By GapGuru   Reviews (13)   95% Rating

Volunteer in Thailand with GapGuru

By GapGuru   Reviews (13)   95% Rating

A gap year in Thailand with GapGuru will give you an opportunity to experience authentic Thai culture, learn some Thai language, gain an insight into Buddhism and participate in activities such as stunning waterfall treks or temple visits.

GapGuru currently offers volunteer programs in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and remote hill-tribe villages (5 hours from Chiang Mai).

Participants on our Chiang Mai projects stay in our lovely volunteer house in the Doi Saket District, not far from the centre of Chiang Mai. The house is surrounded by bright green rice paddies and is located just behind a Buddhist temple. The house is only 10 minutes walk into town where, you can find cafes with WiFi, small supermarkets, etc.

  • Teach English to Buddhist Monks in Thailand: Spend your days volunteering in a temple, learning about Buddhism and the day-to-day life of the monks as part of a unique cultural experience. Many young men join monasteries as a chance to get access to education, which would not otherwise be available to them. Volunteers can help by teaching English in this tranquil and friendly environment.
  • Teach English to School Children in Thailand: Receive the support you need to deliver your own English lessons as a classroom teacher, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and making a real difference to the children’s education.
  • Hill Tribe Community Volunteer in Thailand: Immerse yourself in truly authentic Thai culture, many miles from the tourist industry. These remote hill tribes practise traditional ways of life, and are located in the countryside about 5 hours from Chiang Mai. Volunteer with the children, teach English and become a valued member of the close-knit community during your stay.
  • Thailand Experience: Spend 3 weeks in Thailand, taking part in cultural tours and activities and joining 3 of our rewarding projects: teach in Chiang Mai, volunteer with hill tribes, and care for elephants in a sanctuary.
  • Asia Experience: Spend 3 weeks in Thailand, taking part in cultural tours and activities and joining 3 of our rewarding projects: teach in Chiang Mai, volunteer with hill tribes, and care for elephants in a sanctuary. Follow this up with 3 weeks Cambodia, running activities with children in Battambang, tripping over to Siem Reap (the backpacker’s favourite) and visiting the breathtaking temples at Angkor Wat. Finish in style with 2 weeks cruising the Mekong River into Vietnam, and relaxing on beautiful and tranquil beaches.
  • Elephant Sanctuary Volunteer in Thailand: Work in an elephant sanctuary that cares for orphaned, retired and injured elephants – many of whom have been abused as working animals in the tourist and logging industries. You’ll stay on site, and really have a chance to bond with these incredible animals, as well as feeding, bathing and swimming with them.
  • Traveling to Teach in Thailand: This is a 3-week summer holiday programme for qualified teachers, designed to fit into the 6-week break. Make the most of your skills and experience by adding huge value to the curriculum in a Thai school.
Locations
Asia › Thailand › Chiang Mai
Program Tags
Adventure Travel
Teach Abroad
Volunteer Abroad
Length
1-2 Weeks
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
3-6 Months
Accommodation
Hostel
Primary Language
English
Age Max
17
Cost
The program fee covers:
- Pre-departure briefing
- Airport pick-up
- Welcome and orientation
- Accommodation
- Meals
- 24-hour in-country support by our local team
- UK HQ support
Starting Price
500.00

Rating Values

  • Housing
    92%
  • Support
    92%
  • Fun
    90%
  • Value
    88%
  • Safety
    93%

Program Reviews (13)

Will
Male
24 years old
NYC
Other

Life changing experience, run by life changing staff

Overall 10

This is an incredible program, and it was truly an experience that I will never forget. The staff goes out of there way to make sure that everything goes as well as possible, and will bend over backwards to help you out in any way that you need. This starts with the country director, David, who is incredibly approachable. He went out of his way to stop by at least two or three times a week to see how everything was going, and to see how he could help. He also took time out of his busy days to help plan a trip for some of the volunteers, and checked in with us during the trip to make sure it was going well. The head English teacher, Marcia, was another example of the incredible commitment of the staff at this program. She bent over backwards to help people feel comfortable teaching, and was always available and happy to answer any questions. They also had staff, led by the friendliest guy in the world, Will, dedicated to making sure everything was going well for the volunteers. This included everything from making sure that the volunteers felt safe, to cultural trips, to fun events on the weekend. This type of incredible commitment can be found through the entire staff, from interns all the way up to the phenomenal David. I cannot imagine a better experience, and the staff does everything possible to make it a great experience. I would recommend this trip to anybody and everybody - the staff will do everything they can to make sure that this will be one of the highlights of your entire life!

How can this program be improved?
I honestly cannot think of anything wrong with it.
Beejal
Female
25 years old
London, England

Incredible experience...what more can I say :)

Overall 9

So Gap Guru have asked me to give you guys a story or two whilst leaving a quick review...No words can express the fantastic experience I had in Thailand but I'll give it a go:

My journey began when I was teaching at a nursery school in chiang mai. Having never taught ever before, I was a bit apprehensive, to say the least, to be teaching in a class of 20-30 kindergarteners!!...however, when I saw the looks of curiosity and wonderment, not to mention their cheeky little smiles, I knew I would enjoy my experience ...and by heck I did!!

My favourite story to share would be in the nursery at the buddhist monastery in Doi Saket. I got 7-8 children to sit down with musical instruments...and we got a (sort of) band going!!! It was soo cool and some of them were really quite good!...i seriously think we've got some future musicians in there!

On the weekend I went zip lining, as incredible experience it was (especially for adrenalin junkies!!) I happened to ram my left hand into one of the railings and it obviously swelled up :\...I knew it wasn't injured too badly but the volunteer interns said rather be safe then sorry and took me to the hospital the next day to get it all checked out. They sorted everything out and sat with me, eyeing up all the doctors, playing stupid music etc...they made me feel at ease, in a different country when I was a tad vulnerable!...they were kinda like my friends at home :)...home from home!

I ended up my trip at koh phangyan...for the full moon party - insanely, insanely awesome!!...and a fantastic end to my two weeks...I would definitely recommend volunteering with Gap Guru to anyone!!

Khop kum kha gap guru!

:)

Sarah
Female
23 years old
York
Northumbria University

Teaching English in a Hill Tribe and in Doi Saket

Overall 10

I spent my first two weeks with Gap Guru teaching English at Mae La school in a hill tribe village. It was a fantastic opportunity to experience traditional Thai culture and I felt very welcome in the village.
The teachers cooked our meals three times a day and the teachers and volunteers then all ate together which I really enjoyed and it also created a nice sense of community.
Teaching in Mae La village was also a very beautiful place to be as the location is very remote it is surrounded by amazing mountainous views and rice fields.
I spent my second two weeks teaching at Pangnew school in Doi Saket (about 1 hour from Chiang Mai). I really enjoyed teaching at Pangnew school as I taught Grade 5 and 6 every day for one hour each and I was able to plan and deliver lessons around particular topics and could see the development in the students English skills grow. It was really beneficial to have regular teaching contact with these students as I was able to get to know both of the classes really well. I also felt very welcomed by all of the teachers at Pangnew school and ate lunch with all of the teachers too which was an interesting experience.
I really enjoyed living at the volunteer house in Doi Saket for the second two weeks as it was fun to spend my free time with the other volunteers and interns. The interns were really good at organising activities to do after school and at the weekend such as a going to the weekend markets in Chiang Mai, to temple visits and going to some hot springs.
I really enjoyed my 4 weeks with Gap Guru and the Future Sense Foundation team. I would highly recommend the volunteer programmes to anyone who is thinking about a career in teaching or to anyone who would like to gain some new skills and get involved in a different community and culture.

How can this program be improved?
There were only a small number of other volunteers who were completing other volunteer programmes during my time with Gap Guru. At times it would have been nice if there were more volunteers to create a more sociable environment however it added to the uniqueness of the programme being the only volunteer at a school at times and allowed more teaching time.
Emma
Female
23 years old
United Kingdom

Media and Film volunteering in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai and in the Hill Tribes

Overall 10

In June 2015 me and my sister were extremely fortunate to create short films and teach film and media within an organisation called GapGuru.

It all started with a Pre-departure Skype call from David the Country Manager.

When we arrived into Thailand from England, we could not have felt more welcomed by the team. Amy Ferguson the media intern greeted us with open arms and welcomed us into the country. Shortly after, we were then greeted by David, Nid, Marcia, Ewa, Will and Pi Gaye.
After meeting the team we immediately felt like Thailand was our new home.

Amy and Lungat took us to the volunteer house in Doi Saket, where we would stay for the first two weeks. The volunteer house was beautiful! in a lovely location near local shops and bars and not too far away from Wat Doi Saket a Buddhist temple.
Not too long after arriving 6 volunteers from Middlesex University came to the volunteer house, we all made introductions and then sat down for dinner later that evening. They were all so friendly and lovely and we all had an amazing experience living together and sharing stories of what each day had brought us!
When all the other volunteers came it really did feel like home. We were very lucky to have met them all on our travels.

We were extremely impressed with the organisation of our programme and our schedule for our time staying in Thailand. We had our in country orientation with David who explained our schedules and what we would be doing. As individuals, we love a challenge and getting the very best out of our trip. So it was fantastic that our schedule had a variety of activities to do so we could make the most out of this experience. Our schedule was also very flexible, which gave us the ability to make an input on the things we wanted to do as well. We stayed in Thailand for 30 days, this period of time was split into 2 weeks in Doi Saket (teaching media and filming Wat Noug Bua) and 2 weeks in the Karen Hilltribe of Mae La (teaching film and media).

As aspiring filmmakers we were given a huge opportunity to create a promotional video for novice monks, at Wat Nong Bua in Doi Saket. The promotional video was to highlight daily practices within the temple and explore the background, culture, norms and values of the teachers and monks within the temple. We created this video to educate and inform a wider audience about the culture, and to bring more people to support the temple both in Thailand and in other regions. As filmmakers, interviewing some of the teachers and students plus gaining a first hand insight into Buddhism was incredible and fascinating for both of us.
The staff and students at the temple were so kind, lovely and good to both of us! and were a so helpful in giving us a further insight into Buddhism.

Visiting Wat Noug Bua to shoot was apart of our morning routine for 2 weeks, but in the afternoon we were able to assist on teaching Film and Media with a Professional Filmmaker called Kwame Phillips. Kwame is a part of an organization called Filmmakers Without Boarders and he is in Thailand teaching Media to kids aged between 11 to 14 in years 5 & 6. When we were told about Filmmakers Without Boarders from David, we were super excited to find out more of what they do and to help with lessons in class. For Kwame's class we were able to help film 2 trailers and having the kids reenact what was being shown and said in them. We were truly amazed by how Kwame was able to communicate with the class, as the majority of them speak some English. The vocabulary was written in English then one of the class would be asked to translate it to Thai so everyone could copy and understand both the English terminology and the Thai terminology. Looking at he taught his lesson helped us understand how we should teach ours later on in the trip. We began to realize that the importance of action is far greater than words; if we were going to express what we had to teach to the kids, we would need to use basic English and explain more through our actions. Being apart of that class was amazing because the more and more we helped, the more the language barrier began to feel less apparent and it became normal to us. After watching the kids create storyboards and choose their trailers and help Kwame shoot their work, it was great too see it all come together. The kids were excited the whole time and were even more thrilled to see the final footage. We had so much fun helping out in Kwame’s lessons and being apart of the school in Pagnew.

Another 2 weeks into our stay in Thailand and we had said our goodbyes to the group of volunteers from Middlesex University and were due to head out to the Karen Hill tribe of Mae La. In Mae La we would be teaching film and media to mainly grades 5 & 6, however we taught little bit of English to the whole school when some teachers weren’t available. We took a 4 hour bus up towards Mae La where we found one of the Hilltribe interns Dean Gray. Dean is a super chill Australian guy who arranged our timetables for us and showed us the normalities of the village, he also helped us start lesson planning for our classes in the coming days. Within the first 2 days of us arriving, one of the teachers Krue Garn and one of our students Mono decided to go to Mae Hong Son to visit their family there. This is a special occasion for them. So for me, Emma and Dean to be invited into their home was a real privilege. When we arrived Mono’s Grandma, who spoke mostly in Karen, quickly greeted us. She was a delight to get to know and was over-joyed by our presence in her family home. All of us spent the weekend together fishing, teaching each other our native language, going to a Karen church and spending time together at their family home was an incredible experience for all of us.
The most rewarding part of the overall experience had to be teaching the children of Mae La Media and Film.
For these kids, this subject was extremely un familiar at first. Many of these kids had never seen themselves on film or held a camera before. So to teach these kids was a blessing!. Watching them lesson-by-lesson, create their own storyboards filled with English and media theory to shooting their own commercials was a life changing and unforgettable experience.
On our final day at Mae La we were able to show the kids their own commercials and watch their smiling faces. To see them watching themselves back and be filled with joy and the realization that they had created a commercial themselves, which was now unfolding in front of their eyes.
This is a sight I will never forget.
We said our goodbyes to all the teachers and children In assembly where Jed had thanked us for our work and the kids one by one shook our hands, however the shaking hands quickly turned into hugs!.

During our time in Thailand we did have lots of time to explore the culture including small side trips on the weekends to different areas. Me and my sister were very lucky in going to Pai on the weekend with a few volunteers. With help from David, he had organized us to stay in an amazing guesthouse and helped us plan our bus journey into Pai. He also had loads of knowledge of the area as well, in which was awesome when we came to planning what we could do in Pai. So with David’s amazing help we set off on a small weekend away in Pai. In Pai we did all sorts of activities and explored waterfalls, temples and the world famous White Buddha!.
Pai was full of nightlife and had many street markets, restaurants and bars to go to!

I would like to say to anyone who is thinking about volunteering to go for it!!. Whether it be Teaching English, Art or P.E, to being a Media and Film Volunteer, or helping out with construction projects in partner temples and schools. You will have the experience of a lifetime!
All whilst making a difference to the local community!
It is honestly the most rewarding experience you will cherish and carry with you!

On a personal note I want to Thank everyone for giving us this amazing, unforgettable experience. I would also love to thank the Students and teachers of Wat Nong Bua, Pangnew and Mae La! for welcoming us with open arms.

How can this program be improved?
The programme was extremely good and was so intricately put together, with a lot of thought from the team. I would say personally I loved spending time filming in the Hill-Tribes as there is so much culture to film. The villagers, students and teachers where so interesting to us.
Their way of life we had not yet experienced, prior to our stay in the Hill-tribes.
We loved documenting parts of their lives in order to learn more about them. So I would definitely say for me this was a huge opportunity and a part of the programme I really loved and I'm sure future Media and Film volunteers would as well. I would say my biggest regret is not staying out there for longer! We definitely didn't want to leave when we left.
Tom
Male
31 years old
Hertfordshire
Royal Holloway- University of London

Volunteering in Chiang Mai

Overall 9

I went out to Chiang Mai back in August '14, accompanied with my other half (her review should be on here too!). The chance to volunteer: teaching the young Buddhist monks, helping at the elephant sanctuary, and learning about local hill tribes was a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity.

The day to day experiences involved: lesson planning for days with the young Buddhist monks, exploring Chiang Mai and experiencing all the bizarre and random things that Thailand has to other (e.g. we ended up one night joining a local party catered for by a cement company giving something to the locals - and us!).

On our 2nd week we spent 7 days at the elephant sanctuary, helping with feeding/bathing the elephants, and walking the dogs (there are 400 rescue dogs at the sanctuary - and they need love too!). The elephant sanctuary was definitely a highlight of our entire trip, which includes 3 months of independent travel across Asia. The other volunteers you'll meet are lovely, like minded and caring people from all across North America/Europe/Australlia. As well as that it's a lovely opportunity to learn more about elephants and the cruelty many suffer. This experience definitely opens your eyes to mankind's selfish ways, and all just for own entertainment.

The final week we spent up in the hill tribes, which again was an interesting experience. It was a great chance for us to hang out with Will and Dave from GapGuru and again learn more about Thai culture.

Along our travels I've occasionally hear negative reviews for Bangkok but I've never heard a bad word uttered about Chiang Mai. This is a must.

How can this program be improved?
In terms of the 3 weeks in Thailand, there's little I'd want improved. The guys out there who look after the volunteers are thoughtful yet not smothering. The accommodation and transport is sorted and there's not lots of pressure on you. This is a group where you have support.

I think the only thing that was a shame was the miscommunication between GapGuru's base in England with the guys out in Thailand. As originally we weren't set to do any teaching. But when we arrived the guys out there were under the impression we had opted to do so. In the end it wasn't a big deal, and we certainly enjoyed helping out with the teaching.
Patrick
Male
23 years old
Wiltshire

Amazing experiance, Amazing people, say no more

Overall 8

I loved my stay in Thailand with Gap Guru who has a truly wicked team that made me feel happy and part of something worthy. I stayed in a hill tribe teaching English. It was very different to anything I've done before for sure but that is what makes this program so great. You get out your comfort zone and learn from it. I stayed 2 months and i was sad to leave. Again, GREAT TEAM!

Heather
Female
31 years old
Coventry
University of Worcester

Travel to Teach Chiang Mai

Overall 10

Hello! My name is Heather and I am a Year 1 teacher at a primary school in Warwick, England. I am going to give you an honest review about my experiences teaching English with a charity called Future Sense in Chiang Mai Thailand.

Aside from teaching, travelling is my main passion. I love exploring new places, cultures and meeting new people. I have travelled all around Europe, across North America and hiked to Everest Base Camp but Chiang Mai, Thailand, still remains my all-time favourite destination! If you wish to know why read on!

I first came to learn about the program when I typed into Google ‘travel and teach’. A company called Gap Guru offered a variety of teaching projects across the world. At the time I had never travelled east before so figured it was time to do so. The program offered a 3 week placement at an underprivileged school with a charity called Future Sense, a perfect opportunity to use my skills over the long summer break. Even better accommodation and food were included so I wouldn’t have to worry about sorting all of that out! Approximately a month before my trip I went to a pre departure meeting to learn about what I would be doing in Chiang Mai. To be completely honest, the organisation and lack of information and enthusiasm during this part of my journey made me apprehensive about joining the project. This is a real shame as the people who run the actual project in Chiang Mai are extremely well organised, incredibly enthusiastic and explain everything clearly. If you have similar experiences do not let this put you off going to Chiang Mai to join this project!

Before I went to Chiang Mai I spent a few days in Bangkok. Whilst there I received an email from the project leader called David. He explained he would be picking me up from Chiang Mai Airport and that the school were excited to meet me etc. This immediately put me at ease and I was safe in the knowledge that I was going to be looked after. Sure enough once I landed in Chiang Mai David was there with a car to take me to the volunteer house. At this point I was given an option. I could stay in the volunteer house or I could stay at the school I would be volunteering at. This would be a great opportunity for those who want to fully immerse themselves in the Thai culture. I decided to stay at the volunteer house as I wanted to make friends with other volunteers and live with English speaking people as it was my first time to Thailand.

Once I got to the volunteer house I was pleasantly surprised. The house is in the middle of beautiful rice fields in the Doi Saket area of Chiang Mai. It is a 5 minute cycle (they have bikes for volunteers to use) to an outdoor swimming pool, 10 minute walk to songthaew (taxi to city centre) and 7 Eleven. It is also opposite a temple where I taught English to monks twice a week ….oh and a 10 minute cycle to the best pizza place EVER Pizza Plus!

Once I had put my bags at the volunteer house I then went for a drink with David and Will (Programme Development Manager). Will lived in the volunteer house so there was always someone around if you needed advice, had questions or well needed anything! They explained what would happen in the coming weeks. From Monday to Friday 9 o’clock till – 3 o’clock I would be at an AMAZING school called Banpangew teaching children between ages 4 and 14. Then on a Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon I would teach English to the monks who lived in the temple opposite for an hour. The rest of the time was my own to explore!

At the volunteer house I met another girl called Malika from Dubai who was doing a similar project. Future Sense tries to pair you up with other volunteers so you share the experience with another likeminded traveller. Transport was all organised for us. The Songtaew would pick us up from the volunteer house every day at 8:30 and then be waiting for us at 3:15pm ready to take us back to the volunteer house.
Teaching English at the schools in Thailand is completely different from teaching in the UK. I wondered what equipment or resources I should bring with me as I had no idea what the school would be like or what resources they would have. In the end I decided that I should just take my ipad and I am very glad I did! The school themselves are basic. They have an old white board, whiteboard pens and that is about it as far as resources go. The school I was at did have an old computer and wifi that worked intermittently. What they lack in equipment they make up for in enthusiasm and willingness to learn! The children value their education a lot more than the children in UK schools. For example one boy who was aged 14 was in grade 6 (equivalent to Year 6 UK) had travelled by foot from Burma to Chiang Mai to obtain a better life so they really do appreciate everything you do for them.

When I first arrived at the school I was met by the head teacher. His name was Wittia. Wittia is a hilarious character. Thai people are known for their hospitality and kindness but he went above and beyond. Whilst in Chaing Mai to show his appreciation for our work he took us to lunch and had at least 5 bottles of Chang! (beer with random strength percentages). Life is more relaxed and care free in Thailand. Can’t imagine my head teacher trying to get us drunk at lunch time! He also took us out for dinner with his oldest friends and family which was a wonderful privilege. Other staff at Banpangew School were equally welcoming. The Thai teachers would want to know all about us and ask us lots of questions about ourselves. This is where my English to Thai app came in good use. We also learnt lots of Thai words which came in handy when sightseeing. You would get fed well at Banpangew…one teacher even got up at 6 o’clock in the morning to go to market and buy us a fruit we hadn’t tried before! Marcia (Future Sense Teaching coordinator) would also be at hand to help us out with lesson plan ideas. She would come and visit us in school to check how we were getting on and answer any questions we may have had.

When I first went to Wat Paka, the temple opposite the volunteer house to teach the monks English, I felt apprehensive. I did not do any research into the Buddhist way of thinking or have a clue on what the monks would be like. The monks I taught were actually novice monks (under the age of 20). They live by 10 precepts rather than a fully-fledged monk who has 227. A lot of boys become Novice monks for many reasons such as they have been abandoned by their relations or it is their only way of getting an education. After 10 minutes with them I realised they are just normal teenage boys. They have their iphones, electronics etc and they are crazy about football! Teaching the monks was really fun and they loved being competitive with one another when playing games such as Hangman or Pictionary. The only thing I had to keep reminding myself of was the no contact rule for women. Monks are not allowed to be passed anything by a female so I kept having to remember to put equipment on the table instead of passing it directly to them.

During free time Future Sense organised for us to do LOTS of fun things! If there was something you wanted to do in Chaing Mai then they would do their upmost to organise it for u! When I was there we all went to muay thai boxing, had fancy dress parties, went to a snake show, had the option to bungee jump , visit the Sunday market, temple tours, learn to cook Thai food, visit the tigers and go to an elephant sanctuary! The elephant sanctuary is a must, one of the many highlights of this trip! With regards to the elephant sanctuary Future Sense were able to point us in the direction of the best one. Lots of people come to Thailand and want that ultimate selfie of themselves riding an elephant. What they do not realise is that although elephants are sacred in Thailand the way they are treated is outrageous. The sanctuary Future Sense sent us to was actually a sanctuary for the elephants, the elephants were not exploited to make money they were looked after. We got to feed them bath them and learn about their past.
When not doing activities like that you can go up the road for a Thai massage, eat out at many Thai restaurants or one of my favourite things was chill out at Papa Gardens Sport Villa (swimming pool and gym) with an ice cream.

How have I not mentioned food at the volunteer house yet?! Future Sense has their very own chef called PK at the volunteer house! She makes your breakfast and dinner everyday and whilst I was there even cooked stuff for us on her days off! Her food is great and you will never go hungry. She also washes your clothes for a small price which is very helpful.

Speaking of clothes this is more for the females that are reading this...sorry lads. Most of the stuff I packed I didn’t wear! I ended up buying typical Thai touristy shorts and trousers. For teaching both the monks and at the school I wore a long skirt and t shirt every day. Whatever you pick has to cover most your legs and all of your breasts! Once you’ve finished teaching though I mostly wore shorts and a vest top. I do wish however I packed a pair of heels for nights out and my straighteners! Ignore what it says on the suggested packing list. Take your straighteners as I immediately regretted not taking mine. No need for hair dryer though as you hair can naturally dry within half an hour!

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of joining this project I would say take a leaf out of Wills book and chat to any Thai person you come across! For every effort you put into the project and with Thai people you get a million times more back! Chiang Mai is my favourite destination because of the people that live there and the chilled out Buddhist vibe. If you’re thinking of booking and working with Future Sense stop thinking and DO IT!

Heather

How can this program be improved?
Maybe let you know of other volunteers that would be there at the same time before hand.
Yasmin
Female
31 years old
Hertfordshire
Royal Holloway- University of London

Unforgettable experience, highly recommended!

Overall 9

3 week Thailand experience August-September (before going to Cambodia with gapguru for 2 weeks, then solo travels across Asia):

From the moment we arrived me and my boyfriend felt very welcome and very supported from the staff living in Thailand. We were collected from the airport and quickly settled into life in the volunteer house in Doi Saket (a lovely town around 45 minutes outside Chiang Mai in northern Thailand - if you are using songthaews, the local busses or tuk tuks).

Our first week consisted of exploration around the local area (including the swimming pool, umbrella factory, ceramics factory, and markets) and teaching English to novice Buddhist monks in two local wats (temples). This included daily lessons to between 1-11(ish) children of varying ages/abilities (mostly different classes every day) and then evening classes (with the same group of novice monks each night). Our transportation to and from the lessons was pre-arranged for us and we found the experience thoroughly enriching and enjoyable (especially as we were both quite nervous about teaching and as I had never done this before!). The novice monks were always very enthusiastic and excited to learn. There was obviously some lesson planning to be done on our behalf but the staff working out in Thailand gave us some ideas and also explained what had previously been covered by volunteers (so as not to repeat too much).

Our second week was spent at the elephant sanctuary in the hills around Chiang Mai. We lived, ate and worked for 7 days here (and as there was a dog shelter here too we spent a lot of time there as well as with the elephants which is something I really would encourage others to do too as they need as many volunteers as they can get - 400 dogs there need a lot of love!) The work included clearing out elephant shelters, planting bamboo trees, preparing food and washing the elephants (amongst other things). I learnt so much about elephants and their treatment in the tourist industry which was eye opening and I have not been able to stop talking about my experience here since. The food was fantastic, the staff were all very friendly and as there are a large number of volunteers here you are likely to make some very good friends! I could gush for a long time about this place so I will move on. . . but I must say be prepared for spiders and snakes and bats and bugs!

Our last week was spent exploring the local Doi Saket/Chiang Mai area again (including local bars) and we spent 2 nights in a hill tribe near the border of Myanmar. It took us around 5 hours in the minibus to get there and then around 1 1/2 hours on the back of a pick up truck after that to arrive at the hill tribe. It was a brilliant journey as we got to see a lot of untouched Thailand and saw stunning vistas (it was great seeing parts of the country which had not yet been invaded by tourism). We stayed with the family of one of the lovely lady's working with Gapguru. We met many families and teachers living in and out of Bapea (I probably did not spell this correctly!) who were all incredibly friendly (especially as some of them spoke no english at all and our Thai was very limited). The food was amazing and we spent time trekking around the rice fields (which did include getting attacked by quite a few hungry leeches!) We also spent a rather hilarious evening sipping rice wine and singing kareoke in a nursey classroom we could barely stand up in. All in all providing some memories I will look back on very fondly. The journey home was a little longer as we had to take a local bus (no air con and a very crowded and bumpy journey) which was quite an experience! Also, make sure you have your passport on you with long journeys like this as immigration control may sometimes ask you to produce it!

If you are looking to help others, experience something new and exciting (knowing that you will be supported thoroughly whilst there) and just want to meet interesting and friendly people then I would strongly encourage you to take this trip to Thailand. The staff out there are very helpful and plans are very flexible once you are out there so don't worry, you don't need to have your plan set in stone as to what you want to do before you get there! Enjoy travelling :)

Mallika
Female
18 years old
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Incredible experience

Overall 10

As a 17 year old, it was extremely intimidating to fly off to a major Thai city all alone. Meeting the team at the airport helped me get rid of some of that nervousness, as I was treated so well. David, Nid, and Will were extremely helpful and friendly, and I was grateful to have them receive me.

Soon after I was made aware of all my options, and I chose to teach at the Bang New school, alongside another volunteer Heather. The house was always crazy, especially with over 12 people living in it. But it was a lot of fun! Doi Saket is beautiful, and you could easily get around by riding one of the bicycles available at the house. The housekeeper PK was wonderful to me, and especially made vegetarian Thai delicacies to accommodate me. I could not have felt more welcome.

However, teaching the kids was the best part of the trip. I was able to learn so much from them and their culture-- it was an eye opening experience. The school headmaster was a lovely man, who sometimes took us out to lunches or dinners to show his appreciation. The other teachers were also lovely, always inquisitive about my life in Dubai. I was so honored to teach at such an institution. Hopefully I can revisit Bang New sometime in my life.

I got to do really crazy things on the weekends, like playing with tigers and bungee jumping! We also went to the city often, where I was continually amazed with Thailand and its beauty. My time in Thailand was definitely amazing, and I would love nothing more but to go back. I do hope that in the future I get the opportunity to do so. It has truly shaped me as a person, and made me so much more aware about the world around me.

I would really like to thank the Future Sense team, you really made it an incredibly wonderful summer!! Would not have been half as great without you.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change something, it would be installing some kind of system to handle the bugs. Other than that, I was extremely happy with the program!
Nick
Male
23 years old
Oxford

Wat could be better? Teaching English In Doi Saket

Overall 9

During December of 2012, I Volunteered with Gap Guru and taught English too novice Buddhist Monks in Doi Saket, near Chiang Mai. From the moment I collected from the Airport by David and Nid (Gap Gurus Coordinators in Thailand,) i was made to feel welcomed at and home in a country i had never visited before! I cannot stress the how great it was to have friendly faces to speak too when you do not know anyone else in the country. Their hospitality, along with Pi Gaye (The housekeeper,) ensured that i was well fed, and prepared for my experience teaching.
The teaching itself was a truly magical experience. The novice monks were all exceptionally friendly and interested in everything I had to say, and despite limited English, were eager to ask questions about my life in Britain. As my time with the children progressed it was amazing to see the impact my lessons were having, with the novices learning English at an astounding rate. During my downtime at Wat Nong Bua (the temple I was teaching at) i had the rare opportunity to chat with monks in their homes. Learning the way of life of these people and the dedication they have to Buddhism was a humbling experience, and it is surely something i will never forget. The location of the temple, shrouded by exotic trees with a lake filled with Coy Carp was just stunning, and i could have spent my time with Gap Guru just relaxing in the temple grounds enjoying the peace and tranquility of rural Thailand.
When not teaching, David and Nid ensured I was up to speed with all things Thai. I sampled local cuisine (try raw pork or frog!) David also took to a Muy Thai fight, which is the national sport of Thailand. I honestly felt like i had connected with the people and culture by the end of my time with Gap Guru. I could rave on about my time there for hours, but it is something you have to experience first hand!

How can this program be improved?
The only thing would be to notify potential volunteers whether or not other people would be volunteering at the same time as you. I was in the house by myself for 2 week, which was great, it gave me time to reflect and have alone time, but for longer placements i feel it could get a little lonely.
Libby
Female
18 years old
Bedfordshire, United Kingdom

The best trip with the best people

Overall 10

I went to Chiang Mai in Thailand through GapGuru with a friend for just under a month in the summer of 2014. We had no teaching experience, had never backpacked alone nor had we even been to Thailand before!! Not only were we complete novices but we were very apprehensive too even being quite confident girls. At 17 and 18 being given any responsibility to teach children is a daunting prospect. As soon as we got to Thailand, the welcome and support from the team ensured we felt comfortable and safe from the outset, the whole team were beyond friendly and immediately make you feel like part of the GapGuru family, this was continued throughout our stay. We not only got to teach at a school in the local area but we saw Thailand too, no task was too big for the team to try and sort out for us and we had to freedom to discover Thailand as we wished, truly being able to immerse ourselves into it as opposed to just being 'tourists'. The volunteering is why this trip is so wonderful, it gives you not only personal growth but a true sense of gratitude. I learnt from everybody I encountered on the trip and was inspired by not only the children and the teachers but also the Thailand support team too. This opportunity and experience is something I would urge anyone to go for, I have made friends for life and memories that I treasure and wish to add to in the near future when I hopefully return! I don't think there has been a time in my life where I have felt more happy and content and would urge anyone who's missing something, be it a travel bug, a desire to discover or an impulse to do something for others to go and divulge in GapGurus opportunities.

Jemma
Female
18 years old
Liverpool, England.

Best experience of my life!

Overall 10

I went to teach at the temple for 4 weeks during the summer and I can honestly say it was the best experience of my life! At first I was slightly anxious as I was travelling alone but once I arrived I felt completely safe as the programme staff were always there if needed. Teaching the monks was a real once in a lifetime opportunity and seeing their enthusiasm about learning was really heartwarming. As I am very interested in Buddhism I also threw myself into any extra activities they invited me to and became really good friends with a few of the older monks.
As well as the teaching there was also plenty of time to discover the city of Chiang mai and its many beautiful surroundings. The programme staff once again helped to make sure that we did everything we wanted to do whilst in Thailand and arranged extra activities for us. This allowed us to see the 'real Thailand'.
Over the 4 weeks I gained so much confidence that has helped me to develop as a person, as well as making some friends that I will forever keep in contact with. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to travel on their gap year and I hope to go back myself in the near future.

Jess
Female
41 years old
New Zealand

Awesome people, awesome experience

Overall 9

I had a great experience, I learned so much about the culture and myself, I got to see the real Thailand and met some amazing people. The in country team were so supportive and I felt very looked after. It was amazing working with the kids and the community and learning about a different culture, I felt like I was doing something meaningful as well as travelling and got a good balance between teaching and being a sightseeing. I hope to go back and visit one day and would do it all again!

How can this program be improved?
Nothing I can think of

About The Provider

GapGuru is a gap year specialist offering a wide range of exciting volunteer, travel and internship opportunities across Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. With GapGuru you could be doing anything from teaching in Tanzania to working as a medical intern in India!

Our volunteers work in disadvantaged communities, helping those in genuine need, while building their own skills, confidence and experience. Joining one of our gap year projects is your opportunity to discover authentic cultures in different countries, to meet new people and immerse yourself in local communities. You can take part in a program for as little as 2 weeks or up to a whole year.

The team at GapGuru all love to travel and more importantly share our skills and experience with our gappers. Friendly and informative guidance and support (both pre-departure and in-country) is all part of the GapGuru experience.

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Volunteer in Thailand with GapGuru

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