Baan Unrak – Sangklaburi, Western Thailand
Baan Unrak meaning “House of Happiness”, is a home for orphans and destitute women. The home was started in 1991 by Didi Ananda Devamala who is working with the New Humanist Foundation in response to the number of orphans and abandoned children in the area who became the prey of unscrupulous people. Beginning with two children in 1990, Baan Unrak currently has approximately 50 children, ranging in age from 1 to 17 years old. The main objective of Baan Unrak is to help women and children in need.
In 1995, Baan Unrak opened a sewing and weaving centre in an effort to create employment for poor women. Currently around 30 village women are employed. They weave at home and bring their cloth to Baan Unrak, where it is sewn into goods such as bags, purses, waistcoats, and money belts.
An outreach programme to help abandoned mothers and children started in January 1998. In the past such women came to the home hoping to leave their babies there. Baan Unrak believes that the best place for the baby is with its mother. Therefore, they give them food and try to help them to become economically self-sufficient. They also give them shelter if necessary. At present three such women are living at the home and another sixteen are receiving food support.
Baan Unrak started a business to make herbal shampoo, hair conditioner, shower cream, mosquito repellant, and cleaning liquid in May 1999. As their markets expand, they are slowly employing increasing numbers of women.
In June 1988 an informal education program started for poor children who are unable to attend school. Throughout the whole region there is a severe shortage of government schools and long waiting lists are the norm. At present Baan Unrak provides education for 60 children of primary school age.
In May 1999 they also opened a small kindergarten for poor children who would otherwise not have the chance to attend preschool. At present over 30 children attend. They aim to make this kindergarten into a model teachers education centre where they will hold seminars and training programmes in modern, child-appropriate teaching methods for the many untrained teachers in village kindergartens throughout the region.
Due to the poor health of the people in the villages nearby and the lack of adequate medical facilities through the area, they are planning to start a mobile medical unit which will train the villagers in primary health care and nutrition as well as imparting basic health care. Later they hope to develop an alternative medical center where they will train local villagers in herbal medicines, acupuncture treatment, etc. They also hope to start a vegetarian restaurant and baking business which will serve as a vocational school for the older children of Baan Unrak, enabling them to learn a skill that will help them in their future lives while at the same time giving them the chance to earn some pocket money.
This project was started by the Neo Humanist Foundation of Ananda Marga an international organization that teaches meditation and yoga and does social service wherever needed. All of their project managers are yogic nuns. What this means is that they are committed to their lifestyle, which includes personal practices of meditation and yoga, as well as teaching it to anyone who shows interest. They do not impose their practices on others unless you show interest to know about it or learn meditation yourself.
What work will the volunteer do?
- Provide needed love and attention. There are 50 children all living in one house with two full-time volunteers to look after them all.
- Teach English. Many of the children can speak some English because the founder of the home and most other volunteers communicate with them in English. Although they can speak English, many of them cannot read or write it.
- Teach them new games, new songs or crafts. The children love to learn any new game they can. They are also very musical and would love to learn new songs.
- Take care of the sick. At times there may be children who are sick, these children need individual attention which an extra volunteer can provide.
- Cook. While you are not required to cook, you may want to cook the children a special treat (strictly vegetarian) from your home country.
- Help with administration duties.
How many volunteers are needed?
Maximum two volunteers during the same time period.
21 and over
Most volunteers will be asked to teach English. While it is not necessary that you have a teaching qualification, it is important that you are eager to work with the children and have a strong command of the English language.
How long can I volunteer?
Volunteers can stay during the school terms, beginning of May to the beginning of October Or mid of October to mid of March. Or for the entire schoolyear. The longer you can stay the better.
What is offered?
Simple accommodation and simple vegetarian meals.
We ask that you donate a small fee to the project. You will give your donation to the project upon arrival in Thai Baht. This donation will help cover the basic necessities in life for these children, including books, food, teacher salaries, clothes, keeping up of the houses, gardening, etc. We ask that you give a donation of $500. Simple accommodation and simple vegetarian meals are included. The entire fee goes to Baan Unrak.