Starfish Volunteers

Program Reviews

Mandi Schmitt
Yes, I recommend this program

I didn't know until after my volunteer trip how common it is for elephants to be mistreated for the sake of tourists. Luckily, I am confident that elephants I worked with were happy and healthy. We rode them to a lake each day to let them bathe and drink. Then, we rode them to the fields where they were allowed to graze and eat for as long as they wanted. I never saw them hurt or nervous. It was really incredible interacting with these gentle giants.

I also spent time at a nursery with 40+ toddlers. This was a bit less organized, and I didn't feel like I was helping much, merely maintaining order. I wouldn't participate with the kids again.

The staff was great and conducted tours of Bangkok. They were all friendly and helped the volunteers adapt to the new culture. I was very sick when I went to volunteer, and one of the staff came to the hospital with me and stayed the entire time, translating and comforting me. I really enjoyed getting to know them.

What would you improve about this program?
Though I loved working with the elephants and playing with cute Thai children, I felt this organization was more about giving the volunteers an experience rather than truly contributing to a sustainable project. This was in part my fault, because I only had two weeks to commit. There were other volunteers staying for longer and doing different projects (like working at a medical clinic and doing construction) who did feel like they were contributing in a more meaningful way. For the kids program, I would change the minimum length of the project to at least a month so that volunteers could have a chance to become more involved.
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No, I don't recommend this program

I'm a 5th year medical student and i found the medical project quite disapointing from a medical point of view,i don't think it suits advanced medical students,it will be first quite raging to see under qualified people refusing to do what you say( i had to argue and prove them with internet that you were using amoxycilin in triple therapy in gastric ulcers and yet she deliberatly wouldn't want to give it, or see a nurse do stitches( i couldn't fit in the gloves) trying to join both sides of the wound at once and get her needle lost in the patient's foot).and spending a whole week looking for mosquitoes larvaes in water and sticking papers to sticks,it's not what i expect to do as a "medical project".also food is not included,it's not for the 4 euros it costs/week,but for the principle.also the cleaning lady at the house can wash your clothes for 100's 20 bahts across the street,they charge you 800 bahts to ride the elephants,and don't expect a refund if you leave early.this organization is only about money and that's sad.(but the staff is lovely).i wouldn't call it medical volunteering,and i think it only suits young(1st,2nd max) nurses students who will do a lot of wound dressing,but if you have some medical training,don't do this project.

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Yes, I recommend this program

I was in Thailand for 3 months volunteering on the elephant and the turtle project and loved every minute! You give a lot to the communities and people you work with, but you receive so much in return! It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, specifically the elephant project! Feeding the ellies, getting to the know the character of the ellies and the mahouts, planting food for them, masheteeing trees for them, walking them to the river to "bath" and play, having fun with the local kids, the food, the weather, the peace, the fun, the whole experience was awesome!! :)

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Yes, I recommend this program

I was part of a group of 7 student nurses from England volunteering in Surin hospital in Thailand. We all thouroughly enjoyed our experience with starfish and can not fault them at all. From the moment we landed in Bangkok airport a member of their team has been with us to answer any queries we may have, nothing is too much of a problem for them.
Arranging the trip was simple as the staff in the office in Bangkok are extremely efficient.
The staff in Surin province, were the hospital and other volunteering projects are based, are very welcoming and you instantly feel at home.
We will defintely be returning to Thailand amazing place!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering with starfish volunteers in Thailand was an incredible experience! I worked on the elephant project for two weeks and had the time of my life. The staff were fantastic and went Beyond their job requirements to ensure our stay was safe, including organizing our weekend activities. The village we stayed in was welcoming and gave us a great insight into rural thailand life. Starfish staff were easily contactable both before and during our trip which made the experience run smoothly and safely. I recommend volunteering with starfish, and further encourage people to work on the elephant project as it is an incredible experience, being up and close with elephants every day.

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Yes, I recommend this program

This was my first time volunteering abroad, and it totally turned my life around. I volunteered together with my 9 year old son, which was fabulous to do together. We volunteered with the elephants, and also teaching English. We were immersed in village life,working each day with the mahouts caring for the elephants, and experiencing the variety of events that happen in a village daily. We were made to feel very welcome both by our host family, as well as by all the villagers. We particularly felt we were able to make a contribution while we were teaching English. The children we taught only have access to native English speakers to teach them when Starfish sends volunteers. Starfish ensures that there is continuity in the children's learning - we built on what the previous volunteer teachers had taught, and knew that volunteers to come after us would build on what we had taught. This makes the program particularly strong.
Starfish' programs are very well organised, and the volunteer coordinators were with us at all times, offering language translation as well as cultural interpretation of all we were involved in. And they were great fun to be around, really added to our incredible experience.
We felt safe at all times, and the beauty of this rich experience was our instant immersion into the Thai culture.
Food was great throughout the trip, both with our homestay family in Tha Thum, as well as during our time in Surin while staying at the volunteer house. I should mention the accommodation which was also excellent, being both clean and well located.We left feeling that we had made a difference, but also knowing that we ourselves had changed in this time. We are definitely planning to volunteer with Starfish again!

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Yes, I recommend this program

“I recently spent 6 weeks working with Starfish on their School Development project. I had always wanted to help with a construction project in a developing country and this seemed to be the perfect fit for me. From the first time I contacted Starfish I was really impressed with their level of customer service, guidance, knowledge of Thailand, the projects and the reasons why they operate. They seemed to be very professional but I was mostly impressed by their insistence of meeting the expectations of the volunteers requirements before the financial aspect – as so many other ‘volunteer’ organisations fail to do!

From the moment I arrived in Bangkok, to sadly saying goodbye to the Starfish team and Surin, I felt safe, secure and well cared for by everybody involved. I made a huge number of friends for life and will never, ever forget one day I spent with them all. Nam, Worn, Deuan and all of the Surin staff did everything they could to make our lives easier, very often going above and beyond the call of duty. The volunteer accommodation was basic but really comfortable and the location was great. It gave us the chance to have peace and quiet but we had restaurants, supermarkets, bars and shops just a few minutes walk away.

The project I worked on was to help construct a brand new centre for the kids of the surrounding villages as the old one was severely damaged in recent storms. Throughout the time on the project we were supervised and directed by the Starfish team who were great at explaining our roles for each day. Everything was really well organised. We were transported to and from the site each day and not one of (there were 15 of us on the project) had a single complaint!

Thank you Starfish, you have made such a difference to the communities you support and also to the way I look at things. It was the most rewarding thing I have ever done and I will be back one day, for sure!”

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Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered with Starfish for a month last year, it was a really rewarding experience, one that I would do again in a heart beat.

I did 2 weeks working in a childcare and 2 weeks working with elephants at the elephant village.

Both projects were great and rewarding in different ways.

The children at the childcare were great and it was awesome been able to part of their lives. A day at the childcare consisted of looking and playing with the kids, helping to teach english and day to day class activities. We also help with lunch time meals etc. I miss the kids alot and would love to go back.

The elephant village was great and our co-ordinator Worn was amazing. A day in the village consisted of helping the local village with their sugar cane fields..planting, cutting, plowing etc. then we would look after the elephant, riding, bathing, washing, feeding etc. i loved every minute of my time there.

The staff at starfish are extremely nice and helpful..they become your friends and will do everything to make sure your stay with them is amazing. They really do go the extra mile for you!! I miss them all!

I recommend Starfish for anyone wanting to give back and volunteer. It is a great way to travel and do something different!

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Yes, I recommend this program

I've never done volunteering before, and mid backpacking round the world, stumbled upon starfish - best decision I ever made. The projects are really useful to the community, the staff are amazing, supportive, and really, I felt like I was a Thai local - an experience you don't get from just backpacking your way through. Seeing the Thai people's response to your assistance, and even in the local community where you're living, was great, you get to have heaps of fun, whilst ensuring the serious business of your project gets done - I did medical volunteering, working in a small local clinic, who provided well-being and regular check ups for the surrounding farming community, and met some amazing individuals. As for living like a Thai person - even managed to attend a Thai wedding! The guys at starfish are awesome, and look after you well - still in contact with them, and hope to meet them again someday....with starfish you will have an awesome experience, guaranteed!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Hi everybody,

I volunteered together with my husband last September (2011) for 2 weeks. I did volunteering as a nurse and my husband did the construction part.

Basicially we had placement 4 times a week. I started at 7ish whilst my husband started at 8/9am.

My placement took place in different places. I worked in a health centre where i basically did wound cleaning, removal sutures or administered im injections. Specific days like wednesday we would be taking routine vitals and blood samples. I worked within the ER of a hospital and once out to the fields to test the farmers for pesticide contamination.

Throughout my placement I always had someone there to help me with my translations and answer any questions I had.

Apart from being able to help the people of the Surin village the experience taught to be an educational one. I encountered different diseases due to the poor conditions most of these people live in.

My husband on the other hand was basically painting part of the school. He was the only worker there at the time and so it would sometimes get a bit lonely. Nonetheless nearby there we plenty of children being taught by other volunteers so it was nice for him to just see the children enjoying themselves.

During our placement we found lots of help not our regarding volunteering but help with our other travels from the staff at the Starfish office. Plus they were always up for a good night out!!!

Our accommodation was simple but enough! Surin is a fairly quiet area, but a good place to relax and have a good cheap beer!

This experience was also great to make new friends. It was great to hear about other's experiences during their travels and in addition it helps to plan out the rest of ur travels.

All in all the experience was amazing!! We would love to have the opportunity to do some volunteering with starfish again!

I would recommend that if you have more time on your hands, shift through different volunteering placements!!

Wishing you a fruitful experience,

Christianne&Jo :))))))