Boo?s Story: A Change of Fate

By Sarah Krantz
Language Instructor and Curriculum Designer

Surin Samsum (Boo) comes from a tiny island in Satun, ’s Southern most Province.  Before he was born his father was a soldier who became a fisherman when he married Boo’s mother.

He remembers being five years old and going to help his father on the boat and as they pulled the heavy nets over the side of the boat he asked his father, “ Do you ever want to see what is under the sea?”   His father replied, “No, I will never know.”

When Boo was twelve years old his father asked him if he wanted to continue learning at school.  Boo looked at his father too weak from years of fighting and fishing, now too weak to lift small household items, his younger brother and sister, his mother who was supporting the family on doing small jobs, and he replied, “ No, I do not want to learn.”   He just wanted to work to try and provide for his family, so he went to sea.

For the next five years Boo worked on a fishing boat in .  He did not set foot on land or see his family for months at a time.  He would get paid 30,000 baht every six months, and send all of his salary (a little over 100 USD a month) back to his family.

At the age of 17 he could no longer continue going so far away on the boat.  Every trip kept getting longer and longer and he missed his family.  Though he had no hopes of ever doing anything else besides fishing he wanted to be closer to his family. 

For the next few years Boo worked every small job he could find, traveling to nearby Provinces if he heard of work.  He would clean fish, garden, build, and continued fishing.

At the age of twenty-two a friend of his was heading to Phi Phi island for he had heard there was work rebuilding after the Tsunami.  Boo took a chance that this might be a way to earn more money for his family.  So he followed Les to Phi Phi Island. 

On Phi Phi Boo was able to work cleaning up after the Tsunami Disaster.  There was an organization paying Thai people 4,000 baht (100 USD) a month to rebuild the island. This was a great opportunity for Boo and his family.  Soon after with the influx of volunteers willing to rebuild for free, Boo was out of a job, and had to return to Satun. 

It was on Phi Phi where Boo met Nui.  Nui told him of this organization that was looking to teach young Thai people to speak English, about computers and how to dive.  Boo thought to himself, “What is a computer?  What is diving?”  Though he was embarrassed to ask these questions, his answer changed from 10 years ago, “Yes, I want to learn.” 

Boo had no means of actually getting to Phnag Nga province, a full days journey, to take this opportunity, and no security once he got there.  He thought his chance for an education was lost again.  His family had a piggy bank, which they had been saving small change in hopes that his younger sister would have the chance to go to high school.  His sister smashed the small bank and collected all the change and gave it to Boo for his bus ticket to Phang Nga Province.

The bus took him all the way to Tablamu, an hour south of Biang Niang.  There were no more buses that night, and he had no place to turn.  He slept outside the Police Station hoping that truly was the chance he hoped for. 

Boo made it to ETC the next day.  He had no sponsor, and no means of employment.  Reid Ridgway (Managing Director of ETC) said he could not pay Boo, but he would house and feed him and let him learn, and hopefully they could find a sponsor.  For two weeks Boo lived without knowing if he would be able to stay in the program, for his family desperately needed an income, but he dedicated himself to learning at the ETC, and soon his questions were answered as to “What a computer is?” and “What is diving?”

Mr. Klaus Habben sponsored Boo, and Boo began receiving his 6,000 baht salary and could continue learning.

At ETC Boo has been one of the most dedicated hard working individuals in the entire program.  If he is around, one never needs to ask for something to be done, it is already complete.   He has been able to not only learn what a computer is, but now knows how it works, and how to use it.  He emails me his homework in English every night. 

Boo also has been able to answer that question he asked of his father almost twenty years ago, “What is under the sea?”  His excitement is contagious every time he dons his dive gear to try to learn more and more about the underwater world. 

Boo is still struggling with English, but his perseverance is unwavering.   His curiosity about all matters is endearing and constant.  If the ETC finds funding to continue the program we will keep Boo on staff as a divemaster and give him the opportunity to become an instructor next year.

Boo’s dream is to be able to provide for his father.  “He took care of me since I was this small,” Boo says motioning to the ground, “It is now my turn.”   He says his father dreams that one of his children will someday go to college.  Boo wants to give his little sister that chance, and feels as an Instructor he will be able to provide an education.

Boo says he never thought he would ever be anything but a fisherman, he never dared hoped to be anything more.  “I am so lucky to come to ETC, it change my whole life” he says.  I replied, “I think ETC is lucky to have you.”

Surin Samsum (Boo)