Disclaimer: TakeMeTour is not affiliated with any of the organizations mentioned below. This article aims to provide ideas for those looking to volunteer in Thailand. We did, however, had a hands-on experience with one of the organizations and can thus recommend it from our personal impression.
While you don’t have to pay to volunteer at any of the places on this list, you’ll have to pay for your accommodation and meals (depending on each organization’s policy).
In spite of Thailand’s jaw-dropping beauty, our country still has a long way to go when it comes to social inequality and stray animal problems. Ten of thousands of kids still don’t have access to education, and a larger number of stray animals still have to roam and fend for themselves on the streets. Worse yet, orphan is also an ongoing crisis here.
On a brighter side, myriads of organizations are working hard to change that. The thing is, we realize a lot of them charge volunteers a fortune and not everyone can afford that. We also want to provide alternative volunteer ideas besides the famed ethical elephant sanctuaries.
Don’t take us wrong, we love elephants as much as you do. But as locals, we can say there are other countless lives in great need, too. Let’s give them a helping hand while you’re in Thailand with these 5 ethical, non-profit, and sustainable activities.
Volunteer in Thailand: 5 Free and Sustainable Activities by Non-Profit Organizations (Beyond Elephant Sanctuaries)
1. Mercy Centre (Bangkok)
Thailand is full of slums. The biggest one in Bangkok is Klong Toey, which is only a 10-minute ride from the glitzy Asoke and Phrom Phong areas. To help the Klong Toey kids, Mercy Centre has since 1972 been trying to give them basic education and healthcare that they otherwise would have zero or very poor access to. The non-profit organization also provides shelter for the orphans, improves family welfare and combats the AIDS crisis – one of the major grim reapers in the slums.
Their goal is to give the slum residents an opportunity to find a job in the outside world – where they generally are considered unqualified and are looked down on.
Mercy Centre welcomes language teachers (English, Japanese, and Chinese) as well as art and math teachers. Volunteers are required to spend at least 2 months on the job. This will help them get to know the kids (and vice versa) better and create truly sustainable work.
Visit Mercy Centre website, here.
2. Courageous Kitchen (Bangkok)
Courageous Kitchen focuses on helping children suffering from malnutrition and lack of education in the most creative way. They teach the kids culinary skills, but also host cooking classes for visitors and use the raised money to help those in need. So yes, you can help by just joining their classes and learn the secrets behind your favorite Thai dishes.
In addition, if you’re in for long-term volunteering (3 months minimum), you can teach the kids at their Saturday School.
Visit Courageous Kitchen website for more info, here.
3. Baan Unrak Thai Animal Sanctuary (Sangkhlaburi District in Kanchanaburi Province)
Since 2007, this donation-based animal sanctuary has been caring for abandoned and hurt dogs and cats. They currently have around 30 dogs and provide free treatment for animals in the area. They also occasionally (budget and staff permitting) go out to do the sterilization on stray dogs in the rural area nearby.
We volunteered here for a week and personally cannot recommend this animal shelter enough. All the animals look very happy and healthy. The place is well-organized, clean (for an animal shelter), and run with love. Plus, it’s located in a green and serene small town like Sangkhlaburi, where a wooden bridge will take you to Myanmar. Everyday we would walk, feed, bathe, or comb the dogs and clean their cages.
Visit Baan Unrak Thai Animal Sanctuary website, here.
4. Lanta Animal Welfare (Koh Lanta Island in Krabi Province)
To start with a personal note, this animal shelter is also on our to-volunteer list. They aim to end the homeless animal crisis, take in sick or injured dogs and cats, as well as sterilize street animals. They’ve neutered more than 15,000 animals since 2005. What we find very sustainable about the organization is that they also try to educate the locals on the great importance of animal welfare, especially sterilization.
Visit Lanta Animal Welfare website, here.
5. The Dog Rescue Center Samui (Koh Samui Island in Surat Thani Province)
Koh Samui is deemed ‘paradise’ for both locals and travelers. However, that’s not really the case for the resident dogs and cats on the island. Like anywhere in Thailand, stray dogs and cats get sick and eventually suffer a slow and painful death on the street.
The Dog Rescue Center Samui has been saving four-pawed lives for 19 years now. They take in both dogs and cats to sterilize, vaccinate, cure and try to find them a forever home. Of course, there are those who aren’t up for adoption or haven’t found a loving crib. They are spending their days at the shelter and this is where your help will be much appreciated.
Visit the Dog Rescue Center Samui website, here.
We hope our list of free and sustainable activities by non-profit organizations help you find an opportunity to volunteer in Thailand without breaking your bank. Volunteering at an elephant sanctuary is great, but if you have time for longer-term volunteer activities, do consider the activities listed above.