As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is the country’s social, political, and economic center. Its strategic location also makes it a hub for trade, commerce, culture, the arts, education, and healthcare in the Indochina area. Because of the city’s booming economy, many people from around Thailand come to Bangkok looking for employment opportunities. However, in recent years, this migration has unfortunately led to a serious overcrowding problem in Bangkok.
Overcrowding has highlighted some of the major problems in Bangkok including insufficient resources, pollution, and poor living conditions. Furthermore, in 2011, Bangkok was severely hit by the Thailand floods. In order to combat these issues, the city of Bangkok has invested in stricter laws, and public transportation. Volunteers in Bangkok can help with many of the issues that the city faces today, helping restore to it the value of its Thai name: Krung Thep - the city of angels.
Teaching: One of the most common volunteer placements in Bangkok is teaching English. There are many different options for teaching English, including day care centers, primary schools, health care centers, local universities, and schools for monks. English is already taught in most schools in Bangkok, and having a volunteer to help with pronunciation, leading conversations, fun activities, and overall understanding of the language is highly appreciated. Most of your students will be enthusiastic because learning English will advance their educational and career opportunities, leading to lower crime and dropout rates.
Wildlife Conservation: Although Bangkok is known for its urbanization, there are some parts of the city that are protected by the Department of National Forestry or designated as green zones. This battle between urbanization and nature has led to many issues such as the exploitation of natural resources and wildlife. Much of Thailand’s wildlife has unfortunately been poached for skins or meat, domesticated as pets, lost their habitats, or illegally traded on the black market. Wildlife conservation volunteers in Bangkok can expect to work on educational programs encouraging sustainable practices, and rehabilitation and rescue for animals such as gibbons, macaques, and the most important animal in Thai culture - the elephant.
Healthcare: Bangkok is a great place to practice in the medical field, as well as learn new local health techniques. Healthcare in Thailand is viewed from a holistic approach with treatments for the mind, body, and soul. Depending on the experience you would like to gain and the contributions you would like to make, you may choose from a variety of healthcare volunteer projects in Bangkok. Opportunities include working at clinics, hospitals, physical therapy centers, meditation centers, rehabilitation centers, and mental health clinics. Many of the residents of Bangkok do not have access to adequate healthcare due to the city’s large population. With the assistance of volunteers in Bangkok, healthcare can become more accessible for these residents.
- Things to Do: Bangkok is buzzing with activity that volunteers can tap into. There are opportunities for bike tours, canal tours, viewings of Muay Thai (Thai boxing), cultural performances, horse races, and spa treatments. Another great way to experience Thailand is through its festivals. All of Thailand’s major festivals are held in Bangkok including the Chinese New Year Festival, Songkran Festival, Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Loi Krathong, Trooping of the Colors, and HM The King’s Birthday Celebrations.
- How to Save Money While Volunteering: Because there are always so many things to do and see in Bangkok, you may need to set aside an entertainment budget, taking into account how much you would like to travel and what kind of food you would like to eat.
- Questions to Ask: How long will this volunteer project last? Will the company you volunteer with be willing to sponsor your visa? What type of volunteer work is involved?
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Bangkok:
Most of Thailand’s health risks are confined to rural areas of the country. As a volunteer in Bangkok, you will not be at risk for malaria or Japanese encephalitis. General recommendations for vaccinations are Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. If you plan on working with animals or working outside, you may need to get a vaccination for Rabies. For further information, visit your personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before you leave for Bangkok and see MD Travel Health.
Bangkok is generally considered to be a safe city, but as a larger city, travellers should always be aware of their surroundings. The most common areas for pickpocketing are the weekend market Chatuchak and the main railway station. As a general precaution, make sure you can see when your credit card is being charged, and double check all bills. Bangkok is also known for its gem scams, so it is recommended that you do not purchase gems unless you are familiar with the characteristics of specific gems.