FAQ

Questions by prospective volunteers.

How long is a volunteer placement?

A minimum of one month is required to make the experience beneficial to both you and the students. However, you are welcome to stay as long as you like. A typical placement is 6-8 weeks.

How many hours a week am I required to work?

This really depends on what type of placement you have.  If you are coming as an intern we can work out your office hours depending on our needs at the time.  If you are coming as an ESL teacher you will be required to teach your own class two evenings a week and be an assistant to the local teachers the other 3 evenings a week.  Your day schedule is flexible and depends on our needs at the time, however you will definitely have office hours doing administrative assistance.  We run a small Café on site to raise money for the school and you may have a few hours a week working there as well.
The classes take place from 5:30-8:30pm Mon-Fri.  The time before and after class can be used for cleaning and arranging materials and planning lessons.  Even when we have other teachers on the premises, you are required to be there lesson planning and doing other tasks that may be needed to be done in the office.
There may be times on the weekend that you are needed to help with a school related function as well.
Although this is a full time job placement, you will have plenty of time to explore the exciting sights and nightlife of Chiang Mai.

Do you have teaching materials available?

All of your classroom supplies are provided; notebooks, pencils, art materials.  We also have a great number of teaching materials such as flashcards, books, English games and teaching reference books.  We have an official Freedom House curriculum as well which you are required to follow, if you are a creative teacher there is plenty of room to add supplemental materials.  This can be a challenging task at first but you will get the hang of it and there are many resources on-line to assist you as well.

Do I need to have teaching experience?

Absolutely not, what you must have is positive motivation.  If you really want to help these children who have nowhere else to get education and may not have even been to school before, you will get along fine.  Just as you may not have experience teaching, the children do not have experience being students, so you are both learning together.

What are class sizes and ages of students?

The school is a very small grassroots effort with numbers not exceeding 30.  There are two to three classes going on at all times, the students are grouped by ability and the age range is 5-adult.  You may be able to choose which class you teach but most likely you will be placed where most needed at the time.

What if I am not interested in teaching at all but have other skills to offer; community development, art, technology skills?

Great!  We have all kinds of things going on here including but not limited at arts classes, community art workshops, creative recycling ideas, community gardening, mural painting and much, much more.  You are certainly invited to offer up your skills and suggestions for improvement.  You may propose a short or long-term project before you come to see if it may be useful here.

We also have a Café on site where we offer coffees, vegetarian food, bakery items and fruit shakes, your input there is welcome as well.

Why do I need to pay to do volunteer work, where do my fees go?

Good question, one I asked myself when I was out doing volunteer work on my own.  The fact is that small grassroots organizations cannot survive without regular funding and cannot secure regular funding without going through lengthy, costly legal procedures.  At Thai Freedom House we have chosen not to be affiliated with any Government or Religious Organization and therefore remain independent in our operations and curriculum.  Because of this it is very hard to get funding and in the past, I, the founder have completely funded the school myself.  Since I can no longer do that I am turning to my volunteers to help keep the doors open so there is somewhere for you to come and make a difference.  Without your funds the school would close.

Your funds go to the daily running of the school; rent, electric, water, Internet, school materials and teaching supplies, daily snack of milk and fruit for the children and incidentals like cleaning supplies and toiletries.  Basically, your donation goes into our general budget, which is always in a negative balance as what you pay per month is not enough to cover our expenses completely.  We are not making ANY profit on your donation.

What is included in my accommodation?

-Pick up and transfer to and from the airport.
-A basic Thai style accommodation, downstairs in the school (the children are only there a few hours a day when you are teaching).  There is no air conditioning (most houses do not have air) but fans are provided and quite sufficient.  You have full use of the kitchen that is also used for our Cafe including an gas stove top, oven, hot water pot and other basic appliances.  The toilet is open to the public in the morning at the Café and cleaned daily by our student/staff (it was just remodeled).  I think you will find eating out in Thailand very enjoyable and affordable, you can have a delicious meal for a dollar or two (there is a popular cooked and fresh food market around the corner).  If you want to eat western food it is easily available although a bit more expensive than Thai food (also around the corner).
-A Thai culture and language introduction.
-A Thai Language phrase book.
-An orientation tour of Chiang Mai to get your bearings.
-A trip to the local market to explain the various types of food.
-Use of a bicycle for transportation.
-Basic teacher training; how to write a lesson plan and so forth.
-Use of a laptop for lesson planning.
-Free wireless internet at the school/café.
-A telephone with a Thai SIM card for your use.
-An experience that will look great on your resume and bring you a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment.

What should I bring with me?

Everything you will need is easily available in Chiang Mai.  When I first came I brought cans of shaving cream thinking I would not be able to get it here!  I laugh now because it was such a silly waste of space. Toiletries are easily found and much cheaper than at home, we even have Boots (an English version of Walgreens) and Tesco (an English version of Wal-Mart) there are pharmacies on every corner where you can buy medicines and other necessities (without a doctors prescription).

Clothes are very affordable and easily available but a note that if you are over a size 8 or exceptionally tall you should bring a few pair of pants or shorts with you, as bottoms tend to run small.  Bras and underwear for the more shapely can also be hard to find.  I wouldn’t worry about fancy shoes as everyone wears cheap, comfortable flip-flop sandals everywhere, (even out to clubs).  Note:  If you plan on hiking a comfortable pair of runners is sufficient.
If you like to read, don’t worry, there are many used bookstores here with books typically costing about 5USD and sometimes returnable for store credit.  They are available in many languages.
If you have a laptop computer you may wish to bring it for your personal use but we do have a computer available for use at the school and there are Internet café’s everywhere for about 1USD/hr and free WIFI at school.
If you have a cell phone that you want to use while here you may bring it and I will provide you with a Thai SIM card for use while you are here.
You may want to bring some personal photographs to show the kids and people that you meet; they are very interested in what your home and family looks like.  Also some souvenirs from your country are nice to leave behind for the school.  You also may want to bring some English teaching games if you find any, we are always looking for new materials and there are not many of good quality available in Thailand.

Do I need to worry about tropical diseases? What if I get sick?

The simple answer is no.  Before you travel anywhere in the world I would get a Hep A and Hep B Vaccination (you may have one already).  Otherwise you need not worry in Thailand.  If you go to some more remote areas, jungle areas of the Burmese border or some islands you are at risk for malaria, in Chiang Mai the risk is almost null.  Of course you should always apply mosquito repellant when you go out, I find the most useful one a local brand made of lemongrass extract, which is easily bought here.

I also brought medicines from my doctor at home, which duly expired from lack of illness.  If I had gotten sick I didn’t know that I could easily buy what I needed from a local pharmacy.  If you get very sick you can drop into Chiang Mai’s excellent Chiang Mai Ram Hospital, with no wait at all and visit a Doctor and get the appropriate care very cheaply.  You can also go there without appointment for routine checkups, dental care and various other ailments, the quality of care and service is up to Western Standards.
That said, there are also excellent alternative medicine clinics available, a world-class standard Chinese medicine clinic, Aruvedic treatment centers and various forms of massage, reiki and non-traditional healing given by experienced professionals at affordable prices.

 

Useful Links:

News about Burma:

http://www.irrawaddy.org/
http://mizzima.com/
http://english.aljazeera.net/

News about Thailand:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/

Information about Thailand:

http://search.lonelyplanet.com/search.do?Ntt=Thailand&x=0&y=0

Information about Chiang Mai:

http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/
http://www.chiangmainews.com/

Information about visas for Thailand (which you are responsible for):

http://www.thaivisa.com

Information about Thai Freedom House:  PLEASE READ ALL OF THIS INFORMATION BEFORE VOLUNTEERING

Story about the founder 0f Thai Freedom House

Twitter account for Free Bird Café that supports Freedom House

Freedom House YouTube Channel

Video online from a fundraiser event in Thailand

Story about Thai Freedom House in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Story about Thai Freedom House in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

 

If you wish to apply to volunteer, please fill out our volunteer application form.

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