25 Aug Volunteering in Thailand
GADG: How did you like the experience of volunteering at Warm Heart Worldwide?
Volunteers: We loved it! Warm Heart Worldwide cares deeply about the rural community where they are located. Everyone working and volunteering there was knowledgeable about local issues, thoughtful about their approach, and were committed to making a positive and sustainable impact within the community.
GADG: What did you do during your day at Warm Heart Worldwide?
Volunteers: When we got there (after about 90 minutes on a bus from Chiang Mai), we met with the directors of the organization and learned about why the organization was founded and the challenges in the rural community where they are located. After touring the site, we spent a couple of hours helping with their biochar production program by harvesting dried cornstalks in a nearby field. [Biochar is a sustainable agriculture soil amendment]. It was fun to work alongside the youth who were helping out. After our work was done we all piled into the back of a pick-up truck overflowing with dried corn stalks. We laughed with our new Thai friends as we bounced along the road back to the Warm Heart Worldwide site. An English class that we were going to do in the afternoon with adults was cancelled, so instead we worked with youth from the Residential Children’s home on the computers in the Community Education Center. We shared online educational games with them and worked with them individually on math and English.
GADG: What was your favorite part of the experience?
Volunteers: One of our favorite parts was getting to learn so much about the organization and local community so quickly – things we weren’t learning from the guidebooks. We really appreciated that they gave us a lot of context about why the work they were doing was important. The issues are complicated – the rural areas lack infrastructure and resources, and the people in the Hill Tribes speak a different language and have limited access to education. Without educational opportunities, young members of Hill Tribes often have little choice but to work in undesirable and unsafe trades in Bangkok in order to support their families. Understanding these issues, and the ways that Warm Heart Worldwide is systematically creating interventions, connected us to our purpose for volunteering and the value of our donation. Ultimately the best part was spending time with the wonderful people at Warm Heart Worldwide, from the local youth to the international team of volunteers and permanent staff.
GADG: Did you feel like you were able to make a difference in just a day?
Volunteers: Yes! Volunteering for one day is like “interactive philanthropy.” We made a donation through our participation fee, we got to see and learn about the organization we were supporting, and had the opportunity to lend a helping hand. Warm Heart Worldwide does a very good job of getting long-term, high quality volunteers – there were 4 or 5 volunteers that were there for 3 months each. We felt good about the part that we played, but it was also very inspiring to see the directors and other volunteers who were dedicated for the long haul! There is some unpredictability inherent when working in a rural community, so part of the experience is letting go of expectations about what you think you should be able to accomplish in one day. Significant change happens slowly and our contribution was just a drop in the bucket. However, all the drops add up. By making our donation, and showing up eager to learn and work, we demonstrated to the local youth and to the organization that we cared.
GADG: Did you also have a good time?
Yes! It was one of the highlights of our trip! It was fun to feel like we were doing something that was off the beaten path and wasn’t touristy. It was really unique. We loved the opportunity for talking, laughing, and learning with everyone at Warm Heart Worldwide – connecting with others is the most meaningful part of any experience – especially when you travel.
GADG: Would you do it again?
Volunteers: Definitely. As a tourist in Thailand, you have to acknowledge that you are there having a fun vacation in a country where there are also a lot of hardships. Volunteering with Give A Day Global was an opportunity to do something to make a positive contribution, develop a better understanding of the community and culture, and not just lay on the beach! We will certainly seek out opportunities to volunteer with Give A Day Global on our next trip!We also interviewed the nonprofit host for their feedback about the experience.
GADG: How was it having our volunteers for a day?
Warm Heart Worldwide: They were terrific. They were interesting and interested. They were flexible – ready and willing to do anything to help out. We spent some time getting to know each other and identified a project for the day. They helped with our biochar, completed a project with our kids, and left behind a new teaching tool.
GADG: What was the most valuable part of the experience?
Warm Heart Worldwide: They both had depths of knowledge that we could pick their brains on. One of them is a doctor and we talked to him about a project we’re working on for testing blood glucose levels. The other volunteer is a teacher and we talked to her about educational curriculum. They’re bright professionals and it was great to use them as sounding boards. We valued their ideas, and we also appreciated their willingness to dive in and participate in our work!
GADG: Any other tips for future volunteers?
Warm Heart Worldwide: It’s really hard to plan here – sometimes things we’re planning may change at the last minute for all sorts of reasons. There’s always stuff to do, but flexibility is key.