Mundo/Lokgatat Volunteer Opportunities In and Around Ubon Ratchathani Province, Isaan Thailand
General Description of the Ubon Area
The Ubon Ratchathani province is famous across Thailand for its warm and welcoming people, multiple forest temples, and diverse, beautiful landscape. It pushes down into the jungle-clad intersection of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Its southern reaches have been labeled the ‘Emerald Triangle’ by TAT in recognition of its magnificent green landscapes. Lonely Planet Guide (2012) says, “It is a gem largely yet undiscovered by tourism.”
The city of Ubon sits against the Mae Nam Mun River, Thailand’s second longest river. the Mekong river is another 50 kilometers away, on the Thai-Lao border. Ubon has several significant and interesting temples, diverse and delicious eateries and important Buddhist festivals. Ubon grew prosperous as a US air base during the Vietnam War era and is now a financial, educational and agricultural market centre. There is a nearby Thai-Lao border crossing at Chong Mek.
Ubon is known for its beautiful Candle Parade held in July at the beginning of Buddhist Lent. The city of Ubon is much more like a small town than a large thriving city. People are friendly and offer easy smiles in passing.
Volunteers should be able to
- Have sense of humor when working with students and staff
- Have respect for diversity, work and living styles
- Be reliable, aware, and honest,
- Have supportive professional relationships with others,
- Be a good role model for Thai children and adults,
- Be able to deal with challenging situations calmly & openly,
- Have excellent communication skills,
- Be show flexibility when working with others,
- Follow and be respectable to Thai culture and ways,
- Be able to volunteer independently and part of a team.
- Be tolerant and accept change and cultural differences,
- Be able to communicate and deal with one’s cultural challenges,
- Be young at heart
- Demonstrate average Reading, Writing, & Speaking English Skills
General Statement of Placements
All Mundo Lokgatat Placements at Thai schools include:
- An Orientation that includes Thai survival language, Thai culture and day of exploration in the area
- An Introduction to the school, staff and students with an English speaking Mundo Lokgatat Project Manager
- Arranged transportation to and from school (or walking/bicycle if close enough)
- A free non-vegetarian lunch
- Thai teachers who volunteers assist
- English speaking mentors and others who assist with potential cultural challenges
- After placement debriefings
- Volunteer Home and Centre Stays
- A minimum length of Stay is two weeks, although one month to 3 months is preferred.
Vacations from schools are found mid-October to the first of November as well as the 1st of April to the1st of May.
Ubon Area Placements
One school is a relatively small, humble Thai school less that one kilometer from the Mundo Home. It has approximately fifty students, kindergarten through the sixth grade. Average class size is seven students. Currently there are four teachers and six university student teachers (who come each year for their student teaching experience). This school has focused its efforts on student achievement and proudly boasts that it ranks 54th out of 250 schools in the Ubon Ratchathani area for achievement.
The students primarily come from lower income families who, despite their financial stress, believe that education is key to their children’s eventual ability to be contributing citizens in their community. The staff, community and director work together to create a positive, friendly and academic environment. Additional support is provided from King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)’s online educational video programs where students learn more about their environment and build other important educational skills needed to be a successful, well-informed Thai community member.
The school has active eco/agricultural programs where both students and staff participate and learn. Attached to the school is a meeting area where individuals and small groups of learners can meet with volunteers and work on learning projects and/or prepare for the ever important year-end national exams. The staff is enthusiastically looking for dedicated English Language speakers to come and help teach at the school.
The next volunteer opportunity is the “CatfishSchool” which is a relatively larger academic setting and is aptly named for its catfish farming that they are accomplishing onsite. Approximately 500 students, kindergarten through high school attend the school. Students have access to all of the traditional classes and, in addition, have an opportunity to learn about fish farming, frog farming and general agricultural practices.
There are approximately 35 students in each classroom, making classroom management skills an important component to the teaching experience; however, students are generally very well behaved, enthusiastic learners. The teachers are very excited to invite English Language speakers to the school to help both students and teachers become more proficient in their ability to interact with the international world.
Another school for Mundo Exchange volunteers is located near the farmlands and Buddhist wats or temples outside of Ubon Ratchathani. There are 125 students with 15+ instructors. The students again come from low income families and are in need of volunteers who can help with Communication English, Computer Education, Art, Music and/or Sport’s programs. The school has an English department and is anxious to receive volunteers who are fluent English speakers. Volunteers have an opportunity to help students learn English in an actual English class, or by helping students learn basic English in the school’s diverse academic and vocational courses, and by tutoring.
Special needs school
For volunteers who have a special interest and are skilled/knowledgeable with regard to working with children who have developmental disabilities, Mundo Exchange has been asked to work at one of Thailand’s residential programs for children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have Down’s Syndrome or Autism. These children are from all over NE Thailand. They live, study, work and play at the school for their entire elementary and secondary years. Each child has an individualized educational plan that is reviewed by their teachers and parents once a year to ensure appropriate goals and progress. The school is particularly excited to learn more about how to educate children with significant disabilities. They are looking for volunteers who have expertise in safe and cooperative behavioral management strategies, learning tools for children with communication challenges, teaching strategies and tools for essential daily living skills the children must master before being able to live as independent and productively citizens, art, music and drama skills, etc.
The school campus is beautifully maintained, the children look loved and well taken care of, and the staff are enthusiastic advocates for children with developmental challenges. One of the unique aspects of this campus is that the children work with a variety of farm animals (pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, pigs and hogs). Not only are the students learning how to care and tend to the animals, but the animals also provide therapeutic love and kinship to children, some of who have great difficulty creating and sustaining successful bonds with the human animal!
This would be an ideal spot for a seasoned special needs teacher, speech language pathologist, occupational or physical therapist, school psychologist, behavioral specialist, or pediatric health care provider (they have an on site health care facility with a round-the-clock health care provider. Someone with diagnostic skills and health care knowledge would find themselves with plenty of work and very gracious kids!). Also, administrators with a background in special needs learners and others who are familiar with positive behavioral supports would be welcomed! A commitment of at least two weeks is a must.
Community Buddhist Living Wat/Temple
Mundo Exchange volunteers who are Buddhist or extremely interested in learning more about the non-traditional Buddhist sects or groups are invited to stay for a week or more at a nearby wat. There, volunteers will live, learn and help the community from 4am to nighttime. The placement allows volunteers to participate in agricultural projects, education, recycling, cooking and other activities. All volunteers must follow the following rules (per Santi Asoke Members):
- Do not kill or bully any kind of animal
- Do not bring any kind of meals not allowed in training.
- Do not take or bring any kind of addictive drug into the community (e.g., whisky, cigarette, betel, coffee, cards, etc.)
- Avoid extra meals (only 2 meals allowed in training)
- Do not steal, do not be rude or obscene
- Do not wear shoes in order to practice consciousness. Your feet will experience natural massage for your good health!
- Do not take a siesta in the afternoon and do not drowse (except when ill).
- Keep clean the building areas, bathrooms and toilets.
- Separate garbage into each designated container.
10.Dress politely. Women are not allowed to wear tight pants. Neither men or women are allowed to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts/blouses.
For more information please send us a letter with information about yourself and why you would like to volunteer at this placement.
How volunteers can help at the school placements?
There are a variety of opportunities for Mundo/Lokgatat volunteers to help students and staff enhance their learning. Volunteers can choose to assist students in a variety of classes, including agriculture, mathematics, art, music and computer technology. They will engage students in simple conversational English and tutor both individuals and small groups during and after school. Volunteers can also assist staff with technological training and English teacher training. For the schools with special projects, volunteers can help staff and students learn the English vocabulary pertaining to the project components and vocabulary.
Why these projects were selected?
Mundo and Logatok select schools in rural areas that serve children whose families are typically striving to make ends meet. We also look for schools that are well-organized and enthusiastic about inviting international volunteers on to their campuses. Each school must insure that our volunteers will be able to access someone on campus who can speak Basic English. We interview directors and provide an overview of expectations to insure that our volunteers and the school will have a quality experience that hopefully enhances everyone’s learning experience and cross cultural exchange.
We also make sure that the local living arrangements are adequate and safe for our volunteers to live in. Transportation to and from the schools will be arranged by Mundo/Logatok staff members.
A MUNDO/LOGATOK VOLUNTEER’S PERSPECTIVE ABOUT HIS HOME STAY
“Volunteering near Ubon is certainly a family experience. Most of my Home Stay Mom’s extended family lives with in a couple blocks of each other so there are always relatives visiting and stopping by for meals or just to talk. They also have a small shop in the front of the house. My Thai family is very friendly and other volunteers will have many opportunities to practice Thai language and learn about local Thai ways. My Host mom is one of the warmest and friendliest people I have met. She also has a very good sense of humor. She is always eager to talk and while she does not speak much English she speaks enough English for a volunteer to get by on a daily basis and she is also very eager to teach Thai language. In just one week here I have already learned many new Thai words and phrases. The food my Host mom cooked was amazing. The daughter is 6 years old and is a lot of fun. They have many nieces and nephews who are always stopping by to play. Lots of fun! The room where volunteers stay is very comfortable. It has 2 beds and a separate bathroom with a shower. If a volunteer ever gets tired of socializing they always have a place to relax in their private room. There’s also a very large lake right next to the house with little traffic that one can run or bike around or go for a walk to get some fresh air. All in all I’ve had a lot of fun staying here and learned a great deal about Thailand, Thai culture and history and myself!”