Important Information for All Volunteers
Please read our Volunteer FAQ. If you still have questions send them to us on our contact page.
Volunteer FAQ 1. What is the day-to-day work environment at Warm Heart?
a. Work starts by 9 am and volunteers usually get to the office around 8:30 AM to help set up and organize the office a bit. The ‘intern office’ is an open structure, with half walls and lattice above. This office serves as location for weekly meetings and where you can access WiFi . Depending on your volunteer position, you may be working mainly in the office or doing site visits to address the needs of the community.
b. Depending on your position you may have a manager but most often volunteers work independently once their project(s) has been assigned to them.
c. If your volunteer position requires you to work with a community organization or microenterprise entrepreneurs, you work directly with the community members. You’ll have to check-in at the office regularly and let other volunteers and/or staff know where you will be and how to contact you.
d. Warm Heart requires its volunteers to be flexible self-starters. What you accomplish at Warm Heart depends a great deal on your capacity to see opportunity and make the most of it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to really accomplish something and make it your own, but it is sometimes daunting for people who are used to having someone else tell them what to do. Whether your day is routine or varied greatly depends on you. But no matter how much of self-starter you are, there will be some routine tasks that will need to be accomplished.
Volunteer FAQ 2. What are accommodations and living like in Phrao?
a. Your accommodations will vary depending on when you arrive and how many other volunteers are already in Phrao. You should ask Evelind for specifics a few weeks before you arrive. All volunteer housing does have western style bathrooms and kitchen with a sink, stove, and refrigerator.
b. If you share a room with another volunteer, the cost will be split for the both of you.
i. Pradu House (10 minute scooter ride away) – a two floor house with 5 single rooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and laundry.
ii. Warm Heart campus – 4 single rooms, 1 bathroom (two showers and two toilets), 2 kitchens and laundry
iii. Other accommodations may be available based on individual/family needs
iv. The $175 USD Registration Fee includes the cost of staff time to arrange your project, housing and transportation. It also includes the cost to prepare your visa and work permit documents. (It does not include the cost of the actual Work Permit (860 Baht), which you pay when you pick it up at the Ministry of Labor.
c. The registration fee must be paid before you arrive at Warm Heart.
d. The ‘Other Expenses’ cover a variety of things, including the cost of providing a translator to work on projects with you, filing the paperwork to register you at the local police station, the cost of joint meals at the Children’s Home or for when we go on a road trip to a local hill tribe village.
e. To the best of our knowledge, any “unlocked” mobile phone should work in Thailand. You will need to purchase and insert a new Thai SIM card into your phone. Although monthly plans are available, for the most part Thailand uses a prepay system where call time minutes and internet data can be purchased from many locations (7-Eleven, convenience stores etc), including at the Warm Heart office.
f. The primary way of getting cash is via an ATM. There are money exchangers in Chiang Mai, but not in Phrao. None of the volunteers that we know of have done it, but you should also be able to open a bank account here and transfer money electronically from your home country to Thailand.
g. Depending on what and where you eat, your meal cost will be between 25 and 100 baht. Drink costs range from free water to perhaps 80 baht for a large beer. A Pepsi will cost about 15 baht. Note: It is possible to spend much more on restaurant food, so look at the price on the menu before you order.
i. If you prefer to cook, each volunteer house has a kitchen with a sink, stove and refrigerator. There are a number of local markets that sell fresh meats and vegetables daily. There is also a big market in Phrao and 7-Eleven and Tesco that offer some more familiar brands and food items.
ii. Certain foods or snacks such as nuts (cashews, pistachios, almonds), cereal, granola, peanut butter, cheese and wine (products not ‘native’ to Thailand) are considerably more expensive than if purchased in your home country. Some of these items, however, can be purchased in Chiang Mai or Phrao.
Volunteer FAQ 3. How far in advance do I need to obtain my non-immigrant O visa?
a. It usually takes two days to process your visa at a Thai Embassy or Consulate. If you need to mail in your application it will take about two weeks. In addition, Warm Heart needs about 2 weeks to get you the documents you need to apply for your visa.
b. Although it is very unlikely, Thai Immigration could request to see evidence of a return ticket before granting you entry to Thailand. We have one volunteer who has been coming to Thailand yearly for over 10 years and he has never been requested to show his return ticket.
c. If you apply for a one-year visa, you must pay for a one-year visa, even if you are only given a 3 month visa.
d. The non-immigrant ‘O’ visa does not allow you to work or volunteer in Thailand. Warm Heart must get you a Work Permit allowing you to work for no salary. If you wish to work for another organization or to accept a position that pays a salary, your new sponsor/employer must obtain a new visa and Work Permit for you as your Warm Heart visa and Work permit will be voided by the move. Visas, Work Permits and the required police station registration are organization, project and locale specific. The new Thai government is very insistent about enforcing immigration regulations.
Volunteer FAQ 4. Do I need travel and/or health insurance?
a. Yes, you need health insurance and you need to provide Warm Heart with a copy of your policy, showing coverage in Thailand. (The Thai government is becoming very sensitive about this issue, and passport officers at the border may ask to see proof before permitting you to enter. Make sure that you carry your insurance card with your passport.)
b. Please send the signed Physician’s Report, along with a scanned and emailed copy of your vaccination records.
c. Best to bring your medications and prescriptions with you. While some medications are available and inexpensive, others are very expensive. A Thai pharmacy can not honor a foreign prescription, so you will need to get a prescription from a Thai doctor.
d. Malaria Pills? We don’t take malaria pills. They will possibly make you ill and they give you the same anti-biotic if you get malaria. That said – you need to decide for yourself what you want to do. We do not know of any cases of malaria among the people we know here.
e. Other than malaria, dengue fever can be a problem in Thailand. One of the volunteers living in Chiang Mai had dengue a few years ago. All towns and cities spray for mosquitoes.
f. The volunteer houses all have window screens, but you should consider buying a mosquito net in your home country or when you arrive in Thailand.
g. We recommend that you use bug spray or lotion as daily defense against mosquito borne diseases. Unless you have strong personal objections, we suggest sprays containing 20-30% DEET; more than this apparently does provide any additional protection.
Volunteer FAQ 5. What are my options for getting around Phrao or to Chiang Mai?
a. You must be willing and able to ride a small motor scooter to volunteer at Warm Heart. There is no reliable public transportation, the distances are too long to walk or ride a bike, and Warm Heart cannot provide you with rides everywhere you need to go.
b. You can rent a scooter from Warm Heart or you can rent one for 25 baht more per day in Chiang Mai.
c. While you will need a scooter to go anywhere in Phrao, we strongly recommend against trying to ride your scooter to or in Chiang Mai. It is simply too dangerous. There are good, inexpensive options for going to Chiang Mai and for getting around when there.
i. The “Orientation Guidebook” you will receive once you accept your volunteer position includes a document titled “Ten Rules for Riding a Scooter in Thailand” that was put together by an unusually observant past volunteer. You will have a lesson before hitting the road and other volunteers will accompany you on any scooter trips until you are comfortable on your own.
ii. The cost of gasoline is extra. A full tank of gas for a scooter (4 liter tank) will cost around 150 baht.
d. There is a bus that departs from Phrao to Chiang Mai daily and frequently. The bus picks up and drops off in front of the Warm Heart office or Pradu House.
Volunteer FAQ 6. Who should I email if I have questions about Warm Heart or volunteering before I get there?
a. You can email Evelind Schecter (email@example.com) and/or Randy Reardon (firstname.lastname@example.org). Evelind can answer all of your questions concerning life in Phrao, visas, work permits and the individual job position you are interested in. Email Randy if you have questions about arriving in Chiang Mai or Warm Heart.
b. If you would like to be in touch with existing volunteers, you can request to be put in touch or go to our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/warmheartworldwide) and introduce yourself.
Volunteer FAQ 7. Will someone from Warm Heart meet me at the airport, bus station or train station when I arrive in Chiang Mai?
a. As long as you arrive at a reasonable hour, Warm Heart will make every effort to have someone meet you and get you either to your hotel / guest house in Chiang Mai or to the bus to Phrao. Warm Heart has a volunteer living in Chiang Mai who normally meets all volunteers.
Volunteer FAQ 8. Are there were any items I can bring with me for donations or treats for the children that I can collect from my family and friends, or purchase before leaving for Thailand?
a. Bring music on your PC or a portable hard drive/thumb drive. We are trying to get songs that the kids can learn with good tunes and/or understandable lyrics to improve their English.
b. Something uniquely available in your home country would be fun. Don’t spend a lot of money. Chocolate of any kind (especially mix to make brownies) is always welcome by staff and kids alike. We can always use really boring stuff like toothbrushes, kids socks and underwear, and little sets of colored pencils.
If your question is not addressed in our Volunteer FAQ list, just ask! Reading our Volunteer Blog will also give you a good idea of what to expect.