Friends from Thailand (FFT) Volunteer Programme
The Royal Thai Government through TICA initiated the Volunteer Programme called “Friends from Thailand” or FFT as one of the development cooperation modalities. This programme dispatches Thai youth, age between 21-35 years old, who completed at least bachelor degree to support Thailand’s development cooperation programme in developing countries, particularly in neighboring countries. The FFT Programme also aims at building a better understanding and forging people-to-people diplomacy at the grassroots-level between Thailand and partner countries. Not only contributions in the context of exchanging knowledges and experiences, volunteers also promote strong networks in development cooperation and cultural exchange. There are two types of volunteer assignments under FFT programme. The first type is volunteers who work under Thailand's development cooperation projects in various countries (project-based), another type is volunteers who are assigned to work in specific fields upon requests from partner countries. The FFT volunteers have been assigned to work in various fields such as Thai language instructors, music teachers, microbiologists, product designers, public health, vocational skills teachers and community development officers. The first FFT was sent to teach Thai language in the University in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in 2006. To date, there have been 162 young volunteers working under the programme in countries across Asia and Africa, contribute to Thailand’s development cooperation for one or two years. The majority of FFT is female volunteers, which is double the number of male volunteers.
FFT volunteers are assigned to work with partner governments and agencies (central or local level) and communities to; 1. Exchange knowledges, skills and experiences in the area of cooperation through activities, means, and duration of development programme as mutually agreed between TICA and partner Governments and agencies. There are five main sectors that FFT volunteers were dispatched as follows; 1) Public Health, i.e. nursing, community healthcare and basic healthcare 2) Agriculture, i.e. farm products, garden plants, high altitude farming, forestry 3) Skilled Development, i.e. mechanical engineering, carpentry 4) Education, i.e. computers, Thai language 5) Rural Development, i.e. design and packaging, inclusive development, community learning, creating development organizations, community environmental management, ecotourism, applications of sufficiency economy philosophy 2. Promote understanding, mutual trust and friendship with people of the partner countries.
The FFT Programme supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for both Thailand and partner countries where the FFT operate, in particular Goal 17, through enhancing partnerships for development cooperation towards the achievement of other goals in the areas that volunteers operate such as Goal 4 (Quality education), Goal 1 (No poverty) and Goal 2 (Zero hunger). Volunteering is commended as a driving force for development by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV). It increases participation of all sectors in sustainable national development, especially by engaging the civil society, academia, and the general public in the form of volunteer work. Volunteerism provides space for the public to participate in the development process and can also play a role in localising government policies at the community level and helping the voices of the people be heard during the policy development process. The role of volunteers is increasingly important in advancing international development cooperation and creating global partnerships to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The Volunteers are considered as the integrated part of development cooperation which is a long-term process. Volunteers have crucial role in driving the development activities on the ground. If volunteers are allowed to have full ownership of their assignment, they can be very creative and adaptive. They will come up with various activities to engage the people in the local and community levels and encourage them to participate in the development by doing things together with the volunteers. It is the “people center approach” which is the effective way to empower the people to advance their own development.
Goal 4: Quality Education: The FFT who are assigned to work in the academic institutes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Bhutan have crucial role in transferring the knowledge in the subjects of their responsibilities (language, professional skills and vocational skills) and broadening the perspective of their students to be more creative and have courage to apply the knowledge to advance their study and have better opportunity to seek decent work. Goal 1 & 2: The FFT who are assigned to work as community development officers in communities in Benin, Africa under the Project of Sustainable Community Development based on the Applications of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy have helped the community facing basic challenges with an oversupply of farm products during harvesting season such as oranges, bananas, tomatoes, and peanuts, which ended up rotting in large amounts leading to farmers losing their income. The FFT were responsible for transferring agricultural knowhow on planting and growing farm products to male farmers and training women farmers and spouses of farmers to do the food processing such as banana fritters, orange jam and sugar-coated peanuts. The FFT take into consideration of the local cultural dimension when they work with villagers and help them find the means to manage their agricultural practices in the sustainable ways.
FFT volunteers bring changes to the people, communities and organizations they work with through transferring their knowledge and experiences in specific field of development. When people have knowledge, they will be able to change their mind set and improve their practices to be more effective. The FFT who work as teachers or instructors not only teach their students of the academic content but also challenge those students to think beyond the textbook and broadening them to various aspects of life, therefore giving those students the opportunity to develop themselves and enhancing them to have alternative for better jobs. FFT who were assigned to work as community development with the focus on agricultural development train the villagers on various technique of agricultural practices such as making bio fertilizer, locally made green house, making wood vinegar and food processing. Therefore, the farmers can better manage their farm produces and increase both quality and quantity of their farm products. FFT who worked at the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) in Thimphu, Bhutan, contributed significantly toward the fight against COVID-19. The FFT have teamed up with the Bhutanese technicians to perform testing procedures of COVID-19 at the Center until and engaged in preparatory works for the laboratory and mainly deals with the management of data and surveillance information that comes in. The FFT Programme is an opportunity to develop skills and enhance experiences of young people. During their assignment, they are not only contributing to the development work by transferring their knowledge and experiences to help others, but they are also developing themselves in practical skills, increase their understanding of development process, and gain international experiences that will benefit their future career.
- Partnership between the FFT and the counterpart agencies - The adaptability and creativity of the volunteers to the environment of the agency/community they work with - Support from the community - Respect to the local tradition and culture when working with community Constraints: - Limitation of some facilities to support the effective implementation of the volunteers’ assignment - Limitation of budget of the counterpart agency The volunteers have to come up the some innovation to transfer the knowledge to target groups.
Counterparts and direct beneficiaries, who work with the volunteers, have the crucial role to continue and maintain the project after the completion of volunteers’term of service. However, if the direct beneficiary are farmers or villagers, the local government officers should render technical support to the community to ensure the sustainability. Since the role of volunteers are increasingly important in fulfiling international development cooperation and nurturing global partnerships to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, TICA is considering to extend the type of volunteer programme to senior volunteers who have extensive knowledge and experiences to fulfill the development need of the locals and will be another driving force for the international community to achieve SDGs.
When the COVID-19 became global pandemic, the safety of volunteers is the biggest concern. During that time there were 36 volunteers working in 8 countries across Asia and Africa. TICA decided to call most of them back to Thailand. Some of them continue working through online application such as teaching Thai language to classes in Cambodia and Vietnam. Some of them helping Thai experts to organize online training on food processing for the community in Bhutan. For the projects or activities that are not possible to work on site due to the pandemic, TICA asked volunteers to do study or research in the topics related to their assignment or preparing guideline for specific development activities and send these materials to the target group of beneficiaries. The online technology allows us to keep the momentum of development going and the new normal of doing cooperation via online platform might be the next normal in the future to be able to deliver development result everywhere.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Deliverables & Timeline
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Thailand’s neighbouring countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam), Bhutan and countries in Africa