Disaster volunteering: Helping tsunami victims in Thailand

Chris Beaumont, 33, Bradford, West Yorkshire, Carpenter and dive master

Tsunami

1. Where did you go to volunteer after the tsunami?
Spent all my time in Thailand after that spent all my money and back to the uk

2. How long did you go for?
I was there three months after for four months , went back to uk to raise more cash ,
set up my own charity for it , then back for a further 5 months

3. Why did you decide to volunteer?
Worked in Thailand Khao Lak before the tsunami as a dive master, heard of a
few dive buddies who died and was asked by the dive comp if I could help ,
was told not to go straight away and raise some money and get there when the
real building work was needed ,have traveled for a few years and as a
carpenter and dive master with no real ties to home was perfect to help on
both counts

4. Did you volunteer with an organisation or just go off your own back?
I worked for two organisations set up by Thai’s and just backpackers , the main
one http://www.tsunamivolunteers.net , which is still going now and also
http://www.4kali.org ,. Tsunami volunteers was helped by a major org in setting up but became very successful just using backpackers mainly ,no money was taken all you had to do was turn up , and even unskilled people were soon helping move rubble or trained to build walls , I also trained a few in basic carpentry , which will also help them for life , mainly we used the backpackers though in the unskilled work and paid the Thai workforce in the skilled work, jobs were not taken by us doing it because of the huge scale , most of the Thai’s worked rebuilding the big hotels where they could earn more money!

5. What sort of things were you doing out there?
Also worked on a boat shed and then helping a Thai crew build the long tail boats , so the fishermen could get back to work and feed their families again, spent some time also diving and cleaning up the seas of debris and rubbish but to be honest it was too big a task ands eventually the ocean will do it, but in the main area got rid of the stuff so tourists coming back wouldn’t see stuff to remind them , spent a month on ph phi http://www.hiphiphi.com cleaning the Bay of Phi Phi which was a more obvious job because everything was very close to shore and in a relatively small area. Also volunteers did beach clean up getting rid of rubbish the seas kept bringing up again a lot around the one year anniversary so people who were coming back to grieve were not reminded too much with clothing or shoes etc on the beach also some volunteers did some teaching, read a little on your web and I agree two weeks holiday doing something like this is actually giving a negative affect , so most teachers had to sign up for 2 months or more, so the kids who got so close to you, were constantly, gaining trust then losing it if the teachers kept leaving

6. What was it like?
Emotionally and physically very tough. Everyday you’d here a horror story or see a smashed house or meet someone who d lost someone or a whole family but the rewards , just by a smile or a thanks for rebuilding there house made up for everything
7. How did you feel before you went compared to how you felt when you got back?
Definitely made me a better person, emotionally I struggled and had a little counseling on my return, but again, just by making a difference and knowing you’ve helped and rebuilt
people’s homes and lives will live for me forever

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