Volunteering FAQ

What are WEAVE working hours?
Staff is expected to work an 8 hours a day, usually starting between 8:00am and 9:30 a.m. There is some flexibility for office staff (and a lot for field staff).
Lunch break can therefore be taken at a time convenient to you and the needs of others in the office. Some staff like to take only 30 minutes, others an hour and some work through without a lunch break. If a work task is being done during lunch break and need to be away from the office for longer than an hour, employees should inform the other staff in the office how long you expect to be out of the office.

What to Bring?
There are two approaches: the “travel-light” school of thought preaches: “Bring your passport and money, the rest can be bought”; the “when-indoubt-bring-it” line of reasoning is “if you didn’t bring it you’ll have to buy it”. You’ll be amazed at what you can get in Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Mae Sot, often cheaper than the rest of South East Asia. Save room for things you are less likely to encounter here, such as textbooks and professional materials, and buy day-to-day articles in country. You may as well take advantage of your luggage allowance, as you won’t have to travel much with it inside Thailand. We recommend:

• At least 200 USD a month for food, a money belt or pouch.
• Small gifts from your country – calendars are popular here.
• A few favourite music CD/DVD.
• Large-size shoes; good runners (for jogging, volleyball, etc.); if you’re into hiking, a pair of soft-walkers (Hi-Tec, Nike, etc.) is ideal for day hikes and traveling.
• Good quality socks as those in Thailand tend to be small and of poor quality.
• Cotton underwear (most of it is nylon here); swim suit (larger sizes may be hard to get); a warm sweater if you are coming in winter time.
• Rain jacket and long-sleeved shirts for the rainy season.
• Strong sunscreen lotion.
• Vitamins also can be hard to get and expensive, so it’s worth bringing your own supply.
• Spermicidal cream/foam (not available); condoms (available here, but quality varies).

Is the Visa and Stay Permit Process complicated?
Expatriates working with WEAVE should enter Thailand on a non-Immigrant O visa, valid for a minimum of at least 3 months and maximum of 1 year. WEAVE office in Chiang Mai can arrange for the documentation as required for a visa application. Please make sure to remind WEAVE (c/o Admin.) to forward the visa letter to you before you go to your embassy or consulate to apply for the said visa category (applicable for countries such as: USA, Canada, Australia, UK and Singapore). For those coming from other parts of South East Asia, a visa on arrival will be given at the Suvarnambhumi airport (at least 30 days). After 25 days, a Non-Immigrant O visa will be applied at Laos.

You will keep your passport and make sure to check the date of your next visit to Thai immigration for the renewal stamp (this is done every three months). If you managed to get a 12 months non-immigrant O visa, you must have an Multiple Entry Permit. If you leave the country, this allows you to come back without losing your non-Immigrant O status. You can apply to this in Chiang Mai.

Do’s and Don’ts
There are two approaches you can take to dressing in Thailand and inside the refugee camp:
1) You are a Westerner, so you can get away with wearing what you would at home because Thai and Burmese people expect you to be different.
2) You can observe the local customs, follow them, and show respect for your host country.

It is true that Thai/Burmese/Karen make allowances for our “idiosyncrasies”, but the second option is obviously more conducive to smooth relationships with colleagues and friends here. While you will always be an outsider, you don’t have to emphasize the fact. Dressing conservatively and modestly you will gain more respect at work. In tourist areas, you will get hassled less by street sellers, as you won’t look like a tourist. In a number of circumstances, for example, shorts will not be acceptable. When in doubt about how to dress, ask friends or colleagues. They will appreciate your attempts at adapting to local customs.

Westerners easily adapt the habit of wearing the longyi (men) or sarong (women), a piece of cloth wrap around the waist. It is cool and comfortable to sleep in or wear around the house. It can be used in many ways including bathing and can be purchased inexpensively in the local market or inside the refugee camps.

You are expected to dress modestly, right down to the underwear: a bra, a slip under your skirt, a camisole over your bra under a thin blouse. Shoulders should be covered but short sleeves are common. Backless dresses, mini-skirts, and halter tops are generally inadvisable. In many offices, women wear slacks or jeans. It is very unusual for foreign women to wear traditional formal dress, as it is more complicated and expensive, involving several parts (including a hairpiece for the real purist). Usually a slightly better than everyday dress will do. As for bathing suits – women can wear a two-piece in tourist areas, but otherwise a Speedo-type is the minimum (or wear a T-shirt over top).

In the office men are expected to wear slacks and a shirt with shoes or sandals. The most important thing is to be neat and tidy. For formal events (party, wedding, an important meeting at work), a long-sleeved shirt worn outside the trousers together with shoes rather than sandals is the usual outfit for men. Thai/Burmese/Karen regards it very favourably if Westerners adopt this custom. Ties and suit jackets are less common. It is usually (but not always) considered in bad taste for men to “go topless” in public. Remember this if you are staying with a Thai/Burmese/Karen family.

If you still have questions don’t hesitate to contact us.