My name is Mackenzie Gray from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am a fourth-year university student studying International Development and was blessed to complete a 3-month extended international internship with ECHO Asia. Initially, I was supposed to come to Thailand 2 years ago, but like everyone else, my plans quickly changed once COVID-19 hit. Although I had to wait a few years, I finally made it to Southeast Asia, and I was able to complete my internship abroad!
As I prepared for this time, I questioned what I
could bring to ECHO without having a strong
background in agriculture. Nonetheless, upon
arriving at the farm, my worries cleared almost
instantly. The research on the farm spans from
bio-sand water filtration systems to alternative
animal feeds to using biochar as a fuel for engines.
I learned that ECHO is all about networking and
extension. ECHO is a “trainer of trainers,” allowing
development work to occur more productively. I’ve
recognized that people from a background like
myself can participate by creating training seminars,
writing articles for journals, and
connecting to partners, new and
old. Every month the latest goals,
concepts, and training activities
are brought to the staff, who are
eager to learn. Honestly, I have
never seen so many people
work so hard to maintain such a large project. I am
in awe of the work done every day.
Over the summer, I completed various tasks with nearly the entire farm staff. Though I may not have known much about agriculture before, I’ve gained a holistic understanding of its intricacies. Working in the greenhouse and various plots taught me a great deal about farming practices and onfarm feeds. Working in the seed bank educated me about ECHO’s seed storage strategies, as I conducted germination tests and identified seeds for packaging. Working in the office and communicating with national and international partners empowered me to write an impact story about clean water accessibility in rural Thailand and Myanmar. I have witnessed biochar burnings, participated in a rice training, built a loft space, and engaged in a pest management seminar. As ECHO is a place of connection, I also had the opportunity to complete a ‘mini work study’ with one of ECHO’s partners in northern Thailand. I cannot believe how much I have learned in such a short period.
My summer was unlike any
before. ECHO Asia affirmed
my passion for community
development. I am eager to
take everything I have learned
and apply it to my final year of
schooling. I tried my best to be a
sponge for practical and cultural
knowledge and to remember
the emotions and feelings that
surged through this opportunity.
ECHO Asia provided many
opportunities for me to learn,
question, and grow as a
development worker, student,
and Christian. I am forever
grateful to the kind-hearted
staff who showed me patience
and guidance throughout my
I am confident this experience
will alter the way I lead my
life moving forward and the
decisions I make from here.
Development work is not simply
hopping on a plane to ‘do good.’
It’s uprooting your worldview
and growing to understand
someone else’s. I have learned
not to take anything for granted
and will remain forever thankful
for my summer at ECHO Asia.