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Planning Retirement Online

Volunteers' Stories

From IVS, the International Voluntary Service

Founded in 1931, IVS is a non-profit organisation that promotes peace and social justice through volunteering.

This new article series will bring you stories from their volunteers about their inspirational experiences helping local communities n the UK and around the world

Teaching Environmental Awareness in Thailand

Article by Pat Barker, a senior volunteer with IVS for many years.

lunch in a Thai TempleI had previously been on a 2 week project in a Buddhist village in eastern Thailand near Ubon Ratchathani. Prior to this  I had been involved in volunteer projects in Europe but was inspired to go further afield when I read of the need for volunteers for post tsunami work in a  riverside village on the west coast of Thailand and had to go and help.

This proved so worthwhile and enjoyable that, two years later, I was tempted by the call for volunteers on a project in this very different part of Thailand. We were to participate in the work and daily life of the local villagers in order to teach them better environmental practices.

Almost everything sold from their market stalls was wrapped in thin plastic bags and these were beginning to block streams and waterways and be a danger to their own animals and wild life. The chief monk was very supportive and would talk about this in his morning sermon in the temple.

We all helped give rice to the monks early each morning and would follow them into the temple where the villagers would smile gently at those of us who found the prolonged kneeling difficult.
We were painting a mural in the school and teaching singing games to the children when the local expert decreed it was time to work on the rice crop. Scything rice is extremely satisfying but very tiring. You certainly need a good hat brim to protect the back of the neck as you bend over to cut. It was hot work and we would be lifting our heads to see when the advancing evening shade would reach our part of the field.

The villagers were extremely friendly and appreciated our help.  On our last day, the chief monk tied a thread around each one of our wrists as he said,

“May all beings be free from enmity
and live a happy life for ever”.


Visit the Laterlife Interest Index for more Volunteer Stories

If you are over 50 and want to volunteer with IVS please contact

Our projects in 60 countries worldwide are open to volunteers of all ages and can be accessed at

We have a project specifically for the over 50s in Belgium in July for 3 weeks supporting refugee families. You would be with 3 people from the UK and 4 from Belgium.  If you want to find out more contact

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