Jamie Ockner

2013 | Trunks For Thailand | Bloomfield, MI | Andover High School

When we stayed at the orphanage Mae Maeh, the children were so happy to see us because they rarely had visitors. There, I connected with a six year old girl named Orapin. One day we were drawing pictures with the kids, and I drew Orapin a picture she could hang in her room so she would remember me. As I began to draw, she pulled out her own piece of paper and began copying my picture. When I wrote “best friends” on the top, she did her best to copy my English and added her name in Thai at the bottom of the picture. We exchanged drawings and to this day, I still have her picture hung up in my room.

Staying at Mae Maeh, we immediately noticed their poor living conditions. Seeing this made me feel grateful for what I have, but also inspired me to do something to help these kids. When I returned home, I began making and sculpting elephant pendants, keychains, and pins, which I gave out with each donation made to Trunks for Thailand. I decided money would be the best thing for the orphanage because it could be used to better the living conditions of the children. Since I started Trunks for Thailand, I have raised $801 dollars, which I donated to the Mae Maeh orphanage in 2013.

Never take these experiences for granted and use this opportunity to be more open-minded or to start a project of your own. Make connections with other students on the program, children you meet at orphanages and locals who help you along the way; immerse yourself in the culture. But most of all, never forget these experiences because they shape who you are and can inspire you to do more.