Volunteer service contributes to the well-being of an individual and the community, and is usually coordinated by a non-profit or public sector organization. Volunteering internationally offers a native's perspective into a country, a chance to work with people from around the world, and unparalleled experiences. These positions rarely offer any salary or wage, although board and lodging may be provided.
Voluntary work can be desirable if you are unable to gain legal work in Thailand, or wish to gain skills or experience. Volunteering in Thailand can be a wonderful experience, giving you a chance to broaden your horizons, develop and enhance your own skill set, whilst enriching the lives of others. Volunteers are able to see and experience Bangkok in a way tourists simply don't appreciate.
Bangkok is the third largest city in the world for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). No doubt the fact that Thailand shares borders with Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos is one of the reasons for this, and that the UN has a base in Bangkok.
Historically, NGOs in Thailand were family-based foundations. However, domestic NGOs have become increasingly linked with international NGOs in recent years. This change in the domestic NGO sector has been closely linked to the 2005 Tsunami, which led to a large influx of funds, particularly from abroad, and severely tested the capacity of the sector and its regulators.
NGOs under Thai law cannot be registered per se, and so they are usually registered as either an association or a foundation. Foreign NGOs are required to seek approval from the Committee on Consideration of the Entry of Foreign Private Organizations (FPO). The Committee should then grant the foreign NGO a permit to operate as well as permits to allow foreign workers/volunteers to stay in Thailand.
NGOs in Bangkok work differently than in the west. It would be rare for them to advertise when they need volunteers and so finding placements can be difficult. They simply do not have the resources, either financially or administratively, to enable them to do so.
Some Thai associations and foundations actually expect volunteers to pay for the experience, so do take time to carefully check the foundations expectations of you before agreeing to volunteer.
Volunteer opportunities in Bangkok are wide ranging and include environmental issues, social issues, minority rights, human trafficking and health care.
Teaching is a common volunteering position. Volunteers are often welcomed into schools and day care centers to help with pronunciation and general speaking practice. It is also possible to attend some temples and allow the monks to practice their English with you.
Human Development Foundation and Mercy Centre - This amazing Foundation was founded in 1975 by Father Joe Meier. The HDF works with slum kids in Klong Toey, one Bangkok's poorest areas. The Foundation offers free education as well as running many homes for orphans and children who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in addition to activities to assist street kids. The HDF always needs volunteers. Volunteers are needed to work with the school children or those in the orphanages or to provide general help to the teachers. Teaching English is always a valuable skill they're looking for. Contact them at 02-671-5313.
Thailand Hilltribe Education Projects - Hilltribe people in Thailand are not treated as Thai citizens. Despite the majority being born in Thailand, they don't have Thai citizenship, have no basic rights in Thailand, their children don't get much of an education and, sometimes, they don't even have access to clean running water or simple medical care and facilities. The Thailand Hilltribe Education Project aids hilltribe people and encourages education for their children and development projects for their villages. Volunteers are required to help play with the children, interview students for sponsorships or general administrative work. Call them at 02-258-5332.
Goodwill Group Foundation - Goodwill Group was set-up a few years ago in Bangkok, Thailand to assist young women in obtaining an education. The Foundation offers free English classes, vocational practical courses in fields like digital photography, first aid for nannies and presentation skills for job interviews. They also run a micro-lending program providing small loans to underprivileged women who would like to start their own business. For English speaking volunteers, especially those with English teaching experience, Goodwill always needs English conversation teachers. Call them at 02-255-4172.
For information on Jobs Teaching English in Thailand, refer to the section on "Find a Job".
Environmental issues are of great concern in Bangkok. Despite it being a busy urban metropolis, there are some protected parts of the city known as green zones. Some organizations cater to protecting these areas.
There is unfortunately a big black market in Bangkok for illegally traded animals. There have been many headlines recently about the illegal dog trade - dogs are being smuggled out of Thailand to Vietnam to be used as meat. Volunteers can join organizations that are trying to stop this practice. There are also many street dogs and cats roaming free in Bangkok and there are organizations set-up to assist them.
Save Elephant Foundation - This organization assists Elephant Nature Park as well as three other projects that involve saving different animals (Elephant Nature Park, Journey to Freedom, Elephant Sanctuary in Cambodia, and Surin Project).Work involves care of the animals and grounds, and volunteering at the reserve does require a mandatory donation of about US $400 a week, which is worth it for many volunteers who come here to work with the majestic elephants.
Dog Rescue Project - Located on the same grounds as the elephants, this clinic cares for over 350 dogs that live on site. The clinic also provides free medical care to small animals in the nearby communities, in exchange for pet sterilization and vaccination.
Bangkok is an excellent place to learn and practice with healthcare organizations. Probably because of its Buddhist culture, many healthcare treatments adopt a holistic approach. Volunteer opportunities are available in clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and private clinics.
Baan Nor Giank - Baan Nor Giank is a residential home for babies and infants impacted by HIV/AIDS. The children are aged between two and seven years old and the home is needs volunteers to go and play with the babies. Children with HIV/AIDS are often not accepted, so they miss out on typical social contact and relations. Volunteers can make a real difference to their lives by playing with the children, giving them hugs and in general, treating them like normal children. Contact the home at 02-258-5252.
If none of the programs above are a good fit, do not lose hope. There's a list of many other non-profit organizations at ThaiWebsites.com, as well as other volunteer organizations sites such as:
Applications depend on the organization. Most groups require a formal application, a personal statement, and some kind of deposit. There are periodic deadlines, so check the organization's sites to find out the deadline. If in doubt, contact the organization ahead of your application and ask if there is anything specific or any particular piece of information they require from you.
How to proceed: Find a sending organization that will assist you individually along the procedure (you can find contacts through you National Agency, your National Coordinator or international volunteer organizations). Start contacting potential host organizations through your sending organization. Keep your fingers crossed and persevere in your search as the difficulty is not to find a suitable project, but to find a project ready to host you within the time limit you have planned.
Make sure you obtain the appropriate visa before starting your volunteer work. You cannot volunteer legally on a tourist visa. You will need to obtain a Non-Immigrant Category B or Non-Immigrant Category O, depending on your type of volunteer work.
Consult the section on "Passport, Visa, and Permits", and contact the nearest Thai Embassy.
Many volunteer programs also handle visa arrangements and include insurance coverage in their program fees or as part of their compensation. If they do not, you will need to shop around for rates and coverage. Ask for a letter of introduction and prepare to shop around for best rates and coverage.
Medical treatment is very expensive in Thailand and it is unlikely that hospitals will offer treatment until they are satisfied you have a means for paying for it, being it having relevant insurance or showing you have sufficient funds in your bank account. It is therefore advisable to obtain your own insurance if this is not provided to you as part of the scheme.
Consult our section on "International healthcare & Medical Insurance" to find out more about your options.
You might also look at our other articles on Summer Jobs and Internship abroad on the left column of this page for other opportunities.
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