There’s more to Thailand than full moon parties and buckets. We are given the privilege of travel, so why not give something back? By volunteering in Thailand you’ll immerse yourself in the country’s culture and really get to know the wonderful people of Thailand. Whether working with animals is your thing or you’ve always wanted to teach English, here are two fantastic ways to immerse yourself in Thailand…
Big shout out to our wise traveller Emma Moreton for telling us about her personal experience at the Elephant Nature Park… she was the one scooping the poop!
Volunteering with elephants
Where should I volunteer with elephants in Thailand?
The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a fantastic place to start. It’s a sanctuary for ill and injured elephants. The park is situated in a lush jungle a short drive outside of Chiang Mai and is run by a lady called Lek. She is a woman on a mission to rescue every mistreated elephant from the tourist and illegal logging trades. She’s trying to promote tourists to visit conservation projects and rehabilitation parks rather than go on elephant treks. The Elephant Nature Park allows you to interact with and admire the beautiful elephants without any cruelty or mistreatment. It is a safe space for elephants to roam freely and peacefully. They are able to walk around their natural habitat, with their herd, eating whatever they please without a hook or chain in sight.
What does a normal day at the park involve?
There are daily tasks performed on rotation, you’ll start the day by prepping tasty meals for the elephants, this involves washing and chopping fruit as well as preparing the very popular banana balls! Later, you’ll head out to a nearby field to cut corn to feed the elephants – it makes for a fun trip in the back of an open top truck, even funnier when the truck is full to the brim with corn and you have to sit on a corn mountain to get home!
Throughout the day you’ll help in general maintenance of the park, replacing fences and an obvious favourite… waste management! Everyday you’ll have to help clear the poo out of the enclosures and take it to the surrounding mountains to fertilise the land. Some elephants don’t stray far from there enclosures so like to come in and lend a hand with shovelling poop! In the afternoon the elephants will head down to the river for bath time, watch them splash about with each other in the water – SERIOUSLY adorable.
There’s loads of free time in evenings, relax after a hard day with a Thai massage and cold beer. The park also puts on lots of activities each night such as tea ceremonies, rubber tubes to go tubing down the river or visits to local schools to practice your Thai!
All of the elephants at the park have been rescued from a life of entertaining tourists or from the illegal logging trade, many are blind, injured or limp. There is a huge emphasis on the elephant’s care and freedom. It’s a wonderful place that fills you with hope for the survival of Asian elephants and is a truly eye-opening experience. Oh and there’s a dog sanctuary on site, full of the cutest puppies.
Teaching children in Thailand
Where should I teach children in Thailand?
Well what’s more ideal than teaching children at the beach? Koh Samui is a picturesque island on the east coast of Thailand, off the port of Surrathani. The island is a mix of buzz and pure relaxation, from the lively Chaweng Beach to timeless Bophut’s Fisherman Village. But there’s more to Koh Samui than its beautiful beaches, there are several large schools on the island. Between them they employ about 25-30 foreign teachers, so there’s plenty of opportunity to teach and it really doesn’t get much better than teaching on paradise island.
What does a normal day teaching involve?
You’ll work from Monday to Friday supporting children aged 5 to 12 years old with their English language skills. You’ll probably work about a 15 hour week, which may not sound like much but you’ll need lots of spare time to plan lessons and take part in after school activities, such as sports, arts & crafts and drama.
Typically you will teach between 9.00am and 3.00pm, working with a Thai teacher, assisting their lessons and improving their own English language skills. Your knowledge of British culture will be valuable as it gives students an idea of what life is like in the UK. Make the most of your lunch breaks, obviously because you’ll need a break but also because it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know the other teachers at the school. Take the opportunity to brush up on your Thai vocabulary!
But again there is plenty of free time at the weekends and after school. Take time to relax, nothing beats a hard day’s teaching more than chilling out on Chaweng Beach or kite surfing on Mae Nam Beach and it’s well worth getting a boat to Ko Taen for some of the world’s best snorkelling.
Also check out the neighbouring islands from the Elephant Gate, definitely visit the Buddha’s Magic Garden and take a peek at the mummified monk at Wat Khunaram. You can eat out so cheaply in Thailand, a delicious seafood dinner would be about £5! Plus there are LOADS of markets to grab cheap souvenirs and clothes for your mates back home.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding things you can do while travelling a country. You’ll get a full immersive experience of Thailand’s diverse culture. There’s nothing like the challenge of volunteering and living in a different in country, you’ll push yourself completely out of your comfort zone and it will be an experience that you’ll never forget.