Volunteering Abroad – How to Feel at Home While Away From Home

Thailand is a beacon for volunteers; Whether you want to work in a refugee camp or volunteer with stray dogs, there are many possibilities for volunteering in Thailand.

Not to mention: with volunteering in Thailand, you can get out of the normal tourist bubble. By working with an NGO, you can settle into a daily rhythm that shares the Thai daily rhythm of work and celebration. Thai people work hard but recognize that you smile while browsing old and modern entrepreneurial activities.

Because Thailand shares borders with Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Cambodia, all of which have a history of human rights violations, many human rights organizations are already established in this field – and it’s easy for you to make these neighbouring countries (which are also historically beautiful and fascinating) a part of your volunteer projects.

Program Types

Bangkok and Chiang Mai, in particular, have several options for volunteering and NGOs:

Defence of human rights
There are many NGOs in Chiang Mai, with branches in Mae Sot, which work at the grassroots level with migrant workers and their families. There is a great need for educators, gift writers and artisans. Some NGOs specialize in and work with regional migrants, such as Katchen women and Shan youth.

Thailand is the chosen destination for many migrants from Myanmar (Burma) and Laos – with great risk and personal effort, people cross the border into Thailand from their countries that share a long history with Thailand. Many small NGOs up to and including the United Nations offer broad-based aid programs, including the ILO (International Labor Office) which includes local strategies for decent work.

You can find more information on human rights in Thailand in Human Rights Watch.

Paid and volunteer jobs for ESL teachers are common in Thailand. However, if you still don’t have a TEFL certificate or teaching experience, a volunteer ESL teacher in Thailand is your best (and most responsible) option.

Wildlife and nature conservation
In addition to education, volunteering with Thailand’s wild animals – especially elephants – is another popular area for international volunteers. Spend your days preserving natural habitats, saving stray dogs or following elephants.

Work, training and monitoring of NGOs
Many NGOs need people who can “train the trainer” and expand the available staff. The Burmese Human Rights Education Institute (HREIB) participates in and coordinates human rights awareness events in Burma, a region whose recent elections are closely watched by the world as it is the first time in many decades to authorize more visas.

Other popular areas for volunteering include: economic justice, youth advocacy, education, teaching English and women’s rights

Planning Your Trip

Questions you should ask before volunteering

  • Do I have to learn Thai?
  • Will there be other volunteers where I work?
  • What do my accommodations look like?
  • Will I be in a rural or urban environment?
  • What are the requirements for my volunteer project?
  • What can I do to prepare for life and volunteering in Thailand?

Best places to volunteer in Thailand

For volunteers who wish to contribute to all kinds of social problems in a big city, Bangkok and Chiang Mai are perfect destinations. Both cities offer a number of volunteer programs to choose from while being surrounded by Thai temples, people and culture.

Chang Mai is also a much quieter and more spiritual city than Bangkok. If you want to volunteer on the coast, head south. Phuket and Krabi are inundated with tourists, but many undiscovered islands and villages outside of these two major cities are still there.

Ko Samui is an island off the east coast of Thailand that offers great opportunities to see wildlife and nature, particularly interesting for those who want to work on nature conservation.

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