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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.
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.
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
Charlotte has completed two global justice assignments with AJWS (American Jewish World Service) - Chiang Mai,Thailand 2012 and Lucknow, India 2011. In Lucknow, she was part of the NGO's team working with village women near Varanasi who were part of a year- long training to become 'community change agents.' 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.
Do you think there is something missing in our guide to volunteering in Thailand? Contact us and let us know! We want to make sure our information is relevant and up to date.