An 18-year-old health and social care student has just returned from Thailand where she spent three weeks teaching English to children orphaned in the Boxing Day tsunami.
Katie Houseman, who is studying at Craven College, was based in Ban Nam Khem, a small fishing village where 50 per cent of the population died in the Tsunami in 2004.
Katie, who is a gym coach and gymnast at Ilkley Gym Club and a brownie leader at 2nd Ilkley Brownies used money left to her from her grandma when she turned 18 to fund the trip.
“I researched into doing a working holiday with a organisation called GVI,” she said. “As a Health and Social Care student at Craven college, gymnastics coach at Ilkley Gym club and Brownie Leader at 2nd Ilkley Brownies, I thought it was a good opportunity for a worthwhile placement.
“I worked in the local school, disability centre and a nearby orphanage. Although it was home to children who lost their parents in the Tsunami it was a positive, happy place to be. I taught children from three years to 17, and spent my evenings lesson planning, making resources and writing up feedback for the lessons.
“I worked with fellow volunteers from the USA, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the UK. I lived in a shack and shared cooking and cleaning duties. The children really benefited from being taught by native speakers and it was really rewarding watching their progress.
“Free time at the weekends was spent elephant trekking, snorkelling around the islands and sea canoeing.
“The experience has really helped me to focus on what I want to do in the future. Seeing the children grasping the concepts they'd previously been unfamiliar was so rewarding and I left with a real sense of job satisfaction.
“The memories will last me a life time and once I've finished college, I plan to do similar projects in the future for a longer period of time.”