In this letter we will tell you a little bit more about Barnhem as well as about life as a volunteer and our expectations of you.
Barnhem, which literally means children’s home in Swedish, started as a result of the December 26 tsunami that hit, amongst other places, Thailand. Today however, we do not seek to help victims affected by the flood waves, in fact, not a single person at Barnhem today is here because of the Tsunami. Many people in Thailand were poor and exposed already before that particular tragedy. Therefore, both children on their own as well as families with children live at Barnhem, all have poverty in common. The father and primary income earner have abandoned some families. Some children have been seriously neglected by their parents and some are simply poor.
Barnhem opened in February 2005 and is pretty much in a state of constant change. In other words, there is no “this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it” solution to a problem. Additionally, the situation at the orphanage is under constant change. Decisions that we cannot always influence happen fast; new children or families can arrive with very short notice or children that you have grown fond of can move out just as quickly etc. Consequently, as a volunteer you have to dare to make your own decisions and feel secure in an ever-changing environment.
Professional experience from similar “jobs” as well as relevant education in teaching, psychology, health care etc. is, of course, very good, however, not a requirement. We cannot underline enough that the most important is involvement, humour and patience. These are qualities that we feel that you can only use if you yourself are in a “good place” in your life. Let us be very clear about this; there is no place at Barnhem for volunteers who have a lot of “issues”, feel burnt-out or think that Barnhem is a good place to recoup. You should feel that it is rewarding to help other people, other volunteers and local personnel but foremost the children and families living at Barnhem.
Being a volunteer means that you live at Barnhem - and Barnhem is the home of the children. Children tend not to be quiet when they are awake, but children do tend to wake up before volunteers do.
It is very important that you never forget the fact that you will be a visitor, a guest, in another culture and another country. And that the children most probably never will leave Thailand. This said, you understand that many things will be done in the Thai way. This way might not always be your cup of tea – deal with it. The children we take care of must primarily function in the Thai society. It is therefore important to humbly listen to the Thai staff and their opinions on how to raise children.
The Thai staff will be your colleagues but they are working under Thai working conditions. They have a six-day workweek, work 10-12 hours per day and make very little money. They were here before you started thinking of coming and they will be here after you have gone home. We expect you to show the staff respect and also to realize that they do a lot of important things that you will not see or understand. You too will do some things that they will not see or understand but the Thai staff will fully respect you as their colleague. The volunteers who have made the most out of their experience are, of course, the ones who have integrated well with the Thai staff. Do not think them - think we!
We accept volunteers from any country in the world but so far all have been either Swedish or Danish. The children and the staff on the other hand speak Thai. Some of them speak a little bit of English as well, the rest hardly speak any English at all. This is why you have to have the guts, strength, stamina and will to deal with people in a situation where the English language can only be a small part of the communication.
Each volunteer must find ways to cooperate and communicate with the Thai staff and through this interaction gather information about the children and the on-goings at Barnhem. Why wasn't I informed that... is a line used too often by some volunteers.
The volunteers that interact the most with the Thai staff are also usually the ones that have the most fun and benefit the most from the stay here.
As mentioned before, the children have very different backgrounds. Some have had a comparatively decent childhood, some have not. Most of the children are very easy to get in contact with, a few are harder. We can't change what has already happened in their lives but we can help them help themselves. We will truly succeed with some children but we might also truly fail with a few. For the moment there are 35 children at Barnhem. Many of these are teenagers. A sincere interest in dealing with teenagers – and all the challenges related to that age - is therefore essential.
You are fully responsible for your belongings and the safekeeping of them. Barnhem will not be liable for any damage or loss. You must make sure that you are fully insured for the entire stay this includes insurance for personal injuries.
The children are absolutely fantastic and both need and deserve fantastic volunteers. The type of volunteer that does arts & crafts and play ball, hugs and comforts, teaches English, manages the supplies and guides visitors and many other things.
For the time being, volunteers work 5-6 days per week, nine hours per day following a schedule. We work our shifts alone but the shifts overlap in order for us to give the children as much time and attention as possible. Additionally, there is some “stand-by shifts” when we normally do not work but have to be present at Barnhem. Working hours and workload naturally vary according to the number of volunteers at that time. Being a volunteer means that you have to be flexible with your working hours since these may change with little or no prior notice. If something important comes up you will be called in even if you are not scheduled to work. For instance you might have to spend the night at the hospital, on a mattress, should a child become ill. And this on a night you had planned to something completely different.
The work tasks consist of the following:
All our volunteers must teach English at the local schools and at Barnhem. The English lessons are something where our volunteers really can make a difference. At this time, we teach children from 6 to 14 years in three different schools. According to our schedule, all volunteers teach all ages. Most schools are poor with very limited means. Some classes are great, others not so great. With our presence we hope to give the children inspiration to learn English as well as help them improve their pronunciation.
The volunteers go by moped to the different schools. You will have to spend about 4 dollars a week on gasoline. The mopeds are provided by Barnhem and can also be used during your free time unless another volunteer/staff member on his/her work shift needs them. The school furthest away from Barnhem is approx. 3 km away.
As volunteer you stay for free at Barnhem with breakfast, lunch and dinner included. The food is very healthy, sometimes spicy and always Thai-style. We can and will not make any exceptions because of special diets, allergies or such. The food is made with the children's best in focus. If you want to buy your own food, you should calculate minimum 35-60 Bath per meal. The rooms, that are of Thai standard and similar to the ones the children live in, are shared with other volunteers. Thai standard means that you have a fan, mosquito net and cold running water. The toilet, in which you do not throw any paper, is flushed manually with a bucket of water.
There are also cats and dogs staying at the Barnhem. Barnhem is not located in a city but in the countryside. This means that snakes, lizards, spiders and other animals can and will “visit” us – deal with it.
16 consecutive weeks is the absolute minimum. It is incredibly important that you and the children have time to get to know and trust each other. The same is true between the employees and the volunteers. With respect to the children and the other volunteers, the length of stay agreed upon is conclusive.
We want to point out that, as we have mentioned earlier, Barnhem is under constant change. In other words, things might be different once you come to work with us. This is the current situation.
Concerning immunisations, we recommend you to contact your local vaccination/immunisation place.
We must once again point out the fact that you must make sure that you are fully covered, regarding everything, insurance-wise. Barnhem does not have any kind of insurance that covers volunteers. Barnhem will neither accompany nor give rides to volunteers to the Police, insurance companies, hospitals, Immigration or such.
And once again, the period for which you have signed up is binding. No, you may not leave early, no, you may not take time off. Volunteers are there for many, not the other way around.
Straight talk: Are you kind but lazy? Do you complain a lot? Are you overly social and better at talking than at working? Do you like to be at the centre of attention? Do you often get ill? Don’t like animals or insects? Do you really look forward to hanging out with the other volunteers? Are you bad at taking criticism? Are you heat sensitive? Do you expect gratitude or leniency from children or staff because you are a volunteer? In that case – do not apply.
Parts of the information above may sound harsh or even deterring, but out of experience we want to be very clear on facts. The majority of our volunteers have been amazingly adaptive and hard-working people. They have come here with all the intention of helping the children. They have lived here with an open and humble frame of mind. But we have also had a few that more or less were looking for free lodging and a few have come here as a solution to personal problems. Working with the children has been more of a necessary evil for them. Some have also displayed disrespectful behaviour towards the children, the employees and the Thai culture.
Volunteership can and will be terminated immediately should a volunteer not follow the above-mentioned rules, the child protection policy or Thai law. In the case of this happening, all costs related to a volunteer having to leave will be a matter for he/her to clear.
Before you fill in your application, please read our Child Protection Policy and the “Volunteer’s promise”. Please fill out the volunteer application and return it to us by e-mail together with your CV, references and a copy from the authorities of your criminal record. We will get back to you.
Should you have any more questions or want to speak to us by phone, you can reach us at:
firstname.lastname@example.org alternativt via telefon på +66 (0) 8789 33 692
Please send your application to: email@example.com
Sussi and Hans