Many people think about volunteering to teach English in a foreign country, but few ever do it. In Thailand, volunteer English teachers are always desperately needed as, in Thai villages outside the city centers, most of the children have no chance to ever meet a westerner, let alone learn English. If you’re thinking about volunteering to teach English in Thailand, don’t think about it – do it! Here’s how.
Research Online the Volunteer Teaching Opportunities – There are many opportunities for teaching English in Thailand, through many different organizations. Most of them have online websites that will give you a rundown of their programs, where they’re located in Thailand, what they’ll expect you to do and any training opportunities they have. Compare lots of different non-profits in Thailand and specifically look at fees (which I’ll talk about in a moment).
Look at Testimonials and Ask For More – Most of the non-profits that have websites for volunteering to teach in English have testimonials on their sites. Don’t just go by these though, as anyone can put up a testimonial. Instead, ask them if they have e-mail addresses of any past volunteers that would be willing to answer a few questions. Those who don’t, avoid them like the plague as, often, they’re trying to hide something.
Look at Fees for Volunteer Teaching – Most non-profits in Thailand who need volunteer teachers will still charge the teachers a fee to volunteer. This is acceptable, as it covers room and board, transportation costs and any paperwork costs they have. Remember though, accommodation and food is very cheap in Thailand, so avoid those organizations that charge $1,300 to $2,000 a month or more.
That’s not volunteering, that’s an organization making too much money off their volunteers and an organization you should stay away from. Plus, don’t forget, this does not include airfare to Thailand, spending money or any other incidental costs, which can easily run another $1,500. For a month’s stay in Thailand volunteering to teach English, there’s no need to be paying more than $500-$800. Anything over that is likely to be a scam. Period.
Make Your Decision and Submit Your Paperwork – Once you’ve chosen the agency you’d like to volunteer to teach English through, and you’re satisfied with your choice, submit your application form and any deposits or fees required. Make sure you send everything they require as the Thai government is stringent on what they require from volunteers in order to get a visa.
Getting a Volunteer Visa in Thailand – Every one who volunteers in Thailand MUST have a volunteer visa in order to volunteer. Avoid any agency that won’t get one for you, as you will then be illegally working in Thailand and you can be put in jail or deported. A tourist visa is NOT a volunteer visa, and can get you in deep trouble if you’re caught volunteering on one, so avoid any organization that tells you otherwise.
Getting the volunteer visa (non-Immigrant O visa) is easy though. The organization should provide you with all the paperwork (you cannot apply for one without paperwork from the place you will be volunteering at) and, all you have to do is mail it along with your passport (Fed Ex is best) to the Thai consulate in the US, Canada, Australia or Europe closest to your home. If you also do return Fed Ex, most of the time it takes 5 days or less and, once you have the volunteer visa, you can leave to go to Thailand any time you like.
Volunteering to teach English in Thailand is an amazing opportunity. Thai children are a joy to teach, you’ll learn about Thai culture and make some incredible friends. Just remember, there’s no need to spend major money to do it.