Volunteering in Chiang Mai – Tips from a Local

In this guest post, Riya shares her tips and experiences for volunteering in Chiang Mai. Whether you are skilled in conservation, construction or working with stray animals, there is something for everyone in this city.

Thanks Riya for this guest post about volunteering in Chiang Mai!

volunteering in chiang mai intro

As a woman with a concern for the world, I have always wanted to do something that would help me to make a difference. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, the city is bursting with opportunities to help your fellow human beings. Who doesn’t want to donate a little bit of their time to worthy causes while enjoying the cultural beauty in the Land of Smiles! These are some of the potential opportunities that I researched:

  • Conservation
  • Construction
  • Elephants
  • Stray Dogs
  • Stray Cats

You have a multitude of volunteer programs and paying your way into a coveted volunteer spot in Thailand is not uncommon. Sometimes it raises the question of why am I paying $300 to work? The thing I learned is that this money will often help to keep the organization afloat, and in addition, it will pay the salaries of the local workers.

Read more: Should you pay to volunteer?

Some people might want to a more flexible volunteer position with no strings attached. I did some research, and there are places to volunteer like this, but you have to understand that they might be in areas of Thailand that have not been well developed. When you volunteer in Chiang Mai, however, you do not have to worry about this as much. Sometimes you will see some graphic and heart-wrenching scenarios, and there are poverty-stricken villages that do exist here, but Chiang Mai is a developed city.

Volunteering with Care for Dogs

volunteering in chiang mai stray dog www.grassrootsnomad.com

The stray dogs of Thailand are a fairly common sight. In fact, you have street puppies that have been the victims of abuse, starvation, and diseases. Caring for these dogs helps to end the vicious cycle that many of these street dogs have become trapped in.

Care for Dogs is a Chiang Mai organization that helps dogs that have been whittled down to almost nothing but skin and bones. Many of the street dogs here are badly malnourished – so much so that they even struggle to stand. Perhaps you are a vet, or you are looking to become a vet. This is one of the things that you can do to help animals.

My volunteer experience here was a 3-day session. The orientation is held on every Wednesday where the staff will provide you information about the shelter and your individual activities. They taught me how to socialize adult dogs, how to ask them to sit, and how to properly pet and brush them. Learning all these elements are essential as it will you build trust and create a mutual understanding with a dog.

I got a chance to do the bathing for them, one-on-one. Since most of the dogs here had different types of skin conditions, the shampoo or treatment we put on them was prescribed by a vet. The fun part is when I tried to towel dry her, I had to be prepared for the inevitable “shake”!

If you are passionate about dogs then this may be the volunteer position for you. They ask for volunteers to commit to a minimum of three days and be ready to work hard!

Volunteering with the Bring the Elephant Home Foundation

volunteering in chiang mai elephant sanctuary www.grassrootsnomad.com

In Thailand, you have multiple organizations that have chosen to focus on elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. This is an area where you can get up close and personal with the Asian elephants. Volunteer work with elephants also focuses on keeping wild elephants alive in Thailand.

Bring the Elephant Home Foundation focuses on restoring the natural habitat of Asian elephants while working to try to mitigate human-elephant conflict.

I did one of the volunteer programs with elephants because I wanted to keep them from going extinct in a country that has been developing rapidly. I got to work with a cute elephant and help it bathe and planted trees in the forest to build their habitats. This could help to maintain thousands of trees, expand forest corridors, and increase biodiversity for elephant migration routes.

What’s even better is that I met a cute guy who was a veterinarian from Australia, and we hit it off. We later met again for some drinks in Chiang Mai, so voluntourism can sometimes even have a slight edge of romance!

Note from Grassroots Nomad: We haven’t personally visited this organisation. Planting trees to rebuild their habitat is a great way to help mitigate the impact of deforestation on Asian elephants. To learn more about some of the issues facing elephants in Thailand, especially those in the entertainment industry, please read this article by D Travels ‘Round.

Who is Riya?

Riya

Riya is now living in Chiang Mai. She is delighted to work with many aspiring small business owners. Riya currently writes for several companies including SiamMandalay, a Thai handicrafts business based in Chiang Mai who developed wooden puzzles and traditional games. She loves cooking, crafting and yes! sipping a good coffee. Check out her Twitter.

Have you volunteered? We would love to hear from you!

If you have volunteered with a small, community-based organisation that upholds the values of responsible volunteering, we would love to hear from you! This wonderful post from Riya is part of our monthly volunteering guest post series. If you would like to share your story, please email laura@grassrootsnomad.com Thank you!

For more volunteering stories, make sure you read about Amanda’s experience volunteering with refugees in ‘the jungle‘, Anna’s guest post about why you should volunteer with the community, not for it, or even MY post about volunteering at a rescue shelter in Guatemala City.

Tips from a local about volunteering in Chiang Mai with elephants and dogs. Read more at www.grassrootsnomad.com

 

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37 Comments
Amandas_Wanderlust

Love your guest posts on volunteering opportunities. There are some great ideas here and with Chiang Mai being so popular with travellers hopefully this will get a few more people thinking about volunteering while they are there.

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Natasha G

This is awesome. I love hearing about volunteer programs that truly do something! I especially love ones that involve animals. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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Anna

This is interesting, I really like the local’s perspective. I love elephants and have considered volunteering in the past but could not afford it, and I was wary of where the money went. It’s always good to hear a personal story about an organisation. I also like the treeplanting aspect of the project, it makes a lot of sense and, in my eyes, lends credibility to the organisation (you can call me naive, but you have to trust someone!).

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Grassroots Nomad

Haha so true Anna! I think the tree planting aspect is what I liked best about it as well – so many people want to volunteer with kids or animals but only if they have direct contact. Sometimes you can make the most impact if you work behind the scenes!

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everyfootstepanadventure

This is such a great post! Love hearing about these volunteer programs helping animals! I just visited a national park in Indonesia where there are camps that help rehabilitate ex-captive wild orang-utans and there were volunteer opportunities there to help the animals too!

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Grassroots Nomad

That sounds so interesting! Do you remember the name of it by any chance?

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Gina Bear

What great programs for elephants and dogs. Seeing stray dogs is also a fairly common site in Mexico. It’s good to see Thailand is taking a stand and protecting their animals. 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

We are in Mexico at the moment actually, and there are so many strays! They look reasonably well fed though which is something I guess.

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Ami Bhat

Now that is interesting. I did not know of these volunteer programs. They seem to be well thought out. Hopefully the next time I will be volunteering for it – preferably the elephant one 😀

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thetravelpockets

I’ve seen so many volunteer programs in other countries, but this is the first time I have read about one in Thailand. It does seem odd, at first, to hear that you have to pay to volunteer. But when she explains why it makes sense. Learned a lot of new things today from this guest post 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

That is so great to hear! Thanks so much for reading. Paying for volunteering is a bit controversial. Not everywhere charges and there are positives and benefits for both approaches 🙂

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aberkholtz

Aww darn, I was disappointed to only see two options…I’m moving to Chiang Mai in October and volunteering is pretty high on our list but we were having a hard time finding places that didnt want to charge us out the ass (which I get why they do) lol so was hoping to find options I hadn’t discovered yet! Still, gonna check into the dogs one 🙂 Thanks!

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Grassroots Nomad

hahaha I feel your pain! I spent 6 months researching before I found my volunteering placement in Guatemala City – it takes so long! If you do find somewhere, we would love to hear more about it from you! Best of luck with the move!!!

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rovingjo

I love animals and I never knew these opportunities existed. What an amazing thing to be able to do. I never knew you needed to pay to be able to do these volunteer jobs but for those who are doing it is must be such a fulfilling thing that it is totally worth it. Happy Roving!!!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Jo! Volunteering with animals is a great way to spend your time – nothing better than a happy pup!

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Eric

Volunteering in a foreign country is a great idea and a different, rewarding experience! I haven’t been to Chiang Mai, but I think if i go I would look into bringing the elephants home.

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The Soul of Seoul

Great information. I think it’s always a good idea to do some volunteer work on any trip and definitely let more people know about these organizations because they need all the help they can get that’s for sure. Great post.

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks so much! I agree, I just spent time volunteering on my trip to New York and it was so much fun!

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thewordhermit

I think volunteering while traveling is a great idea. It gives you a chance to immerse yourself in local culture and communities while giving back, and it seems like many of these organizations are successful because of the foreign dollars that help support them.

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Grassroots Nomad

Hey – I agree. You really see a different side to a city and a community when you volunteer. It is great to find something that is mutually beneficial for both the volunteer and the organisation 🙂

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nycgingeronthego

It’s great to hear that so many organizations are now trying to help the elephants after they’ve been mistreated for so long. Hopefully these efforts go a long way to protect the species.

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Grassroots Nomad

I hope so! This seems like a great option for people who want to do a bit of volunteer work as well as seeing the elephants in a legitimate sanctuary. While you are planting trees you might not be playing with elephants, but you are doing something that will really help the elephants in the long run!

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thewanderlusteur

Thailand has a special place in my heart. I return time and time again, always discovering more reasons to love this country. It’s wonderful to learn about voluntourism opportunities!

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Grassroots Nomad

I agree! I lived in Bangkok for 6 months and fell in love with the country – so much so that we are getting married in Chiang Mai next year!

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casstravels

Oh this is lovely! We’re planning a trip to Thailand next year (for the first time!) and I’d love to do something like this whilst were there.

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Grassroots Nomad

Let me know how you get on – would love to share your story as part of our monthly guest post series!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thank you! This series is my favourite – I always love reading everyone’s stories and I’m always in awe as to how many different opportunities there are out there!

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Riya

Hey Thank you guys for interesting!

I am very happy to see you like my post. You are very welcome to fly here! There’re a lot of things you can enjoy!

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