Volunteering is a great chance to travel, explore the world, make a difference and meet new friends of course. All that can fit into your journey. What is more volunteering is not only good for your mind and body, but it also can advance your career.
The Isan area
Isan is the poorest area of Thailand. This is due to bad climatic conditions. In 2000 there were 20.8 M inhabitants in Isan and only 68% of the people have completed less than 7 years of formal education.
Many northeasterners in Thailand struggle to earn for a living from farming and make it extremely difficult during the dry season (November to July). Some areas are affected by drought for the whole year. In some areas there haven’t been rain for years, causing poverty to local families.
People in need
Many Isan people, who have no more job in their paddy fields, go to work as construction workers, hotel maids, taxi drivers and some girls as sex workers in Bangkok or elsewhere. Some say that Bangkok middle class is using the Isan poor farmers to become richer. The exact number of two millions Isan people are working in Bangkok. Still they don’t have enough money for all family members and children cannot study as high as it could be possible.
Ban Nong Phong village is one of many where villagers moved to work in bigger cities and left their children with grandparents. Local micro-enterprise investments are vital here to provide educational opportunities for the children.
Big companies also have played a role for the people in this region. Some industrialists have built salt farms in Isan. The salt is pouring in the neighbouring fields, going in other fields through rivers. In few years nothing can grow there. Furthermore farmers have to sell their land at low prices to these salt farms at the end. Other industrialists plant eucalyptus trees. These trees grow very fast and are used by paper factories, but the sode effect is that these trees spoil the soil by diminishing its quality.
V2T volunteering project
Community development projects are becoming increasingly popular among volunteering experiences all over the world. The concept is helping out a specific community, usually a village, it’s surroundings or social group.
Volunt2Thai program aims to create a better future for farmers and their families, especially for children in Ban Nong Phong village. To accomplish this goals volunteers teach kids english language and general knowledge about Thailand and world outside it. The creators of this project believe that insight into foreign cultures, a general understanding of the world, and education in foreign languages will contribute to their personal development.
Raimund, the founder of Volunt2Thai, is working in relation with Thailand for almost 30 years now. And 3 of those years are dedicated only for children in Ban Nong Phong village. Raimund has started Volunt2Thai project in the middle of nowhere in Thailand with a great idea to develope the living for villagers. His volunteering project attracts people from all over the world. In territory he works there are 1300 people and 360 of them are children. People worked as farmers here before, but now you cannot make enough money from it and people had to move to other cities. Basically all the villagers are grandparents and their grandchildren.
Raimund is a developer, manager and founder of volunteering project Volunt2Thai. He is honest, devoted and open minded which makes the project vulnerable. Volunteers who come to work in school with children play they own part in the project as well. Without teaching English, they teach them crafts, one of the volunteers now is a physiotherapist! Which is inestimable income into villagers life as there is no big hospital close to the village.
Volunt2Thai is committed to impact their local community through the education of children in Ban Nong Phong and 4 villages surrounding it. It means hard and dedicated work for volunteers. Despite that they feel experience gained here made them feel more happier and vulnerable.
No matter if you are a student taking a gap year or a professional, taking career break, you are guaranteed to find a volunteer project. You just need to make a research and read how to get good and ethical volunteer experience.
What volunteers say
Areef thinks Volunt2Thai gave him an opportunity to volunteer by contributing with his skills as a fashion designer. He is teaching children crafts at school. Volunteers help each other in classes and this way you can get more experience from one another. As Areef says they also cook and eat dinner together which makes them feel as a family. While he has already spent five months with other volunteers in this project. You would never get that anywhere at work! Where you usually just go to work, come back home and watch TV he says.
Working with kids is demanding, but it’s also rewarding. Volunteer Pierre says as a traveler he was looking for a place where he could feel useful. He was truly seeking for longer social interaction with people. Pierre is happy to help children and volunteering experience makes him feel good.
Another volunteer Karina is taking a gap from her stressful work in marketing field. While working with kids can be stressful sometimes, she learned how to deal with it and now she loves what she does here. She even thinks to volunteer as a teacher in Asia or somewhere else in the future.
You can make a donation for the project here.
All words by Eisve Treciakauskaite and all images by Justinas Lekavicius, unless otherwise noted.