Lindsey Cruden will set out for Thailand in February to volunteer for six weeks at a local orphanage. She will arrive in Chiang Rai, where she will work for The Mirror Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that runs programs in the area. There she will work first-hand with Thai children and teach English. She will also help build water tanks, schools and do roadway repairs, as well as perform maintenance on the homes of the elderly within the village.
“I wanted to go and make a difference,” said the 20-year-old.
It has been a lifelong goal for Cruden to volunteer abroad, but her aid comes with a cost.
When she first decided she was going to travel, she considered going as a missionary. Cruden is a devout Baptist, but felt uncomfortable preaching the gospel, so she decided to look into other volunteering opportunities.
She was not qualified for sponsorship from her church because she would not be doing missionary work, but she decided to press on regardless.
“If no one is going to sponsor me I’ll do it myself and prove that I can,” she said.
To save for her trip, Cruden stopped going to school for hair design and esthetics and found a full-time job working at a farm. She gave up her apartment in April and moved in with first family and then friends.
Cruden thought she would be leaving for Thailand in November. She signed up for a trip with a company based in the United States and put down the deposit. Three weeks before her departure date, the company called and told her she was not needed at the orphanage and would lose her $400 deposit. In reality, Cruden lost much more because she had pre-paid for hotel rooms in cities she would be making connecting flights in.
A similar story about the same company was told by an anonymous poster on abroadreviews.com, a website that, as the name suggests, posts reviews about abroad programs.
In a post dated Oct. 24, 2010, the poster said the travel company was not able to find them a placement before their departure date and would not give back the refund. The company replied to this post and gave an explanation, saying the volunteer took too long to confirm or turn down their selected trip.
Cruden only learned about the company’s negative feedback after she lost her money.
“I still wanted to go,” said Cruden. “It was just a little roadblock.”
She said losing the money made her realize just how much she wanted to volunteer. A week later, Cruden signed up with International Volunteer HQ, a company based out of New Zealand. Whereas the first company was a “for-profit” outfit, this one was not.
With between $4,000 and $5,000 already invested in her trip, Cruden is still $1,000 shy of her total expenses. The remaining funds will go towards vaccinations and malaria medication.
“It seems crazy that it is that expensive to volunteer,” she said.
Her family and friends don’t understand why she is investing her money into this volunteer trip instead of a car, like other people her age.
“If I can change three kids’ lives, it’ll be worth it. Two or three or even one (child’s life). It’ll be worth it,” said Cruden.
Cruden has set up a website, found at www.helpthiscause.com/6ZOUME, where people can sponsor her trip through donations and in return any donation over $25 will receive a $50 gift card for a restaurant or hotel in North America.
“If you can help, why wouldn’t you?” said Cruden. “People don’t think one person can make a difference.
“I’m there for six weeks. I’m sure I can make a difference.”
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Volunteer in Thailand
Volunteer in Thailand with International Volunteer HQ today. IVHQ’s local staff in Thailand requires volunteers NOW! IVHQ has a range of volunteering opportunities available in the Chiang Rai province working with local villages and hill tribes.
LOCATION OF THAILAND VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
IVHQ has volunteer programs located in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. Chiang Rai is a great place to volunteer as the weather is nice and the scenery beautiful with green jungles, rice fields, waterfalls, elephants and more. The Northern Thais (both the ethnic Thai and the various hill tribes) are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world. It is very safe and good medical facilities are available. Furthermore, Chiang Rai is easily accessible by air, road and railroad links.