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Volunteer in Phuket, Thailand for Free

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What is the "Phuket Has Been to Good to Us" Foundation?

Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation was pioneered by Tom McNamara in 2005, a year following the 2004 Asian Tsunami. 

The schools that needed help could not afford fluent English speaking teachers and it soon became clear that he needed to create an organisation that would make this education available to the children for free. In 2006, Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation became a registered charity in the Kingdom of Thailand and a Board of Directors was implemented. Since then, many local and international supporters have been inspired by this initiative and joined us to expand English education in Phuket.

Five English teachers provide English education for free to over 700 underprivileged Thai children in two government schools in Phuket.

These 700 students are aged 4 to 18 and learn English as well as Maths and Science in English. Over 200 of these students live in dormitories at Kamala School because they are unable to live at home or do not have a place to call home. To give these children nurturing support while living away from family, we run Coconut Club, an after-school programme that teachers and volunteers organize for the children to do arts & crafts, play games, learn cooking and practice English.

If you're interested in teaching English in Thailand at a school and not to volunteer, see more details here.

Requirements for each position: 

Teaching Fellow

A Teaching Fellow is a qualified, fluent English speaking teacher who signs a 5 or 11 month contract. This position is responsible for teaching English in an RPG 36 School in Kamala, Phuket. Teaching Fellows typically serve as teachers in the classroom and activity coordinators for our after school programme, Coconut Club. This is a volunteer position without financial remuneration.

Teaching Assistants

For Teaching Assistants, we ask a minimum of 1 day per week volunteering and a minimum 5 month commitment. Although this volunteer position is unpaid, it aids the children's educational development and offers a fulfilling volunteer experience.

Office Fellow

Office Fellows are required to sign a minimum 6 month contract and are expected to work 40 hours a week supporting the Director of Operations. This position does not offer financial remuneration …. In lieu of stipend or salary, we offer accommodation and transportation.

A teacher in Phuket, Thailand teaching students in front of a blackboard
A peak into a typical classroom

If you are passionate about nonprofit-related work, working with children, looking for a fulfilling time to spend your time abroad, this foundation will be wonderful. Warning, you will get attached to these adorable children. Often times, you see them more than their parents do. Volunteering and working with Phuket Has Been Good to Us comes with a wide range of roles, as it is a small foundation. You could be running an after school program for the children, arranging birthday parties for the in-house students, taking them swimming on Saturdays, to hosting a fundraising night with some of the most prominent people on the island. 

Another great resource to finding volunteer positions around the world is through Workaway or Worldpackers. Learn all about Workaway and how to volunteer with Worldpackers to find the right opportunity for you.

This job kick-started my expat lifestyle

After finishing at Indiana University, I knew that I didn’t want to stay in the US. My shorter volunteer stints to Peru and Tanzania in the past had opened up Pandora’s box. After flying all the way to Italy to do my TEFL certification and not securing a proper job, I had to return to America. However, I returned more determined than ever. 

I worked as a waitress until I saved what I thought was enough money. During this time, I had come across the position with Phuket Has Been Good to Us. It was a 6 month volunteer, unpaid position in Phuket, Thailand. While I didn’t know much about the job beyond the correspondence with my now ex-boss, I took a leap of faith. People at home thought I was absolutely insane. Here I was moving to a country thousands of miles away, where I didn’t know anyone and was uncertain of the job security. However, my leap of faith paid off, and my 6 month volunteer trip turned me into a 3 year fully paid teacher. 

Phuket Has Been Good to Us is located only in Phuket, Thailand. They do work across many different schools on the island. Check here for international volunteer options with them!

I volunteered for a few months when I asked to be a full-time teacher. I was enjoying my experience with the foundation and they liked me a teacher, so it worked out perfectly! Plus that waitressing money was running short. Never did I think ‍my short term stay would end up being nearly three years of my life living in Thailand and a 5 minute walk from a beach. Not many people in the US travel, let alone from Indiana.

I was the first in my family to take on such a daring adventure, but it’s one that I don’t regret. 

During my time with Phuket Has Been Good to US, I created curriculums for approximately 250 students, ran the after-school program, thoroughly enjoyed taking the little monsters swimming ‍2x a month, and oversaw the International Volunteers program. Essentially, I came in as a teacher but your role becomes so much more than just that. If you’ve ever worked at a small nonprofit you will understand the flexibility you must have.

An English teacher in Phuket, Thailand playing a game with her students.
Having some fun with my students

Pros to volunteering in Thailand

There was hardly a day without a smile.

This by far was one of the best international jobs I ever had. At the foundation, we were just like a family. We did birthdays, holidays, and random dinners altogether. Of course, sometimes I saw my co-workers more than I wanted. With their presence though, it helped with things like missing important dates at home and not seeing my family as much as I’d like.  ‍

Even when the students were driving me up a wall, there wasn’t a day I didn’t leave smiling. These students were still young and had a very basic level of English, so communication wasn’t always the easiest. It’s amazing what a hug will do for your day. I had one student who would act out the entire class but would wait until everyone left to help me straighten up the classroom. The children that live at the school rarely get the 1-to-1 attention they need and deserve. So it was then that I understood that he wanted my undivided attention more than the others.‍

As much as I was there to change their lives, it turns out they changed mine even more. 
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My personal cons to volunteering in Phuket

It wasn’t all sunshine and beautiful beaches but living in Phuket has plenty of bright spots.

Working at a nonprofit will never be the typical 9-5. There are the days when your work goes well into the evening. As a team, you know the bigger picture, you know how impactful your efforts are to the foundation. So while I was a 5 minute walk from the beach, the majority of my time was focused on work, mainly Monday-Saturday. Thai schools do have the entire month off of April and October, so I used those times to travel. 

‍Also, keep in mind, Phuket can be quite seedy when it comes to older white men preying on young girls.

Ultimately, it was one of the factors that influenced me to finally make my next move to Malaysia. Don’t think you’re going to find the man of your dreams in Phuket. Sis, it’s just not going to happen. You’ll most likely be met with a 60+ year old man with his hairy belly out on the beach or the occasional “I’m here for two days” Tinder hottie. 

As a woman of color, I faced my own challenges, with students and locals. While, I say about 90% of my experience was fantastic, you do get the occasional disruption. In my experience, I use those as teaching moments, showing them we are all alike no matter what color we are. 

Working 1:1 with one of my students

Find your non-profit cause 

There are thousands of non-profits around the world. You have to find what’s right for you. Do you care about underprivileged children, the environment, or women’s rights? Realize you will sacrifice living below a Western means, live in a totally new culture and environment, not being able to see your family. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. 

However, I didn’t regret anything about this life decision. While I never went to school to be a teacher and never even saw myself as one, today I still teach children. My dream is to establish my own educational nonprofit. If it weren’t for this amazing opportunity who knows where I’d be at today. It made me more patient, respectful, and appreciative of other cultures. Traveling changes your life, but volunteering your time takes it to another level. 

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