Volunteer Service

Volunteer Service Examples

Following are examples of agencies where IPSL students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other service placements may be available. Your placement will be determined by community and agency needs, as well as your language skills, interests and goals.


You will serve approximately 10-15 hours per week in a local agency. Service opportunities for most students center around:

  • Services to disadvantaged children

  • English language consulting and / or tutoring related work in which Thai language is not a barrier.

  • Additional service opportunities can be arranged depending on your Thai language ability. These may

  • Schools for the deaf and blind

  • Environmental programs

  • Organizations serving the elderly and the handicapped, Burmese refugees/immigrants, street children, hill tribe

"I really enjoyed my service placement and having the class to go with it. It was a small group-just my professor and another student. It was easy to open up and really talk when we felt like the experience was overwhelming. And overwhelming is definitely a feeling that was a big part of this experience at times. I feel lucky to have had a fellow IPSL student by my side, somebody to share the IPSL experience with, somebody to talk to when the experience felt overwhelming. We were really able to support each other. IPSL has really showed me the importance of service, community work and most importantly staying informed and involved. After doing service in Thailand, I've been inspired by the people making change within their own communities. When I graduate, I will be spending a year with City Year New York, reconnecting with the city I grew up in and giving back as much as I possibly can."

- Pamela, Chiang Mai

Ethical Service in Thailand don't need to speak Thai, but you will learn it and the higher your proficiency, the more you'll get out of the experience.


After a week of orientation to Chiang Mai and a rural village, you will return to Chiang Mai and visit various service agencies; service assignments will begin shortly thereafter. As you work with local people and care for those in need, you will find your experience and understanding of the culture enriched and deepened, your leadership skills developed, and your language skills enhanced.

As an IPSL service-learning participant in Chiang Mai, Thailand you will have the opportunity to perform volunteer service in one of several local partner organizations/agencies. IPSL does its best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating with a determined role among the team members, but also by enriching the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work.  Therefore, each project or program is improved and enriched with your participation. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away.

Service-Learning™ versus Internship/Practicum

IPSL service-learning placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Central to the philosophy of service-learning is the notion of service. Service-learning is not the same as an internship or practicum although it may look very similar. The service in service-learning may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his/ her future profession. In contrast, in service-learning, the outcome of the student's work - that is, the service – is as important as the student’s learning. There are — or should be — identifiable benefits to those served. Thus, reciprocity is a key component in international service-learning.

IPSL Service Placements

IPSL's service-learning placements are in agencies that have sprung up from the grassroots, where locals have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. What they need is additional assistance of all kinds from the outside. So, IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your work is important, but your individual contributions may not be visible for many years. Change takes time. In the meantime, you are fulfilling an important need, and the needs are huge.

A single agency may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service) so that the agency can one day experience more stability in the delivery of its services. Either way, both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals. Each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits and NGOs experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. And this is as it should be. Nothing says "I'm a partner in your community" more than a willingness on the part of a service-learning participant not only to do higher-level tasks, but also occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable to the client population being served. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans, and build relationships based on equality. That is why many of the service agencies with which we work have been our partners for years.

The IPSL website lists areas of service, and a few examples for each program site. This list is not exhaustive, nor static. The types of work listed do not each represent a distinct agency; they represent the types of work that IPSL participants can expect to encounter at the different service agencies with which we work. The number and selection of service agencies may change at any time. Sometimes there are logistical (transportation, scheduling, etc.) issues that arise that complicate certain service agency placements and make them unworkable. Sometimes students need to be proficient in the local language in order to serve in a particular agency. Also, we do not place too many students in any one agency. Doing so would undermine the immersion environment for which IPSL programs are known.


AIDS ministry organization
This is a Christian organization working on AIDS issues primarily in Northern Thailand. CAM was founded in 1991 by a group of Christian leaders concerned about the growing AIDS epidemic in Thailand. CAM promotes and fosters group formation at the level of the local church and its immediate community to confront problems arising due to AIDS.  CAM supports a holistic approach to persons in crisis.

Aid to Victims of Sexploitation

Center aiding young hill-tribe women who have been sex workers or who are at risk This center was established to help young hill-tribe women who have worked as prostitutes or are at risk of becoming prostitutes. The Center operates three residences in Chiang Mai and one in Chiang Rai. There are approximately thirty women living at each residence. These women attend non-formal education classes to obtain their compulsory education. In addition, they receive some vocational training, and they receive physical, mental, and spiritual support from the Center’s staff and volunteers. The Center also provides scholarships for hill-tribe girls living at home.

Juvenile Delinquent Center

This center studies and assists juvenile delinquents who have been convicted of crimes by a juvenile court. The ORC studies and analyzes the youths in order not only to find out why they commit crimes, but also to motivate them to change their behavior. The ORC offers a variety of treatment programs to the juveniles, and it helps them find places where they will be able to work and live without discrimination. The ORC also helps homeless people and children who are repeat offenders through its detention program.

Arts Center for Disabled

Community and vocational arts program for hill-tribe people with disabilities

This center was founded by several Japanese women in 1982. The main purpose of the organization is to help hill-tribe people with disabilities live independent lives as full participants in society. The SCC also sponsors a number of projects to help hill-tribe people achieve economic independence. The SCC runs a number of community programs aimed at increasing public understanding of disabilities. Through its contemporary hand-weaving program, the SCC seeks to teach marketable skills to disabled hill-tribe people and improve their quality of life. The SCC helps the weavers sell the naturally-dyed, hand-spun yarn they produce as part of its social development project in highland areas.

Elementary school

This is a government school that provides classes from kindergarten to Mattayom 3 (grade 9). The school is one of the largest and most famous in the area. It has 17 teachers and 302 students, and it has one English study center and one computer laboratory. The school also offers a special program for autistic children. The goal of this project is to improve and expand English instruction at the school, which cannot meet demand on its own. With guidance from senior teachers, the students designed their own curricula, lesson plans, and examinations.

Home for orphaned children

This home provides care for orphans, covering a wide range of ages. The home gives health care to the children and tries to educate them by teaching daily skills as well as trying to instill in them a sense of morality. The main goal of the home is to find a suitable adoptive family for the children and have the children move into a new home of their own.

Micro-business assistance for villagers

Using finance and banking students as volunteers, this program helps villagers prepare business plans for selling Dok Mai Jan—the artificial flowers used in Thai funeral ceremonies for paying homage to the deceased. Students also help villagers set up a Village Fund through a simple computer program that administers a monthly loan collection system.

NGO addressing women's issues

This organization is run by both Thai and foreign women in Chiang Mai working together to advance the status of women. This organization runs an income-generating and donation-support program for poor grandmothers raising their grandchildren who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. They also organize numerous fundraising events to generate scholarship money to support the schooling costs of underprivileged Thai children in the Chiang Mai area.

NGO working with trafficked and sexually-exploited women

This Christian organization reaches out to women, children, and youth involved in, at risk of, or affected by prostitution, sexual exploitation and/or trafficking. The goal of this organization is to offer comprehensive, holistic programs that bring restoration and healing to those in, at risk of, or exiting prostitution and trafficking. In addition to conducting outreach to women and children in or at risk of entering prostitution or trafficked situations, this NGO is expanding its services to include the creation of a children’s drop-in center and retreat center where women and children can receive holistic healing. IPSL students usually help either with outreach to women or with grant proposal-writing.

Organization coordinating efforts and resources related to HIV/AIDS

This is a private nonprofit organization that was established in response to the need for an independent and sustainable body to continue, extend, and expand the model of facilitating and promoting multipartite coordination in AIDS work pioneered by the Thai-Australia Northern AIDS Prevention and Care Program (NAPAC).AIDSNet’s primary objectives are: (1) To access and coordinate information and resources from a variety of sources—including governments, NGOs, community organizations, people living with HIV/AIDS, academia, private companies, and international organizations—in order to support AIDS-related work; (2) To strengthen and develop the capacity of individuals, organizations, and networks in AIDS-related work; and (3) To develop knowledge, understanding, and skills in the treatment and prevention of AIDS.

School for the blind

This school offers traditional and vocational education to blind students in elementary grades through high school. There are three groups of students in the school: (1) 4 to 12 year-old students who learn daily living skills; (2) ordinary primary and high school students who attend regular school with other handicapped students; and (3) students who are either too old to attend regular school, have severe physical limitations, or are learning disabled. The school has both commuter students who live at home and boarding students who live on campus.

Support and Education Center for Gay and Transgender People

This Drop-In organization provided comprehensive services to the Gay and Transgender community including sex workers.

MIgrant Worker Learning Center

An evening and night school for illegal migrant workers of all ages. A school for migrants teaching all subjects to those wishing to gain a high school equivalency degree in preparation for college.