Volunteer in Thailand
British Company Offers Supervised Adventures
by Chris Mitchell
The British company Starfish Volunteers brings numerous volunteers to Thailand throughout the year to teach English, help with conservation efforts, and assist in development programs for schools. Starfish Ventures Director Dan Moore says, “We work with our Thai partners to make sure we’re providing the assistance they require to achieve their goals.”
The idea for the company came to Dan when he spent nine months teaching English in and around Surin. Previously a high-flying advertising sales executive in London, Dan’s time in Thailand made him re-assess his priorities about what he wanted to do with his life.
“I could see that through my English teaching I was doing something of real benefit for the teachers and the children. I wanted to bring more native-English speakers to Surin to provide help to the schools on an sustained, ongoing basis, rather than just going home and leaving it there.”
Working with his Thai partner, June, a former Surin tour guide, Dan oversees the volunteers’ ventures while June provides their orientation and day-to-day help. With this personal, hands-on approach, volunteers feel immediately at ease and quickly adapt to their new Thai home so that they can concentrate their full attention on their volunteer work.
“Most of my friends thought I was mad going to a country where I didn’t know anyone, but June is worth double her weight in gold. She is great at organizing and a brilliant liaison between the volunteers and the school they’re working at,” attests teaching volunteer Jo Schofield.
Starfish’s website is the main way people discover Dan’s company. Once they’ve read the information, they can call Dan direct to discuss their venture.
Last year Starfish Ventures brought a steady stream of teaching volunteers to Surin and also to the turtle sanctuary on Koh Man Nai island near Rayong, which enjoys the royal patronage. Surin’s teaching volunteers spend four to six hours a day teaching five days a week; the turtle conservation helpers learn about the turtles and why they have become an endangered species in Thailand from Mr. Somchai, the island’s resident marine biologist. Then they take part in the turtles’ sanitation and health checks and explain the work of the sanctuary to foreign visitors. In both cases, the volunteers work with the Thai staff in their day-to-day duties.
For Dan Moore, simply placing volunteers in Thailand is not sufficient. Starfish also generates funds for investment in project such as building salas to provide shade from the sun at Surin’s schools and landscaping gardens to give the children better play areas.
Starfish plans to launch two more ventures in February. One will bring much-needed volunteers to Hua Hin’s Dog Rescue Centre. The volunteers will help run the center as well as initiate fundraising efforts and assist in the center’s shop.
The other venture will bring qualified English nurses and nursing students to Aranyaprathet, a town near the Thai-Cambodian border, to provide healthcare for the region’s children’s homes.
“I’m always going to be involved on a personal level with each volunteer’s venture,” says Dan Moore. “I want to make sure that every volunteer knows we’re with them every step of the way. Coming to live in a foreign country can seem quite challenging, but if you know you’ve got backup then you’re more self-confident and ready to try new things.
For More Info
See Starfish Volunteers for more information.