Making a difference and touching lives.
Everyone has a way they can contribute to society
One of the greatest pleasures of being a teacher is the knowledge that what we do matters to other people. Through our work as teachers, we have the possibility of a making real and meaningful difference in the lives of those we teach, and sometimes even with students who are not in our classes. For that reason, one of the most powerful ways of putting your newly learned teaching skills to use is with communities which are risk. These include working with orphans, children living HIV, those in squatter camps, or with immigrant communities.
Thailand has a long history of aid projects to communities in need, and your services as a teacher will be welcome on a variety of projects. It's important to note up front that in most of these community programmes, your contribution will be accepted at a voluntary basis. In many cases, full-time positions are available, but you'd qualify for such status only after getting to know the stakeholders and becoming an integral part of the activities.
One of the most exciting and popular of these voluntary positions is located on the Myanmar border in an isolated rural community. The project, run by a team of foreign philanthropists, focuses on the educational needs of the marginalized children of Burmese families living in the border communities far from commercial hotspots. These families, living on Thai soil have access to neither Thai nor Myanmar educational services. To date, the project has provided schooling, accommodation, and medical services for hundreds of children since 1994 and has a special programme for vocational training for disabled children. Far from the city, in the jungle no-man's-land of the Thai-Myanmar border, this is a teaching position with real heart. A number of previous Chichester TEFL graduates have dedicated their time in this project – so your contribution will be both welcomed and appreciated.
If you prefer working more centrally, consider putting your time and energy into one of the oldest and most famous educational projects in Bangkok – in the large and rambling city-centre slums. Here, families with few resources cluster around dirty canals and rely heavily on limited sanitary services. With this project, your time will not only be spent teaching, but also mentoring youth considered at-risk, and reaching out to families who are struggling to cope with the demands of life. English is not widely spoken in the slums, but there is a lot of work to be done, and your kind involvement may have an enormous impact on the development of the young minds caught up in the cycle of poverty.
It is important to note that if you choose to take an active role in any of these community projects, you commit to a reasonable tenure. Children in orphanages and community projects have often been let down by care-givers, and a constant rotation of adult role-models can be destructive, especially if any of the children build a trusting bond with you. In general, consider a month necessary simply to learn the culture and roles required for the position before you can even begin to make a useful contribution. Most serious projects ask for a minimum 3 months' commitment, and a year may be what is takes to create any real meaning in the lives of the children.
In exchange for your time and energy, you'll have the opportunity to give something useful back to communities that are in great need. You'll also meet some of the warmest and most open personalities in the education business – and get to learn and use Thai in record time!
Thailand is not the only opportunity for you to make a real difference. In neighboring Cambodia, in the poverty-stricken rural countryside of Siem Reap province, join an elite group of volunteers working with educational rehabilitation, school planting, vocational training with teens and family planning. Although this is demanding work because of its isolated location, your time and effort in programmes with those suffering from severe poverty is enormously rewarding.