From Thailand to South America: A Siquijorian Teacher’s Journey


Quito, Ecuador –  Jhon Rey Bado, 29, flew halfway around the world to work as a volunteer English teacher in Ecuador, a country in South America that resembles the Philippines in so many ways. Like the Philippines, Ecuador was a former Spanish colony, too.

Jhon works under a program developed by the Ministry of Education of Ecuador called “Time to Teach,” which is being run by non-profit organizations. His job is a volunteer English teacher to children and adolescents from vulnerable sectors of the country.

Read: 3 Thai students, Filipino teacher win award in ‘campus sustainability confab’ in Malaysia

Life in the call center

Jhon was born and raised in Iligan City and earned his computer engineering degree in Dumaguete. After college, he worked as a customer service representative in a contact center in the Philippines for four years, one year as an apprentice supervisor, and another year as a full-fledged supervisor.

Working in a contact center helped him to develop himself more. He made friends, received higher pay than others his age, and his confidence grew – transforming him to a better version of himself. However, he started to get exhausted and bored of what he was doing. “I felt I had no time for myself and for my family. There was no work balance anymore,” Jhon says.

His first flight overseas

He decided to kiss his corporate job goodbye, packed his bags, sold all his material possessions and hopped on his first flight to Singapore. It was an enjoyable experience seeing Singapore but Jhon knew he couldn’t escape reality. Going to his dream destinations will remain just a dream without a job to support his love for travel.

“Rejection was my breakfast”

Jhon applied several times online and called phone numbers listed on the classified ads section of a newspaper he bought at City Square Mall. Unluckily, his applications were all rejected and he didn’t receive even a single call back. He personally visited companies after companies but luck was indeed not in his favor. “Rejection was my breakfast,” he says. “It was the most difficult two months of my life.”

From Singapore to Thailand

Jhon found out from a college friend that getting a job in Thailand was easier than getting even a menial job in Singapore. He then used the remaining amount left in his pocket and ventured for a job hunting in Thailand. Two weeks after he arrived in the kingdom, Jhon got a job as a receptionist in a small hostel in Khao San Road. “It was not bad for a start because my boss was nice,”recounts Jhon. “However, I’d like to be a teacher just like most Filipinos in Thailand.”

Becoming a teacher in Thailand

Several potential employers received Jhon’s resume but only one responded positively. “You will be teaching small kids in Maha Sarkham province in Isaan,” his agency told him. His wish of becoming a teacher was finally granted. But Jhon soon noticed that his agency can be a total pain. “Not only they were unsupportive, they were also disorganized, too. You always have to do the chasing to get things done,” Jhon told Pinoy Legacy.

He also realized during the onset of his teaching career that being a primary school teacher was not a walk in the park. “Handling kindergarten students was a far cry from what I was doing in the Philippines,” Jhon revealed. “But I must admit that I am more comfortable teaching them than adults,” he adds

Despite the challenges he experienced with his previous agency, Jhon considered the students at the school he was assigned to teach as nice and thoughtful. He can still vividly remember the moment his Thai students surprised him as they shelled out a portion of their “baon” to buy him cakes on his birthday. They even decorated the whole classroom while singing “Happy Birthday” song to him. “It was very touching. When other classes heard about it, they came up with their own gimmicks by giving me special yet simple greetings that made my heart very elated,” Jhon recalls.

Crossing the world from Thailand to South America (Volunteer English teacher)
Left: Jhon holds the flag of Ecuador. Above right: Jhon with his Thai students. Below right: Jhon with his Ecuadorian students

Jhon was browsing his phone one day when a fellow Filipino posted the Time to Teach program on the travel related website called “Couchsurfing.” He got interested with the volunteer program and thought that it could be another experience of a lifetime. “I was immediately hooked after reading what the program was. They offer free accommodation, free breakfast and dinner, and an allowance. On top of that, they offer round trip tickets from the place of origin and back,” says Jhon. “I really love to travel, to explore new places and experience new culture. So, yes, I signed up without hesitation.”

It took him half a year before the confirmation arrived but he was happy just the same. “I was in Chiang Mai celebrating Songkran. It was a lot of fun. However, nothing beats the moment I received the confirmation from the organization that my application was accepted. After two weeks, I flew to Ecuador,” Jhon shares.

“Go out of your comfort zone”

Jhon waited long for the confirmation but he was confident he will be accepted because of his experience in Thailand. He now enjoys teaching English to Ecuadorian kids. Whenever he’s free, Jhon explores the rest of the city. He also plans to visit neighboring cities and towns so he could see more of Ecuador. “Go out of your comfort zone. Work and travel to a place like you’ve never been before. Experience a new culture and tradition. Meet new people. It will make you grow more as a person. If you want to be a volunteer English teacher, I can help you.” Jhon concludes.

Note: Please message Mr. Jhon Rey Bado directly to know more about Ecuador’s Time to Teach project. Click his name to send him a message on Facebook.

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