Our Program Info

We are experts in the field of international volunteer service.



Volunteer Positive runs its program from mid February to mid March. Volunteer Positive brought its first group to Chiang Mai, Thailand in January 2012. It was such a success that the community invited Volunteer Positive to bring more volunteers in the future. This 17-day experience brought together NGO’s, Human Rights activists, educators, and individuals from a broad HIV infected and affected community. In a short time, deep connections were made. For most Thai people, we were the first openly HIV+ westerners they had ever encountered. Since 2012 more than half of the inaugural group of volunteers have returned to Chiang Mai continuing their commitment to service and maintaining their partnerships and friendships. Some have even returned and branched out on their own to deepen their knowledge of the region traveling to and doing service in neighboring countries.

Volunteer Positive volunteers are a diverse group whose lives have been affected by HIV and who have a deep passion for meaningful service.IMG_0272

  1. Volunteer Positive volunteers are HIV affected or HIV infected.
  2. Volunteer Positive volunteers are those with an interest in building international and intercultural skills though meaningful service, education, reflection, and relationship building.
  3. Volunteer Positive volunteers find the value in each other, are risk takers, are willing to consider views different from their own, are sensitive to cultural difference, and who have fun in the process of discovery.
  4. Volunteer Positive volunteers believe in the power of all HIV infected and affected people. They are survivors who know they have a special purpose in this world.
  5. Volunteer Positive volunteers exercise the right to freely travel the world as respected global citizens.

Community Service Learning Goals


  1. They are positive, meaningful and real to the participants.
  2. They involve cooperative rather than competitive experiences and thus promote skills associated with teamwork and community involvement and citizenship.
  3. They address complex problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation.
  4. They offer opportunities to engage in problem-solving by requiring participants to gain knowledge of the specific context of their service-learning activity and community challenges, rather than only to draw upon generalized or abstract knowledge such as might come from a textbook. As a result, service-learning offers powerful opportunities to acquire the habits of critical thinking; i.e. the ability to identify the most important questions or issues within a real-world situation.
  5. They promote deeper learning because the results are immediate and uncontrived. There are no “right answers” in the back of the book.
  6. As a consequence of this immediacy of experience, service-learning is more likely to be personally meaningful to participants and to generate emotional consequences, to challenge values as well as ideas, and hence to support social, emotional and cognitive learning and development.

DSC00194Support Networks

Our staff will walk you through all the steps necessary to prepare you for your service experience and are excited to be serving with you. Volunteer Positive is building this first of a kind program with expert support from The International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership, experts from Chiang Mai University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and leading HIV and non HIV related NGO’s servicing the northern Thai area. Volunteer Positive staff will be with you during the entirety of the program and are looking forward to serving with you. Volunteer Positive experienced support and planning include:



  1. An extensive pre-departure orientation process which prepares you for most all possibilities
  2. A personalized placement matched to your skills and interests to the needs of the community
  3. Structured and guided reflection
  4. Access to and instruction by local leaders in the field to support building cultural competency and to help you put your unique experience into context.
  5. Basic language instruction
  6. Informative and exciting excursions
  7. NGO partners and people interested in building relationships with foreigners
  8. Resourced staffing and health support
  9. Safe and secure housing
  10. Free time
  11. Hard work and great fun

History of Chiang MaiCultureTransportation

419px-Doi_Suthep_chediKing Mengrai founded the city of Chiang Mai (meaning “new city”) in 1296 on the location of an older city of the Lawa people called Wiang Nopburi. Chiang Mai succeeded Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lanna kingdom. The ruler was known as the Chao. The city was surrounded by a moat and a defensive wall, since nearby Burma was a constant threat as well as the armies of the Mongol Empire which only decades earlier had conquered most of Yunnan, China, and in 1292 overran the bordering Thai Lü kingdom of Chiang Hung. With the decline of the Lanna Kingdom, the city lost importance and was occupied by the Burmese in 1556. Chiang Mai formally became part of Siam in 1775 by an agreement with Chao Kavila, after the Thai King Taksin helped drive out the Burmese. Because of the Burmese counterattacks, Chiang Mai was abandoned between 1776 and 1791. Lampang then served as the capital of what remained of Lanna. Chiang Mai then slowly grew in cultural, trading and economic importance to its current status as the unofficial capital of northern Thailand, second in importance only to Bangkok.

800px-2010_1128_Wat_PhantaoThe modern municipality dates to a sanitary district (sukhaphiban) that was created in 1915. This was upgraded to a municipality (thesaban) on March 29, 1935, as published in the Royal Gazette, Book No. 52 section 80. First covering just 17.5 km2 (7 sq mi), the city was enlarged to 40.216 km2 (16 sq mi) on April 5, 1983. Now days, the city is much larger than just what is contained within the moat. This is now referred to as the Old City. There is much to discover within the Old City, including many beautiful temples.

Chiang Mai hosts many Thai festivals, including: Floating Lantern Festival

A country with an existing monarch may be new to most. This country boasts many pictures of their king most places you will go, a picture of the Buddha, a picture of the king. Respect is a major part of the Thai culture. Respect is shown in person by bowing with hands together. This is known as wai-ing. The younger person wais first to the elder person, which is then reciprocated by the elder person.

You will encounter many people who do speak some English, but also many who do not. A smile and a lot of patience will get you far! Many Thai’s are excited and willing to teach you a new Thai word. Be prepared, they will probably laugh at your attempts, this is not to shame you, don’t be afraid to keep trying the word and join in on the laughter! Having some language comprehension, especially numbers and greetings, will be especially helpful when you are in the markets and are bargaining. They will be much more willing to give you a lower starting price to bargain from if you speak to them with a little bit of Thai.

nightmarketChiang Mai has many markets throughout the city, some that occur daily. These are not to be missed! Between the riverPing and the east gate of Old City is the Night Bazaar, which takes place every night. Here there are plenty of touristy gifts but also an amazing lady boy show, live music, and great food. During the day, there are many fruit and vegetable markets, and on Saturdays and Sundays, the main street through the Old City is shut down and a large artisan and craft market takes its place. People from all over the region bring their handmade crafts and designs. This is also a wonderful place to find great street food.

The food in Chiang Mai is diverse. You will have no problem finding anything you might be Foodcraving.The more Western style it is, the more money it will be. Sometimes the cheapest and best tasting option is to eat right at the carts on the street. It will be the most authentic Thai food experience. Do not drink the tap water in Thailand. All restaurants and food carts serve only filtered water, including the ice so it is safe to drink.


The inhabitants speak Kham Muang (also known as Northern Thai or Lanna) among themselves, though Central Thai is used in education and is understood by everyone. English is used in hotels and travel-related businesses and many educated people speak English. The Kham Muang alphabet is now studied only by scholars, and Northern Thai is commonly written with the standard Thai alphabet.


Bus, train and air connections serve Chiang Mai well. A number of bus stations link the city to central and northern Thailand. The Central Chang Pheuak terminal (north of Chiang Puak Gate) provides local services within Chiang Mai Province and the Chiang Mai Arcade bus terminal northeast of the city (requires songthaew or tuk-tuk ride, see below) provides services to over 20 other destinations in Thailand including Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Phitsanulok. There are several services a day from Chiang Mai Arcade terminal to Bangkok (a 10–12 hour journey).

The state railway operates 14 trains a day to Chiang Mai Station from Bangkok. Most journeys run overnight and take approximately 12–15 hours. Most trains offer first-class (private cabins) and a second-class (seats fold out to make sleeping berths) service. Make sure to check the train routes as many of the tracks are being rebuilt and some destinations are unavailable from certain cities. To get to cities such as Mae Hong Son or Chiang Rai a plane or bus must be used. No trains are available to cities north of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai International Airport receives up to 28 flights a day from Bangkok (flight time about 1 hour 10 minutes) and also serves as a local hub for services to other northern cities such as Chiang Rai, Phrae and Mae Hong Son. International services also connect Chiang Mai with other regional centers, including cities in other Asian countries.

The local preferred form of transport is personal motorbike and, increasingly, private car. Local public transport is typically found in two forms: tuk tuks, songthaews. Tuk tuk’s are carts attached to a motor bike that hold 1-3, sometimes up to four passengers. The price is usually per tuk tuk, split between however many riders you have. Tuk tuk rides typically range between 50-250 baht. Songtaews are the covered red trucks that you will observe all over the city. These are easy to flag down. Tell them your desired location and they will tell you if they are headed that way. This is a much easier way to get large groups across the city. If no fare is decided, the automatic price is 20 baht per person. The further you need to go, the higher the price, but never more than 200 baht, and that is if you are going outside the city. 

IMG_2007Volunteer Positive partners with the most recognized and respected NGO’s in the region. We serve at their direction and discretion. These include HIV education groups run by Buddhist Monks, programs for HIV orphaned Thai children, LGBT advocacy groups, arts organizations, refugee advocates from neighboring Burma, HIV+ community support networks, primary and secondary schools, sex worker education facilities, 3rd gender communities, and public health facilities that serve those living with the virus.

Since the focus of the Volunteer Positive experience is service, volunteers will be putting in 40 plus hours a week, and likely do extra hours most weekends. Each volunteer will be matched with a specific placement, and in addition will also participate in additional group service work. The placements and the extra duties equal more than a full time commitment, sometimes from very early in the morning to late in the evening. It is hard work, but it is good work, and it is FUN!.


Here is a list of NGO’s we link with for service placements:

  1. Mplus Foundation
  2. Empower Foundation
  3. Grandma Cares
  4. Agape Home
  5. Thai Youth Action Program Foundation (TYAP)
  6. Caremat Chiang Mai
  7. Monk Chat
  8. Art Relief International
  9. Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS Foundation (TNP+)
  10. Church of Christ Aids Ministry
  11. Chiang Mai Hospital HIV Program for Children

You will be expected to take responsibility for knowing what steps you need to take to prepare for your departure and Volunteer Positive’s experienced staff will guide you through. Being accepted into a volunteer program is an important milestone and achievement! However, it is just the beginning of the process.

If you are HIV positive, there can be different cultural norms and expectations regarding the appropriate way to disclose while in your host country. Your Volunteer Positive staff is always available to explore these issues and to offer advice. Remember, we are Volunteer Positive, which is not a subtle name, but not everyone on the program will have the virus, some will be affected not infected. This is the same in the host culture. Be prepared to be perceived by others as a person living with the virus.

Remember that international volunteer service is taking two or more completely different cultural systems and having them work together. The following are important components of your volunteer abroad process that you need to understand and follow through with in order to successfully continue and complete your application. Volunteer Positive staff will be holding one on one trainings as well as group pre-departure planning meetings in the months and weeks before the program. Although you are the central actor in your own volunteer abroad process, there are other people thatsupport you as well. Each volunteer who participates on a Volunteer Positive program will have an experienced Adviser who will provide information, guidance, and to work with participants on individual issues related to their volunteer abroad preparation. Additionally, all participants will be required to attend a pre-departure orientation training given by staff at Volunteer Positive either in person or through a virtual conference platform.

We will support you by sharing information on the following topics:US passport

  1. Passport and Tourist Visas
  2. Application Forms
  3. Arriving In Country
  4. Learning About Your Host Country
  5. Preparing To Be  “Foreigner” Abroad
  6. Immigration and Customs
  7. Jet Lag
  8. On-Site Orientation
  9. Cultural Adjustment & Exploration
  10. Fitting In and Being Accepted
  11. Learning and Respecting Local Customs
  12. Women Abroad
  13. Sexual Orientation

The Cultural Orientation Program


In addition to committed daily service placements, volunteers will learn about the history of the region,Thai culture, Thai language, and current issues related to Thai HIV policies. Cultural competency building will be supported by a schedule that includes recognized experts leading the group through:

          1. Classes on Thai History
          2. Lectures on Thai Buddhism
          3. Lectures on Thai Gender Identity
          4. Community Events
          5. Cultural Excursions
          6. Structured Reflection

It is our goal to give you the tools to be the best volunteer possible, and to get the most out of your experience.

ExcursionsIMG_0075 2

Thailand is full of exciting opportunities for excursions, and Chiang Mai is one of the most wonderful and exciting places in the country. Volunteer Positive groups will be provided with a few delightful excursions meant to deepen your understanding of the region and its people. Though these are fun, they serve a serious purpose as a significant part of your training and development.

  1. You will embark on a daylong visit to an elephant preserve where you will learn about the symbolic and functional role of the species in Thai society. We will ride on the elephants through the Thai forest and return to the sanctuary for an amazing home cooked Thai lunch.
  2. You will visit the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand high above the city to better understand how faith influences the world view of the community and informs its unique approaches towards life’s challenges.
  3. You will attend the famous, exciting and expansive night market and day markets in the city highlighting the complex economy of the region and to better appreciate the role of work in Thai culture.
  4. You will have a guided city tour orienting you to the location of your NGO placement location. You will also have a welcome dinner and final culminating event that brings NGO leaders and the community together. These events will help you connect not just to the place you are living, but to the community you will be serving.
  5. You will have free time to explore the city and region on your own and have many unique experiences from which to choose. These personal excursions are not covered by your program fee, but are very reasonable. Chiang Mai is a center for tourism with more to do and discover than can be imagined.

IMG_0042Jutatip Dechaboon, aka “Ann” is a long time resident of Chiang Mai and has been active in the HIV community as an activist, trainer, caregiver, capacity builder and leader or over 10 years. A recognized local expert and HIV counselor, Ann has represented the changing needs of the northern Thailand HIV community both nationally and internationally. She sits on various community NGO boards directing HIV outreach and advocacy, is a talented voice over artist, and an activist for women’s rights and all human rights. Ann works closely with Volunteer Positive’s founder matching the needs of the community to the talents of the volunteers while delivering consistent support and feedback. Her easy laugh and flexible style are the epitome of what a local leader should be; caring, demanding, and anchored in the needs of those who are most vulnerable.





David Berube 
David writes, being a participant in the inaugural Volunteer Plus experience in Chiang Mai, Thailand was a pivotal moment in my adult life that has afforded me the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally in ways I never anticipated prior to leaving the comfort of my studio in NYC in January 2012.

As a working artist not afraid to tackle social issues through visual works, it had always been a dream to incorporate my practice in a way that would directly enrich the lives of others. I feel fortunate that my passion has found a commonality between the strangers I’ve encountered as part of my voluntary efforts, and is capable of dissolving language and cultural barriers through art.

So profound was my experience with Volunteer Positive, I have returned to Chiang Mai on two subsequent occasions since my initial service and am continuing to nurture relationships and friendships formed there. Life-long bonds that include a community of monastics who I have joined fundraising efforts with in a grassroots endeavor to provide much needed school supplies, scholarships and meditation instruction to grade schools. These vital local institutions in the monks’ hometowns and tribal villages both in Thailand and Laos are integral to their identity and assists them with an outlet to contribute back to their own communities sustainably. Volunteer Positive has given me the opportunity to tear down some of my own walls, fears and fabricated truths and in turn has opened my eyes to a whole new world, a world where each one of us can make a direct and lasting impact.

travellingTraveling to Chiang Mai

Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to and from Chiang Mai. It is possible to fly directly into the international airport, or it is also possible to fly into Bangkok and either take a short 1-hour plane ride to Chiang Mai, a direct and comfortable overnight train, or a bus if you are feeling adventurous. The modern airport is 15 minutes outside the city and it is an inexpensive taxi ride from there to the guesthouse.



sawasdeeOur Accommodations

The group will be staying in the center of Chiang Mai at a safe, simple and comfortable location with all the necessary amenities and support, near the cultural center of this dynamic and important city. The location is ideal for access to arts, education, coffee shops, art galleries, entertainment, temples, nightlife, and great food. This guesthouse is staffed by some of the nicest people you could meet and the morning breakfasts are delicious. They make staying in Chiang Mai, cool, comfortable and like being part of a family. Each volunteer has his or her own air-conditioned room for the duration of the program with shower, TV, and small refrigerator. There are daily laundry services if needed and free wi-fi.

support1Thailand has no restrictions on tourist travel into the country regarding HIV. All volunteers must consult with and be cleared by their personal physician before being allowed to participate in a program. Your safety is our primary concern.

Chiang Mai has excellent health centers, as does Thailand in general. In addition all volunteers will be required to purchase temporary international medical insurance and emergency evacuation insurance so that all contingencies are covered in case of an emergency or natural disaster. Our staff will walk you through the simple steps of purchasing of these temporary policies. All volunteers will also register with the US Embassy in Thailand for added support and security.


Volunteer Positive Program Fee (see below for what’s included) $3,000.00
Application Fee (Non Refundable) $75.00
Program Enrolment Deposit – Non Refundable $250.00
International Health Insurance – Estimate Paid directly by volunteer, not part of fee * $100.00
Estimated Two Meals A Day in Chiang Mai – Paid directly by volunteer, not part of fee * $200.00
Estimate Total: $3,625.00

What is Included in the Program Fee:   

Volunteer Positive programs are designed with respect to prudent budgets, but without sacrificing safety, comfort, or quality. Since Volunteer Positive is an international non profit the vast majority of your program fee goes to support your in country experience.

The Program fee includes:

  1. Safe and comfortable housing
  2. Breakfast
  3. Individualized volunteer placements, program setup and management
  4. Expert volunteer support from an experienced staff in the US and abroad
  5. Cultural competency building opportunities like lectures, most excursions, and a welcome dinner and program completion celebration

The Program fee does NOT include:

  1. Airfare
  2. Lunch and Dinner
  3. International Health Insurance
  4. Private Excursions
  5. Transportation to and from your local volunteer placement since some volunteers will be able to walk, while others may need to take a short and very inexpensive taxi or local transport.

dollarsignProspective volunteers are surprised to learn that many programs charge their volunteers a fee to participate. At first, this can seem ridiculous —Why should you pay money to work for free? Aren’t you already forgoing income you could be making? Here are a few things to keep in mind while trying to understand why the vast majority of programs charge international volunteers a fee.

The local organizations and projects with which you volunteer overseas have limited resources and are seldom able to subsidize your trip or cover the costs of hosting you. (These costs include housing, feeding and transporting you, among numerous other things)

Identifying appropriate host organizations overseas and working with them is time-consuming, takes resources, and requires an experienced and professional staff. The process of preparing, training, transporting, housing, feeding, and supervising volunteers is not cheap. Additional services such as health care, re-entry assistance, travel medical insurance, and more, all add to the expenses of a program.

The costs of recruiting volunteers, producing literature, answering the phones, sending mailings, developing a website, and interviewing potential volunteers are significant. So where does your money go? It often pays for the cost of your housing, food and transport, as well as your training, preparation and supervision. It also goes toward the identification of worthy projects and host organizations, as well as the costs of recruiting you and other volunteers.

projecttravelCrowd Funding

We are thrilled to announce a new partnership with an exciting fundraising opportunity. Project Travel provides a platform for each of our volunteers to create a personalized fundraising web page to begin the process of raising money for their trip. This tool will allow the volunteers to share their stories and their fundraising needs. The URL can be shared with anyone via social media, embedding into a webpage or simply emailing the link.

Click here to start fundraising for your trip!


Funding for volunteering abroad has traditionally been very limited, obtained through individual fund-raising or matching gifts programs. However, exciting, new funding options are emerging through a variety of institutions that share a commitment to international service.

Fortunately, there are some great resources out there to help you raise funds for volunteering overseas; one good primer is the Introduction to Fundraising by the International Volunteer Programs Association.

US Funding

  • Volunteers for Prosperity Service Incentive Program (VFPServ) – $500 to $1,000; U.S. residents
  • The President’s Volunteer Service Award is the premier volunteer awards program. http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/index.cfm
  • The National Geographic Glimpse Correspondents Program – $600; U.S. residents aged 18-30
  • More funds are earmarked for US citizens by impending government legislation and Volunteer Positive will work to keep all of our supporters up to date as these funds are made available.

Non US Funds

  • In the U.K., you might also consider applying to a trust. Finally, another option, depending on your home country, is to explore programs that offer stipends and/or cover living expenses in exchange for international service; for example, the Peace Corps (U.S.), VSO (U.K.), VSO Canada, Australian Volunteers International, and the International Executive Service Corps (U.S.)

fundraisingDeciding to volunteer or intern abroad is a great and sometimes expensive. The cost of traveling around the world is expensive. Many of the programs offered are affordable but there are other costs in which you will have to incur. These costs are like flight expenses which in some occasions are very expensive. Also during you volunteer work you would want to travel, buy souvenirs and sometimes give a gift to the locals. These extra expenses can make you want not to volunteer or not travel. If you want to travel and do not have as much money as you would require, fundraising will be you r next option. When you raise funds you will be able to enjoy your experience longer and have more fun. There are very many ideas and things you would do in order to raise money. Here are some of the effective ways to get money for your volunteer trip, or internship.


planHave a plan

Before you start calling people or knocking at their doors to ask for financial aid, you should sit down and budget first. Calculate exactly how much you need, i.e. the cost of your travel including airfare, weekly expenditure, insurance and your volunteer holiday. Secondly having a plan of action that will help you come up with the money. This includes what you will do to raise the money e.g. organizing a party. Involve your friends and family in planning.



partyOrganize a party

One of the surest ways to raise funds is by hosting a party in your home. Host a simple function; an evening party, a cocktail party, wine tasting and a dinner party. Tell everyone who will come to the party that the event is for a good cause. Make people pay when they arrive at the party. Make the party fun and engaging.




garageGarage Sale

This can bring some money into your pocket. Go to your house and look for things that you don’t use anymore. In your attic, basement there could be old clothes, toys and trinkets. Make sure you ask first before you take things to be sold. Tell all of your neighbors that you are organizing a garage sale. You can also advertise your garage/ yard sale in the local daily newspaper.




sponsoredSponsored events

This is like being involved in short race. It can be a marathon, 5 km race, 10 km race, a decathlon and a triathlon. Explain to your sponsors that you are doing it to help fund your trip. They could sponsor you for every mile you run or every kilometer you accomplish.




helpGet Help

There are some resources like some organizations that will fund your volunteer travel. There are also websites that help in your fundraising. Going to their sites and they could give you some money to help with your trips.




parttimeGet a part time job

Plan early, when you want to volunteer. If you are to volunteer abroad in 6 or 7 months time get a part job that will help you pay for the costs of volunteering. The work experience will also help you when you start your volunteer work abroad. When you are abroad you can apply for a job.




adviceGet advice

Meet with people who have already volunteered abroad. Ask them how they were able to get money for their vacation. Ask them which resources they had available for their volunteer period. And ask how much they spent during their experience.

Translate »