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Volunteer Life in Asia

Life as a Volunteer

In Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal

You have decided to volunteer abroad, in Asia. You get closer to local culture with a local NGO,  with us, Openmind Projects!

What awaits you as a volunteer in Southeast Asia?

You will find out at your Free Week of volunteer training before you start!

You will not only learn a lot about yourself and the country you are based in, but you will enjoy so many new experiences in a unique culture, meet lots of new friends and gain fresh perspectives. There are many surprises that await you!

As a volunteer, your experience depends as much on you as on your new friends!

Volunteer Life in Asia

Life as a volunteer abroad means immersing yourself fully in the local lifestyle to truly appreciate the experience!

You will adapt to new people, habits, food, weather and you will learn to expect the unexpected! Adapting is not always easy, but it is a great chance to learn about another way of life, to gain more insight about yourself and push the limits of your comfort zone.

Cross Culture Skills

Learning about another culture can be difficult at first - what are their values, the do's and don’ts, how do they live, how do they think differently than you, how do they feel and why? When you volunteer at Openmind Projects, we will make sure that you are prepared to have a great volunteer trip!

A Volunteer and Cross Culture Training that makes a difference

It is free before you start your volunteer placement! Openmind Projects is the only organization that offers a free week before you start! Meet and mix with the local Openmind Projects staff members and trainees for 2 days before the training starts to find your feet and get over that jet lag. Then join the team for 3 days of intense, fun, hands-on training. Find out about the Thai culture, language, volunteer work and teaching. Learn about our Learn by Doing style: the Openmind Projects way!

Volunteer life with the Thai, Laos, Khmer, Burmese and Nepali

You will find your new friends and colleagues have different habits and another way to think and express themselves than you. Are they right, or are you right? Maybe you both are!

What is a plan: What your new friends plan with you may or may happen! Changing plans without notice is common in Thai culture - it’s called flexibility, so just go with the flow! Learn more at our free training.

The common 'up to you’: Sometimes you will ask your local friends what they want to do, where they want to go or what they want to eat. You'll often be replied with - 'it’s up to you'. So, how do you know what they want? Learn at our free training.

The famous 'maybe' What does it mean? The word “maybe” is more Thai and Lao than English! As a volunteer, find out when a “maybe” means “yes”, “maybe” or “no”! Learn more at our free training.

The meaning of a smile: Yes, you smile when you are happy. So how come your local friends smile when they are sad or even angry? Only volunteers who really take the time to understand can find out. Learn more at our free training.

What matters in life: What are the important things in life. Your grandma or your boss? Westerners are busy, where jobs manage our lives. In Southeast Asia? The grandma definitely is the manager. Family and relations come first. Learn more at our free training.

The amazing Asian food: Asian food is conquering the world! You will definitely try the ever-present papaya salad during your time in Thailand or Laos. Is it too spicy for your taste? The only way to know for sure is to try it. Did you like it? Great! You didn’t like it? Fine, now you know too! Try the fantastic curries, seafood feasts and tropical fruits wherever you go. Are you more adventurous and want to try tasty grasshoppers or fermented fish? You never know what you like until you try it. Why not learn to cook Thai, Lao, Burmese, Khmer before going home to impress your friends. Learn more at our free training.

The weather, hot, sunny, rainy, tropical: So you’re going to Southeast Asia? Welcome to sunshine, sea, sand, blue skies, and the warm weather that is never cold, right? Well, you’re right, most of the time. Sometimes more right than you would have wished, the climate is very hot, but can also get quite cold in the mountains and can be very wet too during monsoon time. Enjoy the spectacular thunderstorms though and amazing sunsets! Learn more at our free training.

The Thai, Lao hong nam (bathroom): The hong nam (Thai/Lao for bathroom/toilet). It actually means “water room” (hong=room, nam=water) so you will literally find water everywhere. In the villages and more rural areas, they will only have squat toilets and a small bucket of water to flush by scoping water down the drain. In some places there are only bucket showers - where there are large tanks of water are used for your shower by scooping water over yourself. Don’t use it as a bathtub, although some confused foreigners have definitely tried. Guess how surprised their hosts were to find out! Do not flush toilet paper or tissues down the toilet - always put in the bin, please!

The day in the life of the volunteer:  Your volunteer day will vary and depend on you and your project. You will be at school or attending projects generally during weekdays, with weekends off for free time. At an eco-project, it will depend on local plans, the season and required excursions. In your free time, you can socialize with your new friends go on excursions, or learn more about their daily life. It is up to you. The more you join in, the more you learn, the more they learn, the more you all enjoy!

Language challenges: What about the language barrier? Yes, English and Thai or Lao are very different - sometimes the grammar is easy but it is difficult to learn the various tones and new words. It is fun to learn though and it will make it easier to travel around and make local friends! You may even want to keep learning when you go back home and impress your friends. Start learning Thai at our volunteer training.

Volunteer life in the village: What about life in a village? It’s a very simple, authentic and humble life that can also be tough and poor! Learn by sharing work and life with local s! Plant rice! Make sticky rice! Volunteer to help village people, the ones at the opposite end of the privileged urban people.

Volunteer life with ethnic minorities:  You can volunteer to help stateless migrants in these isolated areas, and give inspiration to those who are always on the losing end of society. Share daily life with the local community and have new experiences you never dreamed of! Go trekking with your local friends and get off the beaten track.

Volunteer life by the sea: The South is definitely a much hotter climate than the North of Thailand. There is an abundance of nice seafood to eat and you can even go fishing or maybe diving! Be careful with the sun however and always bring sun and insect protection as well as wearing loose and comfortable clothing. You can volunteer to help young children or work on marine conservation projects. Get in contact and ask us where you can go!

volunteer free time scuba diving
Teaching at the center
Volunteer with Muslim community by the sea
Volunteer and local marine staff relaxing

Volunteer Accommodation

Your home away from home! Many of our projects involve living with a host family which is a great way to immerse yourself in local daily life. Living conditions vary, but are usually simple and traditional. You will mostly have your own room and eat with your host family. The family will include you in many family activities and you can give them a chance to practice English and learn about your life at home.

Accommodation at national parks is normally very basic staff rooms or bungalows with shared bathrooms. At our Center in Thailand, you will share a room and living conditions, though if you prefer more privacy and comfort, guesthouses are available nearby. The type of accommodation depends on your particular project.

Volunteer accommodation at guesthouse

Explore Asia in your free time

  • Volunteer In Thailand

    While a lot of Thailand has developed into a modern country, many areas still remain very poor. There are varied natural wonders to see: the ocean, beaches, mountains, rivers and jungles. There are many cities, big and small, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but also more isolated villages. Explore it all!

  • Volunteer In Laos

    There is so much nature and history to experience in Laos! As this country is landlocked, Laos is surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges to trek and explore, with clear rivers and green jungles. There are many different cultural regions, even with different languages!

  • Volunteer In Cambodia

    Like many countries in South East Asia, Cambodia has an interesting and ancient culture! Don't miss the magnificent Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, from the once-great Khmer empire of Cambodia. There is so much to see and do in this amazing country.

  • Volunteer In Nepal

    Beautiful mountains, lush jungles and friendly people of many ethnic backgrounds are to be found in this small country, Go trekking in the mountains, watch the 'Big One', Mount Everest, or go trekking in the jungles and meet the fearsome one - Shere Khan - the tiger in Chitwan!

  • Take the chance to spend time with your friends and explore Asia.

    One of the reasons you volunteered was probably to learn and experience a new culture, so here's your chance! We are happy to help you find activities such as trekking and scuba diving near to your placement. You can discuss and agree when to take time off with your project.

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