FAQ

Basic Information

As you can imagine different types of projects are suited to different kinds of people. Trekking for long distances through jungle to see elephants require quite different skills compared to teaching English to a class of 20-50 lively young kids. But both these things require patience, confidence and a mind open to learn new, and often unexpected, things.

The Openmind Projects span more than 70 individual projects, spread across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal. You can see many of the specific placements by visiting our main website: www.openmindprojects.org

The minimum amount of time you can volunteer is two weeks. One – three months is the most common period of stay. Longer than that is usually no problem but it is something you can discuss with us so we can find the solution that best suits everyone involved.

When you arrive in Thailand the first thing we want you to do is to travel to Nong Khai, in the Northeast. This is were our Training Center is located and the birthplace of Openmind Projects. this is were you will receive training in the local language of your placement. As well as learning about culture, important local values, and etiquette, Do’s and Don’ts as well as how to work with local people and teaching. It is all based on the ’Learning by Doing’ philosophy, activity based learning.

This is an important introduction and will take 3.5 days. Previous volunteers before you all agree that these few days proved extremely valuable. The difference in language and culture can feel overwhelming for a first time visitor. The training session is our way to prepare you and your chance to grow in skill and confidence. We do it for as much as for the local people that you will work with!

Of course. The local guide, the person responsible for your lodging and the staff at our main facilities will all work together to see that you are well taken care of. However, please keep in mind that there is only so much support that we can actually provide. As a volunteer you are expected to not be a burden on people who are often already struggling to make ends meet.

It’s a good rule of thumb to prepare for simple living conditions and be pleasantly surprised, rather than the other way around.

You fill out an on-line application form on our website, and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible. Please note that time differences and the dynamic nature of our work might slow down our response, but we usually answer the day after receiving your message. 

Apply now for free!

You are welcome to our free 3-day Cross Cultural Volunteer Training program in Nong Khai before you start.  Guided by our local staff you'll learn about Openmind Projects, Southeast Asian culture and language, basic language skills, teaching English, and other information specific to your project.  For more information: Volunteer & Cross Cultural Training Abroad.  The training days are free and don't count towards the number of days you plan to volunteer.

School Projects

In pre-school, students are 5-6 years old; in primary school, 7-12 years old; and in secondary school, 13-19 years old.

Primary school classes are around 12 to 30; secondary schools around 20 to 40.

Schools normally start around 8.30 when Thai students line up by the Thai flag in front of the school, sing the National Anthem, repeat Buddhist chants and listen to announcements from principals and teachers. Lessons start at 9:00.  Each class lasts about 50 minutes. Lunch break is at noon, and at 1:00 classes start again, lasting till 4 p.m. After school some students go home but others stay around the school playing games like football, volleyball, takroh (a popular Thai game) etc. 

There is a set national curriculum, but it is flexible.  We emphasize speaking and listening rather than teaching grammar.  Speaking skills are usually the weakest part of English for students (and teachers!), so emphasizing correct pronunciation is very helpful for them.

Teaching alone is always a possibility because of a lack of teachers or because teachers lack of confidence in their language skills or are just scared, especially with farang (foreign) volunteers.

Students and teachers dress formally at school, so bring skirts (at least covering knees)/blouses (not low cut in front; not showing shoulders) or trousers (with long legs)/shirts and nice shoes (not flip flops) with you so you can dress appropriately.

Depending on the project, volunteers stay at our Center in Nong Khai or Krabi, in teachers' housing, with a host family, with a teacher, or in a guesthouse. For more information, see Volunteer Life Overseas in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal

Classrooms usually do not have many teaching resources, sometimes not even books.  You may wish to bring some materials with you, such as flash cards, pictures, maps, etc. 

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Other Projects

Depending on their skills and experience along with the season and local needs volunteers might participate in:

  • Coral reef surveys
  • Debris surveys
  • Marine life data collection
  • Mangrove reforestation
  • Teaching English
  • Developing research and tourist information in English
  • Sea bottom and beach clean ups
  • Data collection, research and documentation
  • Community education at schools

Volunteers might stay in staff bungalows or the Center in the park.  If you would like more privacy, we can recommend nearby guesthouses.

Volunteers help in ecotourism projects in many ways, including:

  • Teaching English
  • Teaching guiding and home stay hospitality skills
  • Providing guidance in preparing home stay facilities
  • Participating in survey work (for those with experience and related skills)
  • Developing ecotourism packages and exhibits
  • Creating marketing and promotional materials
  • Design websites
  • Explaining ecotourism opportunities and encouraging conservation

Specific schedules depend on the needs of the local projects.  Volunteers along with our staff will work out their particular schedule with the local project representative.

Diving depends on your skills, the current needs of the local project and the season.  Projects require technical diving experience for some tasks but less experienced divers are welcome at other times.  Diving season is November to April.  Weather is of course always a factor.  We'll work with you to find the most appropriate placement.

Travel Information

Note: Visa requirements are subject to change. The following information is accurate at the time we put this together but you should check the relevant links to ensure there have been no changes since then.

Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Nepal all have “visa-on-arrival” options (you get a 30-day visa when you arrive at the airport or border crossing). You can also apply to their embassy or consulate before you leave home.

Thailand

Most nationalities don’t require any visa for stays of up to 30 days.

If staying for over 30 days we recommend applying for a visa. Being a Thai Foundation/NGO, Openmind Projects will help you with a special invitation letter.

For more information, contact the Thai embassy or consulate in your country. Check the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for official information.

Another useful updates is posted on our online community (Thai Visa Information updates).

A visa is required to enter Laos, but exact requirements depend on your nationality. Tourist visas permitting stays of up to one month are obtainable in Bangkok, the immigration office in Nong Khai or at most border crossings. International volunteers normally travel with a tourist visa. Placements in Laos can help volunteers to prolong their visa if necessary.

For the latest information contact your nearest Lao embassy or consulate.

Visas on arrival or e-visas in advance are available for almost all nationalities. You can get either a tourist visa, which is valid for 30 days and can only be extended once, or a business visa which is also valid for 30 days but can be extended many times. A tourist visa can be obtained online – check the website for more details.

For the latest information, contact your nearest Cambodian embassy or consulate, or visit the official Cambodian visa website.

You need a visa to enter Nepal. International volunteers normally travel with a tourist visa. This can be obtained at arrival in Kathmandu airport and most border crossings where you can pay for up to five months. Your placement in Nepal can help you to prolong your visa if necessary.

For the latest information, contact your nearest Nepali embassy or consulate, or visit the official Nepali visa website.

Recommendations vary by individual, so we are not able to give specific advice. Many governments or state health departments offer comprehensive information. For instance, try the Center for Disease Control in the US, or the NHS Travel Advice  in the UK. You should visit your doctor at least 4 - 6 weeks before departure.

Yes. You should have travel insurance that covers accidents and medical treatment and also a cancellation of your trip: ask your insurance company or travel agency. If you pay for your ticket with a credit card it may include travel insurance: ask the travel agency or credit card company for details. Bring your insurance policy/certificate.

A very large number of international airlines fly to Bangkok. From there you can travel to your project. It pays to shop around for a cheap fare - it can make quite a difference!

Most major towns are linked to Bangkok by domestic flights. Most operate from Don Muang airport. Ground transportation is comprehensive and inexpensive. There are convenient connections with North, Northeast and South Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Do not expect buses or trains to be punctual!

You can fly to Udon Thani from Bangkok. There is a limousine service from the airport to Nong Khai, which takes about 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a day or night train to Nong Khai on the Northeastern line from Hua Lampong station in Bangkok. Nong Khai is the very last station, and the journey takes about 12 hours. Day and night A/C buses also run from Bangkok to Nong Khai.

To get to the Training Center from the bus or train station, catch a tuk tuk. Ask the tuk tuk or limousine driver to take you to Paluang Soi See at the end of Prajak Road. You can print out this map to show the driver.

More detailed travel information is available in the Pre-Departure Handbook, which you receive once you have confirmed your placement.

You can fly to Phuket (get a bus to Krabi) or Krabi from Bangkok. Once you arrive at Krabi airport you can take a taxi to the Openmind House. Buses run to Krabi from the Southern Bus station in Bangkok. You can catch a local bus or taxi to the Openmind House from the bust station.There is no direct train service to Krabi. You can take a train to Surat Thani and then a taxi or bus to Krabi.

To get to the Openmind House, print out this map and show it to your driver.

More detailed travel information is available in the Pre-Departure Handbook, which you receive once you have confirmed your placement.

You can get a bus from Bangkok to Mae Sot, or fly to Sukhothai and take a 3 hour bus or minivan to Mae Sot. If you are travelling from Nong Khai, you can take a bus from Udon Thani to Phitsanulok and then another to Tak. There a regular services from Tak bus station to Mae Sot. You can also fly from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai and make your way from there.

More detailed travel information is available in the Pre-Departure Handbook, which you receive once you have confirmed your placement.

You can travel by train from Hua Lamphong station, Bangok to Aranyaprathet and take a tuk tuk or motorbike directly to the Rongklua border crossing. Take the government shuttle bus to the transport station, from where you can take a shared taxi to Siem Reap. You can also fly to Siem Reap from Bangkok.

More detailed travel information is available in the Pre-Departure Handbook, which you receive once you have confirmed your placement.

If you come to our Center in Nong Khai for the 3-day Volunteer & Cross Cultural Training, we can advise you how to travel to your project afterwards.   We are often able to send one of our staff or trainees with you to projects in Northeast Thailand and Laos.  For projects in South Thailand, our South Thailand manager, Mui, will meet you, take you to your project and introduce you to those you will be working with.  Volunteers travelling to projects in Cambodia or Nepal need to be more independent, although we can advise you and our contacts there may be able to meet you at your arrival point.

Thailand is basically safer than most American or European big cities. It even has its own special tourist police! Most of our projects are in the large, poor northeast region of Thailand called Isan. Isan people are extremely friendly and few visitors have any problems here.

Tourists who get into trouble in Thailand are normally in popular tourist districts like Pattaya, Phuket or Bangkok, and have often behaved in an imprudent manner. Frequently drugs or alcohol are involved. Thailand enforces draconian laws against drugs: to get involved would be extremely risky and unwise.

The major safety issue in Thailand is traffic: drivers have little training and are quite unpredictable. Visitors should be careful when walking, riding a bike or driving a car, especially during weekends and holidays.

Laos is still formally a communist state, but though the government is authoritarian it is not very abusive and receives substantial international aid. However, it is not ruled by "law" as most westerners would think of it. Police may be suspicious of foreigners, and arbitrary, inefficient or even non-existent. Therefore, working and traveling in Laos requires a certain caution and prudence. However, the government is aware of the potential of tourism and is therefore eager to make visitors feel welcome. Lao people are very friendly.

The major safety issue in Laos is traffic: drivers have little training and are quite unpredictable. Visitors should be careful when walking, riding a bike or driving a car, especially during weekends and holidays.

Costs & Money

Because it is our only way to fund our project activities and pay for our expenses. We do not charge schools or other beneficiaries any costs for our services instead we reimburse them for their costs of having volunteers.

It is included in the fee for most places. During their free time volunteers pay for themselves.

Our fees cover your accommodation and the expenses of the placement. The Volunteer & Cross Cultural Training is free. You pay for all your expenses, including travel, as you would if travelling on your own.

Organization Information

2001 - Openmind Projects, then IT in Isan, pioneered computer training projects in poor northeastern Thailand villages to see how the "digital divide" could be bridged.  IT in Isan's goal was to see how to give poor children and teenagers a chance to learn how to use computers and at the same time to learn other subjects by using computers and the internet. Read more

To provide better learning opportunities fro poor people, esp. the young. To develop computer learning for underprivileged and isolated children with the help of international volunteers.

To improve learning opportunities for underprivileged people and encourage the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for better (distance) learning opportunities. To encourage cross cultural understanding by inviting international volunteers.

Very nice and rewarding but also demanding and requiring maturity, initiative and independence. A great personal development chance for the volunteer.

No, we focus on supporting learning with the help of ICT, developing education, especially e learning with the help of volunteers, partners and other organizations. We also focus on locally based and sustainable eco tourism and wildlife protection because that also helps the poor local people in the long term.

We have local staff in Nong Khai and Krabi in Thailand as well as volunteer staff and local trainees. In Laos, Cambodia and Nepal we have local coordinators in as well as country contact persons overseas who used to be volunteers. Then we work with/support some 60 projects in SE Asia; schools, community based eco tourism, national parks, health and child care and other projects.

Volunteers arrange for their own insurances. A volunteer with a problem can call an Openmind Projects English speaking local contact any time.

Yes, teachers, headmasters, national park staff and managers.

Normally yes, but the level of the English varies and can be low!

Our regional contact persons make regular visits and phone calls. And the national staff too.

In the northeast Thailand, the schools normally pick you up from our Training Center in Nong Khai.

In South Thailand our local contact persons will help you.

Our Lao and Khmer staffs normally take you to the Lao and Cambodia projects.

In Nepal our coordinator meets you at the Kathmandu airport and on arrival in Chitwan too.

It varies. If you do not want to be alone at your placement please tell us.

You apply from our website, and then get more details about volunteer opportunities and conditions.

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