Your role as a volunteer is not only to make the children's lives at the orphanage more enjoyable but also to lend a helping hand to the over-stretched orphanage staff. As Northern Thailand's largest orphanage, this children's home enjoys a high level of support from the government and it's dedicated, but over-stretched staff. The children here range in age from newborns to 18 year-olds, but our volunteers focus on working with those under the age of five. This age group is further divided into three sections: 0-2 year olds, 2-3 year olds and 3-5 year olds. Volunteers can choose between remaining in one of these sections of the orphanage for their entire length of service and switching from week to week.
Aside from assisting with direct childcare and helping the full-time nannies, the orphanage staff asks that volunteers spend individual time with the children, giving hugs, attention and love. An act as simple as holding the hand of a single child and spending time walking with him or her around the grounds of the children's home is a major contribution to that child's welfare.
The children are at the orphanage for a variety of reasons - all of them heart-breaking. Some lost their parents due to illness, accidents, etc. Others had parents who were addicted to drugs, alcohol, involved in prostitution or otherwise deemed to be unsuitable parents by local authorities. Occasionally babies are just dropped off by mothers, unable to take care of them.
The volunteers' main responsibility is direct childcare, but they are encouraged to assist with other duties around the children's home, such as fixing broken toys, painting, cleaning up, etc. For this reason, volunteers who would like to serve in the project but are uncomfortable working with young children can still contribute in other ways.
The orphanage is run by the Thai government, but occasionally receives donations from private individuals and foreign groups. They ask that volunteers be flexible and patient, as many special activities occur at the orphanage throughout the year. Special activities initiated by volunteers are well regarded by the orphanage staff, and of course the kids too!
Chiang Mai is a pleasant city, encircled by mountains and lush rice fields. Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city with a population of roughly 700,000. The city is considered the cultural and physical capital of (what used to be) the northern Thai (Lanna) kingdom. Chiang Mai is the home of an international airport, restaurants of almost every cuisine, incredible shopping and world class hospitals.
During or after one's volunteer service, Friends For Asia recommends for volunteers to take part in some of the many different local attractions and/or courses. Every Sunday Chiang Mai closes off one of the main roads in the old city to put on a walking street market. Vendors and artisans from the area set up their small booths to sell their handicrafts, art and mouthwatering finger foods.
Chiang Mai offers Thai cooking courses starting around USD35, Thai massage courses starting around USD45, along with jungle treks and regular Muay Thai (Thai boxing) matches. Upon your arrival into Chiang Mai, Friends For Asia will be more than happy to help you sign up for one of these exciting opportunities to learn more about this beautiful culture.