Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Volunteering in Thailand Advice

This posting about volunteering in Thailand advice, is written by Todd Cikraji, the director of Friends for Asia, long term resident of Thailand and a Returned United States Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from Kyrgyzstan (2001) and Thailand (2004).

Choosing a Volunteer Organization and Project

Teaching Monks 3

There are a lot of organizations offering volunteer placements in Thailand. Some are small, grassroots NGOs, whereas others are large organizations that offer placements throughout the world. Both types of organizations have their goods and bads. Project placements aside, reading up on the work these organizations do, their philosophies and experience is very important. When volunteering here in Thailand you not only participate in a project, but also become a part of a team and a representative of an organization. You’ll want to make sure this is the organization that you want to support, promote and become a part of.

Volunteers at Elephant Camp

Finding a project that fits your experience and abilities is key. It’s not necessary to be an expert in an area, but a working knowledge of what you’ll be doing will greatly assist in the contribution you are able to provide. Volunteers that have never picked up a hammer probably should avoid building projects, unless they plan on getting some good, fast, hands-on experience prior to their departure. To view our Friends for Asia Volunteer Thailand projects, click here.

Volunteer Thailand Orientation - City Tour 22

Familiarity in an area will certainly make for a smoother experience. I received the advice to spend time in a school setting prior to my first volunteer teaching experience. I followed this advice, and spent a few days shadowing teachers at an elementary school near my home. Picking up some really good classroom techniques and becoming comfortable in a school environment was really helpful before standing in front of my first class in Kyrgyzstan, and then Thailand. I highly advise all volunteers to receive as much experience as they can in the area they will be volunteering in prior to their departure from home.

Local Volunteer Coordinators

Volunteer and Intern in Thailand

One thing that has always surprised me is that I receive 10 times more questions from prospective volunteers about clothes, laundry, transportation and weekend activities than I do about project coordination. Yes, clothes, washing them and transportation are important. However, more importantly is the team of staff coordinators that will be organizing your volunteer experience, dealing with any issues that arise or helping you in an emergency. It’s vital to any volunteer experience that coordinating staff are natives to the area, possess fluent English speaking skills, understand western culture, are well educated, dependable, and there when you need them.

Volunteer Thailand Orientation 11

At Friends for Asia our Safety and Security Coordinator has a master’s degree in international development. Three of our five coordinators have lived abroad for years. Our coordinator responsible for our teaching projects has a bachelor’s degree in teaching English as a second language, and five years teaching experience. For more information about our Friends for Asia volunteer coordinating staff, click here.

When to Volunteer in Thailand

Volunteer and Intern in Thailand

The high season for tourism in Thailand is during the northern hemisphere winter of December, January and February. The weather during this time is beautiful, with warm sunny days and cool nights. The possible draw back to this time of lovely weather, is that it’s no longer a secret. Chiang Mai and Thailand see quite an influx of foreign faces during this time of year. Depending upon one’s interests this could add or take away from one’s experience.

The Thai school summer runs from March to mid-May, with the mid-school year break through most of October. Therefore, school and teaching projects during this time of year are not available. Click on the following icons to view our project pages for our English Education and Teaching Monks Volunteer Projects.

Loy Krathong (low file) 1

For an added cultural experience, it’s ideal to volunteer during one of Thailand’s festivals or holidays. Songkran (the Thai new year) is in mid-April and is all about water fights, making merit and having fun. Loy Krathong is a holiday where Thais give thanks to the rivers and water ways that bring them life and prosperity. Loy Krathong occurs during the full moon in November and is celebrated with prayers, the release of small, intricately made banana leaf boats into the river, hot air lanterns and fireworks. The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is in early February, and is celebrated with parades, beauty pageants and flowers, flowers everywhere.

I hope that this advice about volunteering in Thailand is helpful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.