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general informationThe main purpose of the volunteer work at The Mirror Foundation is to strengthen and support the local culture and communities.

Volunteers need to be flexible - although you come in on a particular programme, there are various common tasks which involve all volunteers and staff, from the directors to the cleaner. Everyone is considered equally important, is equally valued and respected, and expected to do their fair share.

We accept hundreds of volunteers throughout the year, and many of our jobs will broaden your experience of the world.

All the jobs required to be done by volunteers directly, or indirectly, help The Mirror Foundation to continue its vital work. It may not always be apparent why or how this is the case, so volunteers are encouraged to ask questions as much as possible (on all subjects, not just the work). But in essence, anything that a volunteer can do to help the staff, whether it's teaching, building water tank systems, cleaning the office, or washing the dogs, will be gratefully received - a volunteer taking the time to do something that a staff member would otherwise have to do, means that they can concentrate on the job in hand. Volunteering is about helping others, putting your needs and desires second to the work necessary.

We run a number of programmes, including Indoor and Outdoor programmes. As the titles may suggest, one is based around teaching, whilst the other is mainly concerned with manual labour. Although volunteers are asked to sign up to one of these programmes, there are occasions when a temporary crossover is necessary - for instance, if there are not enough Indoor volunteers to cover all the teaching work for a week, we may ask some outdoor members to help out.

We are developing a national network of volunteering, with opportunities in a number of other regions.

We also invite applications from intern students, interested in working with some of our other core projects. These include the Thai Citizenship project, Bannok TV, and the Combating Human Trafficking project (available when new funding is secured). Applicants must go through a separate process from volunteers in the programmes mentioned above, and there are extra requirements to this opportunity. However, all interns will be asked to spend the first couple of weeks in one of the two main programmes, to settle in and understand our aims and culture.


Length of stay

Indoor and Outdoor programme volunteers can stay for a maximum of 12 weeks, or up to 16 weeks if joining one of our specialist programmes. The minimum stay is 1 week for Outdoor volunteers, and 2 weeks for those choosing Indoor - this is so that the Indoor volunteers have a chance to learn how to teach at our Teaching Workshop.

Volunteers signing up for eight or more weeks, will get extra benefits and opportunities that those staying for shorter periods will not enjoy - this can include extra homestay experiences, and the potential to join another project and work on programmes not open to other volunteers.

While we allow a minimum of one week stays (Outdoor programme only), we strongly recommend at least three weeks, and preferably longer, so that you can settle in, learn some of the culture, and really get to grips with the work. Anything less, although still a great experience, can give you the feeling that you should have stayed longer - just ask our present and past volunteers their opinions on this.

Volunteers cannot change their programme after they have chosen it - based on your decision, we organise teaching schedules, and work projects, which are affected by the number of volunteers on a particular programme. Unless you are travelling with parents, you must be over 18 years of age at the beginning of the program and have at least a high school education. Those teaching English must also be either native English speakers, or have a standard good enough to be understood by children who are learning English as a third or fourth language.

Internships are available for up to 16 weeks. Interns and NGO Network volunteers must commit to a minimum of 8 weeks (including two weeks orientation at our foundation).

Extending your programme is an option, up to the maximum limit, and is charged on a weekly basis (payable at the start of the extended week).


Common tasks for all

Every weekday morning, at 8.30am, all volunteers and staff are required to attend the daily meeting. This is mandatory for all, unless sick or on duty elsewhere. Volunteers are excused on Mondays as this is part of your weekend, but you will have an extra meeting on Saturday mornings, which is a volunteer working day. Once the main meeting is over, there is a short volunteer meeting to make sure everyone is aware of their tasks for the day, pertinent news is delivered, and issues discussed.

Usually once a week, from 3-4pm, there is Action Time. This is when all staff and volunteers put other work aside and come together to work on a job together - usually maintenance around the foundation. Previous tasks have included: repairing the dirt road, building a platform for a Buddhist spirit house, concreting a path to volunteer quarters, sweeping leaves and scrubbing pathways. From the directors to the cleaner, all staff and volunteers are involved. Whenever you hear the bell rung, please congregate at the kitchen unless advised otherwise.

Volunteers are expected to keep their rooms clean and tidy, and rotas should be organised between yourselves.

Work at The Mirror Foundation can crop up at any time of the day and night, opportunities occur, and problems arise. If asked to help, volunteers could be involved in many other tasks - examples of these are: firefighting in the hills above the foundation, cleaning out houses in villages hit by flash floods, emergency road repairs, blood donations for road traffic victims.


Personal Requirements

  • We need people who are able to follow our rules - it makes our work easier, and your time here more fun, safer, and more productive.
  • We need people to be healthy, capable, pro-active and self-sufficient.
  • People open to learning about, and living within, other cultures and can live politely and with consideration in a group situation.
  • Don't come with any preconceptions, don't judge. Use the experience to learn about another life, and more about yourself.
  • People who are relaxed and happy, with a good sense of humour - they are more fun to work with.
  • Fluency in English (or Thai). A good knowledge of English is very important when teaching, as poor accent and/or knowledge will confuse students.
  • Who can stand hot weather. And cold. And very wet.
  • We require people who understand this is a job of work, not a holiday

What to bring

Required

  • Criminal Record check document - a copy to be emailed before you arrive
  • Photocopy of your insurance details
  • Photocopy of your passport
  • Photocopy of your visa page: either the one obtained before you left, or the one stamped on arrival
  • Photocopy of the TM6: this is the arrival/departure card stapled into your passport on arrival into the country
  • Sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner: we do not rent them out, and you will need one for homestay (and winter, which gets cold)
  • Work gloves: all volunteers get involved in manual work
  • Smart clothes: (culturally appropriate: see dress code) - for teaching, especially at temple and hospital
  • Working clothes: (culturally appropriate: see dress code) - for outdoor work, some jobs are dirtier than others (inc. galoshes/wellies)
  • Wet weather clothes: for rainy season - approx May-October
  • Warm clothes: November-February is pretty cold at night, and can drop down to 5°C
  • Sturdy shoes and flip flops
  • Towel
  • Toiletry items
  • Underwear
  • Flashlight/Torch
  • Small padlock for locker

Optional

  • Laptops are also good to bring if they do not weigh you down too much - we have secure wifi internet access. It also takes some of the strain off the existing volunteer computers.
  • Hat: to prevent sunstroke or sunburn
  • Sunscreen
  • Personal medicines
  • First Aid kit

Most of these items are readily available to buy in Chiang Rai, so if you have enough time before starting, you can spend a couple of hours shopping in town - it will save on the weight you have to carry here... But remember that if we pick you up from the airport, we will be heading straight to the foundation, so there will be no chance to buy for possibly up to 5 days.

Laptops are also good to bring if they don't weigh you down too much - we have secure wifi internet access. It also takes some of the strain off the existing volunteer computers

We would be very appreciative if you can donate any goods such as non-used stationery, toys, instruments, old clothes, digital cameras and laptops (if you have any of them). Either new, or in good condition and clean, which are used in projects or passed on to villagers.


What to expect

The unexpected... of course.

Apart from that, we can (almost) guarantee for everyone staying two weeks or more:

  • A bed for the night
  • Food on workdays
  • Airport pickup on the Monday you are due to start (before 5pm); or at Baan Pordeedin guesthouse, in town, at 11am
  • Drop off on the Saturday of your final week (leaving 5pm or as advised on the day)
  • At least one working homestay*
  • Certificate of Volunteering**
  • The experience of a lifetime.

*One week volunteers do not get a homestay.

**We have a set of criteria to determine whether a volunteer receives a certificate. Obviously, behaving in an appropriate manner is top of the list. Volunteers who leave early must complete a certain amount of their programme to receive a certificate, which is detailed below:

  • 1-3 week programme: volunteers must complete the entire programme to receive a certificate
  • 4-12 week programme: volunteer must complete a minimum of 3 weeks to receive a certificate

The certificate will display your name, dates of actual volunteering, and a list of activities you have been involved in. Extra notes and comments will be added for those who excel during their stay.

The volunteer programme runs from the Monday start date to the Saturday afternoon of the final week. The certificate will be signed by at least one of our board of directors (unless the certificate is sent via email).


What NOT to expect

  • Staff to be at your beck and call - we will do our best to make your time as comfortable and enjoyable as we can, but we are not your servants
  • Hotel accommodation or food - we are a working NGO, which scrabbles for every penny, and makes every penny count. The work is aimed at people in need, not people in need of comfort
  • We have no tolerance of those involved in drugs, excessive drinking, rudeness, ignorance, aggressiveness, engaging in sexual relations
  • A free ride - we are not a rich organisation, so will need the balance of payment (in Thai Baht) made before you arrive. The programme will not be available to you until this is paid (This is only relevant to those who have booked directly through us, not through an agency).

Please read all the information carefully before applying. Staff at Mirror are very helpful, extremely friendly and approachable, but very very busy. They will go out of their way to help you, so please do not abuse the privilege. The lives of many people depend on our work, which means that volunteers need to be proactive, resourceful, sociable and generally able to help themselves.

The Mirror Foundation Chiang Rai office looks like a small village itself. It is located 20 minutes north of Chiang Rai in the hills, with plenty of wildlife, scenery and culture to enjoy. The place is quiet and peaceful which promotes a great sense of calm, contentment and well-being. Mirror lies a few minutes walk from Baan Leepa, the nearest Akha hilltribe village in the area.


REMEMBER...

You are now running on Thai time. This means that things won't always happen with military precision! Expect to be flexible about timings and arrangements... everything will slot into place eventually. The important point is that YOU be on time - if others are late, or things get cancelled, then at least YOU can say "I was ready!"... New volunteers can experience frustration when things don't run to a timetable, but try to chill out, relax and if necessary, ask questions.

Please remember you are a guest in Thailand and are now at an NGO that is trying to help keep Thai cultures. Please put your own culture aside and give Thai culture a try. Try to fit in to Thai lifestyle. It may not be the same as your country and sometimes not as comfortable for you - but this is a great chance to try and experience Thai lifestyle, food and culture. The staff will try to make your stay comfortable and happy but you shouldn't demand too much that they change to suit your habits and wishes.

Please also remember that you are living and helping an NGO. The aim of the organisation is to help the Hilltribe people. Although we want to give you a great time and amazing experience, the main aim of providing help to the hill tribes must come first. Please forget about your own comforts and wants for a little while and try the lifestyle of service to others.

Lastly - please remember the staff are here all the time and work very hard. They may not have had a holiday for a long time. They will often put themselves out to help you, so be aware that you don't ask too much of them. Help Mirror take care of their staff members.

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