Openmind Projects (OMP), located in Nong Khai Province, Thailand is a developmental aid organisation focused on helping communities in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal through the creation and management of grass roots projects in the areas of e-learning, education and environment. The main focus of the organisation is using information and communication technologies (ICT) to educate individuals in schools, orphanages, national parks and villages. Projects rely on volunteers to facilitate change within these communities.
OMP was founded in 2001 by Swedish management consultant Sven Mauleon and Gaweechat Joompaula, the first local volunteer in the pioneering "IT in Isan", a self-taught computer wizard from a rice farmer family. In 2001 Gaweechat began helping orphans to use computers and designed the organisation's first website. Since then OMP has supported some 60 schools, orphanages, national parks and villages in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal. Openmind Projects acts as a private aid organization, bringing essential knowledge about computers, English and conservation to developing countries in the Mid Asiatic Region.
2001 - Openmind Projects, then called IT in Isan, pioneered computer training projects in poor Thai villages in an effort to see how the digital divide could be bridged. Computers were placed in homes and schools in villages and villagers given unlimited access to the resource. The idea was to give children and teenagers a chance to learn how to use computers and to learn other subjects with the help of computers.
2002 - Openmind Projects introduced computer and Internet based learning to Thai villages, orphan homes and schools (where teachers and education material are scarce) to inspire students to use computers and Internet to learn English and other subjects. Openmind Projects started inviting volunteers to teach in remote villages, schools, and orphan homes.
2004 - Openmind Projects started supporting responsible eco tourism and community development projects in Laos and Thailand, to help local people and to protect nature and wildlife. In fall of 2004 Openmind Projects expanded to south Thailand, the Satun, Krabi, and Phang Nga provinces. In December 2004 the first workshops with local schools, and national parks took place. On December 26 the tsunami hit these regions. Openmind Projects was one of the first organizations whose volunteers helped local tsunami-hit schools.
2007 - Openmind Projects started supporting community, eco projects in Cambodia and Nepal. Openmind Projects was a pioneer in arranging local teacher training workshops for Thai teachers together with international volunteers and in sending qualified volunteers to help teachers improving education at their own schools. It was one of the first organisations to advocate team teaching as a way to improve English teaching at Thai schools.
2007 - Openmind Projects was chosen by CNN for their "Be the Change" initiative. As part of the program CNN selected volunteers from eight organisations in various countries to report on their experiences. CNN recommends these eight organisations as part of the initiative, of which Openmind Projects is one. Openmind Projects begins supporting health projects in Thailand and Nepal.
2008 - Openmind Projects was a finalist in the prestigious Stockholm Challenge in April, 2008 for its work on ICT for development.
2009 - Openmind Traveler, a new ecotourism organisation was created as a sister program by Openmind Projects to promote sustainable tourism and travel in Laos and Thailand.
2010 - Openmind Projects began supporting community projects in Karen villages, schools and refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border. Also community projects in conjunction with Nong Khai Aquarium and Khon Kaen University.
As English continues to become a "world language", English language skills are becoming more important for people all across the world. This is especially true for people in developing countries, where having good English can open up new jobs and educational opportunities. Openmind Projects has English teaching placements in northeastern and southern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Nepal. Placements include such things as primary and secondary schools, nurseries, orphanage homes, national parks, and more. By teaching English in poor communities language skills, lives and future prospects are improved.
It is not a requirement for volunteers at Openmind Projects to be English teachers. Volunteers are required to have a certain level of English. The main criteria are willingness to teach, flexibility and adaptability for working in a developing country. Team teaching is the preferred teaching method promoted by Openmind Projects and prior to teaching, volunteers undergo a three-day training program at the Openmind Projects Training Center in Nong Khai, Thailand to teach them about team teaching.
Ecology and wildlife volunteers can go to projects in national parks and villages to teach English, create ecotourism information and help improve community-based ecotourism services. The eco volunteer explains the advantages of community-based ecotourism to the local community and provides ecotourism training to gain from ecotourism in the community. Most of the ecotourism revenue too often stays with travel agencies and tour operators.
Responsible ecotourism and conservation is a means to help the local community, national parks and villages to preserve and prosper from a living nature. Ecotourism in Thailand and Laos is tourism that avoids damages to the environment that commonly occur with mass tourism. It also involves the local population, helping offer an alternative source of income to communities.
Ecovolunteers have the options of training local guides, rangers, host families, and children in the English language, designing and drafting English ecotourism brochures and pamphlets, preparing English information for national parks and assisting local ecotourism projects by developing local resources such as accommodation, transportation, trekking, guide services, and food. All ecovolunteers can participate in trekking and sightseeing whilst on placement.
Eco volunteer placements are located all across Thailand and Laos. Some are located in jungles, mountains, wildlife sanctuaries, by the sea and on islands. Volunteers with the specific qualifications are also needed for webdesign of national park and ecotourism sites, GIS, mapping, surveys and scuba dives.
IT volunteer placements are offered in Thailand and Cambodia at the Openmind Projects Training Centre in Nong Khai, at schools and orphanages, and on ecotourism conservation projects and include e-learning projects, IT and website projects, and teaching. Volunteers have a choice of teaching and e-learning resource development, web design for projects (schools, national parks), database, photo management, creation of promotional material, training local teachers and staff, teach IT/computer lessons to students and staff in schools.
In many developing countries, hospitals and clinics often do not have enough resources, enough training, and enough English ability to cater to patients. Health placements with Openmind are available in Thailand and Nepal. Placements in Thailand are broad. Volunteers who have experience in the health industry (doctors, nursing, pharmacy) are placed in medical centres and hospitals and can teach in their field. However, teaching in English is also needed, and volunteers can be placed in the same placements in Thailand. Conditions on Nepal placements are challenging. Hospitals are small and lack facilities as they are located in remote areas. It is recommended that only seasoned travellers and seasoned medical professionals take on Nepal health placements. Volunteers have to pass these requirements to be fit for placements in Nepal.
Openmind Projects offers a summer camp for local students in northeast Thailand(Isan) and south Thailand (Krabi). Camps are targeted at students interested in learning English regardless of social status, money and grade in the class. Students at several schools are chosen by their teachers based on the level on motivation to learn English. Camps are run free of charge, by volunteers and staff usually over a period of five days. Over a three-week period during the school holidays each site can have up to three camps, with a rotation of about 100 children per site.
Internships are available in the fields of English, computers, tourism, health, conservation, environment, and GIS in Thailand, Laos, or Nepal. Internships are individually tailored with interns on behalf of your school or university. Over 60 projects based in schools, orphanages, villages, towns, national parks, and hospitals are available currently. Supervision, support and evaluation are provided as part of the package. Three-day training is also available for interns.
Openmind Projects provides a free service to the community by offering work experience to nationals of Thailand and surrounding countries who wish to further their English communication skills and education in the internship areas listed above. The service provides hands on, practical experience at different levels. The expectation is for active learning. Participation and length of work experience is assessed on a case by case basis and is fully funded by Openmind Projects.
Prior to teaching, volunteers undergo a three-day training program at the Openmind Projects Training Center in Nong Khai, which teaches volunteers skills for teaching English to students, as well as language and cultural skills so that volunteers can adjust to living at their new placement. Students practice teaching English alongside other volunteers and the local staff. Volunteers receive an online pre-departure handbook with information on how to teach English and lesson plans. Furthermore, upon arriving at the three-day cross-cultural and training program, volunteers receive volunteer handbooks that include all the necessary information about teaching and living in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, or Nepal.
Volunteers pay approximately 680 baht per day (Thailand) while training and volunteering.