My mother was skeptical when I said I was leaving for Thailand in a month to work as a full-time volunteer for an NGO for half a year. She was reassured when she saw that the organization had a website, was on Google maps, replied to my emails, and generally seemed legitimate. Still, I had student loans and the more responsible choice at the time seemed to be staying in the US, getting a paid job, and maybe taking a holiday to Thailand someday. But I decided it was the opportunity I was looking for and, bank-account-be-damned, I was off.
Luckily, it turned out moving to Phuket and volunteering for Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation (PHBGTU) was a great decision. Volunteering for the Foundation doesn’t just mean making coffee (although we do enjoy our morning cup of Joe); I became the primary marketing and communication fellow or the “Marketing Department”. This role meant liaising with media sponsors, updating our social media, creating our quarterly newsletter, marketing and helping to plan our major fundraising events, and more! In short it was amazing career experience, working with great people, on a beautiful tropical island! #Winning.
Even the fact that I happened to arrive on the island during an El Nino year –which meant the rainiest high-season most people seemed to be able to remember – hasn’t put a damper on my time as a full-time volunteer. One of the best parts of the job is helping out at Coconut Club, the after-school programme for residential students at Kamala school. For an hour each day we play games or create arts and crafts with students who live full time at the school because they are orphans or their parents are unable to take care of them. Spending time with the children we work to benefit through quality English language programmes is the best reminder that a day full of monotonous emailing was worth the effort.
Fortunately, working in the office was usually very dynamic and meant taking responsibility for a variety of projects. I stayed with the Foundation for 9 months and was able to take part in all three of our major fundraising events over the course of the year: A Night at the Opera; Black Tie, Muay Thai; and Pop Up 3. While I was primarily working on marketing our small team shared responsibility for tasks and everyone was involved in our fundraising events. Even our seven-member teaching team would help out before and on event day.
While a salary is a nice perk of any job, I am incredibly happy that I chose to be a full-time volunteer for PHBGTU. I was lucky enough to move to Phuket and meet fun people, take part in great festivals, eat delicious food, and travel around Thailand a bit! Plus, while my time with the Foundation is wrapping up, I am hoping to stay on in Phuket and I am therefore seeking new work opportunities. In the meantime, I will definitely stay informed on all the happenings at Phuket Has Been Good To Us and take part whenever I can!