In recent years, Thailand has seen an influx of fabulous tourism trends, but perhaps our favourite by far is one that takes travellers beyond the usual holiday experience: ‘voluntourism’ and the chance to give back make for an enriched and rewarding stay in the Kingdom, and it can mean everything from teaching kids to walking dogs at an animal shelter and more!
In some places, even a few days of your time will help make a difference; though for the biggest possible impact, consider committing a few weeks or months and you’ll be filled with a renewed sense of purpose upon heading back home. Here are three of our favourite volunteering opportunities across Thailand…
Help the animals at Baan Unrak Thai Animal Sanctuary
You’ll leave your heart at this place forever: up in Sangkhlaburi, an off-the-beaten-track town nestled between jungle-clad mountains and scenic lakes near the Burmese border, Baan Unrak has saved thousands of animals since opening in 2009. Run by manager Denise and dog-whisperer Song, the shelter takes on the remote area’s sick and stray animals; from dogs and cats to goats and more!
To keep its clinic open, the shelter relies on volunteering professional vets (could you be a hero in the making?), though other daily tasks require no training at all: join a fun team of international travellers in walking dogs, cleaning enclosures, feeding all residents and, of course, providing plenty of playtime and cuddles whenever you’ve got your hands free! After a day’s work, volunteers usually go for a curry or spicy noodles before kicking back with a beer and a guitar on the volunteer house terrace. Put simply, Baan Unrak is magical – and it might even change your life.
Teach English through Volunteer Teacher Thailand in Khao Lak
Set up in the early 2000s, Volunteer Teacher Thailand’s single mission is to place native English speakers into disadvantaged schools in and around the dreamy Khao Lak region. Though versed in written English, local children rarely get the opportunity to practice speaking the language. A professionally designed curriculum and lesson packs give volunteers the chance to make pupils feel confident about their English skills and eventually use them to kick-start a career in everything from medicine to tourism and media.
The award-winning NGO drops its happy helpers off at a number of schools in the morning and picks them up in the afternoon – though there might be times when you’re required to teach at an island school, which entails staying on a tropical isle for a few days (yes, we know, it’s a tough job!). Wherever you end up teaching, one things is for sure: the kids can’t wait to meet you!
Assist in restoring mangrove forests with Mangrove Action Project
Following years of devastation of mangroves around the world, this organisation was set up in 1992. Almost three decades on, it comprises countless non-profits, scientists and, of course, volunteers. MAP’s Thai office, based in the southern city of Trang, gives helpers with some experience in conservation or natural resource management the opportunity to create lasting change within coastal communities across the country. Your tasks could revolve around anything from campaigning and fundraising to conducting research and doing fieldwork – it never gets boring!
Perhaps most amazingly, the long-term effects of mangrove regeneration (other than restoring the natural health of this crucial wildlife habitat), also include a more thorough local understanding of how to sustainably maintain the distinctive-looking forests and even open them up to small-scale tourism boating excursions that generate income for local communities… Who wouldn’t want to help out?