Chiang Mai has a reputation among digital nomads and travel bloggers as a place to get work done but those without a laptop can also find ways to be productive. Whether it be a skilled hand or just a willing hand, the following organisations all welcome a little help in achieving their goals.
These NGOs, not for profits and, in some cases, businesses, can be found either in the city of Chiang Mai itself or in surrounding villages and towns.
COMMUNITY WORK & TEACHING ENGLISH
Thai Freedom House
This language and arts community learning centre in Northern Thailand assists refugees from Burma and members of minority groups of Thailand. Volunteers should be able to commit to a minimum of one month and can help out by teaching English, working in the office or in the café that helps to fund the project. Volunteers also help keep the project running with donations beginning at $350.
The Agape Home for babies with HIV/AIDS opened in May 1996 and now provides a loving family for over 80. Volunteers spend from six months to a year working alongside Thai nannies helping to care for the children.
Art Relief International
ARI works to transform the lives of struggling social groups in Chiang Mai by offering them the opportunity to express themselves through an artistic lens. Volunteers support almost every aspect of the organisation, working as grant-writers, office assistants, lesson plan developers, teachers, community artists, and everything inbetween. Applications are accepted via Cultural Canvas Thailand.
Baan Nok Kamin Foundation
I met a representative and a volunteer from this organisation during Chiang Mai’s Songkran celebrations and invited them to send over some information on what they do. They have a number of orphanages around the country, including Chiang Mai, and welcome help from volunteers with teaching English to the children at Baan Nok Kamin and also to their Thai employees. Other roles include building houses out of mud, organic farm projects and coaching sports. Volunteers pay 300 to 500 baht, depending on how long they stay, towards lodging and two meals a day.
Volunteers work in support of young single mothers who need emotional and educational support to help them move from crisis and poverty to steady jobs or continuing education after leaving Wildflower Home. English teaching, grant writing, construction, income generation and babysitting are some of the ways volunteers can get involved. Volunteers should commit to a minimum of four weeks and there is no fee to volunteer, though on-site volunteers will be asked to pay a small daily fee for room and board.
Child’s Dream is often looking for volunteers who would like to work in their Chiang Mai office (they also have an office in Siem Reap). The minimum stay is six months. Volunteers are also sought for on-site projects, of varying length, supported by Child’s Dream. Volunteers need to pay their own costs, including accommodation, and should be aged over 20. Current volunteer vacancies, along with some paid positions, are listed on their website.
Rain Tree Foundation
The focus of this social welfare organisation helping the poor in Thailand is on education, water projects and community projects. Long, mid and short term volunteers are required all year round to help out by teaching English, farming, building and with arts and crafts, music and drama and sports activities.
Foundation To Encourage The Potential Of Disabled Persons
Founded in 1993 to promote the health, education, employment, and dignity of disabled people in northern Thailand, self-funded, skilled volunteers are sought to help with their aims. At the time of writing the foundation is looking for physical or occupational therapists, Thai to English translators, qualified medical nurses and welders.
Atma Seva’s Wat Doi Saket Project is a cultural exchange programme where participants have the opportunity to live and teach English to Buddhist monks in northern Thailand. Fees, covering meals and lodging at either a Buddhist temple or home-stay, range from $700 for one week to $2400 for three months. A no fee volunteer option, suitable for people already in northern Thailand, is also offered.
This eco-tourism business can help with arranging volunteer teaching in Karen villages near Chiang Mai.
School for Life
School for Life is located in the mountains of Doi Saket, around 30 kilometres north of Chiang Mai. It provides a home and education to children in difficult circumstances. Volunteers take on a variety of roles including helping to teach English and German, and are asked to pay 240 Euros per month towards their food and lodging. Volunteers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are asked to attend an interview in person, otherwise a telephone interview is required.
The Chai Lai Orchid
This nature retreat nestled in the mountains near Chiang Mai is also a social business that works to promote sustainable tourism, kindness to elephants and helping at-risk women take the first step to get out of poverty. English teachers, doctors and nurses and creative are sought.
We Women Foundation
A small organisation with limited resources, We Women depend a lot on volunteers to keep going their programmes dedicated to empowering refugee women from Burma. Openings for volunteer one to one English tutors, and for paid admin staff, are advertised on their site.
Warm Heart Foundation
Serving a rural village in the Phrao Valley in northern Thailand, 89 kilometres from Chiang Mai, the Warm Heart Foundation posts numerous positions on their website including writers, managers, farm workers, fashion designers and physical therapists.
Habitat for Humanity
HfH works across the world, including in Chiang Mai and Thailand, to provide decent housing to people on low incomes. To date, they have built, repaired and rehabilitated over 8,800 houses across the country.
Cultural Canvas Thailand
On CCT’s Teaching English in Rural Schools Program, volunteers are placed in two local elementary schools in Chiang Mai to assist the Thai teachers in delivering English language instruction to children aged nine to 12. Programme fees include orientation, board and accommodation and start at $1500 for three weeks.
Care for Dogs Foundation
Grooming, walking, playing with the dogs, vet runs, administrative work or helping at fund raising events are some of the tasks undertaken by volunteer staff. CDF can help with arranging accommodation locally starting at 200 baht. Dale Davies and Franca Calabretta described their time volunteering with Care for Dogs on their blog.
Lanna Dog Welfare
Dog lovers are welcome to help with field sterilization, learn how to train and catch dogs, produce hand made products for sale and with fundraising activities.
Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation
Santisook need volunteers to help run their shelter for homeless dogs. Tasks range from giving the dogs a hug to selling merchandise at Chiang Mai’s Saturday Walking Market.
Save Elephant Foundation
Two projects are offered by Save Elephant Foundation to those wanting to get up close to these magnificent creatures. In the first volunteers pay 12,000 baht per week to enjoy up-close and intimate interactions with the 30+ elephants of the herd at Elephant Nature Park. The second programme, called Journey to Freedom, is more physically demanding and encourages Karen villagers to stop leasing their elephants to trekking camps and return them to the jungles of Northern Thailand. This programme costs 15,000 baht and is available from October to June
Elephant Nature Park
An elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre in Northern Thailand where you can volunteer and visit to help. The programmes and costs are the same as those offered by Save Elephant Foundation.
Chiang Mai Zoo
While looking on the Chiang Mai Zoo’s website the other day to see if they have pandas I not only found out that they do, but that they hire volunteer panda keepers. Volunteers must pay 5,000 baht, not including accommodation and meals, to work as a keeper for two days on Thursday and Friday or Saturday and Sunday.
ORGANIC FARMS & SUSTAINABLE LIVING
There are two ways to get involved with Sangob, a sustainable living and permaculture project in Mae Taeng near Chiang Mai. Volunteers stay a minimum of one week and will learn composting, planting, mulching and taking care of the animals. Volunteer contribute 2,500 baht for the first week and 300 baht per additional day towards accommodation and three vegetarian meals a day. There are also a limited number of intern positions lasting over six months.
Though shorter visits are possible, volunteers are encouraged to stay for two weeks or longer to get used to the Panya way of life and be more effective in your stay. A 2000 baht contribution is welcomed for a one week stay, with 250 baht expected each day after, falling to 125 baht per day after a month. Full time paid management positions are also advertised on their site.
Meaning Happy Healing Home in Thai, Baan Raska is a sustainable living project run by Jim, a Buddhist monk for 16 years and his wife Tea Kumsrisom who own the ten acres of the organic farm. In exchange for three or four hours’ work and a contribution of 150 baht a day they can offer you three meals, clean drinking water straight from the mountains, a private hut or a bed in the dorm.
Pun Pun Center for Self Reliance
A small organic farm, seed saving centre and sustainable living and learning centre. Volunteers help out with whatever work is happening seasonally, such as gardening, weeding, cooking or building, and are asked to contribute 350 baht per day.
Baan Rung Nok
Ryan, a ginger wine brewing photographer and Non, a natural builder, accept volunteers for Baan Rung nok (meaning Birds Nest House in English) via the WWOOF network.
Mindful Farmers in Chiang Mai
Mindful Farmers are still at the early stage with their project and welcome energetic people to join them working on their farm, 75 kilometres to the north west of Chiang Mai. Food and basic accommodation is provided in return for your efforts and 150 baht per day.
Phrao Organic Farm
This small certified “Organic Thailand” orchard in Ampur Phrao, 100 kilometres north of Chiang Mai, grows a wide variety of tropical fruits including guava, longan, passion fruit, mango, rose apple, papaya, banana and jackfruits. They accept volunteers via WWOOF.
Dr Tui’s Organic Farm
The organic farm page of Dr Tui’s Bed and Breakfast is currently under construction but progress on the project and volunteer dates are sometimes given on their Facebook page. Application should be made via WWOOF.
The Traidhos Three-Generation Community for Learning
There isn’t any information on volunteering on their site but Annie Allen’s article in the Chiang Mai Mail describes her time as a WWOOF volunteer in Mae Rim.
Green Net Organic Agriculture Center
Green Net is a Thai social enterprise working to link sustainable farmers and community enterprises with consumers. The centre employs a volunteer Organic Vegetable Seed Production/Processing Assistant. For a placement of one month volunteers are asked to contribute $200 toward food and lodging but this is waived for placements over two months.
OTHER & VARIOUS
Limeleaf Eco Lodge
This off-grid eco-lodge in the hills north of Chiang Mai recruits volunteers via Workaway (though none are needed until October 2013). Volunteers have a variety of options, including working with the Black Lahu hill tribe in the fields or in their village, building mud adobe house, making repairs, or helping the Limeleaf owners in running the camp.
Friends for Asia
Friends for Asia can place volunteers in varied short and long term volunteer projects in either Chiang Mai or Surat Thani. Volunteers can work at elephant camp, in an orphanage, teach English or take on medical or multi-media internships. Fees vary depending on the project.
Avril, a Burmese American resident of Chiang Mai, can help with volunteer opportunities in Southeast Asia. She also administers the Team Chiang Mai Facebook page that often lists locally based volunteer work.
A wealth of inexpensive volunteer options in Thailand can be found via VolunteerWorkThailand.org.
Numerous gap year and volunteer vacation organisations that can arrange volunteer work across Thailand for a fee can be found via Google but for cheap volunteer work options across Thailand please see our Free or Cheap Volunteering Abroad mini site.