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

98%
based on 20 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 20
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Jonathan
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
The program honestly can't get any better!!!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Michelle
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
It’s always improving and I cant think of anything that could have made my experience any better.
Yes, I recommend this program
kljenks182
kristina
10/10

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!

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Rose
10/10

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.

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

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.

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

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Shannon
10/10

Life Changing

I recently returned from a volunteer programme with GVI in Thailand. The programme involved teaching orphans at a kindergarten, teaching healthcare to Burmese children and working with kids with disabilities. From start to finish, the support from GVI was incredible, and any nerves I had about the programme quickly disappeared. There was always someone you could contact for help/advice, and they provide you with a lot of information before you go. Right from the beginning, everyone was so friendly and they quickly became my second family and my home away from home. They give presentations and training throughout your programme, which aims to not only improve the community you're in, but all over the world as well. You can genuinely see the difference you make to the community, and everything is planned or has a curriculum to follow, so that no one is confused and the kids are actually learning all the time. I will definitely be doing another programme with GVI, and I love that I can still be involved from home!

My standard day would involve getting up and going to the Foundation to teach 4, 5 or 6 year olds English. When I was there, every day we would teach a different letter or the alphabet with vocabulary to go with it. We would then go back to base for lunch, and leave for Camillian social centre in the afternoon to work with kids and young adults with disabilities. We would either do physiotherapy or arts and crafts, and then do a mixture of games and sensory activities. It was tough but one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. We would then go back to base to lesson plan for the following day, and have dinner. At night we would be free to do what we liked, and normally we would play cards or watch movies. Every second week you would have a Friday project, and the other weeks you would have a long weekend if you wanted to travel.

Yes, I recommend this program
Lolita
10/10

Unforgettable

As an intern, I spent 6 months on this project and was pretty nervous when I first arrived, knowing how long I was going to be there for! The first two weeks were the hardest, adapting to the different lifestyle, being surrounding by lots of new people, trying to learn the local language. But it is really the greatest experience you could ever have! When you first arrive to the village, you are taken to your homestay basically straight away by a staff member, where you will be introduced to your new family and shown your bedroom and bathroom. Then it is back to base for a potluck dinner with the staff, new and old volunteers so everyone can get to know each other. Hikes to see the else leave early in the morning which you go in groups with the staff, some other volunteers and the mahouts. Seeing the elephants for the first time in the forest is something that will stay in your memory and it's just as great every time after that!

The staff at Huay Pakoot are really great, making sure everyone is doing well and they are very helpful. Being there for a long time, I feel like I really made a connection with them and formed some good friendships.

Every two weeks there is the opportunity to go into Chiang Mai to get a bit of civilisation and some comforts such as a bed and yum food. It's also a good opportunity to bond with fellow volunteers and explore the city. Sometimes there is a festival going on somewhere, and the staff will let everyone know and try and organise a trip.

There were a lot of challenges to overcome during my time there, it's quite an adjustment and the project really can push you to your limits, but thats what people go there to experience. Being immersed in a different culture, meeting likeminded people and seeing elephants everyday is something I will never forget!

No, I don't recommend this program
Jona
10/10

The real way to experience Thailand

My boyfriend and I participated in the Marine Conservation Program in Phang Nga, Thailand and loved every minute of it.

We stayed with the locals at one of the villages affected by the 2004 tsunami. While the accommodation was modest, it really helped us learn more about the local culture and understand our impact on the local community. Additionally GVI hosts participants from around the world so the program was a great opportunity to meet lifelong international friends.

The conservation program involved a lot of travelling compared to the other programs on base. Each day we would get up bright and early to head off to either a national park, island, or conservation centre. Our work included turtle tank maintenance, mangrove forest clean ups, or biodiversity surveys. If it was turtle rehabilitation day, the team would start off by cleaning the tanks at the centres. Then we had to check and treat the turtles for fungal infection, before releasing them into their tanks. For the mangrove clean-ups, we canoed down the rainforest to collect waste. The calming scenery and wildlife made it feel like a serene stroll through the forest, rather than a clean-up.

The biodiversity surveys were undertaken through nature hikes. We would either hike up the hill and collect observations on the way done, or conduct the survey during the hike itself. The best part was being able to go for a swim in the waterfalls or have a picnic after our work. Often we then would head back to the village for lunch, where GVI gives us an allowance to spend at a local family restaurant.

During the biodiversity hikes we would find heaps of interesting creatures such as groovy coloured caterpillars, hermit crabs and small animals.

Coincidentally, we completed our program while students from the Duke University were completing a Service Learning program. They planned a big beach clean day where all volunteers and staff members teamed up to reduce waste polluting a local beach. Staff members from a nearby businesses and hotel guests were also happy to help out, demonstrating the positive relationship GVI has with the local community.

I highly recommend GVI and their volunteer program for curious minded adventurers looking for a unique learning experience.

Response from Global Vision International (GVI)

Hi Jona,

Thank you for your kind words about your time in Thailand with GVI, we always love hearing stories from our Alumni!

Do you know that we run an Ambassador program which allows you to stay connected with GVI from home, and earn points towards a future program? If you'd like to find out more, you can email me on [email protected] and I'll be able to give you more details!

All the best,

Jon, Alumni Engagement Manager

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jenna
10/10

The trip of my life!

I've visited lots of places across the world but this village was my favourite thanks to the amazing time I had there with GVI. I dont think anything can top hiking through the jungle with amazing people to see a semi wild and happy heard of beautiful Asian elephants. Then to come home and chill at base with such a stunning view.

Every day brings something different; exploring a new part of the forest, seeing a new creature, giving a health check or feeding one of the elephants, learning a new phrase in the Karen language, bonding with the villagers, you name it. Every day is special out there.

GVI don't allow cruel abuse of their elephants such as riding by tourists, excess and inexperienced use of the bull hook, use of any weapon on the elephants, or excess feeding of unnatural foods such as fruit. I would definitely recommend volunteering with this company.

How can this program be improved?
I would be useful to increase the scientific side of the project. I would suggest creating a scientific internship where some background knowledge of biology is required to be accepted e.g. to be studying it at university. This way these people could be used for research and to learn more. This is originally more what I thought I was applying for.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Silvi
9/10

An amazing adventure with a difference!

I would highly recommend GVI and their rescued Elephant reintroduction project in the protected forests of Chiang Mai. Enjoy hiking up corn fields to find the beautiful animals. Stay with them and track their behaviours throughout the day. Passionate staff, an amazing village and culture. If you want a life changing experience, then sign up today! 2 weeks was ok but stay longer if you can, to get even more out of the experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Rosie
9/10

once in a lifetime experience!

Being an intern on this project was amazing, you had the time to be fully submerged in the village, language and cultures. Not only that you got to trek through beautiful forests and had the most amazing views of the land. The elephants were just incredible, they are so beautiful and intelligent and just being around them was a dream. I am so glad I got to be a part of their conservation and am so thankful there are projects like this to help elephants.

How can this program be improved?
Working and education the locals more on the ethical treatment of elephants.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Brittany
10/10

GVI Thailand Elephant Reintroduction

Joining the GVI team in Thailand was the most incredible experience of my life. Upon my arrival to the village of Huay Pakoot I was a little nervous. I had already been greeted and briefed on the project by some staff but now was the time that I got to meet my family. The family I stayed made my stay. We were always having conversations (usually hang motions and little words), laughing, hanging out together, and teaching each other our own native language. Over my first few days I learned my way around the village and acquainted myself with the other staff and volunteers. This was not too hard because the first night I arrived we all had a potluck dinner together where we introduced ourselves. After a while this became part of my normal routine, we had potlucks once a week. During the week days we had elephant hikes, bio-diversity hikes, nursery, school teaching, and an assortment of many other things. Im sure you want to know about the elephants though, it is only reasonable considering they are the reason were all there. Well they are amazing! Each elephant seems so happy being back in the forest where they should be. They also have an obvious love for their Mahouts. There are three herds of elephants on this project all in different areas of the forest. This makes for quite the diversity of hikes. The hikes are the most physically demanding part, hard but doable! They are amazing, the views never get old and there are always new ones to be found. The elephants move around the forest so the hikes with them change as the elephants location changes. After hikes we usually have lunch weather it be in the forest or back in the village. Aside from the elephants and the people the food was probably one of my favorite parts. I mean three regular meals a day, all with rice, and lots of veggies! This all is really just a start to telling how my amazing experience went while I was away. I could type for days about it all while having a ear to ear smile on my face. Going I had several questions, so if you have ANY I would be happy to try and answer!

Yes, I recommend this program
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lindsayal
10/10

Incredible

This program was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.The description of the program on the GVI website is a bit vague. But let me tell you that if you go on this program you will be in for treat. Being on this program you learn a lot about elephants of course, but you also learn about yourself and the world around you. It teaches you to see things in a different way. Life in the village is so different from life in the Western World. The people there are much more appreciative and relaxed. It is the simple things in life that bring the most joy. Be prepared to hike. A LOT. Everyday. It can be hard at times, but it is always worth the physical labor. You record social data and feeding behaviors of the elephants which is super interesting. Watching elephants is like people watching. They are always doing something. The food is so yummy, but still make sure to bring some snacks from home like peanut butter!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Kathd
10/10

Working with Elephants

Overall this two weeks of volunteering was a fantastic experience. Being able to live in a small (300 people) village in the mountains in Northern Thailand was amazing. Although most of the villagers spoke little English, it was very interesting to find out how they lived, and staying in a homestay meant that we were able to experience the food and customs. Working with the elephants was a great privilege: we followed them into the forest, and twice a week did health checks which allowed us to touch the elephants and get close to them. We were assigned one elephant during our stay, and I felt very close to mine by the time I left. The staff on the project were extremely professional, with attention to safety and a thorough training programme. The interactions with the local villagers were always respectful and our impact on the village was always carefully considered. Top memories for me include watching the baby elephants playing with each other, teaching the Mahouts English, talking in a broken mixture of English and the local language to my homestay family, and meeting other wonderful volunteers and staff. The project wasn't too physical, but the village is located on a steep hill, and the hot climate makes activity draining at times. I learned a lot about the plight of the Asian elephant during my stay, and I really felt that I made a difference to the lives of the elephants, and the villagers, by volunteering on this project.

Yes, I recommend this program

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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...