GVI: Volunteer in Thailand

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About

Volunteer with GVI in Thailand and discover the land of smiles; a land surrounded by stunning golden beaches, intricate temples and a rich culture. Although Thailand has a thriving tourism industry, there are many poorer communities. Thailand is also home to a variety of fauna and flora that are both unique, diverse and in some cases endangered.

Top Volunteer Projects in Thailand:

  • Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand: Explore the awe-inspiring mountainous forests of Northern Thailand as you volunteer with traditional communities as they work to protect the Asian elephant population. You will learn a great deal about how the elephants behave as you live as a local in the village.
  • As an expedition member, you'll be assisting with climate and conservation issues that the region faces alongside our local partners. Volunteers will be involved in biodiversity research turtle conservation and environmental education.
  • Provide assistance with health and hygiene education in schools, care centers and community centers in Phang Nga. Explore the picturesque island oases of southern Thailand in your free time.
  • Help children in Thailand to improve their future opportunities by teaching English in local schools. Experience the traditional Thai culture explore the unspoiled white sand beaches and tropical jungles in your free time.
  • Travel to the majestic country of Thailand and contribute to long-term sustainable conservation projects. Contribute to solving the climate and conservation issues affecting the various ecosystems as well as the rehabilitation of Asian elephants who have been rescued from tourist camps.
  • Travel to two stunning Asian countries and help enhance the education of Buddhist Novice Monks and help reintegrate elephants into their natural habitat from lives in tourist camps.

Questions & Answers

For the homestay in Thailand you have your own space/room at the locals house. You get up early and are out with the Elephants and other volunteers all day. Some nights you have dinner with the alone and try and learn each others languages.

Reviews

96%
based on 29 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 15 of 29
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Marine
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience for nature lovers

Durant mes vacances j’ai choisi de partir 3 semaines en Thaïlande dont 2 de façon “utile” en étant volontaire pour GVI Phang Nga.
Amoureuse de la nature j’ai opté pour le programme de Conservation, cette expérience m’a permis d’apprendre au sujet des diverses espèces sur lesquelles on travaille : tortues vertes, oiseaux, papillons, corail... mais aussi, de faire de belles rencontres avec des personnes ayant des projets de vie différents. Les membres de GVI sur place sont vraiment passionnés, à l’écoute, ça a été un bonheur d’être avec eux et de les aider dans leurs démarches.
Je pense que les nettoyages de plage m’ont fait encore plus prendre conscience de mon impact environnemental et de l’impact négatif du plastique sur notre Terre.
Et j’y ai découvert aussi les objectifs de développement durable des Nations Unies que partage GVI, que je ne connaissais pas et qui donne de l’espoir en notre avenir.
Ces 2 semaines ont été très riches en termes d’apprentissage, de relationnel, de découverte, aujourd’hui de retour en France j’ai envie de m’engager et d’aider GVI à se faire connaître et je sais que GVI sera de nouveau un choix pour mes prochaines vacances !
Merci pour cette incroyable experience GVI.

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During my holidays I chose to go 3 weeks in Thailand including 2 in a "useful" way by being a volunteer for GVI Phang Nga.
As a nature lover, I opted for the Conservation program, this experience allowed me to learn about the various species on which we work: green turtles, birds, butterflies, coral ... but also, to make nice meetings with people with different life projects. The members of GVI on site are really passionate, listening, it was a pleasure to be with them and help them in their projects.
I think that beach cleaning has made me even more aware of my environmental impact and the really negative impact of plastic on our Earth.
And I also discovered the UN Sustainable Development Goals shared by GVI, which I did not know and which gives hope for our future.
These 2 weeks were very rich in terms of learning, relational, discovery, today back in France I want to get involved and help GVI to be known and I know that GVI will be again a choice for my next vacation!
Thank you for this amazing experience GVI.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Stay longer because 2 weeks was so short, also take more time to enjoy the village.
Alex
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

6 months in Huay Pakoot

I have spent the last 6 months living in Huay Pakoot, a village 4 hours outside of Chiang Mai, as an intern within GVI Chiang Mai. Every day we hiked to see a selection of 8 elephants, split into 4 different hikes, and collected three types of research. We monitored their general activity and behaviour using an ethogram, their specific behaviours (whether independent, social, or stereotypic), and also monitored their health through welfare checks. Alongside the research GVI was collecting, I also had the chance to collect my own data which I will be using in my final year of study. Twice a week, we also had the opportunity to spend an hour of our afternoons teaching the local kids up at the school, and there were regular evening classes for some of the adult villagers and the mahouts to learn English. The best part of the program was the ability to take part in both conservation and community work, which is not also possible within other programs. Whilst on this program, I learned a lot about how important it is for the elephants to be in their natural habitat, not just for them, but for the mahouts. People are aware of how it affects the elephant’s health and welfare but not how having an elephant living in a camp affects the mahouts and their ability to live with their family. I would absolutely recommend this program to others, I think it is a great opportunity to gain some new life experiences and completely immerse yourself in a different culture, even if it is just for a short amount of time.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Caterpillars. When you spend time with your home stay and other families in the village there is always the opportunity to try some of their village dishes.
Patricia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI Chiang Mai

I have just returned from GVI Chiang Mai, Thailand following a month of amazing experiences. I had chosen this particular programme as I was interested in doing some sort of women’s empowerment project and as it was being implemented for the first time in Huay Pakoot,and I do love a challenge I embarked on my first experience of travelling abroad alone to volunteer. The fact that this base was also running an elephant conservation project was a huge bonus too as I got to hike frequently with the team to gather data on the elephants they support.
I stayed with a local family in the village and a member of staff was on hand to help me intergrate into village life, my home stay family were wonderful and provided me with my meals each day.
The projects I became involved in evolved spontaneously, the first was my interest in gardening and as the team had begun to set up some raised beds in the garden area it was only natural to me to become part of the gardening team. We made some huge changes which would impact the staff and volunteers by having the opportunity to grow their own food, learn a new skill and have fun doing something new. We had a great time not only planting but crafts in the garden too, everyone got involved which was brilliant. My experience in teaching and organising was a huge bonus and I was doing what I love in a very different environment so I was learning lots too.
My next project involved teaching basic healthcare to the women of the village, I had been retired from nursing for just 1 year and was still exited to teach in this area, however this was very different to home but as I had a brilliant interpreter we began by meeting the women and mothers of the village to find out their needs. By the end of my stay we had implemented a programme in which regular meetings with the women would involve discussion on management of fever ( many of the children were being driven 2.5 hrs to hospital unnecessarily) recognising and managing dehydration and emergency care of choking babies and children.
The success of my projects were due to a number of things.... firstly this is a team of people who are passionate in their work to help the people of Huay Pakoot, and also towards the conservation of the elephants and eco system within the area. I had no problem in getting support for any of my projects and the whole team of volunteers, interns and staff did everything they could to support the projects, my only regret is that I hadn’t stayed longer to see the fruits of my work but I have handed them over to a team which are truly dedicated and have inspired me to go on to do more voluntary work abroad, Thank you all at GVI Chiang Mai

What would you improve about this program?
I would like to see more volunteers of my own age group as I feel we have a lot to offer this type of project.
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Akidah
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thailand; The Land Of Smiles!

Travelling abroad to a country over 15 hours away can often feel daunting. I know it did for me! I was 18 years old and it was my first time travelling solo. However, after months of preparation and motivation I knew travelling to this wonderful country and fulfilling my dream to teach abroad would absolutely be worth it. From the moment I reached Thailand the GVI staff were friendly and supportive and super welcoming. There was a real emphasis on safety which I believe is incredibly important and for me was reassuring that I had made the right decision. The programme itself involved teaching in two schools, and we were also able to travel to a centre for students with disabilities twice a week. The relationships you build with your students is very important and I was lucky enough to witness their grades increase by 6% with us only being there for 12 weeks! The students were well focused and always ready to learn, which made it easier for us teachers. I had an amazing 12 weeks teaching the students and even sharing the Christmas season with them. The Thailand programme accommodation consists of not only volunteers who teach but also conservationists and health carers. This provided us with a refreshing environment and an opportunity to socialise with individuals doing different programmes. The accommodation is of course basic, but I feel this is important when deciding to do something different and challenging. However, we did have WIFI and this would be helpful during lesson planning sessions, and just contacting home. We had quite a bit of free time which allowed us to travel further afield on our weekends off. I had the amazing opportunity to go to places like the Surin Islands and Krabi. Overall, I had an amazing experience and was fortunate enough to spend Christmas and New Years with wonderful people. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for being so great! If you're thinking of traveling to Thailand with GVI I would say absolutely GO FOR IT! It's a life changing experience you'll never forget!

What would you improve about this program?
This programme could be improved by increasing teaching hours and promoting more community/volunteer engagement and cultural immersions.
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Macy
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Definitely a life changing experience!

So I went to Thailand for two weeks through the GVI Chaing Mai program. While one of the main attractions was experiencing elephants close up, there was a lot to do within the community of Huay Pakoot!

The fees you pay to GVI do include housing, transportation to the village from the airport upon arrival, and your return. Additionally, you are fed three proper meals a day within the village (the food is INCREDIBLE) that is typically prepared by your host family. Their website can better explain exactly where the money goes, but just know that it is possible to get by without lots of extra money. With that said, I’d recommend bringing at least some to spend at local businesses (there’s a snack shop, a laundry store, a smoothie shop, a coffee shop, and a few others that all cost a few extra bucks).

The homes in the village were wooden huts with multiple rooms, essentially a typical home with a gap between the roof and walls to allow air to flow in the bedrooms, but the common area was a more open concept. In my homestay, I was given a private room with a thin mattress/thick mat, a pillow, sheets, a blanket, and a mosquito net that was draped over the bed (surprisingly beautiful). There was a small table near the door with a journal that previous guests wrote in, but other than that the furniture was sparse. My bathroom was across the small gravel road from the main home and consisted of a basic squat toilet, a large barrel of water to bathe with (I mostly used wipes I had brought with me from the US), a small shelf, and a few hooks to hang towels/clothes. Each home within the village is a bit different, but there is no air conditioning (which I learned to love). I was there at the start of the rainy season which meant rain nearly every night and it got pretty chilly which made sleeping comfortable.

As far as safety goes, when in the city or at airports, the most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings, stay with or near people you are familiar with (other GVI people), and exercise the same precautions you would anywhere in the US. Avoid leaving your things unattended and if you feel lost in the international airports, anyone with a uniform on will be able to help you, but they were relatively easy to navigate. People are usually very friendly, so it’s fun to get to know those around you, but it’s best to be precautious. Once you are in the village, safety is more about avoiding physical injuries from the uneven roads (especially if you’re clumsy like me), plethora of insects and animals, and dehydration. Most of the animals are pretty indifferent about you being there, but the dogs and cats can be fairly interactive if you pay them any kind of attention (they do have fleas from living outside, but they are vaccinated and cared for). The locals are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and they are so accustomed to strangers coming in and out, they don’t have high expectations for you to completely understand their culture, but I’d highly recommend doing your absolute best to try! You’re expected to show basic respect which looks a bit different there, especially as a woman, but I never felt unsafe or like I was compromising my morals or character.

I would do it again in a heartbeat! I’d definitely pack much lighter, spend less money on the side, and relax a bit more than I did, but it was definitely a life changing experience.

When I went in May, we were at max capacity with about 20 people (staff, interns, and volunteers). I met a girl that happened to be at Texas A&M that was going on the same trip, but other than that everyone came from different corners of the world (Colombia, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and Belgium to name a few). There were four other American volunteers, one American staff member and one American intern, but that was an unusually high amount according to the staff members.

What would you improve about this program?
The biggest thing that could be improved would be having a staff member contact participants before they leave for the program in order to clear up any questions or concerns that are specific about the specific program, as well as provide some kind of identification so it is easier to find each other upon arriving at the airport and going to the program’s location.
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Phoebe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience

I think almost every volunteer would agree that there isn’t a view quit like that of Houy Pakoot!

One my first day in the village I was fortunate enough to experience a celebration day for the end of rice season. I was greeted by a delicious breakfast with my family, followed by not so delicious rice whisky. The volunteers then went round to different houses in the village to celebrate with the families. This was a great way to get a sense of the type of people the villagers are. They are happy, generous, hard working people. The day made me feel more at home, happy and calm. It was also a great way to get to know the other volunteers (especially with a few glasses of rice whisky). As the weeks went on I grew more attached to all the people there and the village itself, which is something I did not expect before going out there.

Hiking was genuinely one my favourite parts of the experience. I learned a lot about different species of animals, insects and plants while in the jungle, which I did not expect. You become closer friends with people by chatting and helping one another on hike. I remember being speechless when I first saw the elephants. I learned so much about elephants health and behaviour through the staff, mahouts and data collection.

An aspect of the trip I didn’t not expect to do were the presentations in the first two weeks. This was one of my favourite parts because I was able to learn so much about elephants, the Karen people, ecosystems and the situation of conservation in Asia. As well as learning a lot some of the presentations did make me feel irritated with the current situation animals and their habitats are in. This has made me driven to help as much as I am able to change the situation of these animals.

What would you improve about this program?
Give volunteers more opportunities to make a difference. Organise more activities at base over the weekend.
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Stephanie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

DEVELOPMENT: Me, You, Us

If I had to think of one word that comes to mind when I think about the GVI Project and Volunteer Base in Phang Nga, Thailand, it would be development. This is not only a focus of the projects and UN Sustainability Goals that are the foundation for everything it does, but also paramount to the lifestyle that the volunteers themselves lead, and are encouraged to by the field staff there.

With three different community projects currently running in Phang Nga, the base is home to a collective of individuals with very different skills, natures and interests who somehow come together to make the overall impact a positive one.

The projects currently running are Conservation, Teaching and Healthcare, and offer volunteers a great scope of ways to get involved with the local community while still having a positive impact on that local area and contributing to the UN Sustainability Goals that I already mentioned. Personally, I was a Conservation Volunteer and did different things everyday; cleaning turtle tanks and the adorable hatchling turtles that inhabited them, cleaning the beach, preparing and delivering lessons in a local school, completing surveys of the local wildlife in the area and more recently, surveying the coral off of the nearby coastline.

This was something that I was particularly interested in doing, as I was fortunate enough to be able to complete my PADI Open Water Diver certification during my four weeks in Thailand. I have wanted to do this for a very long time and it wouldn’t have happened without the support and knowledge I received from the field staff, encouraging me to pursue one of my dreams in my weekends off. As an asthmatic diver, I had to obtain doctor’s permission for me to complete the course prior to beginning, and this was also done with the recommendation of a hospital by the base manager, translation for the appointment to be made by the community liaison and company to attend the appointment itself by a fellow volunteer. Everyone looks out for everyone else there, and helps to ensure that you enjoy your time while feel like you’re really making a difference, if only to one person.

In terms of the base itself, it is very well set-up and surely able to overcome anything life throws at it, such as torrential downpour so loud you can’t hear yourself think, or being cut-off from the mains water supply forcing you to use all the excess rainwater for.. everyday tasks. Accommodation is basic but all you really need and serves as a good reminder that many people survive and live contented lives with so much more than we.

I’d be lying if I told you that it was easy and wasn’t without many challenges, but spending a month with GVI Phang Nga is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m definitely not ready to finish working with them yet. If you are considering volunteering abroad and think that Thailand might be for you, consider GVI with the knowledge that you would be helping to continue building a community that has lost so much but come so far. I found the experience truly humbling and would go back to lend a hand tomorrow if I could.

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Kirsty
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best experiences of my life!

Before heading to Thailand, I had always been so keen on volunteering with animals abroad. I found GVI and did my research into the company and decided this was who I wanted to volunteer with. I looked around the website and decided I wanted to go ahead with the volunteering with Elephants in Thailand program. (Elephants being one of my fav animals!) I got in touch and after a few email exchanges/phone call I was signed up!

This was my first time going abroad solo, so I decided to do the program for 1 month. I arrived at the airport and two lovely members of GVI welcomed me to beautiful Thailand. Once all volunteers had arrived, we then got a songthaew (Thailand's taxi) to the Eco resort hostel where we would stay for one night before heading to the village. We all went for dinner together and had a few drinks - this gave us all a chance to get to know each other.

The next morning we then set off on the 4.5 hour journey to the village. The journey did not feel as long as there were a few pit stops along the way which was great. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall, an amazing viewpoint and a fruit market. We then made it to the village! I did not know what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised. We stopped off at base and we got to meet the other volunteers then I dropped my bag off at my home stay. The accommodation is basic but I easily adapted to life in Huay Pakoot. The houses are beautiful and their way of life is truly amazing.

My home stay family were so lovely and accommodating. They cook you lunch and dinner every day! The food is basic too, made up of rice, veg and some meat. However, and thanks to GVI, some of the villagers have managed to open up shops across the village that stock snacks, juices and smoothies!

The next day I did my first hike to see the elephants - and what a hike it was! We hiked for approx. 45 minutes to see Charlie and Thong Dee (2 of the elephants that GVI collect data on) and we were lucky they were relatively close to the road so it was not much of a hike through dense forestry to see the elephants. I cannot explain the feeling I got seeing the elephants so close, it was truly amazing! We then got to watch over other volunteers collecting the welfare and behavioral data on the elephants (GVI collect this data to show the elephants are better off in their natural environment!). Over the 4 weeks I went on about 3 elephant hikes per week, some more difficult than others. Some were pretty tough and very slippy (I went in the rainy season) but they were worth it to spend nearly an hour with the elephants!

There are numerous other activities you could get yourself involved in around the village including helping to teach in the local school and nursery - this was fantastic and the kids were great. You could also get involved in basket weaving, community litter picking and general things in and around base. We also had movie nights set up and one quiz night per week! You also get your weekends off and there is the option to go to nearby towns/cities!

The overall program was fantastic and this has to be the best experience I have ever had. All the staff were lovely, the villagers were so incredibly welcoming and I met friends for life - and the best part, getting to spend so much time with the amazing elephants. I would recommend this GVI program to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
I don't think this program can be improved much - I loved every minute!
Daniela
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

This was an amazing experience. Being able to work with sea turtles first hand was always a goal of mine and GVI helped me achieve that. The work was not easy, there was lots of tank scrubbing and turtle cleaning! The hatchlings are adorable but cleaning 300 of them in one day is no easy task! Still, it was extremely rewarding to know that all our scrubbing was having positive effects and increasing the chances of survival of the green sea turtle species. Apart from working with the sea turtles, we also got a chance to set up camera traps on two islands, Koh Ra and Koh Phra Thong, to track the presence of pangolins in the area. This was an extremely educational experience for me since I am interested in a career in conservation and lots of what I learned during my GVI trip will stay with me forever. This was also a great opportunity for me to learn what the field is really like and to make good connections that may aid me in the future.
The relationship that GVI has with the local community is truly something I have never experienced before. I always felt welcome and appreciated at the Navy Base when working with the turtles and you can tell that our work there does not go unnoticed. GVI's volunteers are treated like a part of the community and I really felt at home on base and around the village. Everyone was extremely welcoming to us and I never felt like an intruder on the local community. While we were there, our volunteer group got invited to many cultural celebrations that felt intimate and I would have never had the chance to experience them otherwise. We were invited to a celebration of Buddhist Lent on a small island and to the King's and Queen's birthday celebrations at the Navy base. Both these events were honored by having either a beach clean or street clean that involved the local community. It was really great to see how the locals were excited and able to get involved in the conservation efforts that GVI is also interested in.
The living conditions were very basic but were not bad. There are a few 6 person rooms and one large kitchen/communal area that everyone works together to keep clean. There is a real emphasis on communal living on base and this really helped engage the volunteers. I met amazing people on my trip and really believe I made life long friends in the 4 weeks I spent there. (I definitely suggest staying 4 weeks over 2, 2 just isn't enough time!). The showers are cold but the weather is so hot that it's actually really nice! There are a few shops in the village that have pretty much everything you might need to get while you're there. The food was good. The weekends were good to travel around Thailand - I got to see some beautiful parks while I was there!
Overall, I had an amazing experience with GVI Thailand. I would love to go back some day and highly recommend that anyone who gets the chance to go does so!

What would you improve about this program?
Pre-departure was not the best, there is definitely room for improvement there.
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Jonathan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing

I booked my trip to Thailand to take part in the elephant conservation because I have always loved elephants and wanted to do something worthwhile with my 6 week holiday. I chose GVI as there dates fitted me best and were priced better than most. The pre-departure team are amazing and they all help massively in any way they can. Once in Thailand I made some amazing friends instantly which is made easier by the outstanding field team who all help you integrate very quickly. The weird thing was I went there for elephants but didn't expect to have such an amazing time, and I also didn't expect to love the community as much as I did. I fell in love with the people of Huay Pakoot and leaving them was the hardest part. After my 4 weeks in Thailand I departed for Singapore and was then due to go on to China. In a moment of madness sat in my Singapore hostel, I rang GVI and arranged to extend a further 2 weeks in Thailand. This was such a good decision as I loved every minute of being there. I have already planned to go back and to finish off would just like to thank GVI for giving me such an amazing time and changing my life.

What would you improve about this program?
The program honestly can't get any better!!!
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Michelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Elephants are the BEST!

Huay Pakoot was a life changing experience for me. I learned to observe and take data on elephants in a natural environment. It was the most interactive experience I have ever had with such wonderful creatures. The personalities of the elephants, their caregivers, the volunteers and the villagers made for an exceptional time. The simplicity of the lifestyle and the connection with nature made everything seem perfect. The food and the activities are great. I made lifelong connections in my experience and I look forward to returning to the village early next year. This place stole my heart, it will do the same for you.

What would you improve about this program?
It’s always improving and I cant think of anything that could have made my experience any better.
kljenks182
kristina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI: Elephant Reintroduction Programme, Chiang Mai

I recently spent an extended amount of time in Huay Pakoot, Northern Thailand. It was a fantastic and magical place full of excitement, adventure and culture. I spent my mornings observing elephant behaviour and getting to know their mahouts (elephant watchers). My homestay family was a delight, full of smiles and awkward conversation as I practised my local language skills. I spend my afternoons going through various presentations and workshops to further my knowledge in the conservation, elephant and education sector. My evenings with my family while my friends came over for dinner or getting to know other volunteers at the base. There were numerous community engagement activities to get involved in. I taught grade 1&2 and loved getting to know the children and playing games with them after school. The place is truly what you make of it. If you enjoy getting to know people from any culture and adventure this is the project for you. I'd recommend doing an internship or staying for as long as possible to get the most out of your experience. 5*** from me!

What would you improve about this program?
The intern programme needs more content. Perhaps some small assignments based on the conservation of elephants, but not too big as people still want to enjoy their time there.
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Rose
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Adventure with GVI Chiang Mai

Having just finished school I was eager to get out and experience the world. I searched for "working abroad with animals" on the internet, as you would expect hundreds of opportunities turned up. I narrowed it down to a few but the friendly nature of the GVI staff who listened to my many phone calls and questions made me want to experience more. I booked on to go for 3 months to Thailand, my first time travelling alone and outside of the EU! I was very nervous when I first landed but the GVI field staff immediately made me feel at ease and it wasn't long until I felt at home.

When I arrived in the stunning rural village, Huay Pakoot, I was hosted by a Thai family, living alongside them. It was difficult at first with the language barrier but I soon felt confident in my Pakinyaw language skills to hold conversations with most of the villagers thanks to the lessons for the staff and the aid of the long term interns on the project.

My first hike was incredible! Walking out into the forest to be overwhelmed by the magnificent giants, Asian elephants. Nothing will ever beat asking "where are the elephants?" and have them pointed out to you only a few meters away hiding in a tangle of leave. Over the course of the three months I spent working alongside the mahoots and their elephants I learnt how to recognise behaviours that were normal and stereotypical of the Asian elephant. This has aided me in deciding what to do as a career as I really enjoyed learning about each individual. Their unique looks and behaviours that made them each find a space in my heart where they will stay forever. The GVI volunteers got to laugh and joke around with the 'elephant watchers', the men of the community that own elephants in the GVI herd. This always made the hikes entertaining and I have created some really good friends. After too little time it came to my last week and my last hikes to see the creatures I had fallen in love with, it broke my heart to say goodbye but I know they are still living the best life, being free.

GVI Chiang Mai also offers an opportunity to teach and aid the community. Twice a week a small group of volunteers would make the walk up to the top of the village to teach English to children grade 1-6. It was really good fun planning and presenting lessons and seeing improvements in the students. We also had the ability to help out at Auban, the nursery, playing with the little tots of the village. We did not only teach the children but once a week we would hold "Homestay English" allowing the adults to practice their English. Likewise, we would hold "Homestay Pakinyaw" allowing conversation practice for the volunteers.

I loved my adventure with GVI and the only thing I can recommend is to go for as long as you are able. No time will ever be enough to learn about the community, work alongside fantastic people and see the beautiful elephants everyday.

What would you improve about this program?
It can not be improved, it was the best experience of my life
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Sam
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI Thailand

I had a spectacular time volunteering in Thailand with GVI. I had many incredible experiences with incredible people. On our last day in Thailand with GVI we visited one of the many stunning viewpoints. Our guide told us that it was one of the finest viewpoints in all of Phuket. This was definitely true and it certainly was one of the best landscapes I have ever seen in my life. The weather was absolutely perfect too, the sun was shining, with practically no clouds in the sky. For me, it was a moment I wish I could live in forever. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and so soon afterwards, we headed off to visit a temple, known as ‘Dragon Temple’ It consisted of a collection of many Buddhist buildings, all of which were highly decorated and very beautiful. The biggest and most impressive of these was a tower which rose to about 30-40 metres in height and had several floors. Standing up on the balcony, we were afforded spectacular views of the whole complex and the mountains beyond. The next place we visited was known as the ‘Big Buddha’ and rightly so! It was an incredibly large concrete statue of the Buddha stationed at the top of a flight of steps which themselves were on top of a large hill which had a magnificent view onto the valleys below. At the top, there was some serene religious music playing. My favourite part was the golden hearts made of aluminium which were hanging everywhere. The were hanging from trees, on carts and sheds, fences and lines which were hung especially to accommodate them. Each one had a message written on it and as I looked, I could see a vast number of different languages, from French to Chinese, German to Russian, Spanish to Thai, English and a whole host of others which I couldn’t understand! This final experience, amongst so many others, made my time in Thailand so incredibly enjoyable. I would thoroughly recommend GVI as a volunteer organisation as the experiences they provided me with were simply incredible.

Lauren Tang
Lauren
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteer with Elephants - Go Overseas Staff Edition

I volunteered through GVI on their most popular “Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand” program. Though I was looking forward to visiting Thailand (and immerse myself in all the delicious food), I was even more excited to sign up for my first volunteer experience abroad. During my one week, GVI provided the support, communication, and project prep needed for a first-timer like me.

Impact: I learned very quickly about the current state of the elephant tourism industry in Thailand, and it was clear that this project strived to change that by bringing one elephant at a time back into the wild. Every day we met at the volunteer base and then took hikes to observe the elephants in their new habitat. GVI worked very closely with the Huay Pakoot community, and our work with the elephants helped create jobs in the village and promote an alternative method of elephant tourism.

Support: Every field staff member (Danielle, Holly, Phoebe, Jina and Pádraig) was always available for questions and provided orientation for new volunteers. Also, during your first week on the program, a staff member will join a new volunteer for dinner every evening with your homestay family to help you adjust!

Value: Disclaimer: My participation in the program was waived by GVI as a part of the Go Overseas paid PAID vacation program. However I do know that the program fees include airport pickup, transfer to and from Huay Pakoot, housing, and all meals for all volunteers during your stay.

Fun: There were always daily activities hosted by the program like river days, language exchanges, lessons with the local school children, or dinner with the mahout families. Even though life takes a slower pace in the village, there are plenty of volunteers on this program -- around 20 of us during my stay. Also, you have the option to take a weekend trip to Chiang Mai when there are no hikes (because there are always inbound and outbound volunteers).

Safety: There was never a time I felt unsafe during my stay. Your accommodations will be very basic, but my room and homestay house would be locked when no one was home. Also, the mahouts and field staff are very knowledgeable and tell you how you need to interact with the elephants.

Overall: The beauty in the program was really the opportunity to interact so closely with these intelligent animals, getting to know each one personally. My favorite elephant was Thong Dee, who was a total sweetheart with an old soul. If you are looking for an alternative trip during your time off (and have a love for elephants!), then definitely consider going to Huay Pakoot. I wish I had more than one week, because it was very obvious that longer term volunteers were deeply connected to the animals and community.

What would you improve about this program?
I would suggest improving the science aspect of the program. We were just beginning to log the body analysis of every animal during our hikes, but a lot more can be done to prove the efficacy of reintroducing the eles back into a wild habitat.

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About Global Vision International (GVI)

GVI is an award-winning organisation that tackles critical local and global issues by operating education and training programs on sustainable development projects around the world.

Formed in 1997, we have been operating our award-winning...

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