How We Arranged Our Family Volunteering Placement in Thailand (and how volunteering with kids worked.)

We’re coming to the end of our month long volunteer teaching placement here in Sisaket Province. This post will give an overview of how we organised the placement and how it worked out volunteering with the kids (aged 6 and almost 3.)

rooster and temple

Our Local Temple (and alarm clock)

In 2004 we stayed at a resort on Koh Lanta and there we met Michael and Ae who are the founders of an organisation called Volunthai. At that time, Volunthai was placing college students but when we started thinking about doing some kind of volunteering as part of this trip I remembered them and looked them up. I was thinking they might be able to suggest a more suitable organisation for us, but I discovered that they were now placing more than just college students and had even placed families. I emailed Michael and asked if it would be an option for us and how it might work with the kids.

another class

Ed chills on the couch during a class

Michael’s response was encouraging and we went about submitting a formal application form. Once we were officially accepted we paid the fee and Volunthai started looking for a host for us. For our family of four it cost $USD930 for a one month placement. This fee covered our accommodation, all meals at home and school (we split bills if eating out), and Volunthai’s administration costs. It works out at about $30 a day.

We were in Malaysia when we got the exciting email from Volunthai telling us where we would be going and a bit about our host family. We then corresponded directly with our host by email to arrange our arrival. Before we went to the placement we met up with Oh from Volunthai (Ae’s sister) in Bangkok. Volunthai is a family business. Michael and Ae now live in the US and handle the application and initial liaison. Ae’s family in Thailand look after things here. Oh was able to give us a bit more of an idea of what to expect on our placement and some handy tips.

Lillian's school photo tour 12

Afternoon Assembly

If you’re interested in doing something like this it’d be a good idea to have a thorough read through the Volunthai website. They have a blog with lots of first hand accounts of people’s experiences which gave us a good idea of what we would be doing. You don’t need to be a teacher (although I’m sure it would help!) or have a tefl/tesol qualification. I think the most important quality to have is the ability to go with the flow. To be comfortable not always knowing what’s going on or what exactly you’ll be doing from one day to the next, or hour to the next! (Eg. Dave being led off to teach a class that turned out to be 100 kids in an open air auditorium.) For an over-planner like me it’s probably been a good learning experience! We began to call it our magical mystery tour. You also need to be comfortable giving up your independence to an extent. We relied on our hosts to drive us to and from school, order food for us, take us to the supermarket etc.

I would recommend using Volunthai if you’re comfortable with not a lot of hand-holding (we were here for two weeks before they emailed to check everything was ok. It was.) I’m sure there are more expensive organisations out there who might provide more by way of training but Volunthai has been great for what we were looking for. Our host family also take people directly through word of mouth (friends of local westerners or friends of previous volunteers).

How has it worked with the kids?

We spend all day at school, leaving home by 8am and returning around 5pm or later. Before we got here I was imagining that we might be able to duck home with the kids during the day if they needed a rest but it hasn’t worked out that way. The schools we have been teaching at are both a good 15-20 minute drive from the house so it’s just not possible to go back and forth, especially as we rely on others for lifts. This is a long day for the kids, but on the whole they’ve handled it well.

playing a game

Lil joins in with a game

After the first week here our host teacher organised our teaching schedule so that all our classes are in the mornings. It was pretty much impossible for me to help teach in the afternoons because when Ed gets tired all he wants is to be on me. So now after lunch Ed has a nap on his mat in the office while I sit next to him. We also use that time to lesson plan or help students with things like spelling practice. Dave and Lil usually go out and play or chat to students in the playground too.

Our kids are mostly in the classroom with us when we’re teaching. Sometimes Lil joins in with the lesson, sometimes they play quietly together, sometimes they beg for food every five minutes or want to be held (Ed), sometimes Lil reads a book, or they play on the ipod or one of our phones. It’s not always smooth, but team teaching comes into play when one of us has to focus on our kids for a bit.

view from our room

The view from our bedroom

The home stay side of things has been great with the kids. It helps that our hosts have a five year old boy. It also helps that Thai people seem to have a fairly relaxed approach to parenting. The kids were both very comfortable at home very quickly. Lil helps herself to food from the fridge and will happily go off to grandma’s house with our hosts’ son. Maybe one day in the future Lil or Ed can come back and visit by themselves, or we can host their son in Australia.

bell ringing

Bell ringing at a temple

All in all this has been an amazing experience for our family. At times it was exhausting and difficult, but always worth it. I know we will be talking about our time here for a long time to come.

Here is a little video I made for our host.


6 Responses to “How We Arranged Our Family Volunteering Placement in Thailand (and how volunteering with kids worked.)”

  1. 1 Wheres Sharon? (Sharon) September 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    That sounds great!! Definitely something I will have to file away in my brain as i want to get some ESL experience 🙂

  2. 2 Louise September 25, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Sounds like an amazing experience.

  3. 3 emmac30 September 30, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Love the video. The schools obviously worked out Dave was very capable to send him to a group of 100!
    Looks like fun & hard work, esp the being flexible bit. Well done!

  4. 4 Raising Explorers October 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Wow this is just the most amazing experience! I have seen a number of volunteering opportunities lately in Cambodia, which i would love to have taken up, but having kids, decided that’s something for down the track. Your post has got me thinking about doing something sooner. Thanks for sharing and stopping by my blog, because now I’ve found yours. Off to read some more!

  1. 1 List 47/52 – Family Accommodation in Thailand | The places we go Trackback on November 24, 2013 at 2:43 am
  2. 2 Six Months of Travel: Final Trip Stats and Costs | The places we go Trackback on February 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

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