15 Weeks of Travelling & Volunteering in Thailand

15 weeks of traveling beautiful Thailand whilst completing volunteer projects in both building and renovation and recycling. Both projects were central to the improvement of community lifestyle whilst also contributing to building a more sustainable future for the locals. This has undoubtedly been the most exhilarating and rewarding experience of my life knowing I have helped develop communities much less fortunate than myself.

Volunteer Internship in Thailand

My name is Chloé Ghijselings, I am 20 years old and from Belgium. Currently I am an interior design student. In order to graduate we are requested to follow an internship with an interior designer or an architect. The thing is, I wasn’t feeling ready to just do my internship behind a desk for three months. I wanted to learn more about the building site. Because I wanted a more practice oriented internship, I decided to look for volunteering.

I’ve always been passionate about other communities and learning about them. After looking for sometime, I came across this opportunity to travel whilst immersing myself in the local culture and contributing towards local communities through building and construction. There were various projects available on the website including building projects in Thailand, South Africa, Philippines and Ecuador. After much deliberation over which country to choose from, I settled on Thailand as Asia has always been on my bucket list. Before booking everything, I first had seek approval from my school.

When I got the green light, I booked everything and counted down the days until my departure day. I remember being really nervous the day of my departure because this was my first solo travel trip. However after composing myself, the excitement overtook the nerves. I knew I was about to embark on an experience which would shape me as a person, developing my confidence and worldly knowledge.

I remember arriving in Bangkok, it was so hot! I was wondering if I could get used to this heat as it was so vastly different from back home in Belgium however after a few days I soon acclimatised. After meeting the first volunteers who arrived the same day as me, I began to settle in and grew exited about the weeks ahead. One all the volunteers had landed we travelled to Singburi where we were able to settle in to our accommodation and have a rest to recover from the long haul flight.

On the first Monday of my four month experience, we visited central Singburi where I was introduced to the remaining volunteers. Tuesday was my first day at the temple school program where we had been assigned a building and renovation program, helping achieve a more sustainable future for the school. I was really excited to see what we would do. In my first few weeks of temple school, we mostly mixed cement, laid cement and build walls.

I felt satisfied after mixing for the first time cement – by hand (with tools of course). We also painted the walls and were able to release our inner creative flair, drawing colourful designs which were bound to be a hit with the children. The most memorable thing about the school was the charing and friendly children, they loved the attention of the volunteers and instantly formed bonds with us.

They always wanted to play with us and give us hugs. These kids were absolutely adorable. I was based at temple school for about 13 weeks. I felt satisfied with the knowledge I had gained from building walls, mixing cement, even tiling a surface! I gained more confidence in my building and construction skills and discovered new found talents I never knew I had!

In my second week I went to the Ahka Tribe. I thought it would be interesting for my internship to see how the difference of living is between the north of Thailand and Singburi. I went there with two other volunteers and I had an amazing week. We were able to experience tribal life and appreciate their simple way of life by helping with daily tasks and rituals. Our coordinator was knowledgable and really taught us a lot about the Ahka tribe and their culture.

I really enjoyed the trekking in the jungle. I pushed my personal boundaries and I was very proud of myself. Something I also really enjoyed was the day we spent at a local’s house, there we saw first hand how the locals lived and enjoyed stories about the history of the area and the unique culture.

In my eighth week, I participated in the recycle week. I was interested by the plastic problems and have always wanted to contribute to combatting the issue. Plastic and design are at the moment a really hot topic. The coordinators needed help to finish their workshop for the visit of a jury. They were selected to win an award – they created a small device to sort each plastic kind. The intention of developing this device was to encourage people to recycle correctly on a household level.

I thought it was a really good idea and was really excited to help them out. Myself and two additional volunteers knuckled down and got the workshop finished for the visit of the jury. It was a really exciting day and I am thrilled I had the chance to participate in this impactful project. It was a kind of project that really alerted me to the extent of the plastic pollution problem and inspired me to continue my work in this field. I learned so much about recycling plastics and the kinds that exist, but also about how Europe treat their own plastic waste. It motivated me to take back everything I learned with me and tell others about this.

It has been an invaluable 15 weeks internship, not only because of the impact I have had on the sustainability of local communities but also because of all these friends I made from around the world. They made my experience ten times better because without them, I wouldn’t have the same wonderful stories. Thank you my friends, for partying together every two weeks in Bangkok. For the many nights we laughed so hard I could barely breath. For celebrating my birthday with me in Thailand – a birthday I will never forget.

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