Interning in refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border with Right to Play

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Having been born in Thailand and brought up predominantly in South East Asia, I have always considered that part of the world to be home. This coupled with my interest in pursuing international development as a career meant that I wanted to try and find an internship opportunity in South East Asia that could give me a more practical and hands on experience of development work than I am currently getting from lectures at University.

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The football field at Mae La camp, the biggest of all the camps with a population of just under 40,000 people.

Right to Play (RTP) is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that uses play as a tool for development and education in various countries around the world. Ever since I saw one of their workshops when I was in Thailand in 2013 I have been trying to get an internship with them. Growing up, sports and by extension play, has had a huge impact on the way I have developed as an all-rounder, and a lot of the values I now hold were reinforced by taking part in team sports.

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A football match to celebrate world refugee day

For the first month I was based in Mae sot, a small town just 30 minutes from the Thai border with Burma/Myanmar and just a 1-hour flight from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. During the week days I would work in the Right to Play office or go into the camps to support the staff in any way possible. Then on weekends I was free to go out and explore the surrounding mountains and waterfalls on a small rented motorbike. The second month I moved further north up to Mae Sariang a smaller town about 6 hours drive from Mae sot and spent the majority of my time working with RTP staff in Mae La Oon and Ma Ra Ma Luang camps (two of the 7 camps RTP works in).

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new teachers attending a training

My only real apprehension was at the possible realisation that a future in development and sport was not actually what I wanted to do. Aside from this I had made sure that my whole trip was properly planned, and having lived in South East Asia for so long it seemed more like a return home than anything else. More importantly my excitement at this opportunity really outweighed any apprehension I had.

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the aspects that are developed through sport and play

Trying to accurately convey everything I have learn from this experience in this short reflection seems impossible. The main lesson I have taken from this is that I am now entirely sure that a future in development through sports is what I want to pursue. For that I am hugely grateful of this experience and the opportunity that was given to me.

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