Volunteering as a way of understanding Thai culture whilst at the same time giving something back to the community, has become increasingly popular over the last decade or so. There are many charities, NGO’s, and institutions specializing in various projects all around the Kingdom. When thinking of volunteering, teaching and orphanages usually come to mind – but there is far more. Volunteers are needed in animal shelters, mangrove and forestry conservation, off shore ecosystems protection and development, turtle preservation farms, aiding hill tribe children, rights for marginalized women and working with elephants to name but a few.
Many of the more scientific and specialized organizations will need volunteers who can bring some practical help or knowledge with them. For example, a group studying mangrove preservation would ideally prefer someone with experience in conservation or natural resources management. However this criteria only applies to a relatively few enterprises and is not to be taken as the rule of thumb.
Volunteering is not always free and in some cases quite costly. Some programmes will charge a fee. This is understandable if you are a charity as, apart from donations, there is no other income. Some, but not all will offer free accommodation and food.
The vast majority of volunteers to Thailand have a trouble free and life changing experience, but beware of scams. There have been reports in the past of bogus business’s and fake orphanages wanting early payment. Always do a little research, visit their website and contact them directly. Make sure you understand the terms and what is expected of you.
There are many places that do not charge and provide meals and housing. A comprehensive list of these can be found at www.volunteerworkthailand.org/
There are certain restrictions applied to most volunteer posts. The main one being length of stay. Again it can vary from one week to six months or even a year or more.
As thousands will testify, volunteering in Thailand is a rich and rewarding experience and certainly worth trying.
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