payom, Satun (7 participants)
– 5403ART Caravan for Kids 4-18 March 2011 4 different provinces (10 participants)
– 5404MUS Music & Creative Travel 4-18 April 2011 4 different provinces (3 participants)
– 5407CON Construction Work& Activities with Kids Kuan Mai Bong, Nakorn Sri 3-17 July 2011 (3 participants)
– 5411ENVI Environmental Camp Kok Payom La Ngu, Satun 6-19 November 2011 (3 participants)
Volunteers from the short term camps were coming from these organizations: VAP United Kindom, SCI Madrid Spain, VYA Taiwan, SCI Malaysia, IVS-GB United Kingdom, VFP USA, JoHo Holland, NICE Japan, IWO Korea
Bilateral camps with:
– IWO (Korea) Construction Work in Khao Kor, Nakorn Sri Tammarat 6-14 January 11 (16 participants)
– KNCU (Korea) Construction Work Camp in Kok Payom, Satun 9-22 January 2011 (10 participants)
– KNCU (Korea) Art & Creative & Activities for Kids in Thung Mor, Songkhla 6-19 February 11 (9 participants)
– NICE (Japan) Construction Work& Activities with Kids Kuan Mai Bong, Nakorn Sri 18-24 September 11 (3 participants)
– VOLTRATEER (Hong Kong) Construction Work& Activities with Kidsuan Mai Bong, Nakorn Sri 23-29 December  11 (13 participants)
Joe would be happy to give you any information concerning the work done and the evaluations of volunteers in those Short Term Camps.
Middle and Long Term Volunteers:
We welcomed 32 MLTV staying between 2 month and a year in our projects. They were coming from the following organizations: UNA Exchange UK (1), SPIN Portugal (1), MS Denmark (6), Allianssi Finland (1), KNCU Korea (1), Het Andere Reizen Holland (4), VAP UK (1), INEX-SDA Czech Republic (2), SJ France (7), WORLD4U Russia (2), NICE Japan (2), SCI Germany/Weltwaerts (2) and 2 former volunteers
VI- Accounting
In 2011, we had for incomes:
MLTV projects: 65%
Bilateral short term projects: 20%
Short Term Camps: 13%
Donations, members’ fees, interests: 2%
We spent 92% of our incomes and save it 8% at the end of the year.
We spent about 60% in our projects and 40 % for our organization (salaries, office, network,…)
Compared to our budget plan, we spent in 2011 19% less than expected.
You are welcome to ask us for details of our accounting.