Guest blog post by Katie Boyer, Director of Volunteer Abroad, Go Overseas. Her dream volunteer trip includes backpacking around Southeast Asia with a special stop in Thailand to get up close and personal with the elephants!
Thailand is truly a country of wonder and awe.
If you are planning a long-term trip to Thailand, consider volunteering abroad. Volunteering in a new place is a great way to get a first-hand look at a different culture, allows you to be involved in the local community and it lets you see their needs in a whole new way. Instead of passing through as a tourist, volunteering gives you the chance to learn about the local people and their daily lives while learning about yourself as well.
Donating your services overseas is easier than you may think. As this segment of tourism grows, it’s becoming easier to find organizations which run volunteer projects overseas. That being said, sometimes there are too many options. (Thailand is actually one of the most popular volunteer destinations out there!
Here are several ways to start narrowing down your volunteer options.
Where do you want to go?
Is there a certain city or area of Thailand where you want to spend your time? Start your quest by taking a look at projects that take place there. Ask yourself this important question: Do you want to be somewhere more secluded, traditional and rural as opposed to volunteering in a big city like Bangkok or Chiang Mai?
There are tons of options in these urban metropolises. Big cities around the world see similar problems when it comes to poverty, disease, and crime. Bangkok and Chiang Mai are great cities in which to find social volunteer work.
For a more unique volunteer experience, consider venturing to more rural villages of Thailand. What about a coastal or island destination? Rural doesn’t mean you have to go without hot water, a nice bed, and other comforts of home though. Many bed and breakfast type accommodations can be found anywhere in this amazing country.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a location, it’s time to figure out how to give back once you’re there.
What do you want to do?
Volunteer projects are available in virtually any industry. It’s best to choose an undertaking that caters to your skills and expertise. This will ensure that your work is just as helpful for the local community as it is for yourself. If you’re still not sure what kind of project would be best for you, consider some of the more popular options:
Teaching English – There is a high demand for native English speakers in all of Asia and Thailand is no exception. Even volunteers with no teaching experience can be of help in a local Thai classroom. Teach students conversational English basics through games and activities while also sharing your own culture with them. You will be surprised to find how much you have to teach!
Conservation– Thailand’s diverse nature and animals make it a great place to volunteer in wildlife, marine, and environmental conservation. Elephant tourism is especially popular but conservation projects take a step further. Don’t just ride an elephant; learn to care for these gentle giants and save their habitats.
Migrant Workers’ Rights – Yes, this can be a complicated field but there’s no reason that a passionate volunteer can’t help get the word out. Supporting migrants from neighboring countries like Laos and Myanmar can make a difference for those that are abused, underpaid, and discriminated against on a regular basis.
Choosing a provider
When giving your time and money to any type of organization, do research on them first to see if they are trustworthy. The easiest way to investigate volunteer project providers is to read reviews from past volunteers in Thailand. If the organization’s alumni have mediocre things to say, you should probably dig a little deeper. Important questions to ask are: Is the organization involved and communicating with the local community about their needs? Where does the money for the volunteer program go?
Once you’ve chosen where to go, what organization to work with, and what project to work on, most of the heavy lifting is out of the way. It’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the planning.
Successful preparation for a volunteer trip to Thailand includes getting up-to-date on your vaccinations or shots like tetanus and exploring the social/political issues and etiquette of where you are going.
Using these tips to prepare to volunteer in Thailand will ensure that you make the most out of your time in Thailand while having an amazing, life-changing experience.