DEPDC is a non-profit community based NGO working in Thailand on the prevention side of the trafficking of women and children into the sex industry or other exploitative child labour situations.
Volunteer in Thailand and help prevent child prostitution and the trafficking of children into the sex trade.
Volunteering at DEPDC
Volunteering at DEPDC can be very rewarding for the volunteer, DEDPC staff and the children. Volunteers are always welcome at our main DEPDC site in Mae Sai or our other centre in Chiang Kong. We have had volunteers from all over the world and some have stayed for up to 3 years. There are approximately six foreign volunteers at any one time here who stay for 6 months or more.
What can you expect to gain?
Volunteering at DEPDC is an opportunity for great personal development, an enriching cultural experience and a chance to help underprivileged children. During your time here you will learn about the matters which lie at the heart of DEPDC and the work it does to combat the trafficking of women and children into exploitative labour conditions and commercial sex work. You will gain an insight into how an NGO operates; learn about the socio-economic problems in Northern Thailand and the subsequent hardships faced by the lowland and hill tribe communities. You should also get the chance to develop close-knit friendships with the children, fellow volunteers and staff at DEPDC.
Students and volunteers from western countries who have not had previous exposure to Thai methods of thinking and operating may think that the ideas and ways of doing things here are quite strange. While adjusting to these differences is a challenge, it is also an opportunity to learn about the people, culture and yourself.
It is important not to approach work at an NGO with a corporate attitude or you will find yourself frustrated by a lack of support mechanisms and things not working out as you may expect them to do or within the time frame you may have.
Remember you are here for a very short time in the life of DEPDC.
What can DEPDC expect to gain?
This will vary greatly depending upon your qualifications and previous contact with Thai society. In the past DEPDC has had volunteers who taught English, handicrafts, origami, basic computer skills, run activities for children and dealt with English correspondence.
Foreign volunteers play a key role here and their work and contributions are very much valued by DEPDC.
In the beginning it is most important to spend time getting to know the staff and students, even though it may feel you are not being productive. One of the best ways to do this is to organize activities for the children at the centre, in small or large groups. It is a good idea to think about what kind of activities you would enjoy running with minimal assistance. You may want to bring materials for this purpose.
Roles and Responsibilities
There are many different roles available at DEPDC, the most obvious being that of an English Language teacher. However, although there are many core responsibilities usually assigned to new volunteers by the Thai staff or volunteer coordinator, there is always room for you to create and define you own role, within reason! For example, new ideas for activities with the children are always welcome. However, all roles and responsibilities, whether old or new, require a lot of initiative and innovativeness on the part of the volunteer since there is little or no input or supervision from the Thai staff once you have started. Before your arrival you will be communicating with the volunteer coordinator who will be able to tell you the current needs of the centre and give you some indication of where you will fit. After your arrival and initial settling in period it is up to you to perpetuate your given role or responsibility. Although the other volunteers can help facilitate your work with staff and children initially, you will eventually be expected to work autonomously. In essence, we are looking for self motivated, self starters who are able to work with little or no external supervision.
While DEPDC welcomes all visitors in terms of volunteering it is advisable that you plan your stay for 6 months or more, plus 4 to 6 weeks for language training in Chiang Mai. It can take a long time to find your niche here, to commence a project and to see it through to its conclusion.
As mentioned above here are the core duties which the volunteers;
Teaching English - Half Day School
Teaching English to children at the Half Day School which shares the same site as DEPDC. Their ages range from 5 - 17 and they have very basic English skills.
Teaching English - Mekong Youth Net Programme
Girls on the MYN program receive English lessons as part of their year long training at DEPDC. Improving their proficiency in English will help them in their future work with international GOs and NGOs. Their ages range from 16-25 and their level of English is basic to intermediate.
Child Voice Radio - CVR
All the volunteers take turns to host the English radio shows on CVR. English music is played and issues to do with human trafficking and global news are discussed.
The activity room is a place where children can come and play. The room has toys, games, art and craft materials and is supervised by volunteers.
Showing visitors around
DEPDC receives a variety of visitors from backpackers to representatives of NGOs. An English speaking volunteer is needed to show them around the site and answer any questions they have.
There are always routine administrative tasks that need to be done, for example sending donation receipts and thank you letters to donors and proof reading English documents.
There is no single member of staff that manages the volunteers. It is up to each volunteer to find and manage their own workload. However the responsibility of volunteer coordinator is to ensure synergy as a whole in the work individual volunteers undertake. He or she also screens applications for prospective volunteers and corresponds with them throughout the application process. They also help new volunteers to settle in and organise weekly volunteer meetings.
Planning and designing the content of the quarterly newsletter. Coordinating and overseeing the production of the newsletter, and publishing it on the website.
Being a volunteer with any organization calls for a certain set of qualities This is especially true for volunteers at DEPDC where the environment, culture and work style are so unique and different from that of western countries.
Initiative is needed to think of new ideas or projects and how to go about executing them with the resources available. Volunteers are not managed by Thai staff and so must be able to work independently, but also within a wider context with fellow volunteers and DEPDC staff.
Thailand does not operate at the same pace as you may be accustomed to at home, similarly NGOs have a different work culture to corporations.
Patience is needed to overcome these cultural differences. It may take a couple of months for new volunteers to find their 'niche' here and there may be times of frustration, so it is important to 'give things time. It is also recommended that you maintain a sunny, positive, enthusiastic out look at all times no matter how frustrated or tired you may actually be.
Willingness to learn
Tolerance and a 'willingness to learn' approach will make this cultural transition a lot easier. A willingness to learn Thai will also help you to communicate with the staff and children and make your stay here less arduous. Staff at DEPDC also appreciates an open and enthusiastic attitude.
Flexibility in all aspects is important here, as things often change unexpectedly. For example, schedules often change without advance notice and it is important to be able to deal with this.
Rules at DEPDC
There are certain rules which need to be observed whilst you are at DEPDC. All food on campus is vegetarian only (visitors and staff are kindly asked not to bring meat on site). Drugs, alcohol and smoking are strictly prohibited.
Keeping to Thai culture, it is also important to dress modestly. This means no short shorts or skirts, clothing made of see-through material or tight clothes, all black outfits (except at a funeral or while mourning) or tops and dresses with straps as revealing your shoulders is not appropriate.
Length of stay
DEPDC accepts volunteers on a minimum 6 month basis. This is because it takes time to get to know the children, to commence a project and see it through to its completion. Taking a 4-6 week Thai language immersion program beforehand is also recommended, as having a basic knowledge of Thai helps a lot in the initial settling in period.
Volunteers are welcome to stay in the staff apartments on site, but this is subject to availability at the time. This accommodation is very basic with squat toilets and no hot water (some volunteers have likened it to camping!). If you do stay on site please bring a couple of flat sheets with you and a pillow case. If you are going to be here in the winter months (November to March) you will need a warm sleeping bag.
If no on-site accommodation is available, or you choose to live off site you can stay at one of the many guest houses in Mae Sai or find private rented accommodation. If you are renting on a monthly basis this will cost approximately 78 USD /month, on a daily basis it will be 7 USD/ night.
Check with the Thai embassy or Consulate in your home country to find out whether you need a visa to enter Thailand. Once your placement has been confirmed, DEPDC can provide a letter to assist in obtaining an "O" visa (Non-immigrant visa). This visa will let you stay and volunteer in Thailand for up to 90 days, after which you will have to exit and re-enter the country (the easiest way to do this is a visa run at the Mae Sai checkpoint). In order to re-enter the country you would need a "multiple entry permit", so it is recommended that you obtain this as well.
Visitors are expected to carry their passport with them at all times. However, a colour photocopy will suffice.
It is also a good idea to get an international driver’s license before you come to Thailand too.
While here you are responsible for all your own personal costs including travel, visas and health care. As a guide you will need about 6 USD per day for expenses.
DEPDC does not charge volunteers for living on-site, but if you choose to live on site please take into consideration that this will ultimately represent a financial cost to DEPDC in terms of electricity, food, internet and other costs. If you would like to leave a donation when you leave this can be discussed and would be most appreciated.
It is not always convenient to transfer money from outside the country so it is best to bring sufficient funds with you. Mae Sai has banks where you can change travellers checks and ATMs where you can withdraw cash. If you plan to stay for more than six months you may consider opening a Thai bank account.
About Mae Sai
The DEPDC site is situated 2km off the main road of Mae Sai. Mae Sai is a small bustling town on the border of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). It is the most northerly point of Thailand and one of the three official border checkpoints between Thailand and Myanmar and so is a popular spot for 'visa runs'.
A multitude of goods pass through the border each day and the area by the border is filled with shops and markets selling an assortment of goods from fruit and vegetables to jewelry and souvenirs. For convenience goods there are several seven-eleven stores and a Tesco Lotus supermarket. Nightlife in Mae Sai is a subdued affair although there are a handful of bars and restaurants open late at night.
There are a few tourist spots in the area which you can see on day or overnight trips. For example; the Golden Triangle, Doi Tung, Mae Salong, Chiang Saen, Chiang Kong and surrounding hill tribe villages. Chiang Rai is about 1hr away by car and Chiang Mai is 4.5 hrs. The neighboring provinces of Mae Hong Song and Nan are also worth a visit.
Thai people are extremely tolerant and forgiving, they are blessed with a gentle religion and easy going approach to life. The Thai value systems regarding dress, social behaviour, religion, authority figures, and sexuality are much more conservative than those of western countries. They are extremely polite and their behaviour is tightly controlled by etiquette, much of it based on Buddhist religion.
Before you arrive it is suggested that you familiarize yourself with Thai culture and customs, as this will held avoid embarrassment and misunderstanding.
* The feet are considered dirty and should not be pointed directly at people or raised,
* Shoes are usually never worn in indoor living areas and the head is sanctified so avoid touching someone else on the head unless they are an intimate friend
* Thais are quite conservative and expect visitors to dress appropriately in formal public places
* One should avoid ’loss of face’ by not losing your temper. To show anger or impatience or to raise your voice is a sign of weakness and lack of mental control. Public dispute or criticism should be also avoided.
* Thai behaviour is far reaching and subtle, and often creates some frustration for foreigners who are unaware of cultural habits that may influence everyday business and service.
The major frustration most volunteers experience is their inability to communicate and therefore to operate effectively in the organization. While some staff and students do speak a little English, the common language is Thai. At times there may be nobody to help you with interpreting, so it is very useful if you can speak some Thai. The most efficient way to learn the language is by doing an intensive course in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Bangkok before arriving. Speaking any new language with strangers who are native speakers can be difficult. It is helpful if you come prepared to take that risk and be eager to bridge rather than be discouraged by the barrier.
Please submit the online application form, attach your cv/resume and a recent passport style photograph. This is needed at least 3 months before your intended start date so that DEPDC staff can coordinate the arrival dates of new volunteers.
We will endeavor to get back to you within a few days.
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