May the plastic bottle boat keep cruising …
It’s been months since I updated; you’d think a guy who wasn’t working would have more time. I do have a project I’m working on, and I have a ton of photos to edit and post.
But that’s neither here nor there.
I’m here because I just learned that Isara had closed its doors. In 2014. … ?!
Isara Foundation, you may recall, was the non-profit I volunteered for back in March of 2010 for a month. I was checking some links and doing some housekeeping on my professional site today, and came across a blurb about Isara, and decided to look them up; it had obviously been a while since I had visited their site.
They closed in July 2014; I came home after my hemorrhagic stroke is August of that year. If I had only known. Granted, I had other things on my mind, just then, but had I known, I would have made the trip up north to say goodbye one last time.
I’m not sure what happened, and I’ll keep my conjectures to myself. A few pages are still up at the site, and Isara sill has a Facebook page. Kirk, the founder of Isara, still updates occasionally over there; the last update was in April for Songkran, the Thai New Year. As he put it on Facebook in June of that year, Isara was due for a long-term brake:
As some of you already know, this month Isara will be ending our volunteer program. It was a difficult decision to make but necessary in order to prepare for a long-term break in July. I am so proud of the work our 560+ volunteers have done in the last 7 years. Not only did you make a difference to thousands of Thai students but you also made a big difference in my life as well. I will be forever grateful to our volunteers and sponsors, who helped prove that it is possible to have a successful volunteer program that is 100% free. … Thank you for the great lessons and joyous laughter you brought to Isara. Y’all rock!!
I am proud to say I was one of the 560 plus volunteers, and while I taught for a month and looked after their computers, I got so much more than that. After having lived there almost three years total, my feelings about Thailand and teaching are … complex. There is a reason I left — reasons in the plural — only to come back again … and again.
Even now, I get nostalgic sometimes.
But I have nothing but great things to say about Isara, its students, the people of Nong Khai, my fellow volunteers and especially Kirk Gillock; he’s one of the good ones.
I spent the last hour or so looking back through my photos; it’s been a trip down memory lane and a damn good one. Here is Kirk on the left; this picture was taken here at girlfriend Ming’s (also pictured) parents’ house. They were celebrating the birthday of the boy in the middle.
And here is the space behind Isara’s learning center in Nong Khai (in 2010, anyway) in HDR. A tiny bit of paradise, that.