As the sun sets over the water in the Gulf of Thailand, you sip your Mai Tai, feel the sand between your toes and think to yourself “How did I get so lucky?”
Hundreds of thousands of travellers visit these same islands in Thailand every year, living it up due to the favourable exchange rate and cheap price of hotels, food and alcohol. And although our tourist dollars do help boost the local economy, a large portion of Thailand is still rural and poverty-stricken.
Many of us experience that uncomfortable feeling of “traveller's guilt” when faced with a glimpse of this degree of poverty, but not enough of us stop to ask ourselves how we can give something back to the country.
Thailand has some long-standing social and economic programs that create a high demand for volunteers. Volunteering can show you a side of Thailand that most tourists miss out on, and give you a deep and meaningful, cross-cultural experience.
You can volunteer for any number of projects in Thailand, from helping at an orphanage, fundraising or helping disadvantaged women. You may also assist with construction projects, work on a conservation project or even organise craft and sport activities for children. You will need a valid visa or work permit even if the work you do is unpaid, and it is likely that you will have to pay a fee as well as pay for your food and accommodation. Be wary of scams where organisers charge large sums to arrange a volunteer opportunity – the money will not necessarily go to the people you are trying to help.
For more information about volunteering in Thailand and finding suitable contacts, visit Thai Big Job.
You don’t have to be a teacher to teach English in Thailand; being a native speaker is enough. Learning English is increasingly important for the poor people in Thailand, as English skills will open job and study opportunities that wouldn’t be available to them otherwise. Students learn best through conversation and practicing their English, however, many rural areas in Thailand have very little exposure to foreigners.
Thailand’s national animal is the elephant; however, sadly there are no laws to prevent the abuse and mistreatment of these majestic creatures. There are a number of Elephant Nature Parks throughout the country where you can volunteer for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with them. You will be taught everything you need to know: how to wash and feed the elephants, collect food, take them for a swim and clean their enclosures.
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