Paying it forward
We here at CityNews have done some research and compiled a list of some volunteer organizations we’ve found to be particularly interesting, dividing them into thematic sections. If you like what you read, click on the hyperlink provided to learn more.
Know that this list is not exhaustive—there are so many great organizations doing good work in this city. We encourage you to do some research of your own and to leave comments in the field below about any organizations you’ve worked with or heard about!
Animals & Environment
An organization that provides hope for the abandoned, injured and abused dogs of Northern Thailand. Volunteers are needed to spend time with dogs in shelter, care for temple and street dogs, foster dogs and to provide transport and give mange shots.
Chai Lai Orchid is a social business and eco-resort located next to an elephant camp in Mae Wang, which provides paid training in the hospitality industry for local at-risk women. Specialized volunteers are needed for: mentoring community members in beekeeping; building a bat house, chicken coop and rabbit run; and turning a defunct swimming pool into a swimmable natural pond. For more info please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An organization that seeks to use tourism as a means to improve communities throughout Northern Thailand. Volunteers, referred to as guests by the website, will have an opportunity to experience and learn about the community and the environment through fun, “hands-on” activities led by local community guides. These activities include things such as jungle trekking, traditional fishing, natural dyeing and learning to cook local dishes. Local members of the community manage the groups of volunteers.
Panya is a natural building education center, which focuses on teaching individuals how to create and maintain sustainable homes. To create these homes, they use all natural materials, advertising on their website that a lot of their time is spent “playing with mud.” Volunteers and visitors are welcome, though they do require quite a bit of advanced notice because a lot of their time is also spent hosting schools and other large groups. Volunteers live on the premises and help to educate as well as to construct sustainable homes.
Children & Family
A non-religious, nonprofit organization devoted to building schools for children who wouldn’t normally have a chance to receive an education. Volunteers will spend their time teaching English classes, visiting local orphanages and refugee camps as well as helping to plan the construction of schools for hill tribe communities. Magical Light is most interested in volunteers who can commit for a long time. Lodging is provided, but it is an unpaid position that involves some travel outside of the city.
Kids Ark Foundation is a registered nonprofit organization with no religious or political affiliations committed to helping disadvantaged children whose lives have been affected by poverty and/or hiv/aids. Kids Ark works to keep children with their extended families in their villages while they continue with their education. Some of the children have no parents at home due to causes, such as hiv/aids, and may otherwise be at risk to be sent to an orphanage. In later years Kids Ark has expanded to provide after school programs and day care for children. Though they do not cite a specific volunteering need, they do accept donations and you can also help to sponsor a child in need!
Much like similarly named projects one might find in several Western countries, the Big Brother Project in Chiang Mai seeks to match disadvantaged youth with older mentors who might help to guide them through difficult situations using education and play as a means of connection. The organization seeks out volunteers who are ready to spend a significant amount of time with their new found partners in crime.
Child’s Dream is a charitable, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to empowering marginalised children and youth in the Mekong Sub-Region, which includes Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Initiatives of the organization range from health interventions for children to reduce child mortality, construction of educational facilities to provide universal basic education, youth employment centers to high school and university scholarships. Volunteers are readily welcomed in either the office in Chiang Mai or the office in Siem Reap. Typically, a stay of at least one full school semester (4-5 months) is required. The position is unpaid and housing is not provided.
Thai Freedom House is a non-government, not-for-profit, language and arts community learning center in Northern Thailand dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and members of minority groups of Thailand. They not only provide education in Thai, English, Shan and Burmese languages and the arts but also house a community resource center with information on where to find valuable resources for people in need. In addition, they have an on-site charity donation center where we collect and distribute used and new clothing, household items and more. These items are distributed into the community where they are needed most. They also run the popular Free Bird Cafe onsite, and all proceeds go back into the project.
Skill Center is a young nonprofit Project, located in Chiang Mai. Their major concern is to help disabled children by giving them free horse riding therapy. Their second concern is to help children from impoverished backgrounds receive training so that they might acquire well-paying jobs. Though they do not cite a specific need on their website for volunteers, if you are familiar with horses or horse riding therapy, it would certainly be worth it to contact the organization!
Agape Home is a home located in Chiang Mai that takes in children affected by HIV/Aids, either those living with the disease or those greatly at risk. The staff and its volunteers act as a family for 100+ children annually, working as teachers and mentors for the children. Volunteers are always needed, though the organization requires a minimum 6-month commitment. Volunteers live at the home with the children.
A nonprofit that works to prevent sex trafficking by empowering at-risk girls through education, training programs and scholarships. Volunteers are needed for: teaching English in the local Karen village, teaching workshops on the effects of pollution, and designing reworked garments made from traditional handcraft elements. For more info please email email@example.com
COSA House is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of human trafficking and child exploitation through education and community empowerment. The home is located outside of Chiang Mai, where both volunteers and children live. Volunteers spend time engaging with the children through English classes as well as community outreach projects. COSA House requires a minimum 6 week commitment, but volunteers can stay on for at least a year. To maintain the household and the organization, volunteers must pay a small fee.
A grassroots, faith-based organization made up of a community of individuals dedicated to making noise regarding boys who are victims of trafficking and exploitation, Urban Light regularly seeks out volunteers to help teach English classes as well as to act as mentors for the boys. The position is unpaid and housing is not provided, but their location near Tha Pae gate makes housing readily accessible.
A home located outside of Chiang Mai that provides shelter and other services to single mothers. Volunteers are readily welcomed and help with tasks as varied as construction, English teaching, garden work and grant writing. Wildflower Home requires a 4 week minimum commitment from its volunteers and can provide room and board at the home, with a small fee.
The We women foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, promotes the education and well-being of unrecognized refugee women from Burma. The Foundation targets women whose passions, goals and motivation implicate them as future leaders of Burma. We women provides a much needed service to women from Burma by offering them the opportunity to succeed in higher education. The long-term aim of the We women from Burma project is to assist unrecognized refugee women into obtaining higher positions within policy making or influential organizations, so that they can empower women and their communities, in their own terms as policy making positions are still often held by outsiders. The organization is currently looking for volunteers with administrative skills who speak fluent English and have education experience.
After much internal strife within the country, The Women’s League of Burma (WLB) was established on December 9, 1999 with the aim of increasing the participation of women in the struggle for democracy and human rights, promoting women’s participation in the national peace and reconciliation process, and enhancing the role of the women of Burma at the national and international level. Though they do not cite specific volunteer needs on their website, their programs are extensive and often involve other organizations with volunteer needs.
The Migrant Learning Center has been operating in Chiang Mai for migrant workers from Burma since October 2005. The center offers Thai Language, English Language, Burmese Language and Computer training. Anybody regardless of race, gender, age, language, education, religion, political belief and social background are free to take these classes and pay no tuition. Volunteer teachers are always needed and email contacts are provided on the home page.
BSC operates a lending library of books, reports, and documentary films about Burma and Southeast Asia, offers free English and computer classes for migrants, and coordinates community information-sharing/awareness-raising events. Volunteers who are based in Chiang Mai for at least a few months are sought to help with our teaching programs, and also to contribute news, human interest articles, and book/film reviews for our newsletter and website.
Art Relief International is an organization that uses art as a means to impact social change through art therapy and art education. The organization is located in the Old City and is always looking for volunteers: grant writers, musicians, artists, writers, teachers, therapists, etc. Though a volunteer might spend a few days in the office each week, much of their time will be spent visiting and working with other organizations throughout the city.
This nonprofit gallery and learning center seeks to advance visual literacy and support underrepresented documentary artists throughout Asia. Volunteers with the organization are needed to help build DAA’s new center in Chiang Mai by making adobe bricks.
This organization’s goal is to use ART as a tool for underprivileged children and communities to express themselves; to transform and transcend their environment. Volunteers at Art Speak believe that something as simple as a colourful wall mural, a simple little painting on the wall, a communal playground with art randomly placed, a painted post box or dustbin can bring smiles and a sense of ownership to disadvantaged children and adults. To contact them directly about volunteer opportunities, click here.