Volunteer Experiences

Lindy

Lindy Mei: USA

Place you volunteered: Harmony Home Taiwan (Xin Yi Centre)

Cost: I was already living in the country where I volunteered.

Is this the first time you have volunteered? No, in America I volunteered but not with children. I was planting trees and cleaning beaches.

What made you want to volunteer? I got interested in volunteering when I was really young, elementary school probably. I think I always felt a sense of responsibility to help others and the environment.

How did you find out about this organization? In Taiwan, all the places I found to volunteer at came from my friends! They were already volunteers and when they told me about what they were doing or asked if I wanted to join, I started going regularly.

What were your duties? At the children’s home I play with the kids, change diapers and rock them to sleep.

What kind of qualifications did you need? You don’t really need any qualifications, just be willing to help and learn.

Did you enjoy your experience? Absolutely.

Can you tell us about your favourite memory? There was a young toddler who didn’t look like the other kids. He looked mixed race like me. When he saw me he said mama and jumped into his arms. I figured I must’ve looked like his mom which is somewhat sad but it was really cute. Every time he saw me he would leap into my arms and fall asleep.

Is there anything you would change? Not within the organizations. I think they run it as best as they can.

Would you recommend this program/organisation? Yes!

Do you plan to do any more volunteering? Absolutely.
Is there any other information you think would be helpful to someone considering volunteering with this organization? Be prepared to change lots of diapers! Let the kids come to you.
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.

Lorena

 

Lorena Poitras: Canada

Place you volunteered: Animals Taiwan Organization in Taipei, Taiwan. Animals Taiwan is a Non-Profit Animal Rescue Organization that was started by expatriates living and working in Taipei, Taiwan. Animals Taiwan now has supporters from the local community, as well as around the world. Animals Taiwan is a non-kill animal shelter and has approximately 80 dogs and 10 cats living in their shelter. Additional animals are being fostered in private homes. These animals have been rescued from horrific situations including abuse, car accidents, illegal leg-traps, severe disease/malnutrition and more.The animals will live at the shelter until they are adopted, but this amount of time can often be lengthy. Animals Taiwan also co-ordinates a very large scale cat and dog CNR (Catch- Neuter-Return) in various areas of Taipei in order to control the animal population. Fundraising and donation funds are used to operate the animal shelter and to help the CNR program.

Cost: (if nothing is included please provide a rough idea of flights, accommodation and food expenses, otherwise please mention program cost plus flights and any additional expenses) Animals Taiwan does not regularly have volunteers from overseas come to do volunteering at their rescue center. Most volunteers come from locals and expats living in the community, but contact Animals Taiwan for more information as they are very approachable with ideas. If a volunteer arrived from overseas, that person would be responsible for their own accommodation and expenses, but there are many websites that can be used to find a place to live.

Is this the first time you have volunteered? Yes, this is the first time I volunteered with an organization outside of my home country.

What made you want to volunteer? I was living in Taipei at the time. Animals Taiwan was easy to learn about as all their information was always in English as well as Chinese. Many expats were involved with Animals Taiwan and it became a social setting as well. I could easily see why money was needed and where the funds went. Animals Taiwan has ‘open books’ for their financial situation and I trusted them. Also, because people I respected and knew quite well were involved with them, it was easy for me to get involved.

How did you find out about this organisation? I had friends who were involved and also Animals Taiwan was very visual among the expats in Taipei.

What were your duties?
*Because I volunteered with Animals Taiwan for about 7 years, I did many different things. I volunteered as a fundraiser for the organization. I organized events and the proceeds went directly to Animals Taiwan to cover the expenses needed to run their shelter.
*I also volunteered hands-on at the shelter This included repairs, maintenance and cleaning of the shelter. The staff are so busy, that they do not have time for regular upkeep of the animal pens and exercise areas. The shelter is also very old and run-down as being a private NGO, they rely solely on donations to operate. So, there is very little funding to have a fancy shelter.
*I also volunteered to help rescue stray animals that were needing medical attention. At times, a team was needed to try and corner an injured animal into one area.
*I led families and children’s groups on tours of Animals Taiwan and explained the work that they do to help the stray animal situation in Taiwan. This would also include the opportunity to take the dogs out for walks.
*I organized groups of people to go to the shelter and take the dogs out for walks, pen clean-up and dog washing.. I provided guidance to new volunteers and explained the things that the organization does for animals in need as well as answering questions about Animals Taiwan
What kind of qualifications did you need? Volunteers who work hands-on with the animals need to be willing to work with dogs of all sizes ans needs. A volunteer must be pro-active to work hard, yet able to accept direction from the shelter staff. A volunteer should be non-judgmental and open-minded and understand that in Taiwan, things are often done differently than in our home countries in the west. Resources are often low and creative, positive, self-guided people would do very well. A person must also not fear getting a little dirty!
Another way people can volunteer is behind the scenes. Animals Taiwan is always needing help from web-designers, graphic designers, English/Chinese translators, etc.

Did you enjoy your experience? I loved it. My experience with Animals Taiwan changed my life. I learned so much. The whole experience taught me to look at things from a different point of view instead of what my ‘privileged-Canadian-background’ had taught me. Because of differences in culture, society and infrastructure, I was truly enlightened to learn how things operate when funding is so low. It opened my mind so much in so many ways.

Can you tell us about your favourite memory? There are so many!! But, what comes to mind is the dogs. I will never ever forget the joy the dogs feel just by going out for a walk! Some days were so hot, and the dogs would find a dirty puddle and just roll around in it. At first, my reaction was to think, ‘What a mess!’ but the pure, simple joy that the dogs felt in lying in cool, muddy water was something that was not about me at all! It was all about the dogs! They don’t often get to go out for walks (unless volunteers show up to do the dog-walking) so they really felt grateful to have the chance to get out of the shelter. It can be easy to get swept up in the big picture of helping Animals Taiwan, but seeing the joy on the dogs’ faces is such simple joy!

Is there anything you would change? No. Not at all!

Would you recommend this program/organisation? I would highly recommend volunteering at Animals Taiwan if a person is well suited for this type of organization.

Do you plan to do any more volunteering? Yes, I do!! I have just recently moved back to Canada and I am looking into areas here to become involved with.

Is there any other information you think would be helpful to someone considering volunteering with this organisation? The only thing I can think of is to go in with no expectations and an open mind to be able to help where it is needed. For example, it is great to help the dogs hands-on, but there are often other tasks, such as cleaning and organizing that help the staff so much and allows time for them to focus on care for the animals. Sometimes the cleaning and organizing needs to be done in order for the entire operation to run smoothly, but since there are limited funds to pay the staff, tasks do not always get done. Don’t be afraid to spend time on the areas that have been neglected. They have been neglected for a reason!! They just didn’t have the help available! Help is needed all around and not just with hands-on work with the animals. Also, leave your negative opinions on things outside the door. In Taiwan, things are not run as they are in western countries and the volunteers are not there to change things, nor criticize how operations are handled. Be open to accept the culture and learn from that as well. “Things are not done like this in (Western Country)!” is not an attitude that will get you far when volunteering in a foreign country.

 

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;

wfft14Img_0489Img_0303

Place you volunteered: Wildlife Friends of Thailand

*Wild Life Friends of Thailand works with Globalteer. Globateer is an international volunteer organisation with programs all over the world including Thailand, Cambodia and Columbia.

Cost: (if nothing is included please provide a rough idea of flights, accomodation and food expenses, otherwise please mention program cost plus flights and any additional expenses): I don’t remember very well (it was 6 years ago), but it must have been about 3.000 euros

*Globalteer’s current prices are here.

Is this the first time you have volunteered? Yes, but it was not my last 🙂

What made you want to volunteer? I wanted to travel and doing something meaningful at the same time

How did you find out about this organisation? On the internet

 Cutting food for the animals, delivering it, all kind of cleaning, do enrichments on the animals “home”, etc

*enrichment is when you add stimulants to an animal’s enclosure to stop them becoming too lazy. An example of this is hiding their food so that they must hunt and search for it.

What kind of qualifications did you need? None

Did you enjoy your experience? I simply loved it. It was a once in a lifetime experience!

Can you tell us about your favourite memory? My last day off walking with the elephants

Is there anything you would change? Just the huge conjunctivitis that I had

Would you recommend this program/organisation? Yes I would

Do you plan to do any more volunteering? I’m a volunteer in an organization that helps homeless people in Lisbon, for almost five years now.

Is there any other information you think would be helpful to someone considering volunteering with this organisation? Not really

 

Paulo Palhota

Paulo Palhota: Portugal

Place you volunteered: The organization was Hope n Home in Kathmandu, Nepal http://www.hopenhome.org/volunteers/volunteer-stories/ Here you can find my testimonial from that time! The Orphanage that the Hope n Home organization took me to work was: DRC NEPAL www.drcnepal.com

Cost: I paid US$200 to the organization for 1 month, which covered the accommodation with a Nepali family, the food and a few Nepali lessons to learn their language.

Is this the first time you have volunteered? No, before I worked about two months in Thailand with wild animals, at a wildlife rescue centre, another great experience, but totally different from this one. In Thailand I had more interaction with other volunteers from all over the world and in Nepal it was a more local experience.

What made you want to volunteer? The idea of having a totally new experience, in an exotic place, to have the chance to meet the local people as an insider and to meet people from all over the world.. it all sounded quite cool to me and it still does!

How did you find out about this organisation? I found the organization by simply searching on google. The organization was great, though I started the process very late, only a few days before flying to Kathmandu, everything went perfect.

What were your duties? I had a wonderful time helping the children with their school homework, to teach them geography and English, to help them going to school as some had more difficulties walking, to play football,having fun…and in the end learning more than what I taught them!

What kind of qualifications did you need? No special qualifications were needed.

Did you enjoy your experience? I really had one of the best times of my life. I remember how enthusiastic I was to see them coming back from school or whenever they had a free day so that I could be all day with them. I remember that clock and time was something that I almost forgot it existed…

Can you tell us about your favourite memory? One of my best memories was to take them to the Zoo!! I rented a bus and took 30 kids and teachers to a full day tour with lunch included to the Zoo, they were so excited.. and I paid only as much as I would pay for a few drinks in a bar in Lisbon..

Is there anything you would change? Not really, I even returned 2 years after this first experience. Really amazing!

Would you recommend this program/organisation? Without a doubt, they are so nice and they really worry about you.

 Do you plan to do any more volunteering? Yes I do! I already miss it…

Is there any other information you think would be helpful to someone considering volunteering with this organisation? This organization only offers accommodation with Nepali families that speak good English, so you won’t have any communication problem and they give you a lot of tips about what to do and not to do in the country. That is a great advantage. Please go forward and enjoy this amazing experience that will be with you forever!

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Ashley Wang: Taiwan

Winter Camp with aboriginal kids in San Ming village 三民村 in Taoyuang, Taiwan

The last year in my college life, I volunteered to do winter camp with a big Catholic crew. Although I have no religion, I believed I could give the kids something new and different which might give them some new ways of thinking, but I ended up learning so much from the kids, the people in the village and this volunteering job.

Since it was my first time doing volunteering job and also my first time teaching, I spent so much time on preparation for teaching materials, I wanted to make sure I have things to give. I made my special version of Monopoly with all the English words I am going to teach, and I recorded the English songs I am going to sing with the kids. We were the loudest class during the whole camp 😀

During the whole process, I found out that aboriginal kids are very different from the city kids, they appreciate nature more and they take whatever nature gives them and turn them into something fun and practical. We played games on the fields, we walked kids home after school every day. We called it sunset march. Some kids even rode their bikes to catch up with our sunset march after they got drooped home, they loved hanging out with us and took us as their big sisters and brothers. They took us to their secret spot – Bat Cave. We took few adventures to the cave and enjoyed the little waterfall. Bat cave is at the bottom of the small valley, when you look up from the cave, the view is stunning. This is truly the place with tranquility and serenity, yet lively.

After school, some kids will come back after dinner with their family and join us for some singing session while we are rehearsing for the class for next day. We talked in the quiet night almost every night. After rehearsing, we took shower and slept in the church. The shower room was constantly out of hot water, and the room was iced cold during the whole work camp. You will not believe how much you appreciate the tiny little bit of the civilization provides us that we take it as granted in our lives right now. The hot shower, warm room, TV and internet are not always provided in the village, you appreciate them when you have them. That is a great lesson I have. Appreciate things when you have them, don’t appreciate them when you lose them.

After the test, we had a celebration in the end. Kids performed, and we sang and danced together. We all felt so sad when it was time for us to say goodbye. I remember all the conversation we had during our time together, I have learned to appreciate what I have and what I can offer to the world after that work camp. I was also one of the students in that winter camp.

Half a year after, we went back to the village to visit everyone. They still remember our names and we all enjoyed out time together again. When I think of the songs we sang, the games we played, the adventures we took and the things we shared with the kids, it brought a piece of smile on my face and in my heart. True lesson in life! Anyone who has never done volunteering jobs before might appreciate this story but will not be able to understand the true feeling in this story. I hope you enjoyed it J I’m not such a writer after all ha…

Here’s a link you can refer to : http://www.volunteermatch.org.tw/IW/default_en.asp

Love, Ash

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Sarah Naughton: Ireland 

Place you volunteered: Rwanda – South west in the rusizi district by the drc border

 Cost: (if nothing is included please provide a rough idea of flights, accomodation and food expenses, otherwise please mention program cost plus flights and any additional expenses) VSO the organisation I went with paid for my flights, accommodation, electricity bills (when it worked!), some internal travel (if it was work related and gave a monthly stipend for daily living expenses. I spent a lot of my own money on weekends away, etc.

Is this the first time you have volunteered? No, I have been to Kenya for 4 months previously, have also volunteered on and off at home since college.

 What made you want to volunteer? Travel, interest in development

 How did you find out about this organisation? Through colleagues and advertisements

 What were your duties? My title was resource and methodology advisor. My role was mostly based within a teacher training centre. UNICEF funded my role so we were able to build a teaching resource centre, I worked with the methodology tutors on developing the teaching of the students using active methodologies. I did some of this with local in-service teachers (both sen and primary schools) also. I also had some input with the development of the foundations of education curriculum for trainee teachers.

 What kind of qualifications did you need? Degree and 3 years work experience, some work/travel abroad was also preferable

 Did you enjoy your experience? Loved it!

 Can you tell us about your favourite memory? Hanging out with my neighbours – my leaving party ironically showed me how many amazing friends I had made.

 Is there anything you would change? No, even the difficult parts taught me something about myself or life.

 Would you recommend this program/organisation? Definitely. They are well organised, good ethics and approach development from a governmental level ensuring that work done is work that will have an impact

 Do you plan to do any more volunteering? Some day! Anything long term abroad will have to wait until I’m a lot older and wiser!

 Is there any other information you think would be helpful to someone considering volunteering with this organisation? Be aware that there is a possibility of being placed somewhere you may feel isolated from expats, phone/internet reception. This is not a bad thing but it’s worth considering how you would manage when feeling homesick. Check out the country office of the country you might be placed in and how the team are there from previous volunteers. A head torch, a bucket and a jerry can go a long way!!!

volunteering at the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand

volunteering at the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand

Jaclynn Joseph: United States

Place you volunteered: The Soi Dog Foundation located in Phuket, Thailand

Cost: Volunteering is free! For shelter volunteers, you must provide your own airfare to Phuket, as well as pay for your own accommodation and food for the duration of your time. Hotels in the area are very inexpensive, and SDF can recommend a few that offer discounts for their volunteers. The hotel I booked, on the beach and near a variety of restaurants. Veterinarians and vet techs/nurses who offer their services to the foundation are often provided free housing/accommodation and a stipend to cover food and necessities.

Is this the first time you have volunteered? I have volunteered with various animal shelters and animal related non-profit organizations in Taiwan since 2008, but this was my first time traveling abroad to work for an organization.

What made you want to volunteer? I absolutely love animals and I absolutely love to travel. Through word of mouth I had heard about SDF and thought to combine a trip to Phuket with a 2 week shelter volunteer experience. I ended up loving Soi Dog a lot more than I did Thailand! They do amazing work in Phuket, the staff and the volunteers. They rescue so many animals. I wanted to be a part of it, even in some small way as to volunteer for a few weeks.

How did you find out about this organisation? I found out about SDF through a fellow animal lover, my friend Lesley Hutton. She shared a link on my Facebook wall about SD and their impressive organization. I was hooked! I read all I could online about them and fell in love with the sweet canine faces that I saw on their website, www.soidog.org

What were your duties? The primary role of a shelter volunteer at the animal shelter in Phuket is to socialize and walk the dogs and socialize the cats and puppies. For dogs and cats at the shelter to be adopted into homes, it is essential to teach them to trust people and to teach the dogs to walk on a lead. Almost all of the SDF shelter animals are former street animals who have never been indoors and need to learn to feel comfortable around people. I was partnered with a volunteer from Finland, and he can I had 16 dogs in a kennel we were in charge of. We spent our mornings and afternoons walking each dog in turn around the large SD fenced in property and giving each dog individual attention. After each dog had been walked, we could spend our time in any area of the shelter. The cats/kittens, puppies, old dogs and small dogs pens.

What kind of qualifications did you need? Before you decide to go to SD, make sure you are in good physical condition. Thailand is HOT. Phuket is hot all year round, even when I was there in January it was at least 32F everyday and quite humid. Our work is entirely outdoors, from 8am-4pm and watching over and dealing with 16 mid-large size dogs can be physically demanding in any climate, so best to make sure your body is up to the challenge! Emotionally, you must prepare yourself to see some pretty heartbreaking things, dogs and cats that have suffered terrible abuses by humans. Even after several years of volunteering at animal shelters in Taiwan, it was a shock for me to see how some of these animals were treated before coming to SD.

Did you enjoy your experience? I LOVED my experience at SDF! I enjoyed it so much that I am planning on returning again in January of 2015.

Can you tell us about your favourite memory? I fell in love with one of the dogs put into my care, a lovely boy named Kanan. Kanan had been abused while living on the streets, and had hot oil poured over his head which left a terrible scar. Despite this he was the sweetest and most loyal dog, greeting me every morning with kisses and snuggles, and never leaving my side when I was in his pen. It amazed me that an animal who had been so mistreated by humans could still be so unconditionally loving and forgiving.

Would you recommend this program/organisation? I would strongly recommend Soi Dog to anyone who loves animals and wants to volunteer abroad. I have volunteered for years in animal welfare and this is one of the most well thought out and well run shelters I have ever visited. Soi Dog has done so much for the street dogs and cats of Phuket and further afield, not only through their rescue work but through their very important spay and neuter program, which has seen a massive decline in stray animal numbers throughout the island. In addition, they frequently run mobile sterilization clinics further afield, to help reduce animal population numbers in other areas of Thailand. They are also making huge strides in their fight to end the illegal dog meat trade and funding shelters that house thousands of dogs rescued from being skinned and boiled alive.

Do you plan to do any more volunteering? I continue to volunteer for animal related NPOs in Taipei, and you can find me at Animals Taiwan no-kill animal shelter several days out of the week, either walking shelter dogs or training new volunteers and leading shelter tours.

Is there any other information you think would be helpful to someone considering volunteering with this organisation? If you can’t fly to Thailand to volunteer at the shelter, you can still help in your home country by raising funds! There are support organizations for Soi Dog Foundation around the world which generally hold events, fundraise and raise awareness. You may also chose to raise funds for a specific mission or do a general fundraiser in support of the dogs and cats of Thailand. You can do a simple fundraiser or use an upcoming activity or event. More information on working from your home country can be found on their website, www.soidog.org

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8 thoughts on “Volunteer Experiences

  1. Pingback: Volunteer Stories: Jaclynn Joseph | Volunteer Asia

  2. Thank you for promoting such a great organization, Leanne! I am planning on returning this next Chinese New Year, if anyone in Taiwan is interested in going along. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Volunteer Stories: Sarah Naughton | Volunteer Asia

  4. Pingback: Volunteer Stories: Ashley Wang | Volunteer Asia

  5. Pingback: Volunteer Stories: Lorena Poitras | Volunteer Asia

  6. Pingback: Volunteer Stories: Lindy Mei | Volunteer Asia

  7. Pingback: VSO: The Volunteer Experts | Volunteer Asia

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