Volunteer in Thailand

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Thailand is a beacon for volunteers; whether you are assigned to an NGO in the North or South of Thailand, the country is physically beautiful, with spectacular Buddhist temples, glowing flowers and night chanting birds.

The Thai people welcome foreigners and take pride in their national reputation of friendliness. Every day is interesting - working with an NGO lets you settle into a daily rhythm that shares the Thai daily rhythm of work and celebration. Thais work hard yet smilingly acknowledge you as you walk through ancient and modern entrepreneurial activities. Because Thailand shares borders with Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Cambodia, all of which have a history of human rights abuses, scores of human right agencies have been long established in this area - and it is easy for you to make these neighboring countries (which are also historical, beautiful and fascinating) part of your volunteer plans.

  • Average cost of living: Cheap!! It makes Thailand stay extra enjoyable
  • Visa - work/tourist: Very easy to make visa run and opportunity to see nearby Southeast Asia countries.
  • Popular destinations: South fine beaches including Phuket, North tribal villages, natural beauty countrywide, Bangkok night llfe, Chiang Mai markets, new medical tourism, green/sustainable tourism, Elephant camps
  • Poverty Level: 8.1% (2009 estimate, CIA World Factbook)

Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular have multiple volunteering opportunities and NGOs focus that focus on specific fields. Check out this list of NGOs in Thailand from WANGO. Here is a little more information on the most popular types of volunteer projects...

Human Right Advocacy: There are many NGOs in Chiang Mai, with branches in Mae Sot, that do grass root work with migrant workers and their families. There is great need for educators, grant writers, handicraft artists. Some NGOs specialize and work with regional migrants, like Katchen women and Shan youth.

Education (for women and children in particular): Thailand law mandates education for all children, regardless of status. However, many do not speak Thai well enough to keep up in class and parents who fear deportation might not send the children to school. Learn more about education in Thailand from the Thai Ministry of Education.

Volunteering in Thailand with kids
Volunteer with school children in Thailand

HIV/AIDS Awareness: Thailand's first case was reported in 1984 and the country has been effective in preventing the spread of AIDS on a national scale. There is need for an updated national program for a new generation.

Migrant Workers' Rights: Thailand is the chosen destination for many migrants from Myanmar (Burma) and Laos - at great personal risk and effort people cross the border to Thailand from their countries that share a long history with Thailand. Wide ranging aid programs are provided by many small NGOs up to the United Nations whose ILO (International Labour Office) includes Local Strategies for Decent Work Specialists. It is documented that the migrant workers are paid less than Thai workers and that migrant women are paid less than the migrant men. Many migrants encounter police issues when they lack Thai work documents. Learn more about human rights in Thailand from the Human Rights Watch.

NGO Work, Training and Monitoring: Many NGOs need people who can 'train the trainer' and expand the work staff available. Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) participates and coordinates events to raise awareness of human rights in Burma, an region whose recent elections is being closely watched by the world as it allows more visas for the first time in many decades.

Other popular fields to volunteer in include: environmental conservation and sustainability, economic justice, youth advocacy, education, teaching English, and women's rights

  • NGOs and Volunteer History: There are many nonprofits and NGOs based in Thailand that work to support the local communities. According to WANGO, there are 141 NGOs in Thailand. A very large portion of these NGOs work to support children and education across Thailand. Community development organizations are the second most common type of NGO in Thailand. Thailand also has a prominent chapter of the Red Cross dedicated to local humanitarian issues. Organizations like these are always looking for volunteers to lend an extra hand so contact them directly if interested.
  • Teach English in Thailand
    Teach English in Thailand
  • Questions to Ask Before Volunteering: Do I need to learn Thai? Will there be other volunteers where I'm working? What will my accommodations be like? Will I be in a rural or urban area? What requirements are there for my volunteer project? What can I do to prepare myself for living and volunteering in Thailand?
  • Best Places to Volunteer in Thailand: For volunteers looking to contribute to all kinds of social issues in a big city, Bangkok and Chang Mai are perfect destinations. Each of these cities offers a number of volunteer programs to choose from while being surrounded by Thai temples, people, and culture. Chang Mai is also a much more calm and spiritual city in comparison to Bangkok. If you're looking to volunteer on the coast, the Phuket province offers beaches that are much less frequented by tourists than others, a great way for volunteers to get immersed in local life. Ko Samui is an island off the east coast of Thailand that offers great opportunities to see wildlife and nature, especially interesting for those who want to work in conservation.
  • How to Meet People: While volunteering itself can be a great way to meet new people, actively seeking new new groups of people will truly enhance your experience as a volunteer abroad. Join a local social network to meet new people. Especially for women there is Chicky Net, a girls only social network. You can also check out all the local festivals to find new groups of people as well.
Of all the countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand is perhaps the most visitor friendly. Most people speak English, traveling is accessible, food is cheap, and it's beautiful! The tourism industry is huge, so there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
Contributed by Charlotte Bennett Schoen

Charlotte has completed two global justice assignments with AJWS (American Jewish World Service) - Chiang Mai,Thailand 2012 and Lucknow, India 2011. Charlotte's background includes education, domestic violence, business and elected office in her NJ community. Check out Charlotte's blog about global justice in Thailand and India.

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Programs & Reviews

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Explore the beautiful and rich culture of Thailand while volunteering with Global Leadership Adventures! Volunteer options include orphanage work and caring for elephants. While volunteering you will also have the chance to zip-line...
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A gap year in Thailand with GapGuru will give you an opportunity to experience authentic Thai culture, learn some Thai language, gain an insight into Buddhism and participate in activities such as stunning waterfall treks or temple visits...
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