Alina Hertling
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Alina Hertling came from University of Applied Sciences Koblenz, Germany and joined the project “Dek Ram Inter Paan-Din Project” 28 April – 2 May 2015

I am currently an exchange student at Ramkhamhaeng University Bangkok, studying Business Administration and I had the pleasure to join the Dek Ram Inter Paan-Din Project 28 April – 2 May 2015. I had the chance to get a deeper insight into the Buddhist religion, improving my intercultural skills, making the experience to work as a volunteer and work together in a multinational team with Thai students, German students and monks and novices from Thailand and Shan State. When we arrived at Plekwiwek Dhamma Centre in Wiang Haeng district, Chiang Mai province, for me it seemed to be a completely different world which I have never experienced before. The Dhamma Centre is in the midst of nature, surrounded by mountains and far away from the noise and hecticness of civilization. 17 monks and novices are living at Dhamma Centre, most of them are refugees from Shan State. When we arrived at Dhamma Centre, they welcomed us very warm-hearted and kindly with a ceremony. I am actually a Christian and this was the first time for me participating in a Buddhist ceremony and even if I don´t understand the Thai language and I am not a Buddhist, I felt very welcomed and sheltered and comfortable with their religion.

The next morning we woke up early for the morning chant with the Buddhists and we did walking meditation, which was also a completely new and wonderful experience for me. Afterwards we helped to clean up the terrain of Dhamma Centre. Then we have been informed about the sufficiency economy and we did gardening work and planted vegetables and rice in the backyard. We were divided into groups and every group had to work together and dig the garden to plant the vegetables and the rice. Afterwards we went to a temple right next to the border between Thailand and Myanmar to learn about people´s way of life around the border. There we also learned about the troubles and disorders and that many people from Shan State fled to Thailand. In the afternoon, back at Dhamma Centre, we started the Paan-Din project. The monks and novices showed us how to prepare the mud and how to build bricks out of the mud mixture. We had to work in a team to prepare the mixture by ourselves and to build the bricks out of it. It was a great experience to work together with the Thai students, German students and the monks and novices.

Afterwards we started renovating a mud brick house and to plaster the facade. We had to work together as a team to ensure an efficient work process. Some of the students were responsible to prepare the mixture together with the monks and bring them to the students who were plastering the facade. The experience I gained from this activity is the importance of working together and the results of it. For me, the benefits of teamwork especially include increased efficiency, the ability to focus different minds on the same problem, mutual support and strengthen the sense of solidarity. I experienced that teamwork creates higher quality outcomes that are more efficient, thoughtful and effective and as well much faster. We worked well together as a unit and we were able to accomplish more than we could have done alone as an individual. Working in a team can motivate the members for a higher performance. I benefit from teamwork through mutual support and a great sense of accomplishment.

The next morning our activity was to teach the monks and novices English. We divided into three different groups. Each group consisted of Thai and German students and each group had to find a topic that they want to teach the monks. Our topic was to teach them how they can introduce places with the focus on Dhamma Centre. It was a great feeling to teach them and seeing the result afterwards. It was great fun to interact with each other and knowing that you are doing something good. The next day we continued our mud brick house project with the goal to complete it until the afternoon.

After we finally finished our mud brick house, my team members and I enjoyed the feeling of having done a really good job and finishing our project in time. Seeing the result after that day was a great feeling for me. Seeing what my team members and I have created made me feel very proud of my team and of myself. Doing something good for charity is an indescribable feeling of happiness. After completing the Dek Ram Inter Paan-Din Project, I gained many new and especially very useful experiences for my future life and I am really glad that I had the chance to be an active participant in this project. I would like to say thank you to everybody I worked with during the project and to those who made it possible for me to join this great project. I also want to thank especially the monks and novices. They allowed me to get a deeper insight in their religion and showed me their way of life. I felt a lot of peace during my stay there and I was delighted by their kindliness and their warm-heartedness. They made my time at Plekwiwek Dhamma Centre memorable.