This is my fifth international volunteer experience. I found the agency with which I have worked when I decided to take a break after a job elimination and find an international volunteer experience. When you Google "international volunteering", you will see many options. I started with the first option on the list and was shocked with what they wanted to charge for the experience!
I worked my way through the list and decided that IVHQ had the best reviews, and the fewest negative reviews that were not based on amenities and comfort. As long as safety was not compromised, I was fine with basic accommodations.
Each of my experiences has been unique and memorable, and I am confident that this one will be, as well. I like the fact that IVHQ partners with an NGO in each country to manage the projects. IVHQ merely screens the agencies to make sure that the projects are legitimate and that the volunteers will be safe.
Magic Mirror runs the projects in Thailand. This organization runs a variety of projects, working with people affected by sex abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, human trafficking, as well as the project on which I will be working. I know that I will be doing outdoor work, but the specific work will be determined based on the agency's needs at the time I arrive.
I must admit that I really like all the email reminders the volunteers have received in preparation for our time in Chiang Rai. I realize that I am twice the age of most of the volunteers in these types of programs, so some of the messages sound like common sense advice. One of the emails started with the acknowledgement that "for many volunteers, it is the first time away from home without parents". Emails have addressed the fact that Chiang Rai is a very traditional culture and that, as guests, we are expected to respect the local culture and etiquette rather than fight it. We are asked to "step out of our comfort zone" so embrace the local culture.
The agency will kick you out of the program for ANY drinking during the week. They say it sends the wrong message to locals and can be dangerous. They also don't want you drunk or hungover at work in front of the children and parents. I find this notice amusing as it seems like this must have been an issue in the past.
We even have a dress code - for men and women. There is nothing that out of the ordinary considering where we are working. But it reminds me of my experience in Sri Lanka when volunteers had to be sent back to their rooms to change clothes because their attire was not appropriate for teaching child monks or working with girls who had been rescued from human trafficking!
The organization is very direct - in a recent email about airport pickups, they warned volunteers not to leave with the wrong person. It seems that they have had volunteers leave with the wrong agency. A quote from the email says "we're not sure who was more stupid, the volunteer for not checking before wandering off with a stranger, or the staff for not checking to see if they have the correct person." This amuses me 😉
I just arrive do to my home for the next five days. Very basic accommodations! And I did not get my own room 😥 There will be three of us together and about 10 of us sharing a bathroom. Should be interesting!
Wifi is awful so that's all, for now.