Friends for Asia Founded in 2007
Friends for Asia began operations in 2007, founded by Todd Cikraji, an experienced teacher and Peace Corps Volunteer (Kyrgyzstan and Thailand). Friends for Asia develops international volunteer projects that assist local communities overcome challenges, and provides volunteers with the experience of contributing to those communities as a valued participant. As of 2014 over 1,000 volunteers and interns have participated in projects in Bali, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.
Friends for Asia Mission Statement
The mission of Friends for Asia is twofold. First, we offer an opportunity for people to meaningfully contribute to the improvement of standards of living by building capacity in our host countries. Secondly, we provide committed volunteers to work on projects that benefit the local communities.
We have always been an independent organization with no connection to (or support from) any government or religious organization. We also do not operate as a charity, but rather as a professional self-sustaining organization. As such, we require a project fee from our volunteers and interns to help cover the costs involved with providing proper support and arranging quality international volunteer projects and internships. We work hard to keep our fees as low as possible and have some of the lowest volunteer and internship project fees offered throughout Asia.
Bali, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam Locations
Friends for Asia operates projects in five locations:
Friends for Asia Volunteer Coordinators and Staff
It is important to us that our coordinating staff is made up of highly qualified, well-educated individuals devoted to our volunteer’s needs and the development of our projects. You’ll see our staff regularly, if not every day. We give our volunteers and interns freedom and the opportunity to have an authentic volunteer and internship experience, but we are also here to support them in all areas.
Thailand Volunteer and Internship Staff
Todd Cikraji, Founder and International Director; and Leslie Temanson, Volunteer Coordinator and Consultant
Todd Cikraji is the founder and international director of Friends for Asia. He corresponds with all our volunteers and interns throughout the application and booking process. He also keeps in touch with volunteers and interns during their projects in Chiang Mai.
Todd is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Dayton. Before founding Friends for Asia, he was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and Thailand. Todd also worked at several large schools here in Thailand teaching English as a second language and overseeing the work of other foreign teachers. Todd believes strongly in international volunteerism and has been overwhelmingly impressed with the contribution and work of the volunteers and interns at Friends for Asia.
Leslie Temanson is Volunteer Coordinator and Consultant. He was born in Minnesota, but lived in California before moving to Thailand. Previous to working at Friends for Asia, he was a volunteer with Friends for Asia. I volunteered in the Elephant Camp and International University for Monks Volunteer Projects.
Leslie was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa for five years. Upon completing my Peace Corps service, he continued working in Africa with various NGOs assisting with self-help projects for another 15 years. When he retired from teaching and teacher mentoring, he volunteered in Peru. Leslie has a have a Master’s Degree in Education from California State University San Bernadino. He holds dual California teaching credentials: one in general education and the other in special education.
Chiang Mai-based coordinating staff. From left to right: Note, Nat, Aom, Aun, Imm
Note – Chiang Mai General Staff – Manoch Wandee aka Note is a general staff member responsible for volunteer safety, the upkeep of the Chiang Mai volunteer accommodation, offices, the purchasing of breakfast food and snacks, picking new volunteers up from the airport and helping in emergencies.
Note born in Nakornayok province but raised in Bangkok and studied music at Chiang Mai Rajaphat University. Previous to working at Friends for Asia he was a drummer and taught drumming to foreign students at some of Chiang Mai’s international schools.
Nat – Chiang Mai Volunteer Coordinator – Naatsita Nawatfuangsakul, nicknamed Nat was born and raised in Chiang Mai and graduated with a degree in Tourism and Hotel Management from Chiang Mai Rajaphat University. She has worked for luxury hotels and cruise lines abroad for over 12 years in many European countries including Hungary, Italy, Austria, France, Switzerland and Germany.
After her time abroad she worked as a guest lecturer at Phayao University and as a special lecturer in the Chiang Mai Centre for Skill Development and as well as at Phayao Centre for Skill Development. Nat speaks speak English, German, Hungarian, Thai and Northern Thai.
Aom – Chiang Mai Coordinating Manager – Walaiporn Wuttiyan, nicknamed Aom is the Coordinating Manager of Friends for Asia in Chiang Mai. She oversees the coordination of our volunteer and intern projects and all of Friends for Asia‘s coordinators and staff.
Aom was born in Chiang Mai and graduated (with honors) in Mass Communications from Chiang Mai University. She worked as a script writer for a large Bangkok broadcasting company for six years. Aom spent three years in the United States and has a post-graduate degree from Baruch College in New York. Aom has worked with Friends for Asia since 2009.
Aun – Chiang Mai Volunteer Coordinator – Adisorn Dechaboon, nicknamed Aun was born in Lamphun, Thailand. She have a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language from Chiang Mai Rajaphat University. Aun has privately taught Japanese as a foreign language and Thai as a second language to foreigners living in Chiang Mai. She spent time studying English as a Second Language in New Zealand and has worked for the airlines and as a tour operator and travel agent in Chiang Mai.
Imm – Chiang Mai Volunteer and Intern Coordinator – Wanwisa Sirikhampa, nicknamed Imm, was born in Phrae, a small and quiet province in the north of Thailand. Before working for Friends for Asia, he was an English teacher at a private school in Chiang Mai. Imm has a bachelor’s degree in English Education from Chiang Mai Rajapahat University.
Mike Cikraji – US Based Partner – Mike Cikraji is a limited partner of Friends for Asia, based in our Ohio office. He coordinates aspects of the company’s domestic financial, administrative and legal needs, when necessary. Mike has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history, and previously worked as a high school teacher. He currently works in industrial quality control, and as a college history instructor.
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Volunteer StoriesAlex Jacobson, California, USA - Teaching Monks and Caregiving at Single Mother's Home, March, 2009
“The Land of Smiles” is the perfect phrase coined for Thailand. Love radiates from this country through the smiles and warm greetings from the local people. Whether it was during my trip in Pai, the Friends for Asia home, or at either of my volunteer projects, I feel that I made many unexpected friendships!
James Kneafsey, Dublin, Ireland - Elephant Camp March, 2009
"It was a joy working at the Elephant Camp: waking up to elephants passing by my balcony in the morning, swimming with the elephants, eating like a king, pitching in with the work, building relationships with the staff and having a well earned beer at the roadside bar in the evening."
Anke Anemaet – Lelystad, The Netherlands – Teaching Monks July, 2010
“ENJOY YOUR STAY HERE! You will be sad to leave, as I am now. It’s hard to explain to the boys that you won’t be coming back next week and you have to go home. They have all been such lovely students. Each one of them has their own personality and you’ll love them all. Take pictures so that you can remember them forever. They have become so important to me, which is unexplainable. I will truly miss them a lot. ”
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