Category Archives: Volunteers
Volunteering at DEPDC can be very rewarding for the volunteer, DEDPC staff and the children. Volunteers are always welcome at our main DEPDC site in Mae Sai or our other centre in Chiang Kong. We have had volunteers from America, Canada, Europe and Japan and some have stayed for up to 3 years. There are approximately six foreign volunteers at any one time here who stay for 6 months or more.
The International Department would like to introduce Aaron, who joined our organization in November and has shown a keen interest in applying his experiences to help develop DEPDC/GMS in a way which supports our mission statement and vision. Aaron brings with him the enthusiasm to work in several aspects of the organization such as grant writing, research and updating social media, among others. Over the last four weeks, Aaron has taken over the ‘Child Voice Radio’ show; an essential platform for disseminating information about human rights, health and the rest of the work undertaken here at DEPDC/GMS. He is also currently investigating how to generate podcasts of the show in order to reach a wider, global audience.
“My interest in human trafficking started during my role as a special constable in the Thames Valley Police force. I was always surrounded by vulnerable individuals but knew that I wouldn’t be able to identify a trafficked person if I had encountered one. So I took a few of the e-learning courses provided by the department and became familiar with the process in which the trade is conducted, those who are perpetrating the criminal act, the identification of potential victims and methods of prevention.
“I continued researching the topic in my spare time to include how criminal organizations were exploiting every possible avenue to traffic individuals. More surprisingly, to me at least, was how much of a growing health issue human trafficking has become. Having spent the last four years both studying and practicing Applied Biomedical Science; I thought that a hospital laboratory was about as far removed from the world of human trafficking as possible. I was wrong. Health care professionals are on the front line in the identification of potential victims and far too many trafficked individuals fall through the cracks in clinics worldwide.
“Apart from the identification of potential victims; health care professionals need to regard the trafficking of humans as a global health issue in respect to disease epidemiology. Communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis, to name a few, are endemic among trafficked persons, especially those involved in sex trafficking. Individuals who go unmonitored and untreated not only aid in the proliferation of these diseases but, a potential co-infection, for example with two different strains of HIV, provides a situation in which the virus can mutate. These issues therefore directly increase the health risk to the general public, but don’t even begin to cover the social impact of non-communicable disease, psychological distress or the escalation of organ harvesting.
“With so many aspects of my life being involved with potential cases of human trafficking, I figured it was time to have more direct involvement and was determined to volunteer with DEPDC/GMS. How better to tackle any problem than by working on the ground with those at risk, helping to prevent young individuals from becoming lost in the cycle, and even the possibility to help expand the work already undertaken here in Mae Sai and the other locations in which DEPDC/GMS operates.”
One of our new volunteers is Eléa, who joined DEPDC at the beginning of November. She is from France and is a recent graduate in International Relations with a Master degree in International Peace and Security. She loves kids and has a deep commitment to making sure that children everywhere get the chance to live freely and to be happy and healthy. She came to Thailand earlier in her life and developed a fondness for Thai culture and Thailand itself which, in addition to her passion for children’s rights, is what has brought her into the DEPDC/GMS family.
Eléa teaches the kindergarten classes at the Mae Sai centre and is redesigning the English classroom into both a nice study environment and a handy teaching tool with the help of other volunteers. She also teaches at the Community Learning Centre, co-manages social media, occasionally helps Aaron with the radio show, and works to obtain the funding that DEPDC/GMS needs for its projects.
My love for children brought me here. I strongly believe that education is the key to prevent and fight the most deeply-rooted issues of human trafficking. I first learned about human trafficking through my degree and I had wanted to get involved in a meaningful project for a long time. When I did research and came across the work of DEPDC, I seized the opportunity to help the organisation to achieve its goals after I was offered a position.
Taking action early in the lives of children is the best time to tackle the cycle of human trafficking and prevent it from beginning. The work we undertake here is to make sure our children have a safe environment to learn and grow confidently and happily, and also to raise awareness about the dangers they may face. The scope and magnitude of the human trafficking problem in Northern Thailand is very saddening and negatively impacts human lives on so many levels. At the centre, the kids are protected from traffickers looking for children in the surrounding villages and learn about their own protection.
I strongly believe that investing human capital in children is one of the best and most valuable long-term investments we can make. It yields positive benefits to economies and communities. Investing all necessary resources to help children develop to their full potential will empower future generations and impact our common future, as the world of tomorrow will inherit the children of today. I believe in every child’s capacity and I strive for a world where education is accessible by all; where children are protected and given the tools to learn and think by themselves.
I am so grateful for the opportunity and really happy to be part of this wonderful experience. I enjoy teaching the classes and doing all sorts of activities with the students. Restoring the classroom wall is a big project but all the children will be involved and I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!
We are pleased to welcome Julie, an American volunteer who joined us at our headquarters in Mae Sai last month after spending the last two years here in Thailand teaching English. Julie taught in several different parts of the country while also improving her Thai language fluency and literacy. She brings with her altogether more than four years of experience in Thailand and a genuine desire to utilize her teaching, language, and writing skills to contribute to DEPDC’s efforts to prevent and protect young people, in particular those of at-risk groups and communities, from labor exploitation, sex trafficking, and other forms of human rights violations.
“Doing humanitarian work in Thailand has been an aspiration of mine since the initial time that I lived in the country during my early twenties, the first period of which was when I joined a study abroad program from my undergraduate college in 1998 to study for a semester at Assumption University (ABAC) in Bangkok. The program attracted me especially because our group would have opportunities for volunteer service, cultural enrichment, and independent travel, and because I majored in Philosophy and was very keen to learn about eastern cultures and religions firsthand in Thailand and other parts of Asia. I also had a growing interest in ethics and human rights, and my experience during those six months opened my eyes wide to the world and to my own cultural conditioning. This sparked a profound internal change which, along with an affinity for Thailand and the Thai people, motivated me to return upon my graduation in 2000 to teach English as a Foreign Language for a year in Bangkok and then in Khon Kaen for another year. I then went back to the United States and worked as a social worker and a teacher, all the while with a persistent sense of wonder about what I could do in Thailand as a trained teacher of EFL, and then with further cross-cultural experience and advanced Thai language skills what I could eventually do there as a humanitarian worker.”
“An increasingly burning need to find out led me to return to the country in 2011 to do a full TEFL course and I have since immersed myself in the culture as a full-time teacher of all ages from pre-school through adult, as well as a largely self-taught learner of Thai. Within about two years, after witnessing evidence of human rights issues almost daily while living and working in Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, and Bangkok, I knew it was time to move forward into a position to do something about it. I discovered the impressive work DEPDC has been doing and, with much reflection on my personal experiences and knowledge of the social issues which have historically affected women and children globally, I pursued a position as a volunteer with the organization in Mae Sai. I have thoroughly enjoyed my work here thus far teaching English and Thai, writing articles, researching human trafficking and grant opportunities, developing training materials, and most of all learning from and getting to know the Thai staff and my fellow international volunteers. I am grateful and inspired to be a part of DEPDC and to be able to utilize my skills and experience in a variety of ways to contribute to its mission.”
This week we would like to introduce you to Matt, one of our new international volunteers currently volunteering in Mae Sai. Matt is a university student from Sydney, Australia, and was with DEPDC earlier in January as part of a short volunteer program organized by International Student Volunteers (ISV). While they were in Thailand at the Swimming Home, our site in Mae Chan, the ISV group helped with a DEPDC project to build a day-care center and the experience was so rewarding that Matt came back six months later to work with DEPDC again. He knew nothing about human trafficking and very little about Thailand when he first came, but after he was told about the situation he felt like he had to become more involved in human trafficking prevention.
“From where I live in Australia I knew there were problems in the world, but they were so distant from everything I was surrounded by that, to be honest, I rarely gave them much thought. I was at university one day and an ISV spokesperson came into the lecture I was in and said ‘we offer these volunteer programs, they’re affordable and we arrange a lot of the details for you, come along to one of our on-campus seminars if you’re interested.’ I’d thought about volunteering before so I figured I’d go along and see what I could find out. After about thirty minutes I was sold on a volunteer program in Thailand which eventually sent me and eleven other students to work for two weeks with DEPDC. I actually worked with another NGO after DEPDC, called Mae Kok Foundation, which I also love and am still in contact with, but I was so inspired by DEPDC’s approach to human trafficking prevention and by the tireless, passionate work of DEPDC’s staff that by the third night I’d decided I was coming back later that year. Even though in a perfect world I’d like to work with both, I had to choose, so I stuck with my decision, deferred my degree for a year and the rest is history.
“I love being here in Mae Sai, the work we do is always rewarding. It’s also the kind of work where you can see the achievements, especially with teaching, so even when it’s hard or you’re tired you can rely on the kids and the successes to keep you happy and positive. The atmosphere is great as well, all the staff being really nice and welcoming. Of course, you’ve got to take it in stride when everyone breaks into hysterics at your attempts to speak Thai, but it’s all in the family, so it’s always a good laugh. There’s no doubt there are lots of problems here in Mae Sai, and in Thailand and the world in general, but it’s a privilege to be part of an organization which is doing something about them. This time I won’t be here for very long in the scheme of things, only about a year or so. But I hope that this is just the beginning of a long relationship I have with DEPDC, Thailand and human rights work, and if I work hard and I’m lucky then I think my ambitions will work out. But whatever happens in the future, I’m here now and I’m already lucky to have come so far from listening to a spokesperson in a lecture theatre in Sydney back in 2012.”
This week we would like to introduce you to Erica, one of our new international volunteers who is currently volunteering at our HQ in Mae Sai. Erica graduated with a B.A in Chinese Studies from the University College Cork, Ireland. As part of her four year course, she spent a year studying at Shanghai University. Here, for the first time, she was exposed to the seedier nature of several aspects of Chinese culture and on her return to Ireland, decided to focus all of her energy on researching human trafficking.
Erica says ‘For my final year, I centered my dissertation on trafficking and used every presentation as a chance to learn more. Every time I read a new article or book, there was something to shock me. After graduation, I couldn’t think of a single thing I was more passionate about than trafficking, so I set about looking for volunteering options. Many people ask me why I chose Thailand when my degree is in Chinese, this is simply because finding a Chinese NGO working against trafficking that accepted international volunteers proved much harder than I thought it would. Another area of interest to me however, was the Greater Mekong Sub region.
I found DEPDC/GMS after coming across the volunteer application on Omprakesh, applied, was accepted and am living it! Volunteering here so far has been an amazing experience and working next to like minded people is a huge part of that. The kids and the staff are welcoming and kind and the work is hard but rewarding. Every day offers new opportunities for inspiration. ‘
DEPDC Chiang Khong and Mae Chan are recruiting!
We may accept short-term volunteers who can offer a specific skill set. We also have opportunities available at our headquarters in Mae Sai starting at the end of this year.
Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested.
This week we would like to introduce you to Patricia, our new international volunteer at DEPDC Chiang Khong. She is originally from Spain but has lived in England for many years. Pat graduated from East London University (UK) in 2011. She studied Third World Development and Psychosocial Studies because she wanted to “change the world.” Although this has proved much more difficult in practice than it ever seemed in theory, she is firmly convinced that a better world is possible.
After finishing her degree in England, Pat returned to Spain. During this time, she took courses in development, gender, NGO management, French, and Catalan, as well as volunteering for the Red Cross. Pat’s goal was to join a development organization abroad and gain practical experience in the field. She was delighted when DEPDC offered her the opportunity to come to Thailand and become part of the International Department as a long-term volunteer.
Pat first visited Thailand in 2008 for what was supposed to be just a holiday. However, her short trip became much more than that when she witnessed the enormous scale of the country’s sex industry. She became very interested in the issue of prostitution in Southeast Asia, particularly sex tourism, and it became the topic of her final thesis at university.
Pat is the only international volunteer based at DEPDC’s shelter for at-risk girls in Chiang Khong. One of her projects is running a daily English Language After School Club. The club provides the girls with an informal setting where they feel comfortable practicing their English skills, leaving their fears of foreign languages behind.
More recently, Pat has initiated a long-term project to teach the girls about environmental protection. It addresses issues such as waste management, the 3 “R” concept (reduce, reuse, recycle), consumerism, and sustainability. She also helps with English language correspondence, visitors, and the DEPDC newsletter and blog.
She plans to stay with us until the end of this year. She is currently studying Thai language, which she hopes will enable her to discuss a wider range of issues with the girls.
Pat is especially enjoying living at the centre with the girls and developing close relationships with them. You will often find Pat and the girls riding bicycles together across the paddy fields as the sun sets on the horizon. Surely the best moment of the day!