There are myriad volunteering organisations in the region, but be aware that so-called ‘voluntourism’ has become big business and that not every organisation fulfils its promise of meaningful experiences. Experts recommend a minimum commitment of three months for positions working with children. Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisations that we do not work with directly, so it is essential that you do your own thorough research before agreeing to volunteer with any organisation.
All Women’s Action Society Malaysia (www.awam.org.my) Aims to improve the lives of women in Malaysia by lobbying for a just, democratic and equitable society with respect and equality for both genders.
Ecoteer (www.ecoteerresponsibletravel.com) Offers various volunteer projects including ones relating to orangutan conservation.
Eden Handicap Service Centre (www.edenhandicap.org) Christian-run organisation caring for people with disabilities in Penang; volunteers are needed to help with a variety of activities.
The Great Projects (www.thegreatprojects.com) Organisation that places paying volunteers at the Matang Wildlife Centre in Sarawak as well as on other wildlife conservation projects around Malaysia.
Lang Tengah Turtle Watch Help safeguard the turtles that come to lay their eggs on this Peninsula East Coast island.
LASSie (www.langkawilassie.org.my) Dog and cat lovers can help out at the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary Foundation.
Malaysian Nature Society (www.mns.org.my) Check its website or drop them a line to find out ways you can get involved in helping preserve Malaysia’s natural environment.
Miso Walai Homestay Program (www.misowalaihomestay.com) Gets travellers involved with local wetlands restoration projects.
PAWS (www.paws.org.my) Animal rescue shelter in Subang, about 30 minutes from central KL.
Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (www.reach.org.my) Take part in reforestation and recycling programs in the Cameron Highlands.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre Has one of Malaysia’s best established volunteer programs for animal lovers.
Wild Asia (www.wildasia.org) A variety of volunteer options generally connected with the environment and sustainable tourism in the region.
There are possibilities for those who seek them out, from professional-level jobs in finance, journalism and the oil industry to temporary jobs at some guesthouses and dive centres in popular resort areas. Those with teaching credentials can find English-teaching jobs in Malaysia, though pickings are slim compared to Japan and Korea.
Depending on the nature of your job, you’ll need either an Expatriate Personnel Visa or a Temporary Employment Visa. For details and requirements, check the website of the Immigration Department of Malaysia (www.imi.gov.my/index.php/ms).
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