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11 Jan 2014
20% discount for returning volunteers

General information

The general information section holds details of such things as intake start dates, volunteer check list, etc. Whilst this section contains important details for volunteering with us, they are not as vital as those in the Required Reading section.

TMF 0566We are based in the countryside, about 16km outside Chiang Rai city. It is the countryside (yes, I've said it again... to let it sink in a little), not the city. As such, we are surrounded by trees, forests, streams, hills, fields, and all other things natural to the countryside. In this setting, animals live, of all shapes, sizes, numbers, colours, and degrees of cuteness/annoyance/scariness/danger.

Animals range from: dogs; cats; geckos; ants; spiders; mosquitoes; mice; rats; cows, horses; birds; beetles; snakes; fish; and multitude of insects not already mentioned. Some you'll see every day, some you may never see during your entire stay (rats and snakes are a rarity, but they do turn up from time to time).

Certain animals appear at specific times of the year, for instance: although ants are around all year, they will appear more frequently during rainy season (or before rain storms arrive); during May-June, for 2-3 weeks, there is a particular flying ant which appears after dark, attracted by lights, dying in the hundreds and leaving the remains to be taken away by the ants. 

How does this affect you, and the animals?

Well, hopefully it doesn't negatively - all the animals will be more scared of you than you of them. What it does mean though, is that you take precautions for comfort, and occasionally safety. For instance, always keep the mosquito screen doors and windows shut. If the light is starting to attract insects, turn it off before you get inundated. Everything that dies inside your room, as well as half-eaten snacks or opened cans of soft drinks, will attract ants. We can do nothing about this, and even if we were willing to exterminate everything for your added comfort, we don't wish to do so - it is for you to adapt to our environment, not us who should adapt to you.

Generally if you leave the animals alone, keep your living area clean, and close the screen windows/doors, you should have minimal problems. Please do not resort to an early volunteer's mantra - "I'm American - we kill it first, then find out if it was dangerous!", as he wiped the remains of a spider off his boot...

It is now possible for citizens of G7 member countries, to get 30 day Visa Exemption on arrival at Thai land border crossings.

Previously, 30 day Visa Exemptions were only available to those who arrived by air, and subject to the nationality of the individual. However, a new rule, which was brought into effect in November 2013, allows citizens of UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, and Japan, to cross into Thailand by land and receive a stamp allowing a 30 day stay.*

The rule that an individual can only stay for a maximum of 90 days within an 180 day period has also been scrapped, so there is no legal limit to the number of times you can enter the country within a certain period. This wil be down to individual border crossing officials.

*Always check the actual date that is stamped into your passport - errors can be made, and officials are not always aware of new rule changes. Remember, this is not a visa, it is a visa exemption.

Everything in the required list is, strangely enough, required - you MUST supply a criminal record check; you WILL need a sleeping bag whether you are here for a couple of weeks or up to 3 months; You DO need smart clothes for teaching, and modest clothes for general wear... I won't go on about it further, but just trust us to know what we are telling you.

Read more: What to bring

The map below shows the location of our foundation, set in the heart of the countryside north of Chiang Rai. The foundation comprises of a number of dwellings, dormitories, offices, a communal kitchen, clay and sewing workshops, and a small handicrafts shop. It is home to 30+ staff and families, and houses up to 70 volunteers and Thai intern students at any given time.

View The Mirror Foundation, Chiang Rai in a larger map

Culture/Transitional Shock

It is totally normal, but experienced differently by each individual.

Transition shock is a state of loss and disorientation predicated by a change in one's familiar environment which requires adjustment. There are many symptoms of transition shock, some which include:
  • desire for home and old friends
  • homesickness
  • boredom
  • withdrawal
  • excessive concern over cleanliness and health
  • feelings of helplessness
  • irritability and anger
  • moody
  • glazed stare
  • physiological stress reactions (i.e rashes, getting sick)
  • getting "stuck" on one thing
  • excessive sleep
  • compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain
  • stereotyping host nationals
  • hostility towards host country

Click below to read about the strategies of coping with culture shock.

Read more: Culture shock

overviewVolunteering can be one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences in your life. It takes you to places you may never otherwise get the opportunity to visit, meet people from different cultures, make friends for a lifetime, and learn things about yourself that will help you in later life.

The attitude of the volunteer when applying, researching and attending the programme is paramount to how much can be achieved. It is essential to come with an open mind, flexibility, and the understanding that you are here to help others... as well as being an invited guest in another culture. This puts a degree of responsibility and self-awareness on the individual that not everyone can handle.

The information in the website helps you to come to terms with the lifestyle and culture at Mirror, and how volunteers need to act in order to maintain the standards and friendly atmosphere that this organisation strives so hard to keep. Working with the local staff, many of whom have been recruited from the hilltribe community, is a rewarding and unforgettable experience, and joining with other volunteers will guarantee you new friends to share this great adventure.

There are variety of programmes for individuals, including internships, and we also welcome back the best of the old volunteers who have proved their dedication and enthusiasm first time round. As well as individual programmes, we run a programme for groups, who come to do specific projects - raising their own funds for materials. After spending a short time at the foundation for orientation, the rest of their stay is wherever the project takes them, normally a hilltribe village. Programmes also include rest and relaxation periods, and some organised sightseeing trips.

Whichever the programme, we give volunteers a half day orientation, running through things necessary to make your stay, and the work we do, as fruitful and enjoyable as possible. Cultural differences, code of conduct, and our rules, are all important parts of your learning curve, as well as gaining an understanding of the issues, and obstacles, we run into every day. The main point we try to get across to volunteers is that you are here to work, to help us achieve our aims, learn about new cultures, and also use the opportunity to re-evaluate your life. Many volunteers leave with an entirely new perspective.

To make your stay at Mirror as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible, there are a few things to be aware of. A stay at Mirror can be a cultureshock, sometimes a huge cultureshock. It is not something that all volunteers can handle, so we try to make you as aware of everything as we can. Unfortunately, it is not until you arrive and experience for yourself, that you realise whether it is for you or not. If you expect 5-star hotel accommodation and treatment, then you will be disappointed. Staff here are incredibly friendly and helpful, but most have a job to do which has nothing to do with looking after volunteers, so try to be self-sufficient and proactive.

Read more to learn about life onsite at The Mirror Foundation.

Read more: Overview

We receive new volunteers on the first and third Monday of each month. This saves many hours of administration, petrol, organisation, and also it is  better for volunteers - new groups learn together, grow together, and integrate with the current volunteers, who help with settling in.

crimeWhile life in Thailand is generally much safer and more relaxed than most western countries, travellers and volunteers should still be vigilant and aware of danger. Even up here in the north, it is naive to think that nothing can happen to you, just because you're on holiday or doing good works.

It also is important to know what is illegal, considered inappropriate, and what would cause offence. Without taking the time to learn and understand the culture, travellers leave themselves more open to risk. Below lists some basic precautions, and points to be aware of. It is not exclusive, but covers most areas.

Click below to read more information and advice for when you are travelling around the country.

Read more: Safety and Security

applicationsTo be able to volunteer with us, there are few things that we need done first. It helps you to understand us, our work, and what we expect from you. It also is necessary so that we can prepare for your arrival and the duration of your stay. Buying food in advance, preparing homestays, scheduling schools, etc... all this must be done prior to your arrival.

Also, by reading the information in the volunteering section, you will gain a much better knowledge of us - which is vital if you are going to get the most out of your stay.

To volunteer with The Mirror Foundation is easy!

What WE NEED YOU TO DO before you join us

It's not too difficult, and it is all to do with common sense and/or respecting others

  1. Read our Terms and Conditions and Code of Conduct
  2. Complete our pre-registration application form (you must be registered and logged into the website to access the link in this menu)
  3. Apply for a police background check (Important! Click here for full details)
  4. Pay the deposit via PayPal
  5. Email a copy of the background check document to - If you have a criminal record, contact us first - do not pay the deposit until we have confirmed you can join us (you must be registered and logged into the website to access the deposit link)
  6. Purchase insurance which contains emergency medical cover which is valid for your entire volunteering period (This is mandatory for the placement)
    (Tip: Check to see if the insurance covers your bills upfront, or whether you have to pay first and reclaim later)
  7. If you intend to fly into Chiang Rai on your starting date, book a morning flight to minimise possible delays or cancellations
  8. If you have any issues, questions, or find yourself having to move dates, please email us.

and then... what WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO DO after you have been accepted onto our programme

  1. Research Thai and hilltribe cultures - cut down on the unknowns and the amount of culture shock you may experience
  2. Research our work to gain an understanding of the importance, the scale, and the potential of what we do
  3. Fundraise - either to save yourself money on your trip, or bring with you to either donate or buy teaching supplies
Please don't leave it too late to apply for a criminal record check - we will not accept you on the programme without one.

We are always looking for help with fundraising. Our projects cannot always support themselves, because of the nature of their work, so we have to secure funding through grants and donations to keep them afloat. You can help this effort by organising fundraising events at home (before you arrive or when you return home). It not only helps us financially, but it brings you closer emotionally to the programme you have joined. It also helps to show family and friends what you have signed up for, and in turn helps them to understand your motivations.

In the attached PDF file, is a template letter, hints on how to prepare, and fundraising ideas. This pack was put together by Amelia Cleary, one of our much loved ex-volunteers, and life long friend. It can be used as a manual, or just as a guide - feel free to develop your own ideas, or adapt Amelia's.

Download this file (Fundraising template.pdf)Fundraising Pack[ ]76 kB


The only documents a motorcycle rental company will uniformly insist on is CASH MONEY.

They will have little, or no interest in licences, international driving permits, or your current level of intoxication.


To ride a motorcycle in Thailand, and remain strictly within the law, you must possess and produce:

  • A national motorcycle drivers licence issued in your home country, valid for a motorcycle AND,
  • An International Driving Permit, unless your home license is in already in English and has a photo.

Note: A Thai driver's license is vaild for rental, but they are not issued to tourists. To obtain a Thai drivers license requires a formal in-person application, as well as hold and be admitted to Thailand on a non-immigrant visa status.


Motorcycles can be a fun way to move around the Kingdom independently, but remember road accidents are common.

The rate of accidents and fatalities on Thai roads is HORRENDOUS, in fact 40 people a day DIE in Thailand from motorcycle accidents alone. Many more visitors and locals are permanently disfigured or disabled, so it is not recommended for the novice.

  • You must carry your National Licence, in case of an accident, or interaction with the Thai Police.
  • You can not drive intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
  • Helmets are mandatory. You must wear one, and so must a pillion passenger.
  • Helmets are usually provided as part of the rental, if so, make sure it fits properly or ask for another.
  • Failure to wear a helmet will bring you to the attention of Police - you will be fined at best.
  • Wear protective footwear and clothing to give you some protection should the worst happen.
  • The motorcycle MUST have a tax sticker, registration plates, vehicle registration book, and third party insurance.
  • Motorcycle hire services are available almost everywhere, with rates from 150฿ per day.
  • A cash security deposit of around 1000฿ (ensure you get a receipt) is often required.
  • Only use reputable hire companies, and check that they are licenced to hire bikes to tourists.
  • Before accepting your rental, do an extensive walk-around visual inspection of the vehicle.
  • Note ALL defects or pre-existing damage with the vendor, BEFORE you accept the contract, and leave the premises.
  • Take photos from all angles of the rental before you leave, to protect yourself should there be any dispute about damage later on.
  • It is NOT ADVISABLE to surrender your PASSPORT to the rental agency as rental return security.
  • Have a passport photocopy on hand instead, to satisfy the hire company.
  • If a hire company insists on having your original passport, hire from someone else.
  • Obey all Thai traffic rules and signs, remain vigilant and always drive defensively.
  • Driving at night is considered to be particularly dangerous.
  • Motorcycles in Thailand are routinely operated by children as young as 12, so you must remain vigilant and always drive defensively.
  • If you don't ride a motorcycle in your own country, Thailand is NOT the place to learn.
  • Vendors will happily hire you a motorcycle whether you have the appropriate permit and licence or not.
  • If you were involved in an accident, with property damage or personal injury to any party, be aware that if the Thai Police and/or Insurance Company discover that licencing and permit documents are not in order, you may feel the full force of the law, and may have any insurance cover invalidated. You may also be required by the Thai authorities, to post a LARGE cash bail amount to cover any liability you may incur.

    Read more: Motorcycles, and accidents



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MirrorChiangRai Click for the latest about Apa - the 17yr old Akha hilltribe lad, hit by a car and left with severe injuries: http://t.co/a93VxTos8d
Thailand Volunteer! - by The Mirror Foundation