Frequently Asked Questions
About Thai Freedom House:
Why are you called Thai Freedom House but you work with refugees from Burma?
Because we are based in Thailand and in fact, our first learning center location was started in our founders home, therefore, it made sense to call it Thai Freedom House. Our aim is to provide access to the only true freedom that many of our students will know, that of their mind, to dream, create, imagine and learn.
Who started Thai Freedom House?
Read about our founder, Lisa Nesser here.
Who does Thai Freedom House serve and how?
Read more about our goals and mission statement here.
How can I help?
How long is a volunteer placement?
If you are going to work directly with our students in the classroom, we require a 6 week minimum commitment. This is with the best interests of our students in mind—we don’t like to change over teachers very often, as it disrupts the flow of learning in the classroom.
If you are applying to work in our office as admin or general support, we require a 4 week minimum commitment. When you arrive we will put together a work plan that takes into account your particular interests, experience and goals that match our current needs and set a timeline for completion.
If you are applying to do a one time workshop or short program with clearly defined goals and results, it is possible to come for one day but the proposal must be submitted in advance through our volunteer application form.
How many hours a week am I required to work?
This too depends on your availability, commitment and our current needs. Our large group classes take place in the evenings, with different classes on different days. If you are coming as a full time volunteer, expect to work roughly 40 hours a week. This is not a ‘volunteer vacation,’ expect to work as if you are at a paid job. Your time will be divided between office work, helping out in our social enterprise charity shop and cafe, tutoring students or teaching the group classes—basically whatever needs to be done. It is also possible to sign up for part time volunteering which would be roughly 15-20 hours a week.
Some volunteers come in for very specific, shorter amounts of time. For instance, a tutor for our university bound students may come once or twice a week for two hours each time or a volunteer may come for one afternoon a week to help sort donations for our distribution center. Some volunteers work entirely from a distance, helping with graphic design, content creation or curriculum development based on a predetermined work plan.
Do you have teaching materials available?
When you teach group classes or tutor small groups of our students, you are usually responsible for creating your own lesson plans, but we have a plethora of resources available to you in our Teacher Resource Center and these days there is a lot of great information online.
Our classrooms are stocked with basic school and art supplies to support your lessons. We have large white boards and small ones for individual use, and each student has a folder, notebook and writing utensils. We also have a small student library with storybooks in English, Thai and picture books.
Do I need to have teaching experience?
Absolutely not. Just as you are most likely not a professional teacher, our students have usually never been in a formal school setting. The most important things you can bring to the experience are your motivation to impart useful knowledge to our students, with a flexibility and determination to prepare lessons reflective of the students’ needs.
What are class sizes and ages of students?
If you are teaching in our evening group classes, depending on the term, there may be between 12-25 students in your class. When the groups get big we try to have two teachers in each classroom at a time. If you are tutoring, you may be working one on one or in a smaller group of older students. You may tell us your preference but you will be assigned wherever the most need is at the time.
Our students are aged 8 to adult. The reason that we have so many teen and adult students is that many of them were denied any access to education in their hometowns and upon arriving in Thailand weren’t allowed to enroll in public schools. People from their culture and economic status often start working at age 10, so if they find the courage and time to come and study with us later in life we consider it a great opportunity.
Our classrooms are divided based on similar ability levels rather than age. This ensures a very communal, family style learning environment and support system for each other.
What if I am not interested in teaching but have other skills to offer?
You are absolutely welcome! We have many needs: from graphic design, curriculum development, product development, copywriting, research, outreach work, translation and workshop leadership to professional development, sharing your skills and experience with our staff and much more.
Why do I need to pay to do volunteer work, where do my fees go, what do I receive?
The donation for volunteering with Thai Freedom House is $350USD and is to be paid upon placement confirmation so that we can make arrangements for you. It includes an orientation to Chiang Mai, two day orientation about our programs and the current situation in the region. You will come away with an understanding of how and why the people we serve come to be refugees, how we provide services to them and how our social enterprises work.
There is an emergency contact phone number for family at home and for you to use while here.
We will spend time with you to develop a plan and timeline for your work goals while with us that correlate with our current needs and your experience and interests.
The exchange is to ensure that volunteers take the commitment seriously and are as invested in the results as we are. You will leave your placement with us being able to say in exactly what ways you supported and enhanced our programs which is wonderful for enhancing resumes and CVs. Even more so, you will leave with a true sense of connection, understanding and community here in Thailand that you will have become a part of.
Do you offer visa assistance for volunteers?
No, at this time we are unable to assist you in any way with obtaining a visa. You must apply in your own country, before coming.
What should I bring with me?
Usually, anything that you will need is easily available here in Chiang Mai:
- Toiletries, including sunscreen and mosquito repellant are easily found at Tesco, Boots or other convenience shops and are usually less expensive than at home.
- There are pharmacies on virtually every corner for first aid and basic medicine, but if you have a prescription from a Doctor at home, it is best to secure enough for the total length of travel beforehand.
- Clothing is very affordable and easily available, but if you wear larger than a size 8 (USA) or are exceptionally tall, you should make sure you bring enough clothing for your visit as they can be hard to find. The same with shoes larger than size 9 (USA) and bras or underwear that would be considered size Medium or Large at home.
- Second hand bookstores are readily available,inexpensive and sometimes returnable for store credit.
To bring from home:
- If you have a laptop,iPad, or other portable computer device you may want to bring it for personal work and even for your own convenience when working in the office. We have some rather outdated computers for use in the office but they can be slow and frustrating at times. Wifi is available all over the city, in our office and in your accommodation for use on a computer or smartphone.
- We recommend that you bring your own phone for wifi, taking photos, etc. Please turn off your data plan when you arrive and before coming alert your local phone service carrier that you will be traveling. You can download apps like LINE, WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger for communicating with those at home.It is always wonderful if you can take a look at our Urgent Needs (LINK) and see if there is anything that you can bring from your home country.
- In addition, our students love to see photos of your family, pets, home, hometown, etc. You may wish to print or bring along some things to show them or small gifts for when you leave.
Do I need to worry about tropical diseases? What if I get sick?
There is always concern for Dengue Fever, a mosquito born illness that causes a high fever and can cause dehydration and in the worst case, require a blood transfusion. Wearing mosquito repellent at all times is an excellent deterrent to this.
You may get food poisoning or an upset stomach because of the different spices and ingredients that you may not be used to. In that case, you can easily get electrolytes, antibiotics and plenty of rest to get get you back on your feet.
If you fall ill while volunteering with us, we will make sure that you get the prompt medical attention that you require, bring you food or medicines and make you as comfortable as possible.
There are many Western standard clinics and hospitals in the city of Chiang Mai and even more alternative medical practices, including Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, various forms of massage, reiki and non traditional healing given by experienced professionals at affordable prices.
What happens after I apply to volunteer or intern?
After filling out the application here, expect to hear back from us within two to three weeks to schedule a phone interview by audio skype or in person if you are currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand. From there, we will process your application, answer any further questions, and if you are accepted, move forward with sending your orientation materials.