Thailand attracts hundreds of expats every year. Many settle here to pursue an entrepreneurial career, or become a teacher. Life in Thailand is simple and pleasant, something that you rarely get in the western countries.
Quite often expats in Thailand want to show their appreciation and give something back to the community and wonder how they can do that. Nowadays it’s easy to get scammed by charities that run illegal businesses, or by doing something that seems innocent and harmless when, in fact, you don’t help anyone at all.
There are plenty of ways expats in Thailand can support their local communities and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.
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Don’t give money on the street
When I started traveling around South East Asia I often felt sorry for kids begging on the streets, or mothers with their babies asking for milk, or food. I must admit that many times I fell for it.
After I settled down in Thailand and met people from different charities and read a little about how to be a responsible tourist and an expat, I understood that by giving money on the street I didn’t make any difference. I actually did more harm than good.
In Thailand you see kids selling peanuts at night in busy and noisy bars, or roses and souvenirs on streets lined up with strip clubs and brothels. It’s easy to take pity on them and buy something, so they can earn a little bit to buy food for their families. Here’s the most important rule: don’t do it! Don’t buy anything from them and don’t give them money. If you do, you will encourage them to live like that, to not seek help, to not to want to go to school. There are charities all over Thailand that need an extra support, so they can help people. If you really want to spend your money, send it to those organisations, rather than giving it away to beggars and children on the streets of Bangkok or Pattaya.
Support local charities
If you decide to live in one particular place, find out what charities and organisations work in that area. In Chiang Mai we have lots of great ones, like Care for Dogs, or Baan Dek Foundation. They do a great work and you can always contact them and ask what they need.
Most of the time you can just give money, but some will welcome donations of clothes, books, food, or medication. You can just drive it to them, talk to people, see the good work they’re doing and maybe tell other expats about it. It’s important that small charities exist and prosper. Without them there wouldn’t be anyone to help those in need.
When choosing a charity you want to support, check first if it’s a genuine organisation. Read opinions about it, check their website. You can even ask them to send you a report showing where their money goes to. One of the advantages of supporting a local charity is the fact that you can always visit them and see what they do.
Find Thai charities that are worth supporting:
Expats in Thailand often have quite a lot of time on their hands. Retirees, digital nomads, private tutors – they all lead independent lifestyles and can organise their days as they wish.
Volunteering in Thailand doesn’t need to be time consuming. Of course, many charities require a commitment of 3-6 months, but you don’t need to volunteer every single day. You can do it once a week, or even once a month.
Be careful when signing up for a volunteering programme. Remember that you shouldn’t pay big money for it. If there are any costs that you need to cover, it should only be small amounts for things like food and accommodation (if you need to stay at a project overnight).
Follow the rules mentioned in the previous section and remember – if you are not qualified to do something in your own country, don’t do it in Thailand.
Join charity events
There are lots of charity events in different cities in Thailand. You can run in a marathon, attend a crafts workshop, go to an organic market – all your money that you will spend, or collect, at these events will go to a good cause.
Very often expats in Thailand organise their own meet ups and happenings, where they can not only do something good for the local community, but also meet other people and make friends. Keep an eye on Facebook groups, such as Bangkok Expats and Expats in Chiang Mai for any upcoming events.
Shop at your local market
Don’t buy groceries at a supermarket. Instead, go to your local market. You will get almost anything here for a much lower price. This way you support local vendors and your community.
I love shopping at Siriwattana Market in Chiang Mai, where I can always get the freshest fruit and vegetables. I also use my shopping time to learn a little bit of Thai from the sellers. I love the fact that some of the recognise me and we can exchange pleasantries.
Eat and drinks at small local restaurants and bars
Similar to your shopping – choose small, local bars instead of large chains. Many expats in Thailand after living here for years start to get bored with Thai food and crave something western. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you really like Thai food and drinks, support your local community by drinking beer in independent bars and eating your fried rice in family run restaurants.
Spread the word
Do you have a blog? Do you talk to people who would like to visit Thailand? Are you asked for advice on life in Thailand? Why don’t you tell others how to responsibly help your local community? If you spread the word, many people will follow you and we can all work towards a better future.