ASIA is filled with volunteering opportunities for those that feel they want to contribute to a part of the world that is still developing.
Voluntourism has become a big part of the travel business and opportunities can range from teaching English to orphans, to helping endangered species or even working in a newsroom.
Whether you go through one of the large companies out there today (ProjectsAbroad, i to i, Peace Corps etc) or another private arrangement do consider if the project is of real benefit to the local community, if you are best suited for it and how much of the money actually goes into the community.
While utilising an organisation can be handy for setting up arrangements and finding positions they can be expensive and some are simply profit making exercises. NGOs and community groups that put the funds back into the community are the best option and way of contributing. There are also plenty of opportunities that don’t have to cost big bucks, they just might require a little more groundwork.
The website Free Volunteering lists a lot of Asian volunteering opportunities that are either low cost or free.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai remains one of the most popular places to volunteer in Thailand because it has all the facilities you want from a city but with village life and remote countryside just a few kilometres away. There’s also plenty of shopping, trekking, active and other cultural diversions during your time off. There are a wealth of volunteer opportunities here that include teaching monks, bathing elephants at a camp or working with the mahouts in other ways, teaching English to hill tribe children, assisting at HIV orphanages or working as interns in hospitals.
Agencies to contact to set up these opportunities include:
Friends for Asia
Elephant Nature Park
Take Me to Volunteer orphanage
Travel to Teach
Rustic Volunteer Travel
Gap Year in Asia
Teaching English remains the number one volunteer opportunity in Cambodia as the nation continues to rebuild after years of civil war. The education system is crying out for native English speakers and there are even paid opportunities available – although this may amount to littlemore than covering your expenses. The more prestigious the school however ,the more you will be paid.
khmer440 is an online community for those living, working and teaching in Cambodia that that might help you with some ideas. Alternatively try NGOs, Christian organisations, Home of English and international schools, Conversations with Foreigners. TEFL, ESL and TESOL job boards will also advertise jobs. While there are a lot of schools in Phnom Penh, there are private schools in every province. See Free Volunteering for some other options.
The City of Joy remains a great place for travellers to contribute to the needs in the city (health, poverty, homelessness, sickness etc), particularly through Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity. The Sisters continue to take on volunteers who can contribute for a day, week, month or year. There is no set time to your commitment.
No appointment is required before you arrive but you do need to attend an orientation session at 3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The usual procedure for volunteers is to attend mass (optional) at 6am, have a basic breakfast and disperse for work by 7.30am-8am. There are morning and afternoon sessions but you don’t have to go to both.
Volunteers do not pay anything but are expected to find their own food and accommodation – most end up in cheap hotels on Sudder Street. Working with the Sisters is an incredible experience but it can be challenging. Health conditions in the homes are not ideal and the Sisters are understaffed. While the volunteers contribution is but a drop in the ocean, it is appreciated. Come with an open mind and be prepared to be challenged.
There are plenty of other opportunities to volunteer in Kolkata or other parts of India. See Free Volunteering.
Health and education are the main focus of the volunteer programs in Nepal. Forty-two percent of the population live below the international poverty line and many children leave school to work to support their families. Volunteer and internships offer the opportunity to engage in child care at orphanages and development centres, teaching English in schools and monasteries, health care services, construction, manual work, child and women’s rights and more.
Some organisations to consider include:
Volunteeringnepal (teaching, empowerment, child care)
Volunteer Nepal (Nepal Orphans Home and medical placements in hospitals and remote clinics)
INFO Nepal (teaching English, health and sanitation, environmental awareness and local community projects)
Volunteer Society Nepal (schools, orphanages, monasteries, hospitals and health clinics, construction, disabilities and more)
Muscular Distrophy Nepal (health professionals for disabled children)
Teach Nepali Kids – non for profit orphanage in Pokhara
ROKPA (soup kitchen needs help with medical care and food distribution)
PA Nepal (children’s homes)
Raksha Nepal (sexually exploited women and children)
Art Refuge (qualified volunteers with background in art, psychology, education, child care)
A quarter of the population in Mongolia remains below the poverty line and the growth in the economy continues to be eroded by inflation. Unfortunately a lot of the volunteering opportunities here do involve a hefty registration fee.
Steppe Riders (assistance with horse treks, teaching English and helping out – could be free)
Volunteering Mongolia (dedicated to reforestation with ethnic nomadic families)
VolMongol (a network site only connecting independent volunteers with Mongolian organisations)
New Choice Mongolian Volunteer Organization (education, health care, summer camps, providing homes, media journalism, sports education, conservation)