• Thailand

Program Details

Apr 14, 2016
Apr 04, 2012
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About Program

The AJWS Volunteer Corps Program in Thailand is designed to give Jewish professionals and retirees the opportunity to utilize their skills in a number of volunteer initiatives in Thailand. AJWS works with a number of grassroots organizations that advocate sustainable development, women's rights, community development, and much more. Depending on your skills and interests, you will be placed with an organization anywhere from 6 months to a year, and have the chance to make a considerable impact in local communities. AJWS Volunteer Corps participants come back with a renewed dedication to give back to their home communities, and connect with their Jewish heritage. Interested applicants should visit the AJWS website for more information.

Program Reviews

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Yes, I recommend this program

Would I do it again? Absolutely

Sawaadi Ka as I write this from Chiang Mai Thailand, my second assignment for AJWS Volunteer Corps. When I came back from Lucknow India last year (2011) I was frequently asked the question: Would you do this again?

I say "absolutely" because I have seen first hand that our work at the NGOs is much appreciated and that grass root change does come from our being there. The 3 month assignments were carefully chosen by AJWS to fit our 'skill sets' - and I am proud of being part of the specific NGOs.

Unexpected highlights included spending my last 2 birthdays--
in India celebrating Holi and playing colors with the NGO staff and villagers who were part of the project.
in Thailand, celebrating my March birthday weekend with the NGO staff, sex workers -- and a mountaintop picnic on an elephant. I did get to make a sleepover of the elephant visit and urge everyone to do the same!

Difficulties are included in the humbling experience of language - Hindi was not easy-peasy - nor is Thai. But people appreciate your trying and applying yourself and I know when something has come out not right - hilarious laughter rocks the place.

Americans can get insular because our country is so big - what an honor to live in another part of the world and 'do our thing'.

7 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A truly unique and life-changing volunteer experience

The AJWS Volunteer Corps program is unlike any other I researched when planning my year volunteering abroad. The application process may appear formidable, but there is a good reason for that -- AJWS makes a strong effort to match their volunteers with grassroots NGOs that have a strong need for their specific skill set and experience. For example, my professional experience entails working as a program manager for software. AJWS paired me with a small NGO working for the Burmese democracy movement that needed help with project management, planning, fundraising, and developing a website. The fit was perfect, and both the NGO staff and I came away having significantly increased our capacity to do our jobs.

The VC program emphasizes capacity building and sustainability. That is, a volunteer is not placed within an NGO to do the staff's work for them, but rather to grow the capacity of the staff and to provide new tools and practices to enable them to do their jobs more effectively. I loved this approach both for its humility and for the potential it provides for long-lasting impact. For me, it was important to find volunteer work that would empower others by imparting skills and knowledge, rather than co-opting a job that could be done by a local (e.g. building houses). I was able to make my work sustainable by structuring it as a series of training sessions that I conducted for the org's staff on topics like project management and fundraising. With each training I conducted, we had plenty of practical opportunities to put the lessons into action. We used the project management content to manage the planning and construction of a new school. And we used the fundraising lessons as an opportunity to work on a number of grant proposals, several of which were funded.

The town in which I was placed was small, quiet, and sleepy, perhaps not the best fit for a volunteer looking for a vibrant expat scene or a large array of cultural events. This worked out just fine for me, as the slower pace of life made it much easier to get settled in and get oriented in a very short period of time. It also allowed me to keep a strong focus on my volunteer work.

Overall, I had a fantastic experience with AJWS. The women I volunteered with quickly became like family,I got my fill of delicious (spicy!) Thai and Burmese food, and I learned more than I thought I would about the Burmese struggle for democracy and even about my own changing career aspirations.

Of course, this program isn't for everyone -- most notably, it is targeted at Jewish Americans.

8 people found this review helpful.

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