Volunteer Stories: Lindy Mei

Lindy Mei: USA
I met Lindy a couple of years ago when we both volunteered for TSPCA walking and caring for dogs. Lindy joined an excursion I planned for the kids at Harmony Home Taiwan and was amazing. The kids took to her immediately and had so much fun, Since then, Lindy goes to help out with the kids in the Xin Yi centre whenever she can. You can read her advice here. 
I have volunteered with Harmony Home for almost three years and continue to be involved with them from the UK. We will be continuing out “Secret Santa” toy drive this year so I’ll be updating you all about that soon.
If you are interested in volunteering at Harmony Home, you can e-mail me at volunteerasia@hotmail.com and I will send you an application form and guidelines.

International day of the Girl Child and why gender equality is key to ending poverty.


Emma Watson has been widely praised for her recent speech on gender equality as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. And rightly so. Emma is promoting a new initiative called HeForShe which is a call for men to join in and feel included in the conversation about gender equality. Or as she put it, “extend a formal invitation” to join the cause.

In recent years, there have been many campaigns focusing on equal rights and education for girls and women and many studies showing the positive effects equal opportunities for the sexes can have in the fight against poverty.October 11th has been declared the “ International day of the Girl Child” as part of a worldwide initiative by the charity Plan International. I used to fundraise for Plan when I lived in Australia and have been a supporter of their ” Because I Am A Girl” campaign for about five years now.

While extreme poverty is a global issue which affects many demographics, women and girls are still disproportionately affected by poverty and suffer many more injustices, like child marriage, FGM (female genital mutilation), honour killings, rape and domestic abuse and death from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. In many countries across the developing world, women are denied the education and opportunities afforded to their male counterparts.

In the developing world 3 million girls in Africa are at risk of FGM this year.

1 in 3 girls will be married before they turn 18 and 1 in 9 before they reach 15.

Victims of early and forced marriage typically have children very young.

Approximately 70,000 girls die in labour every year because their bodies aren’t ready for childbirth.

Globally, 65 MILLION girls are not in school.

In Africa, 101 million girls aged 10 and over have been subjected to FGM.

Women are in general 14 times more likely to die in a disaster than men

These numbers are absolutely shocking.

From my own experiences volunteering in Asia, it is strikingly obvious that it is a massive disadvantage to be a woman in the developing world. In Vietnam, I volunteered at The Little Rose Warm Shelter, a home for girls who had been or were at risk of being, sexually abused or trafficked. In Cambodia, where I volunteered on two occasions, you didn’t need to look far to see the huge prostitution problem, with girls as young as 11 and 12 walking the streets.

Educating women and empowering them to has proven to be hugely successful where implemented. Educated women marry later in life, have smaller families and they are much more likely to put their own children in school. Their increased literacy and numeracy skills give them better careers and awareness of health issues.

Just one extra year in high school can increase a woman’s salary by between 15 and 25%, and as a knock-on effect, the income of her entire family.

a woman with a better education is more likely to survive childbirth, and her children are more likely to survive early childhood.

girls with a high school education are 6 times LESS likely to be married as children

Volunteering with Women’s Charities

If you are planning to volunteer or donate and want to get involved with charities especially focused on women and girls here are some fantastic organisations to consider;

The Little Rose Warm Shelter, Vietnam

Plan International


Additionally, if you have volunteered somewhere with a woman’s charity and would like to share your experiences or some advice, please e-mail me on volunteerasia@hotmail.com so I can add your organisation to this post.


Volunteer Stories: Lorena Poitras


Lorena Poitras: Canada

I met Lorena while living in Taiwan. She was very well known in the ex-pat community for her tireless efforts volunteering with Animals Taiwan and I was very excited that she agreed to write about her experiences.

This is a fantastic account of Lorena’s volunteer work with Animals Taiwan and an absolute must-read for anyone thinking about volunteering abroad. Lorena talks about culture differences and gives some really valuable advice.

You can read it here!

The Return of Activism?

As most of you probably know, I am a huge fan of Russell Brand. Huge. It’s the main reason I moved to London actually, to track him down and make him fall in love with me………

Anyway, Russell Brand has a new(ish) YouTube series called The Trews(True News) which I discovered a few months ago in which he analyses newspapers and news broadcasts and sheds some light on the political and economic agendas behind the mainstream media and urges his viewers to question the information they are given. Kind of like Karl Pilkington’s “Bullshit Man”. The most recent episode of The Trews is what inspired me to write this post. In a few of the more recent episodes of The Trews, Russell has called for people to become more active in their communities and to go out and demand that the people in power do better. In today’s episode, Russell meets with a group of women who have been made homeless and as a result decided to occupy perfectly habitable houses which have just been abandoned. When they were made homeless, these London women were told there was housing available for them in cities like Manchester and Birmingham- miles away from their homes and families. Rather that accept this, they have begun to protest and speak out against what they call “social cleansing”. One woman, Jo, put it perfectly when she said “I think that it’s a basic human right that we have social housing and affordable housing. Why should we be pushed out of the area because it’s become gentrified and trendy?”

You can watch the whole thing here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAjCiXwP46w

The media and government would like to have you believe that many working class people are apathetic towards politics, and that lack of education means they are ignorant. These women prove that is not only untrue but also a very unfair assumption. They were being treated unjustly and unfairly and decided to do something about it. Why doesn’t this happen more often? In recent news though, we are seeing a rise in stories where civilians are becoming more active the issues in their communities. In Ferguson, the riots after the murder of Michael Brown. In Taiwan, the amazing Sunflower Student Movement, which I was lucky enough to witness. And of course, most recently The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.

So, it got me thinking about activism in general. It is something I have come across a few times recently while reading articles online and searching for a new job in London. What do you think of when you think about activists? My mind usually conjures up images of suffragettes, students in the 70’s with flowers in their hair, Greenpeace and PETA and people like Martin Luther King. But perhaps a more local and small scale view makes more sense!

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis.

Volunteering is just one way to get involved in your community, activism is a whole other ball game.

This might seem like somewhat of a random post, but I do think that activism and volunteerism are related. You see something in your, or someone else’s community, and you want to do something about it. Just my thoughts and I am interested to hear yours!

Volunteer Stories: Cátia Lúcio

Catia Lucio

Cátia Lúcio: Portugal

I met Cátia in Thailand a number of years ago when we were both volunteering with Globalteer with Wildlife Friends of Thailand. It was the first time for both of us to volunteer overseas.

WFFT is about 6 hours north of Bangkok in the Petchaburi province and is a rescue centre for abuse and abandoned animals.  It is a beautiful location and I loved hearing all the sound of nature at night when we were sleeping. Cátia and I were in different programs, I was on the team who worked only with elephants whereas Cátia worked with many other animals. There were bears, crocodiles, monkeys, a horse, dogs, cats, iguanas and so many more I don’t remember.

It was a fairly expensive program, with a large donation to the centre but accommodation and three meals a day are provided. They cater for vegetarians too. Accommodation was shared rooms and pretty basic but you are right in the middle of the jungle and it was an experience like no other. I loved it! Your duties are mainly feeding and cleaning and there was lots of extra time for relaxing and socialising. It is also close to Cha Am and Hua Hin where you can go to the beach on your days off.

Before going: 

Visa: you can get a landing visa on arrival in Bangkok airport.

Vaccinations; I was vaccinated against rabies, typhoid, Hepatitus A and B

Medication: Malarial medication is a good idea in this area.


These are some pictures I took while volunteering at WFFT;


Ice Buckets; The Good, The Bad and The Viral.

KONY 2012, No Make-Up selfies, The Ice Bucket Challenge. Viral campaigning is gathering speed, and in my opinion, is here to stay whether we like it or not. So, can we make it better?

The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS is the most recent of these viral campaigns and is causing a lot of debate. Despite its shortcomings (which I will discuss), I think its a great campaign. It has really gotten people talking, not only about ALS but also about the water crisis, animal testing, fundraising in general, and a whole host of other diseases. And while I am pretty tired of seeing a million new videos posted every time I check my phone, I am happy that these are the things we are talking about on social media at the moment and not trashy celebrity gossip. I don’t care who Taylor Swift is dating or which sports star is the latest in a cheating scandal but I DO care about fundraising, medical research and anything a regular Joe can do to make a positive difference in the world.

Some ALS Facts


  • ALS is not contagious.
  • It is estimated that ALS is responsible for nearly two deaths per hundred thousand population annually.
  • Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.
  • Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, this disease is variable and many people live with quality for five years and more.  More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis.
  • About twenty percent of people with ALS live five years or more and up to ten percent will survive more than ten years and five percent will live 20 years. There are people in whom ALS has stopped progressing and a small number of people in whom the symptoms of ALS reversed.
  • ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
  • ALS can strike anyone.
  • The onset of ALS is insidious with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.
  • There can be significant costs for medical care, equipment and home health caregiving later in the disease.  It is important to be knowledgeable about your health plan coverage and other programs for which your may be eligible, including SSA, Medicare, Medical and Veteran Affairs benefits.

The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge began in June in the US and the original rules are; if you are nominated you have 24 hours to dump a bucket of iced-water over your head and donate $10 to ALS research., you then get to nominate three more people to take part. The video is shared on social media (usually Facebook). If you choose not to do the ice bucket, you must donate $100 to ALS research. The rules have varied from country to country. Some people are donating to a charity of their choice rather than ALS.

TONS of celebrities have jumped on board and played a key role in making this such a huge campaign. And there have been so many funny and creative ones keeping the momentum going.

The Debate

Having worked as a fundraiser in a few different environments, my experience is that the general public is living in a state of willful ignorance( some may call it bliss…..). Our media loves to use scare tactics, and shock value and we have become exhausted and apathetic to a lot of it. In saying that, when confronted with a worthy cause, people’s innate goodness becomes apparent and most have a genuine desire to do good. I worked for an NGO in Brisbane talking to people about donating all day long for months and 80% of people were interested, heart-broken and genuinely moved by the horrible facts. And most of them agreed that we should all be doing a little bit more.

Facebook, and social networks in general are built around narcissism and self promotion. Look at how good I look, I’m on an awesome vacation, here is my cute baby or my cute dog, here are 1000 examples of my cooking skills, here are my gorgeous friends, my nights out, my house etc etc (I am guilty of most of these for sure). Campaigns like this use that to shed light on their cause, and it’s effective. Social networking is a powerful tool, and I see no harm in using it for good every once in a while instead of the usual stream of cat videos and Buzzfeed quizzes (I’m also guilty of these). I know that some people think we should all donate quietly and not have any glory but, why not look at it from a different angle. Its not about “glory” its about spreading the message! the more people who watch, the more people who donate. Then its not only your $10 but also the people who you have inspired or motivated to do the same. If you don’t tell them, they will just spend their time scrolling through mindless crap all day. I was one of the first to criticize The “no make-up selfie” but then learned that it raised millions for breast cancer awareness. I am well aware that not everyone who posts a video or selfie is putting their money where their mouth is, but enough to raise millions that wouldn’t have otherwise been raised, do.

There are so many ways in which we get caught up in our own lives and the stresses of the daily grind that it is easy not to think of the suffering of others. And we need to be reminded. What better way to do that than our beloved cell phones and tablets? The element of fun makes it more appealing AND we don’t have to endure the “emotional porn”. (I will be writing another post about that very soon so watch this space…..).  I think the days of “oh look at this poor unfortunate soul” have been worn out.

However, there is no such thing as a perfect fundraiser. In the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the main issues I  have seen people have are concerns about wasting water, and the fact that ALS research still uses animal testing.

First of all, to the people who point out these negatives right away and totally dismiss the campaign as a result, I would like to ask you a few questions. Do you know how many other medical research projects use animal testing? Do you use make-up or cleaning products that have been tested on animals? Do you eat meat that comes from factory farms? Do you wear leather? Or, are you just looking for a reason to hate this style of fundraising?

Do you have a pool? Water your plants? Have long showers? Or again, are you just looking for a way to judge this challenge?

I am not dismissing these concerns at all, they are very valid. I have just seen a lot of comments that look more like “haters” than legitimate concern or constructive criticism.

On the flipside, I have also seen people use sea water, or pool water in place of clean drinking water and I have seen one or two people donate to water sanitation programmes in addition to their ALS donation. See? Constructive criticism is a good thing and helps improvement!

As for animal testing, that is a more complicated issue and one that I do not know enough to comment much on. I think animal testing is awful and disgusting and I regularly Google products to see if they are testing on animals so that I can make informed decisions about my purchases. I encourage everyone to do the same. I really hope that we can make more headway in that area and I’m glad that it has been pointed out. As far as I know, other research projects have moved on to more sophisticated and cruelty-free testing methods, and here’s hoping with all that extra money ALS research will be able to follow suit.

Every cause/charity gets its 15mins. It’s always something different being highlighted in the media. Some more often than others, and that is the nature of the beast. Constructive criticism is healthy and helps improve fundraising campaigns but I think that it is a little bit easy to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. This challenge is fantastic for ALS and it’s not really doing any damage to other causes. Maybe some people will choose ALS this year for their donation budget who would have supported something different last year. That already happens. Unfortunately, all causes are constantly competing for funds.

Volunteer Stories: Ashley Wang


Ashley Wang: Taiwan

Ashley volunteered in rural Taiwan in an Aboriginal village during her university studies and was awesome enough to share an essay she wrote about her experiences.

You can find out more about the organisation here. : http://www.volunteermatch.org.tw/IW/default_en.asp

Volunteer Stories: Sarah Naughton


Sarah Naughton shares her experiences volunteering in Rwanda with VSO.

You can read the full interview here, as well as some more volunteer stories.

Volunteer Stories: Jaclynn Joseph

I’ve decided to add a “volunteer stories”section to my blog. I want to give you guys first hand information from actual volunteers so that you have a better idea about the programmes featured and of course, helpful advice and tips.

volunteering at the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand

volunteering at the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand

The first volunteer to be featured is fellow Taipai expat, and friend of mine, Jaclynn Joseph who volunteered with The Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket Thailand last Chinese New Year.  Jaclynn is an animal lover, and very involved in animal charites as a volunteer and fundraiser. You can read the full interview here.