Teach English to Karen refugees in the mountains on the Thai/Burma border



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 Min stay requested: at least 2 weeks

  • Description


    Our project provides native English language speakers the opportunity to teach English to Karen refugees at a Refugee Camp on the Thai/Burma border in Thailand.

    Volunteer teaching commitments should be at least two weeks (3-4+ weeks is preferred) and up to 30 to 60 days.

    There are three high schools at the refugee camp with more than 600 students per school. Classroom size is typically around 30 students. Additionally there is a small Junior College with < 120 students, a Professional Development school with 45 students, and a Bible School with about 80 students. Classes start at 8:30a and finish at 3:30p. Teachers typically teach 4-5 classes (50 mins) daily out of 7 total periods. Teachers have a one hour break when not teaching a class. All teachers and students stop for an hour at lunch time.

    Your primary relationships while here will be with the Principal of the high school, the English teacher (Karen person) who you are partnered with, the other teachers, and with the hundreds of delighted students you will teach. Volunteers instructors are expected to lead classrooms. Your English teacher partner will be very helpful to assist in communicating more challenging exercises or instructions in the classroom.

    Basic accommodation is provided. This includes three daily meals as well as bottled and / or boiled water. Typically dishes are rice with vegetables and some meat. Adjustments are made for vegetarian and vegan diets.

    The refugee camp is located seven hours overland west of Chiang Mai, Thailand, on the border of Burma. It's 2.5 hours west of Mae Sariang. Accessible only by authorized 4x4 truck. Camp permit, approved by the Thai govt. and Karen Refugee Committee, is required to access camp. We work with you to achieve this.

    To teach here it is important that you are physically fit. The walking commute to some schools can be ~30 minutes on mountainous dirt paths, sometimes wet, in tropical (often very hot!) weather. Bring good hiking shoes and, depending on which school you're working at, expect to get a daily aerobic workout!

    We seek volunteers with native English language skills or English language expertise at that level. A bachelors degree in education or directly applicable is preferred but not required. Students attending a degree program for education will be viewed favorably. ESL certifications can be helpful but are not required. Experience teaching ESL is preferred. Ability to mentor English teachers in ESL methods and practices is helpful. Real-life teaching experience in a different subject can be perfectly fine. If you are unsure if you would be qualified, tell us about your applicable experience and we will review together.

    Please contact us 6+ weeks (8+ preferred) in advance of your travel dates. This allows us time to meet via video chat, help you obtain a camp permit, coordinate your volunteer dates with schools and arrange for your driver and travel.

    Our small non-profit has three co-founders. Two are experienced travelers and teachers and one was a refugee in this refugee camp from 1995 to 2010. She was resettled with her family to the USA in 2010. Our organization was founded in response to her passion for helping the Karen people who remain in the refugee camp where she lived for 15 years.

    If you would like to teach English at the refugee camp to support the Karen ethnic minority group from Karen State in Burma we would love to hear from you!

  • Type of help

    Type of help


  • Help


    Engage students in English language development activities - speaking, reading, writing, conversation, listening, pronunciation and much more.

    Teaching English is a highest priority for camp leadership. Teaching other subjects can be helpful. Let us know what you would like to share with the Karen people.

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    We learn about the global refugee crisis in the news but this is a rare chance to immerse yourself in the Karen community in a refugee camp deep in the jungle of Thailand. You learn first-hand about the hardship and fears as well as the hopes and dreams of Karen refugees.

    This is an exceptional opportunity to provide much needed assistance to the Karen people, an ethnic minority group severely persecuted by the Burma junta army. The schools in camp receive few visitors so the students and teachers are elated when volunteer teachers arrive!

    Volunteers will learn about the rich and colorful culture and traditions of the Karen people and will be embraced in an extended family-like community. The most difficult part of this volunteer engagement is tearing yourself away when it's time to leave!

    If you have wanted to teach but have been declined due to lack of formal qualifications this could be your chance to establish real-world classroom experience. While formal education and certifications are beneficial, we look for native English language skills, enthusiasm to teach, commitment to prepare, and some applicable experience in knowledge sharing. We seek generous spirits with open hearts who seek to help others.

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    English, Karen, some Burmese

  • Accommodation


    Basic - shared or private room with a mosquito net. Your bed can be a mat on bamboo or possibly a one inch thick mattress (feel free to bring your own), pillow and blankets, some very slow WiFi Internet is available. Private bath is cool water from a pail / scoop in a 50 gallon barrel. Toilet is eastern/squat toilet. The living environment is perfectly fine for reasonably hardy travelers. You would have equal or more comfortable accommodations than any of the residents of the refugee camp.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    There's lots of beauty in this mountainous location. Plan a hike to the waterfall, swim with your new Karen friends, visit a nursery school, attend a church service, hike to the buddhist temple, etc. Join in a sporting event - play soccer (football), volleyball, cane ball and other games with students and the refugee community. There are lots of amazing photography opportunities while learning about the culture and history of the Karen people! Expect to be invited into the homes of students and fellow teachers. They're very excited you're in camp and want to spend time with you!

    A Camp Permit is required and the fee for the permit is B,1000 (approx. US 30) for each two weeks stay in camp. This fee can be shared with up to 10 volunteers per Camp Permit.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week

  • ...

    This host charges a fee

    read more
    500 Thai Baht (approx $15) for camp two week government permit

My Photo Album

Volunteers and students at High School #3
Eager students love to see volunteers!
1st & 2nd grade in Day Bu Noh, Karen State
Duck duck goose at High School 3
Volunteer teacher at High School 2
Class activity ... I want to be a ...
Teaching human body with post-it notes
4th grader loves her new colored pencils!
Talking about time in English language class

Host ref number: 491385263563