Volunteers at Kwah Dao have the opportunity to experience Pai in a positive and unique way. Pai captures the hearts of many people who visit: but there’s nothing quite like meeting a place, community and culture as a person who is actively trying to empower and contribute to it. There are many things that will attract a person to visit Pai but read on as we invite you to see this place through the eyes of a volunteer…
“It’s such a positive experience to volunteer with underprivileged children, and it’s great to observe them learn and progress. I’ve worked with the Anglo-Thai Society for 12 months, as well as Kwah Dao, and it’s great to see that the students are being encouraged and promoted for college and university.
Besides being highly motivating, I’ve found the regular staff members to be extremely dedicated.
– Rob, volunteer
Where is Pai and what is it like?
The Kwah Dao youth centre is located in one of Northern Thailand’s beautiful, mountain towns in the Mae Hong Son province. Pai town is nestled in a stunning mountain valley, and is very popular among backpackers, travellers and ex-pats, attracted to its impressive scenery and small, laidback community.
Within the town, handicraft stores and food stalls litter the streets. Home brewed tea is served generously and beautifully cut crystals reflect light from their displays. Clothing stores on the night market display delicate linen dresses, colourful tie dye, harem pants and graphic tees. In the bars and restaurants, live music plays late into the night.
The town is surrounded by lush rice fields, the hills and valleys of the mountains, expansive green farmlands, a diverse population of trees and wildflowers, and an abundance of picture-perfect viewpoints to stop and witness the sunset.
The Pai Canyon boasts narrow, red-dust, rock structures to scale and climb. While the hot springs offer you a place to relax in nature’s version of a hot bath.
Pai has remained inexpensive despite its increasing popularity among travellers, with a variety of accommodation options for long-term and short-term stays available. Hostels, hotels, private bungalows and rental properties can be found within all budgets.
A little further still outside of town, and one can appreciate Pai town’s close proximity to some of Northern Thailand’s hill tribe communities. Villagers will lead treks through the mountains and into the jungle, going deep into the diverse and expansive nature.
So why volunteer here?
Despite the growing development within the town centre, outside of town there are still many impoverished communities; particularly Burmese Shan communities.
Although there has been many positive political developments in both Myanmar and Thailand, stateless and vulnerable Burmese Shan communities still exist in a legal limbo, unsure of how these changes impact their daily lives or their futures. By offering educational and positive youth development programs, Kwah Dao helps the children from Shan communities gain the skills and resilience necessary to overcome the tremendous challenges they face.
With Kwah Dao, you can help to provide children from underprivileged and/or stateless families the education and funding necessary for them to improve the livelihoods of themselves, their families, and the wider community.
“Every person is an individual with their own unique set of qualities. I think every child needs different people to learn from and develop their own individuality which will encourage their growth and development. So come and join us as a volunteer! Bring your own special qualities. I am sure they, and we, would love it.”
– Ben, volunteer
What our staff member, Elin, says about Kwah Dao:
The reason why I wanted to work at an NGO was to be able to give back to the society I was living in because I believe that helps a person grow. I find myself doing that to the fullest at Kwah Dao: I learn new things every day about the culture, language, how to overcome difficult situations, and about the disadvantaged situation of ThaiYai individuals living in Pai.
At Kwah Dao I get to challenge myself whilst witnessing great positive changes. And I get to do this alongside people who are passionate and devoted to the vision of a better future for the students
I feel so lucky to spend my time around strong young individuals, who, through the education we provide, work hard to overcome social injustices they encounter in life.
The students at Kwah Dao currently have much better opportunities in life than the generations that came to Thailand before them: where options of education and work were still very limited for migrant workers. We have students that are attending or have already graduated university, which is incredible!
Working for Kwah Dao does have its challenges. When working as a foreigner at an organization like this, it’s important to be constantly be aware of the social norms of the culture. Before taking action towards a challenge, it’s essential to take a step back and ask yourself and the people around you if the way you want to do things is culturally appropriate. You have yo check yourself: make sure you’re doing more harm than good!
Sometimes language and culture can become barriers, especially between teachers and students who don’t speak the same language but it’s important to overcome these barriers and be open minded, Listen and try to understand things, even when that doesn’t seem very logical. Be kind and strive to learn more every day, as this will ultimately help you and the world.