This is Megan from the USA. I volunteered at Baan Dada May and June of 2007 and I cant wait to go back again!! I have so many good things to say about my experiences, but I will try to keep this short and helpful for those of you thinking about, or planning a trip to volunteer at Baan Dada.
If you are looking for a place to volunteer where you can take some initiative to really make a difference, then this is the place!!
Of course the warm, welcoming, enthusiastic people are the best part. I was very inspired by how positive these people were in the face of so many obstacles and a difficult way of life. The children will be your instant friends and will have you constantly laughing, the mothers are always smiling as they constantly labor (and cook amazing food) and the 2 Dadas (2 monks that run the place) are the kindest, and most self-less people that you could ever meet. They are truly dedicated to improving the lives of the children, the local village and community…anyone they can help. They really appreciate having volunteers to help out and they never ask you for anything, but all you have to do is ask or offer and they are full of ideas and dreams!
The first few days will probably feel very overwhelming because you wont know what to do, but the children will instantly love you and show you around…and all you have to do is ask the Dadas how you can help and they have many projects and ideas for improving their surroundings. I found it very helpful to make a list of ideas I had thought of and ideas that the Dadas mentioned. Then I would go over it with Dada every night, so we had a new plan for the following day. Also, there are log books in the volunteers’ house full of ideas and past experiences.
Before you go, if you have an idea of something you would like to do, it would be helpful to talk to Dada about it, so you can plan and maybe even collect a few supplies. Even if you are not sure what you can do, once you arrive and learn more about the area, you can match your skills with their needs. Check the website, blog and with Dada to see if there are any new projects they will be working on at the time you arrive. Also, if possible you could ask if there is anything you might be able to bring to help out or use on a project (Example: any extra clothes for the children, teaching materials…tools). Its probably best to make a donation or just buy things in the local village close to Baan Dada to donate (because its very cheap in the area) UNLESS youre coming from home and have space in your luggage to bring things from home.
Baan Dada is more like a local village than an organization, so its a very different kind of experience than volunteering with a big organization. You can see the situation first hand and know that your efforts and/or donations are all going straight to the people who need it. Its very rewarding and a life changing experience, and you will never forget about the wonderful people you meet there!
If you have any more questions, you can ask Dada for my e-mail address and I would be more than happy to answer them for you. (However, its better to ask early, because I am traveling and dont get e mail too often, so I wont be able to answer very quickly).
Best wishes! Hope this is helpful!