Below is a report I recently received from a volunteer who will be working with me until the beginning of October 2002 (we've been working together since July). Should you wish to contact him regarding his opinion on the current situation with the Akha, the work I do here, or any volunteer opportunities then please email me at email@example.com and I can give you his personal contact details. MATTHEW
My experience volunteering to help the Akha:
As a British volunteer with The Akha Heritage Foundation, I am providing some information concerning future volunteer opportunities. I am currently in Thailand working with Matthew and having a fantastic time (both in terms of interest and enjoyment). Here is some objective information about the organisation.
Firstly, I can confirm that the Foundation is reputable and that the work Matthew does is exceptionally worthwhile. In short, the aim of the Foundation is the promotion and advocacy of Akha human rights, traditions, and civil liberties. The organisation (it holds 'non-profit corporation' status in the States) and any volunteer will encounter many different forms of aid work: including documentation, research, first aid care, fundraising, road building etc. As a reflection of the work the charity does and of the dire socio-economic conditions that the Akha are faced with on a daily basis, the work any potential volunteer will do is hugely broad and exceptionally variable depending on the current situation.
As far as I am aware the experience encountered here is greatly different from almost any other opportunity presently available. Any potential volunteer should be aware of the grass-roots level of the organisation and the fact that the work is exceptionally political (though the organisation is not). I feel that I would personally have been able to 'cope' on this project any time since leaving school (thats high school for you Americans!) - I am now a student at Edinburgh University. Be aware however that it is not for the fainthearted - for me at least this makes it more appealing!
I would definately recommend this to anyone who is interested in politics or more precisely the distribution of power; those interested in direct action; grass-roots development work; an endangered culture and language; and finally, those seeking an unforgetable experience.
Just to clarify, the charity is non-religious and non-political.
You will have to email Matthew regarding specific details on volunteer opportunities. (firstname.lastname@example.org).