What makes a volunteering program so rewarding that its participants keep coming back for more?
To answer that question, let’s hear directly from volunteers of the Samsung Smart Learning Center – a successful program run by Samsung Electronics Thailand. The initiative aims to help Thai children develop knowledge and skills for the 21st century. And in just three years, over 300 Samsung employees have volunteered to help more than 60,000 students from 47 schools throughout the country.
So let’s meet four Samsung Thailand employees who’ll be sharing their personal experiences with us today: Chintana Pattanapidroe from retail, Sasipim Boonanekpat from customer service, Thippawan Todach from logistics, and Pilunthana Netprasert from sales. This is what they had to say about volunteering.
Q: What were you expecting when you first participated?
Sasipim – I was a fresh graduate at Samsung and thought the volunteering activity was going to be building schools. But it wasn’t long before I realized that we weren’t there to build classrooms, but to give students inspiration and new ways of learning. We were there to guide them in their learning, and learn what we can from them, too.
Pilunthana – At the start, I just wanted to do something worthwhile as a volunteer, but my experience made me realize how much of an impact the program had on the lives of the students. And when you see so much change in the students, you can’t help but try to better yourself as a volunteer as well.
Q: What have you discovered as a volunteer?
Thippawan – I saw a great deal of change in the students, as well as in myself. Initially, the students weren’t very outspoken, but as they spend more time in the program they became more confident and shared more of their experiences with us. It was change both within the students themselves and the relationship that they had with volunteers like us.
Chintana – I discovered meaning in myself and in what the students were doing through my relationship with them. Compared to my niece in Bangkok, the way they see the world is completely different despite their age, and I would have never known that otherwise.
Pilunthana – This program showed me how effective coaching can influence learning. I realized that learning doesn’t happen on the pages of a book, and I was able to apply some of the coaching techniques into my own work at Samsung. With my subordinates, I now strive to give them an opportunity to think and experiment so they, too, can grow.
Q: What keeps you coming back as a volunteer?
Sasipim – It’s a rare experience to see and connect with children in these rural parts, to be there for them, to observe their changes and growth. Over the past three years the growth for students has been incredible and that inspires me to come back and do even better this year.
Chintana – This is a program that I believe in. I want to come back again this year because I feel that I did not do my best during the previous year, and I believe that I can do better.
Q: How do you see the future of this program?
Pilunthana – This program is, in a way, proliferating an idea. When these children work with others, they will be passing on their critical thinking abilities to others, and so on. If, say, 70 to 80 percent of all Thai students are able to gather knowledge and think critically without relying on others, it would be amazing.
Sasipim – This program doesn’t necessarily give knowledge, but ways to acquire knowledge and critical thinking. These are skills that will always be with the students, and that is great. When we inspire children to think, we are investing in our future.
Story contributed by Sirin Suwanjesda from Samsung Electronics Thailand.