Volunteer Guidelines

Welcome to BMWEC!

Thank you for offering your time and energy to help us make sure that the children and young people in our learning centres have access to the best education possible: one which enriches their lives now, and opens opportunities for them either back in Myanmar, in Thailand or further afield.
We hope that you enjoy your time here and have the opportunity to make the best use of the skills and experiences that you have to offer so that you are able to make a really meaningful and worthwhile contribution to the community,.
Ideally, you will be staying with us for a period of least 3 months (and longer is even better!). If you are working in a learning centre, a longer stay means that you can really get to know the students, teachers and community; develop teaching approaches which are culturally and educationally appropriate; and have a real impact on children’s learning.
The following brief guidelines are given to help you make sure that your time as a volunteer is as productive as possible for both yourself and those with whom you are working. The key principles of working as a volunteer include the overlapping values of professionalism, respect and integrity. We hope the following points are useful.

Basics

Contact details. Make sure that the BMWEC office and the head teacher (if you are working in a learning centre) have your contact details, including telephone number, email and where you are staying. Make sure that you also have contact numbers for both BMWEC and your school.

Support. We will do all we can to provide support and ensure that you have a great time while you are here: including meeting you at the airport if possible, taking you to the doctor if necessary, providing advice about Mae Sot and helping wherever we can. However, we have limited resources and we are a community-based organisation rather than a volunteer placement organisation, so you will have to undertake most arrangements on your own.

Transport. You are expected to arrange your own transport to and from school or the office wherever this is possible (most foreigners use either bicycles or motorbikes).

Accommodation. If you are working in town, you will usually have to arrange your own accommodation (there are a range of options including guesthouses, hotels and apartments). Note: “What’s happening in Mae Sot” on Facebook is a good source of information regarding accommodation as well as lots of other things. We can join you up to the FB group if you would like. If you are working out of town, accommodation may be available at the school. You may wish to find a way of making a contribution of either money or food to cover costs. Money can be donated to the school (but not individuals) through BMWEC.

Visas. You are responsible for organizing and paying for your own visas. The regulations governing visas change regularly but, if you are staying for over a month, it is almost always best to organize a Thai visa before you leave home. Again “What’s Happening in Mae Sot” (Facebook) is a good source of up-to-date information.

Insurance/Medical Costs. You are responsible for organizing your own travel insurance and covering your own medical costs. We would advise making sure that you have a comprehensive insurance policy, as medical costs (particularly for accidents) can be expensive. Having said that, medical treatment for minor illnesses is relatively cheap.

Training. We do not have training sessions for volunteers. We will do our best to give relevant advice about the border, education and schools on the border– but you are generally expected to be able to prepare and organize your own teaching.

 

Professionalism

As a volunteer you may be seen as a role model by both staff and students. It is really important that you take your role seriously (and this in turn conveys to others that you respect them, and take them seriously!).

Attendance and punctuality

  • Organise your teaching or office hours with either the head teacher or the office manager (please also let the BMWEC office know of your teaching hours).
  • Please make sure that you are at school or the office at the times that you have arranged.
  • Please be on time.
  • Please contact your head teacher and BMWEC if you are ill, or for some other reason, are unable to attend work or are going to be late.
  • If you need to cut short your visit please discuss this as soon as possible with the head teacher and the BMWEC office.

Appearance

  • A professional standard of dress and appearance is an important way of demonstrating respect for the people you are working with; and it is an outward sign that you take them and the job of education seriously.
  • Please dress in appropriate clothing: shorts and skirts should be to the knee at least; singlets, shoe string straps or see-through tops are not ok for either men or women.

Lesson Preparation

  • Make sure that you are prepared and have the resources you need. Use the school curriculum and work in with what is currently being taught if you can.
  • Schools may have limited stationery, art and other supplies so you may need to use your own funds to ensure that you have what you need.
  • If you want to do special activities with your students check with your head teacher first.

Problems

  • If you are not enjoying your job or would like to take on extra or different responsibilities, please contact the BMWEC office as soon as possible.
  • If you have concerns about your work location, individual children or staff, please talks about this with your head teacher if appropriate and/or the volunteer coordinator at BMWEC.

Child-safe code of conduct

  • Please familiarize yourself with the Child Protection Policy that has been developed for learning centres and boarding houses in the Tak area and follow the policy guidelines carefully.

General

  • Visitors. Do not ask friends to come to school or the office with you unless you have previously arranged this with the head teacher/office manager.
  • Food and extra activities. If asked to share food or to join activities – feel free to do so and enjoy yourself. Participating in community, and school activities such as sport can be a great way to get to know your students and the community better. If you eat with the school on a regular basis, you may wish to find a way of making a contribution of either money or food. Money for the school can be donated through BMWEC.
  • Telephones. Do not have your telephone on when teaching and
  • Valuables. Please do not leave valuables unattended.

 

Respect and integrity

All BMWEC, volunteers are expected to act with integrity and demonstrate respect towards others. Respecting others and the local culture is basic to working successfully in any situation. In this context, migrants have often repeatedly suffered a lack of respect from those who hold power, so it is especially important that foreigners make a special effort to be respectful.

General behaviour. When you are in a learning centre, or at the office, it is as if you are a visitor in someone else’s house, so:

  • Watch what others do and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
  • Remove your shoes before going into the office or a classroom unless it is indicated otherwise.
  • Wear clothes that will not offend others (see ‘professionalism’ above).
  • Physical demonstrations of affection or contact between men and women may cause embarrassment to others. It is generally not appropriate to hug a member of the opposite sex if they are Burmese (even if you have become close friends or colleagues); if you are travelling with your own partner, kissing and or hugging in public may also cause others to feel embarrassed or offended.
  • Do not shout at others.
  • Do not speak down to others (and especially do not treat or speak to adults as if they are children or lack intelligence).
  • Our schools are Burmese but they are in Thailand. We therefore need to observe and follow the rules and customs of Thailand. If Thai visitors come to your workplace you should follow Thai protocols, wai and be polite!

Photographs, use of people’s names and internet.

  • Please ask for permission from the school/parent and child before taking pictures. Explain your purposes for taking the photograph/film and how it will be used.
  • Please do not post pictures of children or adults, which may compromise or embarrass them in any way, or be used inappropriately by another party, on Facebook or other public sites.
  • Please ask for permission to use children’s or adults’ names in association with any material that may be presented in a public forum.

Drugs, alcohol and smoking. Please do not use drugs, cigarettes or alcohol on school grounds or when on school organized trips.