My name is Joel Kay and I have been a volunteer at Sathira Dhammasathan (SDS) since 2008. I first learned about SDS and the important work of the Venerable Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta in the winter of 2008 through a family friend. I subsequently volunteered to be an English Language teacher for the community in the summer of 2008. During the weekdays I taught the young children and teachers at the SDS sponsored preschool while in the evenings I taught the nuns and adult community members. On the weekends I remained active in the community either through helping to support SDS’s various social outreach programs or by participating in the weekend meditation retreats that were also open to the general public.
Since the summer of 2008 I have been fortunate to come to Bangkok on three separate occasions (2010, 2015, 2016) and during each trip I have always returned to SDS to spend time with friends in the community and to volunteer, either teaching English to the young nuns or simply lending a hand with cleaning the refrigerators and sinks in the kitchen. SDS offers many ways for one to contribute in a meaningful capacity, even if one is not fluent in Thai.
In reflecting upon my most recent trip to SDS in June 2016, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to watch this community grow over the past eight years. Although the number and size of buildings on the property has increased dramatically and the number of permanent staff and volunteers has also risen, the feeling of genuine cohesiveness and sense of family has remained intact and, in my opinion, has only grown stronger. During each visit I have been impressed to learn about the new programs, activities, and partnerships that SDS has launched to help share its message of compassion, love, and understanding with communities in Bangkok and all over Thailand.
Aside from interacting with the nuns and adult community members, my favourite memories of SDS have also included enjoying freshly cooked banana roti topped with condensed milk from the community kitchen, and listening to the birds chirp while I walk around the Bodhi tree as the sun is rising. The lush greenery of the grounds and the fresh air of SDS offer a true oasis from the chaotic traffic and air pollution of Bangkok. I regard this community as a wonderful place of sojourn with cherished friends. I hope to return over many years to come.