September 17, 2008 at 3:32 pm 2 comments

Buddha says that if you don’t cling you wont suffer.

It was about 3 weeks ago that i made up my mind to pursue a volunteer position with an orphanage in Chiang Rai i found online. I liked their website and the first email exchanges we had seemed promising. I told everyone i met about the way i was going to spend the coming weeks.. because i was genuinely excited. And then i got an email from them and i realized there was something wrong with this organization. Initially i had included 3 references in the application, 2 in the space for references and another in some other paragraph where i described my experience with children. The problem with this organization is that they dilute their work load. I would be bombarded with half a dozen copy-paste emails from half a dozen individuals who were unfamiliar with anything to do with me except what was recorded in a database by others. So everytime some send me an email, he’d mark the database, and so on. I wasn’t having a personal connection with anyone. But it was still alright. I kept an open mind because i wanted to work in an orphanage and they seemed to have the better interests of the children at the core. I know i can be stubborn. But i forgave the misgivings in the application process because i wanted to stay open to the way they do things, even though they seemed redundant and inefficient for me.

So when this problem with references came up and they threatened to decline my application if my reference did not contact them within x number of days i was suprised. What? Do you really have so many volunteers that you let go of new potentials so easily? Especially ones who are already in the area and are willing to work right away? I reflected for a few days and decided not to pursue my initial apprehensions. Rather, i sent them a 4th reference. The next day they approved me. I felt thrilled. The day before, thinking that this was a loss i had spoken with the owner of my guesthouse who has affiliations with the hilltribes, and we discussed my coming up with him and doing translations and teaching the kids. He was so excited and offered to take me up the next day. I said yes to him. And then this acceptance came and i thought, well i contacted them first and i’ve been investing all this energy into them…. so i shouldn’t just give up… And so i declined the hilltribe opportunity. A day later i recieved messages (from several individuals) about the dates and pick-up, etc. They were welcoming and i felt good. I decided to go to Mae Sai to renew my 30 day visa so that i would be able to work without interuption. And then i got an email from someone in the organization: “Yelena can NOT arrive at our center in Chiang Rai if she doesn’t complete her pretrip8hours task. Please follow the rule.”

I will now post the email i sent in reply after some reflection.


Hello ..
I was delighted to learn that you accepted me as a volunteer for your organization after reading my application and references. Some of your methods of recruiting volunteers seemed strange to me, but i overlooked them. (One of the things i am trying to learn through my travels is to be more accepting of other people’s ways of doing things, rather then always pursuing the way i think is best.) I looked forward to the opportunity to work with you according to your style of organization.
The first time i felt some doubt about our compatibility was when i received the email saying that one of my references was unresponsive and that if you could not make contact with him within x number of days, you’d be compelled to reject me. This puzzled me because i had given you three references in the application, two of whom were definitely available for contact. However one of these references was listed in a different part of the application than the others, so it would have required keeping track of the application itself rather than just copying it to a spreadsheet that would be used by a dozen different people to keep track of me. Your organization’s not knowing about this 3rd reference and your willingness to let go of a potential volunteer so easily was startling. The second thing that made me uncomfortable were the constant copy-paste emails i would receive from half a dozen individuals, all writing pretty much the same thing. I justified this to myself by considering that you may have a high turnover of volunteers so that you feel that by diluting the workload amongst them, no one individual is especially significant to the operation. Even though this style of work seemed extremely ineffective to me, i accepted it because i want to be open minded and to learn something new.
The last issue is more difficult for me to understand. I had written that i was already in Chiang Rai and willing to start as soon as you needed me. I received several emails (from different people) asking me to confirm dates, pick up times, etc, some very welcoming. I was already thinking of what activities i will organize for the children, what snacks (fruits) i should buy from the market for them, what toy i should arrive with…. And then arrived the email from Titim: “Yelena can NOT arrive at our center in Chiang Rai if she doesn’t complete her pretrip8hours task. Please follow the rule.” I am trying to think rationally and not with the ‘sense of entitlement’ i know i sometimes act through. My thoughts are this: If you have so many volunteers, why ask someone like me – who is traveling without a computer, relying on internet cafes with keyboards that hardly work and where opening documents results in a frozen computer or some other problem 25% of the time – to do this work? It looks like basic work, but there is a method to it – so wouldn’t it be better to leave it to someone who has done it before? It seems that it would be more effective to show me the work when i arrive at the center. I feel that the reason for this 8-hour rule is more than just the necessity to have this work done; it’s to guarantee the volunteer’s commitment to your principles of organization. And now, i’m just not so sure that i want to commit to this socialist way of work. If something really needed to be done and there was no one else to do it, i would volunteer to sit at this internet cafe all day to do it for you. But i don’t sympathize with rules that don’t allow for exceptions. I looked forward to working with a personal organization and not a bureaucracy. I hope that you find someone who will suit your needs.
My apology and regards,


I feel……. bad. I rearranged many of my plans around this volunteer effort and now it’s off. I feel i had something nice to give to these children.



On another note, i didn’t sleep alone last night…


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: .

the golden triangle

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Libbi  |  September 18, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I think this organization thinks too high of themselves. Why dont you try a less modern place without a website, or even a school that doesn’t look like it’s all that.

  • 2. Dina  |  September 18, 2008 at 9:02 am

    I do not know what to say. Can you get the hilltribe job that you declined?


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