“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Volunteer work, has always been on my Bucket list, and in November 2013, I finally went through with it and signed up with www.volunteerhq.org/ teaching English in Northern Thailand, Chiang Rai with an organisation named ‘The Mirror Foundation’.
If you’re fortunate enough to speak English, you are luckier than a lot out there. It is a universal language is it not?
Many people don’t have the privilege or advantage as we do, being able to write, read and speak, so if we get the chance to give back to a community, we should!
After miraculously arriving to Chiang Rai, and being VERY late. I was the last one to arrive at the Mirror foundation grounds, with a group of 25, all already there.
It’s a beautiful setting, with so much greenery, a lake, a chill out area and hammocks. Very natural, and peaceful, it instantly felt like home.
At this program, everything is included. Accommodation (very basic), transportation and all your meals. You also get the weekends off (after going to the orphanage on Saturday morning) where you can choose to explore the area, or in our case go into town!
One notably memorable part of this program, was the homestay to two different villages.
Although it was a little pricey, I had never volunteered before and wanted to do it with a well known organisation. I raised the money through GoFund Me, and I really think it’s a great way to raise awareness of what you’re doing, whilst helping you financially.
If you have never volunteered before, it can feel a little daunting. So here are my personal tips for your pre-volunteer mission:
- Flexibility is the key. You may spend endless hours on lesson planning, and you get to your class and what you’ve planned just isn’t working. BE FLEXIBLE. Have several back up options, and games up your sleeve to cater for different levels.
- Plans do change. In my time at the mirror foundation, there were days where classes were cancelled abruptly, or they needed volunteers to go on home stays to remote areas. These things happen constantly, and you have to be prepared to go with the flow, and do the best you can in the given situation.
- Buy some stickers, stamps, or souvenirs from your country of origin. KIDS LOVE THEM, and you are helping out the organisation with their supplies!
- Embrace the culture and kids. You won’t meet a group of kids, who are more appreciative of your time anywhere else in the world than in Asia. These kids in Thailand, and surrounding Asian countries, love foreigners, and love learning, so embrace it all and just be silly with them if you get the chance.
- TEFL Course: Although I never personally did one, I wish I had. In a lot of countries, it’s usually enough to have a degree, but depending on where you want to teach it helps to have done a TEFL. (It also allows you to brush up on your grammar, and learn some teaching methods)
Volunteering was a truly rewarding experience, and I will definitely do it again one day. If it’s your first time, I recommend going with a well known organisation, to get the feel of it. You also get to meet some amazing people, locals and kids who will put a smile on your face!
A few sites that can help you find volunteer work or teach English in other countries;