Summer Volunteer Programs in Thailand

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Program Highlight!

A full spectrum of Chinese adventure awaits, as complex as the country itself. Hike the Great Wall of China and experience Mandarin immersion and language classes on our China: Mandarin Service Adventure program!

About

Explore the beautiful and rich culture of Thailand while volunteering. Global Leadership Adventures offer multiple Service Learning Adventures, from orphanage work to caring for elephants:

* The Elephant Village Initiative: Learn about the importance of elephant conservation and how to care for these majestic animals.
* The Elephant Conservation Project: Take your compassion for animals a step further as you work on elephant conservation efforts on a permanent care reserve.
*Cultural Kaleidoscope: Take in all of Thailand - its sights, sounds, and colors - through its vibrant culture.

While volunteering you will also have the chance to zip-line through a rain forest, sight see in Bangkok, hike through jungles to hill tribes, and of course experience food, arts, and music first-hand.

Questions & Answers

It's really going to vary trip to trip, but for my Thailand trip we did service nearly every day, except for when we first arrived. You usually start early in the morning and will have a break for lunch. Some days end at lunch time and some days you will have a lunch break and keep working. For some programs they try and set it up so your recreational adventure activities are on the weekends, but...

Reviews

98%
based on 29 reviews
  • Growth 9.4
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.6
  • Housing 9.8
  • Safety 9.9
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 9.3
  • In-program Support 9.7
  • Impact on Student 10
  • Value 10
Showing 16 - 29 of 29
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Daniel
10/10

10 Star Parent Review

My daughter went on a trip last year with GLA to Thailand. At first we were nervous about our her going so far as a young teen, but GLA was great and it ended up being a trip of a lifetime. The GLA staff were very patient and informative with all my questions, they were completely on the ball at every step of the way and made us feel very comfortable as parents. The volunteer work with the elephants and a local Thai school was great for our daughter, but even more, the immersive cultural experience with like-minded teens from various places and backgrounds was irreplaceable. She is going with GLA to another locale this year and we're excited for her and the impact these trips are having on her world view, life experience and sense of self as she navigates the world with such adventure and purpose with a group that we feel safe and comfortable with.

Yes, I recommend
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bella
10/10

Thailand Elephants

I was looking for a volunteer trip abroad that was safe and put me out of my comfort zone. When reflecting on this experience it realize how much it helped me grow as an individual as made me realize my part in elephant conservation and how I can 'be the change'. This program was exciting and funfilled. It exposed me to new ideas and cultures. The food was spectacular as was the ability to uniqically work with elephants in the Thai mountains

How can this program be improved?
I wish it was longer!
Yes, I recommend
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Isabella
10/10

Thai Elephant Home

After a very long flight from New York, I and the other GLA students arrived in Chiang Mai greeted by an excited staff. For the next three days, we visited extravagant temples, a Christian school, and busy markets. My favorite activity in Chiang Mai was visiting the school where we exchanged our American culture with the students by teaching them slang words and they taught us about Thai dances and games. It was uplifting to see the students so happy, welcoming and excited to meet us. Our elephant education began in Chiang Mai where we visited the Elephant Conservation Center and Elephant Hospital. It was the first time I had ever touched an elephant which was scary and amazing!
When we arrived at Thai Elephant Home, the elephants greeted us and we were assigned a roommate and our elephant. My elephant was named Mae Chan and she was a sweetheart! Our counselors took us on a five hour trek where we rode our elephants, played in the mud with them and then took them to the river for a bath. It's daunting the first time you are riding or standing next to an elephant, but the mahouts are right there to guide us. That first day was surreal - I never thought I would actually be interacting with an elephant so intimately. Even though we were all pretty sore the next day from the riding the elephants, we got used to it quickly. All of the staff and counselors were helpful and outgoing. The atmosphere of the home is warm, safe and comfortable. Our days started at 5:30am, but we were always excited to see what the day had in store for us. In the morning, we shoveled our elephant's mess, bathed our elephants and fed them new grass before our breakfast. The food is INCREDIBLE - and this is coming from a very picky eater. Everyday, we did service work (grass cutting or dam building) which was tiresome but everyone participated and no one complained. We did have a lot of free time to get to know each other and I loved hanging out, playing bananagrams and cards. The two weeks flew by and I was sad to leave my elephant and new friends that I made.

How can this program be improved?
I personally wish the Elephant Thai Initiative program was longer than 2 weeks. It goes by so quickly!
Yes, I recommend
Reece
10/10

Life changing

This was the most amazing experience of my life. Not only did I immediately fall in love with Thailand, but I fell in love with the people, the culture, the language, and the elephants. I was greeted at the airport by Joon, who was super funny and was so welcoming. He gave me this flower necklace that smelled amazing. That day at the airport I met my forever best friend. From the 3 days we stayed in Chiang Mai in the Imm Hotel, I knew I wanted to come back with all of my friends and family. We got to experience some of the culture first hand. We went to authentic Thai restaurants, holy temples, and even the schools. We got to interact with the people and the children and they are always just so happy and friendly and welcoming. I have never felt safer or more at home in my life! The staff did an awesome job at making us all feel super comfortable and made sure we were always happy and learning new things. When we went to the first elephant hospital in the world and got to meet elephants for the first time, we were all silenced. These animals are so breathtaking and have such beautiful souls. This is when I first discovered that I want to be a large exotic wildlife vet, and work with elephants and other endangered species like them. Our group bonded extremely well and we were always so eager to go out and learn and experience Thailand and the culture. At the Thai Elephant Home, my life was changed. My elephant changed my life. She was so kindhearted and we formed an extremely unique and beautiful bond. Her mahout didn't speak a word of English, but we still managed to become the best of friends and we learned so much from each other. Being able to care for your own elephant was just the most extraordinary experience. Our service, which was cutting and planting grass and building dams was so incredibly rewarding. We were all more than happy to give a little back to the Thai people and the elephants. There was never a dull moment in Thailand, no matter how tired we were, we were ALWAYS having fun and learning so much from each other. It's so important to get different perspectives of other people from other places in the world, and we did just that. We learned a lot about elephant conservation and we got to all form our own opinions about it, which was awesome. I learned more Thai than I know in the language that I have been taking for 7 years. This was just the most incredible experience and I am forever thankful for it.

How can this program be improved?
There is not much that I would change about this program at all. Staff was amazing, all the activities and food were fun and new, and of course the elephants were breathtaking.
Yes, I recommend
Isabelle
10/10

Elephant Village Initiative

This was my fourth and final trip with Global Leadership Adventures. After traveling to Costa Rica, the Galapagos and the Dominican Republic with GLA, I was thrilled to finally be going to Thailand. The local staff was amazing and I learned so much about Thai culture. Working with elephants every day was an experience rivaled by none. After spending a few days in the city of Chiang Mai, we finally headed off to the village where the Elephant Conservation center was. We woke up very early every day to clean up after the elephants and bathe them, a surprisingly enjoyable task. We also participated in other service activities such as planting trees, teaching english in schools, and cutting and planting grass (the food for the elephants). I really was not sure what to expect as this was my first time traveling to Asia. But now that I have spent two weeks there and met so many wonderful people, all I can think about is going back. I was in the first group of the program so we acted sort of as the guinea pigs for what service work activities would work the best. We also were given the chance to help cook at the conservation center. We were assigned a day to cook dinner and we learned how to prepare an official Thai dish. I have a million wonderful things to say about this program, and I couldn't be happier with my experience. I was really able to discover my love for learning about other cultures, and my love for preserving species. We engaged in meaningful discussions about animal rights, and how one person can make a change (a discussion started by our mentor Ash Hastings). I cannot recommend Global Leadership Adventures enough, it is such a wonderful program.

How can this program be improved?
As I said we were sort of the guinea pigs so a lot of things we noted were set to be fixed by the time the next group came around. We wanted to do more community service as a group because some days felt relatively easy. For the next groups they had planned on incorporating more service work activities.
Yes, I recommend
Haley
10/10

Thailand Cultural Kaleidoscope

The name of the program has to be 100% true. Last summer, I chose to go to Thailand with Global Leadership Adventures instead of having a Sweet Sixteen and I could not be any happier. I learned so much about the Thai culture and absolutely loved the program. I learned about the food that they ate, even making my own, how to pray like a Buddhist monk, and about the country as a whole. I made so many friends, who I still keep in touch with and would love to go back. There was certainly the element of "Adventure" while I was there. We went zip lining, biking, kayaking, hiking, and so much more. We met a local hill tribe and even went to a Thai high school where we met some students. We also had the option to shop at markets. It was an immersive opportunity and I will never forget it. The volunteering itself was wonderful as well. We went to an orphanage and a home for women. The children at the orphanage were extremely happy and appreciative of us coming, which was always a pleasant experience. At the home for women, we helped build some bamboo fences and prepare the home for the rainy season which was approaching rapidly. They were very appreciative as well. Overall, I loved this program so much that I decided to go on another program the following year in Ghana. I believe Global Leadership Adventures is worth every penny and is truly a life-changing experience that everyone should consider.

Yes, I recommend
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Louise
10/10

Global Leadership Adventures - Thailand

Thailand was the best experience of my life. I had the best time with the best people and i learnt a lot about the country and myself. We visited many beautiful places including temples, we learnt about the Thai culture and beliefs. The staff were amazing and really supportive. We learnt about how elephants are treated in Thailand. The group also did alot of community service, half of the group went to a women's refuge and the other half went to an orphanage to help out. Global Leadership Adventures were the best company to volunteer abroad with because they are helpful and dedicated and i would recommend the company to anyone.

How can this program be improved?
I would advise the company to take participants to an elephant sanctuary instead of an elephant camp. This is because the elephants are not being treated well in the camps and the sanctuary will treat the elephants better.
Response from Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)

Thank you for your feedback, Louise! We're glad you described your experience in Thailand as a positive one. We have since chosen another organization to work with for our elephant experience which focuses on ethical care for elephants.

Yes, I recommend
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Claire
10/10

A Summer To Remember

This past summer, I went on the Thailand Cultural Kaleidoscope Program with Global Leadership Adventures and had an absolutely amazing two weeks. We were able to experience so many different cultural experiences in such a short amount of time, hence, I felt like we got a lot out of our time there. We went ziplining, tried and cooked local foods and dishes, bamboo rafted, explored Buddhist temples, hiked through hill tribe villages, rode elephants through the jungle, and bathed elephants in a local river. Along with this, one of the main focuses of our time in Thailand was going to a school and teaching English to the Thai children. It was an absolutely amazing experience unlike anything I had ever done before.
The GLA staff really made the trip what it was. They were knowledgeable about the country and made us feel safe at all times. Along with those important things, they were also very fun, funny, and easy to relate to.

How can this program be improved?
I would have loved to get a bit more direction on the website as to which service program we were doing. I loved teaching English, however, was very much looking forward to working with the women's shelter. We didn't actually end up doing any of that. I'm very happy that we worked with the schoolkids, but it would have been nice to know that we were only focusing on one service project.
Yes, I recommend
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Junospafford
9/10

Best time of my life!

I really, really loved going to Thailand with GLA. They were amazing and I felt safe with all the mentors and staff at all times. We got to do all the amazing things we saw online and the program really opened my eyes to things I had it been aware of. I was sick at one point and one if the mentors got me medicine, and took care of me just like my own mom would. I felt so safe and happy.I walked away from this experience happy and proud I had done it. The only thing was that is was super expensive. But in my personal opinion-totally worth it. I was actually awarded a scholarship for myself and a friend to go again of $500. Most amazing program ever.

How can this program be improved?
Well I would say don't bring a friend. I made so many friends along the way and I'm planning on doing another trip with a few of them next summer. There were two girls who came together, and while they made friends, they mostly stuck together. It really was great.
Maybe just a little too expensive.
Yes, I recommend
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Olivia
10/10

Amazing

I spent a total of five weeks over the summer with Global Leadership Adventures, two of which were spent in Thailand on the Elephant Village Initiative trip. After weeks of comparing different programs and weighing the pros and cons, I decided that GLA was the right program for me, and I've never regretted it. Global Leadership Adventures not only made me feel safe and secure during the entire process, but the program really feels like a community. The facebook pages set up make it very easy to talk to people who have already done trips through GLA, and the support system does it's job incredibly. The mentors on this trip were amazing, and when we requested an activity they did their best to make sure it happened (which made the trip even more amazing). I would love to do another trip with GLA, and would recommend it to anybody.

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to spend more time with the elephants, but otherwise it was perfect.
Yes, I recommend
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Tedra
10/10

You won't regret it!

I'm Tedra, a senior in high school who attended the Global Leadership Adventures excursion to Thailand this past summer in June 2013.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but this experience was unforgettable. The days were jam-packed with service that helped the locals and showed them they were cared about- on my particular trip we worked with HIV/AIDS affected orphans, single mothers shunned from their communities, and other Thai peoples in need of various things. This is not all we did though- we explored Chiang Mai and the deep culture within and the peaceful people who lived there. We went to an elephant refugee camp and bathed them, went to the tallest mountain in Thailand, went to numerous temples and had a blast learning about those who are not-so-different from us. Though our days were packed with service and adventure we always had a beautiful and safe home-base to go back to so that we could unwind and build long-lasting friendships with the other students.

On my trip I never once felt unsafe, alone, or invaluable in any way. Our mentors always made sure all of our needs were taken care of and they made sure we knew the importance of what we were doing and what we could do as Leaders, and I am forever greatful for that.

I highly reccomend any GLA trip to everyone. If you'd like to know any more about GLA, you can visit their website at experiencegla.org, and make sure to check out their Young Leader blog at blog.experiencegla.com.

Do take some time out to check out this trip and organization and try to go! You won't regret it!

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, it would be volunteer hours. I wish we spent more time volunteering but I realize there wasn't much time because I went on the two-week excursion.

I also wish that the elephant refugee camp was more humane to the animals, but my friends and I voiced our concerns about treatment to the elephants and the staff promised to look into possibly supporting another camp!
Yes, I recommend
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Gillian
10/10

Amazing Way To Spend The Summer

Global Leadership Adventures is an amazing program. I attended their Galapagos trip in 2013 and attended their Thailand program last summer. If you are considering stepping out of your comfort zone and helping in a foreign country this is completely the program for you. GLA is extremely safe and professional. All the home bases are beautiful, the food is delicious, the activities and excursions are always amazing, and the staff is kind and extremely knowledgable. GLA gives students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture. Part of the staff usually lives in the country year round and knows their way around. For example: In Thailand we got to eat Mother's day lunch cooked by our drivers family and had the opportunity to help their neighbors plant rice. No other program is like GLA. They constantly keep you busy and active and give you an unforgettable experience. Volunteering is such a rewarding experience. In Thailand we worked at three locations: an orphanage for children with HIV, a home for mothers from hill tribes, and an orphanage for trafficked children. Although it was very sad and upsetting, the experience of working at these organization was completely unforgettable. This trip is designed for those that want to step out of their comfort zone no matter to what extent. I decided to try bugs and live shrimp and a fish spa while I was there, others did not. This trip is designed to give you opportunities to immerse yourself completely into a different culture; It is your choice to what extent you choose to immerse yourself. Nevertheless this was an amazing trip that I would recommend to everyone. The sights, the food, and the atmosphere helped me fall in love with Thailand. I know I will be back in Chiang Mai very soon.

How can this program be improved?
For the most part this program was great. The volunteering aspect could possibly be improved. Although the work we do is mostly manual labor we still have an opportunity to play with the children. The manual labor is of course invaluable to the places we worked at, I just wish we had more of an opportunity to interact with the children at the orphanages.
Yes, I recommend
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Jacob
10/10

GLA Thailand 2013

Such an amazing experience and company to volunteer with. I went to Thailand this summer (2013) with GLA and was really impressed by the home base as well as the American and Thai staff members. The volunteer sights were really nice and for the most part it did not feel like you were volunteering because you were just having fun with the people you were helping. Once you arrive at the actual base with all the other 29 kids you might be nervous but by the second day you will have already begun to make friends and memories. I cannot wait to volunteer abroad again with GLA during the summer of 2014 because it honestly did change my life. The hardest thing to get used to is probably the humidity in Thailand. The second you walk outside you are all sweaty and your clothes will stick to you all day. Other than that its all fun and games.

How can this program be improved?
For Thailand specifically I would like to see more opportunities for interaction with children. Id honestly say that we did more manual labor. Yes we did hang out with the children but we didn't really teach them anything. Some of the schools we went to just tossed a few of us with a group of Thai kids and were given no instructions. I would like if the GLA staff members could give us multiple ideas and games to play if and when that situation does come up.
Yes, I recommend
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Victoria.P
9/10

A cultural immersion

As a student who had never been to Asia, this program was truly incredible because it made me discover the real Thailand. On a day to day basis, get to work and help in a local community and meet people you would never see on a tipical holiday ! I was immersed in a new culture that I got to discover and love during those three weeks !
I had the summer of my life while helping others, and won't ever forget it !

How can this program be improved?
Thailand has a huge diversity of landscapes and we go to experience life in the city and in the mountains, unfortunately we didn't get to see the famous paradisiac beaches but we only three weeks you can't obviously visit the entire country.
Yes, I recommend

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About Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)

With a history and heritage in global education, Global Leadership Adventures packs our itineraries with leadership development, volunteering and the delight of taking learning off the beaten path. Our unique program design produces what many...