What makes the perfect volunteer?
The Perfect Volunteer
Steve Williams | Co-Founder
The team behind The Bamboo Project has many years of experience working with literally thousands of volunteers from across the globe. We’ve just had a quick count up of the nationalities that we can remember meeting and it’s somewhere in the region of 86! That’s really pretty epic to be honest.
For the most part, and by most I mean around 95%, these volunteers have all been extremely respectful, hardworking, genuine and honest people. They’ve joined our volunteering projects with two goals in mind; to help those less fortunate than themselves and to have a new and interesting life experience. These are two very realistic and achievable goals that all volunteers should consider as reasons for signing on to a program or project.
In our experience, the reason that the number of respectful and hard-working volunteers is so high is the preparation and the expectations. Many volunteers will do their homework, spending hours learning about Thailand and its culture, speaking to friends who’ve visited the country and so on. Others will just come here with a completely open-mind and a ready-for-anything attitude. Both of these are good ways to prepare but doing one these is a must!
To arrive in Thailand with pre-conceived ideas that it’s going to be a country of dirt roads, mud huts, horse pulled carts and third world poverty, is like saying that London is sunny and warm 365 days of the year! To come to volunteer in Thailand believing that you’re going to change the world, end famine or find the cure for malaria is just plain bonkers! Thailand is a ‘developing’ country. It has its poverty for sure, but so does the USA. It has dirt tracks and horse pulled carts, but so does Australia. And unfortunately no country on the planet has put an end to Malaria, yet! It’s those volunteers who understand this but are prepared for anything who will take the most away from their time on whichever project they choose.
KEY PERSONAL PREPARATION
- Do some homework – read up on Thailand, the culture, the language and food. This helps to understand more of what’s happening around you and helps to ensure that you don’t make any unnecessary cultural faux-pas! Our awesome team is always on hand to point out issues and make sure that you’re comfortable not just with your accommodation but also you’re your surroundings.
- Think logically – revise your goals and reasons for wanting to volunteer. If you do have the ‘Florence Nightingale Syndrome’ (the feeling that you’re going to cure everybody of their ills and then change the world!) then choose another organization to volunteer with. We need realistic volunteers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and help those who need it.
- Be flexible – plans, itineraries, schedules very often change and most of the time it’s due to nothing other than circumstance. The weather, transport, illness, communication and more all play a part in the day to day happenings at any project. If events and plans do change, you need to take it on the chin, smile and deal with it positively.
- Choose the project that’s right for you – if you don’t like getting your hands dirty, don’t join a development project or don’t join a project that deals with animals. Chances are you’re going to get sweaty, dirty and messy. If kids just aren’t your ‘thing’ don’t choose a project that includes them. If working outside is what you’re after, don’t choose a project that’s predominantly indoors. Think about what you want to gain from your experience and then consider all of the options and what’s involved.
- Consider your living situation – if you’re not the sort of person who can deal with sharing accommodation with others then choose your project carefully. What I mean by this is that on Koh Samui for example, you may share a bedroom with up to 3 other volunteers. However, in Surin it may be possible for you to have your own bedroom, depending on your project. But do always consider that sharing and living with other volunteers (who in almost all cases will become good friends for life) is a huge part of the volunteering experience and should be embraced. Oh, and don’t think for one minute that the accommodation you’ll receive will be 5* luxury – there may not be a mirror in the bathroom – heavens forbid!!
- Be patient and considerate – this is THE most important aspect of volunteering. Period. In many areas of Asia, life runs at a very different pace to life in other more developed areas of the world. In such developed areas daily routines are often directed by the hands of a clock. It’s all a regimented structure that puts people in to specific places at an exact time, or everything collapses. Not like in Thailand! Oh no. In Thailand, when it happens, it happens. If something happens late, but still happens, that’s a win! Be patient.
For the most part volunteers are a similar bunch. They have one goal in mind and that’s to help others. Volunteering is a great leveler. It doesn’t matter your age, sex, background, education, race, colour and so on. Volunteers are usually just nice people, easy to get along with and good fun.
If you honestly believe you’re in that category then go for it. Volunteer. As long as you prepare properly, understand that you aren’t going to get your own way all of the time and are ready to get your hands dirty, then you’ll have the most amazing, possibly life-changing experience, available.
If you’re seriously considering a volunteering placement then check this out – VOLUNTEER. We’re here to help you find out everything you need to know and will only ever answer your questions honestly and openly. The Bamboo Project is just about the best volunteering organization in Thailand.