GVI: Volunteer in Thailand

Video and Photos

GVI Chiang Mai
GVI Chiang Mai
GAI Chiang Mai Karen Wedding
GAI Chiang Mai Karen Wedding
GVI Chiang Mai
GVI Chiang Mai
So much love for Thong Dee
So much love for Thong Dee
Field staff leading a meeting
Field staff leading a meeting
Ele Family
Ele Family
Early morning hikes
Early morning hikes
My first dinner at my homestay
My first dinner at my homestay

About

GVI offers a variety of programs in Thailand driven by sustainability in a global, social, environmental, and conservationist context. With bases in Chiang Mai and Phang Nga, you could get involved in education, marine and wildlife conservation, volunteering with children, supporting public health, community development, or contributing towards construction based activities.

While you will be actively assisting in GVI’s efforts to reach the UN Sustainable Development objectives of each project, there will also be ample opportunity for you to travel independently in your own time, or with your international volunteering peers. Explore beaches, verdant jungles and woodlands, mountainous terrain or a variety of coastal islets. This is a travel expedition with the purpose to make a meaningful impact.

Highlights
  • Support global sustainable efforts that contribute towards the long-term objectives of a program.
  • Learn about and assist projects in reaching their UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Live and travel in Thailand, connecting with local community and other international volunteers.
  • Become a world citizen as you learn about different cultures, lifestyles, local cuisines, and traditions.
  • Improve your CV by gaining skills in marine and wildlife conservation, teaching, health education, and community development.

GVI has a Community Development Internship in Thailand!


This is an opportunity to learn more about Chiang Mai's local Karen hill tribe culture, gaining intercultural communication skills and valuable teaching experience.

Popular Programs

Two elephants in Thailand

In Northern Thailand, support local communities and elephant caretakers in alleviating elephants from the tourism industry. Learn about these intelligent land animals as they recover in expansive Chiang Mai forest grounds as a semi-wild herd. Live among and gain a better understanding of the culturally diverse Karen communities, while contributing towards the projects UN Sustainable Development Goals and traveling in your own time.

Two students conducting research in Thailand

In Phang Nga, a province with abundant biodiverse land and marine life, contribute towards conservation efforts to protect local species and habitats. Enjoy tropical climates, waters, natural islets, and an experiential educational experience. You could gain skills in conservation, surveying, camera trapping, and coral reef and species identification, to name a few. Travel and meet participants from around the world, all while contributing towards long-term sustainable goals.

Volunteer conducting public health workshop in Thailand

Contribute to health education in Phang Nga. Assist local teachers to encourage positive health practices in children and young adults of the province, and contribute towards the UN Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. The opportunity to support a variety of educational classes are available in sports education, language, and social developments, with valuable long-term impacts on the community.

Thai students studying

In Chiang Mai you’ll have a diversified experience in cultural immersion while living among the local Karen community. You can learn about traditional cooking, clothes weaving, and jewelry creation. Participate in professional development classes for women in the community, animal education and conservation projects. You’ll also learn about elephants and their caretakers during health checks and forest hikes, and gain a better understanding of gender roles within the community.

Volunteers participating in plastic clean up in Thailand

As plastic pollution continues to threaten the environment, participate in this conservation program to encourage plastic reduction and effective waste practices in the community of Phang Nga. Support efforts to protect the endangered green sea turtle and gain conservation, reef monitoring, and species identification skills. By encouraging environmental awareness through education, the local community is empowered to work together to combat the many environmental threats they face.

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

97%
based on 77 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 77
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Tiffany
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I would highly recommend this programme. I met so many amazing people and had so many great experiences that were unlike any that I’ve ever had before. I was able to develop my skills and learn lots about marine conservation through hands on experience. GVI made the whole thing enjoyable and informative and the members of staff were extremely passionate which just made the whole thing even better! I would recommend this programme to everyone who wishes to gain experience in marine conservation.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The amount of wildlife and amazing creatures that I’d never seen before.
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Connor
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Completely Unique Experience

GVI is a fantastic company to volunteer for with so many great projects around the world. After I visited GVI Chiang Mai base it changed my thinking and my career plans. The impact that the project has is astounding. The relationship between GVI and the local community is completely unique. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly and the villagers take you into their homes and cook for you. Spending time walking with the elephants in the forest is a special experience and I would thoroughly recommended enrolling on this project.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The villagers catch their own fish in a nearby river and my homestay used to cook me river fish from that day.
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Sara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Under 18's Cultural Immersion Program - Life Changing!

When I departed on my U18's service learning trip, I was extremely nervous. Don't get me wrong, I was excited, but the idea of travelling all alone to a country I had never been to before was very daunting. However, upon arrival in Thailand I was greeted by some of the warmest people I have ever met. The staff were lovely, and I immediately felt safe and secure. But more than that, I immediately bonded with all of the other people on my trip. Most people had traveled alone, thus everyone was super friendly and eager to mingle. After some skill training sessions and educational lessons, we began the service aspect of our trip. During my week in Ban Nam Khem, I had the extraordinary opportunity to help out with various tasks at the sea turtle head-start program, aide in small construction projects at a local school, and participate in multiple beach clean up initiatives. The second week of my trip was considered an 'adventure week' in which we were expertly guided throughout breathtakingly beautiful sights and towns, whilst still preforming some volunteer work such as beach clean ups. Ultimately, the two weeks I spent in Thailand were genuinely life changing. Not only was I able to acquire new skills in teamwork, independence and volunteerism, I was also able to meet some of my now closest friends and enjoy some of the most beautiful sights in the whole world. Thank you so much to GVI for this incredible experience. I can't wait to meet you again somewhere else in this world!

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Ollie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Simply amazing

The program is amazing. All the volunteers and staff are so welcome and friendly from the first day. There is always something to do during the day, whether it is working in the Navy base with sea turtles, snorkeling while doing coral reef surveys, doing beach cleans or bird and butterfly surveys, you learn so much about all the wildlife in the area of phang nga and Thailand in general, you also learn about the effects of single use plastic being washed up on beaches in the area. There is also alot to do in the evening or on the weekends, whether you want to chill in base, go to the beach for a swim or head into Khao Lak or anywhere else you fancy on the weekends there is always something to see and do. Either way it is an amazing program .

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Elizabeth
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best trip ever!

I had the most amazing and inspiring experience in Thailand, from day 1 the team and volunteers were so welcoming, it really did feel like a big family! It was great to meet people from so many different places who had all come together to try and make a difference. We completed great activities every day from snorkelling to scrubbing turtle tanks and beach cleans; but also had plenty of free time to hang out and get to know each other a bit better. It was hard work at times but always lots of fun and very worthwhile! The team were also great at recommending what to do with your free weekends, there so much in the surrounding area I visited some incredible places even in the short time I spent there. I would 100% recommend the project and GVI as a company to anyone that is considering doing some volunteering!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would go for longer! I was only there for 3 weeks and really didn't feel ready to leave.
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Johana
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Make the world better

Translated by Go Overseas:

6 weeks in the village of Huay Pakoot brought me a lot.

The different volunteers, the staff and the interns are all adorable, life on the camp is so simple. Everyone is there for the same thing, and to enjoy and live deeply its moment so important.

The contact with the inhabitants of the village enriched this experience. It is sometimes difficult to approach the villagers, most are really shy. But once their trusts are won, some people open up to you, and you laugh, you play with them, or you work and help them.

Finally, the staff tries to build a really ethical project around the elephants. We have no contact with the elephants, which is sometimes frustrating. But seeing elephants evolve again in the forest after being tortured in the camps (to paint pictures or to walk tourists) is really rewarding.

Original:

Ses 6 semaines dans le village de Huay Pakoot m'ont enormement apportees.

Les differents volontaires, le staff et les internes sont tous adorables, la vie sur le camp est si simple. Tout le monde est la pour la meme chose, et pour profiter et vivre a fond ses moment si importants.

Le contact avec les habitants du village enrichie cette experience. Il est parfois difficile d'approcher les villageois, la plupart sont vraiment timides. Mais une fois leurs confiances gagnees, certaines personnes s'ouvrent a vous, et vous riez, vous jouez avec eux, ou vous travaillez et les aider.

Enfin, le staff essaye de construire un projet vraiment ethique autour des elephants. Nous n'avons aucun contact avec les elephants, ce qui est parfois frustrant. Mais le fait des voir les elephants evoluer de nouveaux dans la foret apres avoir ete tortures dans les camps ( pour peindre des tableaux ou pour promener les touristes ) est vraiment rejouissant.

What would you improve about this program?
to help more the villager to have a real link with them
Default avatar
alice
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A real life experience!  

Translation:

I spent 2 weeks in the GVI program in Chiang Mai.
I really enjoy learning about the local culture and the relationship these people have with elephants. During the hikes, according to the information collected, I was able to learn how the elephants worked. But also during the many presentations to explain the interest of the project and these objectives.

Many other activities are proposed to diversify the work but also to fully immerse themselves in the environment. The inhabitants are involved in the project, it allows us to have real contact with Thai life. But also sleeping in people's homes and eating with them at night.

Thanks to the project, people have the opportunity to learn a little English, which could be useful for them in the future. As well as their children by going to give them lessons in school.

It's also good that all of our on-site expenses at local stores are part of their savings. Prices are very low for good things (smoothies, coffee ...)

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Translation:

If I come back, I will improve my English finally to be able to exchange more easily with the other volunteers and members of the staff. And I will stay longer obviously!
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Helena
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering

I had an amazing time during the 6 weeks I was here. Before coming here, I thought the only focus of this project was with the elephants, but in reality there are so many more opportunitites to interact with the community such as teaching english in the school and to other villagers and playing football with the mahoots. The cultural immersion that this project offers helps you be more open minded and connect with more people from the village such as with our homestays. By knowning the short and long term objectives that GVI and this hub has, I really understand the positive impact that I made while being here and that future volunteers will keep doing. I also loved meeting new people from all over the world that help make the experience more fulfilling than I ever though it could be.

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Daniel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredibly Amazing!

GVI Chiang Mai is amazing. I spent 4 weeks here and I had the time of my life. the elephants are breathtaking, just being there with them was incredible. The various activities like playing football with the villagers, teaching english and outreach with the villagers were very well organized and very fun. The staff was very helpful and they made me feel like i was a part of them as soon as i met them, I came alone and I was kind of nervous, but that all went away very quickly because the staff was so nice. My homestay family was awesome, I got very lucky because my homestay father spoke very good English, so I got close to them. Coming here was definitely a right decision but I have to say, it is an experience that was out of my comfort zone. It is a very basic way of life, which i think is awesome, but I understand it's not for everyone. I've traveled a lot like this in my life, so It wasn't bad for me, but if you are doing this as your first trip out of your country, I recommend doing one of two things, either going to another volunteer program first and then coming here, or committing yourself to being very open minded and tolerant.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
A live spider in one of the hikes, and then I ate the same type of spider but it was cooked.
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Manuela
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience!

For me going to this program was a life changing experience. Having the opportunity of observing, helping and learning so much from such amazing creatures as elephants is simply undescribable. And at the same time you have the chance to live the simple lives and commodities that the villagers you live with have, and for me this was very enriching. I loved getting immersed in a different culture and learning to see life with different eyes and through a different perspective. I made great friends and had a great time! The base where all the volunteers interact has a fun and inspiring environment, everyone is so so nice and the landscapes all the time are simply breathtaking. there is a lot to do but you can always choose whatever you want to do or if you dont want to do anything at all and just chill. I would recommend this program 100%!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The most surprising thing for me was either seeing elephants for the first time and how they interact with the environment, or having the opoortunity to live with one of the local families.
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Alicia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

life changing opportunity

I spent ten weeks teaching English in school in June 2019 in the south of Thailand. I’m not sure that there are enough words to describe this place and how brilliant it is, and the large impact it made on me. Leaving was very hard as I truly fell in love with the area and the people in it.
The community really make you feel like you’re a part of it and not a tourist. I know the whole point of the program was about teaching the adults and students from the village but I feel like it taught me a lot more than I thought was possible, it opened my eyes to the real world and showed me how much is out there and the world is bigger than my corner of England, it helped me grow so much as a person and just changed my whole perspective on life in general. I didn’t know you could fall in love with a place until I arrived in Ban Nam Khem and this place will always have such a huge part in my heart forever, and so will the people who live in it and the students I taught. This program has a massive impact on the community and its so clear to see that, we took part in village clean ups, temple clean ups, parades and so much more which proved how much of a good relationship GVI has with community and the respect each side has for each other. During the week we taught at two different schools, a Thai school and a Burmese school and had multiple lessons at each, having the same classes each week helps build up such a strong relationship between you and the students and there was such an age range from 6-16 which gives you such different experiences with every class. And every second Friday we had a group project were all three programs would come together to do something, this was different every time from, a beach clean, making chicken wire bins, fundraiser for menstrual cups, summer camp at a school and so much more. we also had weekly Thai lessons to help you with communicating with others in the village which I found very beneficial.
My first two weeks were a massive struggle and I found it very hard, however the staff team were just amazing and gave me a lot of support and made things so much easier, base felt like a home and the staff really made it feel like a family, without such an amazing, kind and supportive staff team I think I would of found the whole experience a lot harder, every single one of them helped me so much while there, they constantly supported me, checked I was coping okay and were always available if I wanted someone to have a five minute chat with, it was my first time out of the country without my mum and the staff team made it a lot more easier and it didn’t feel I was as far away from home as I really was.
The initial shock of finding out you have no hot water, sharing a room with six people in bunk beds, Geckos everywhere and so much more seemed like it would be impossible to cope with but being away from it is weird as I miss these things so much.
I made friends for life here and speak to most of them on a daily basis even though we are in different places around the world, and the ones in England I meet up with as much as we can, and am planning on visiting a group over in America next year.
GVI as a whole has been amazing throughout my time with them, before I went I received many emails and calls making sure I was prepared for my trip, since being back I still get regular emails to check how I am, I’ve joined the ambassador programme where I now go to lots of events around the uk and meet other past volunteers which I really love as its amazing to see so many people who believe in the same thing as you, and I love hearing about past trips of other people, I can say without a doubt this isn’t my last trip with GVI as I will definitely be returning in a few short months. GVI changed me for the better as a person as it was the first time I felt truly happy and I couldn’t recommend this enough to anyone, my confidence and self-awareness grew so much I don’t recognise the person who came back and it’s a very good thing.

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Noémie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

2 unforgettable weeks

I had an incredible adventure in Thailand with the elephants !
Every mornings we were looking for the elephants to take data on their behaviour and health. During afternoons, we had presentations about the elephants, language courses or some free time. In the evening we had dinner with our host family or with the other volunteers and oftenly an evening activity.
This experience bought me a lot; i’ve learned a new culture by living in my homestay, how to cook some delicious meals, a new language,...
I would totally recommend this amazing experience ! We not only take care of the elephants but moreover we participate in the community by giving english lessons to the locals, by spending time with them,The organisation is very good managed and the staff is very nice !

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I had a very good experience eating lunch in the forest! The mahout cut a bamboo, put water inside and warmed it on the wood fire. He then cut another bamboo into a bowl shape, pouring in the water, spices and noodles. It was delicious!
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Libby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI: Marine conservation at Phang-nga Bay

I've always loved the water, especially marine life so choosing this specific course was a no brainer. At first, I was apprehensive of what to expect but this program delivered above and beyond what I imagined. Every day is different from a variety of jobs including caring and cleaning turtles, snorkeling during coral and fish surveys, beach cleans, teaching children about conservation and much more. My absolute favorite was butterfly surveys and discovered I have a secret knack for identifying butterflies (its harder and more fun then it sounds!).

My social life was brilliant meeting so many people who all had the same goal in mind - to make the world a better place! We would constantly watch films, do quizzes and play games in the evenings, and visiting other parts of Thailand during the weekends, being able to discover more of the culture and nightlife! Being there during Halloween was brilliant, with a party being held and a costume contest (2019 winner here!). They do everything to make it feel like home and have regular events and nights out making it even more enjoyable.

It was constantly sweaty, hot and tiring but my mood rarely faltered and I left feeling that I have definitely made a difference. I won't miss the cold showers or how spicy the food could be, however, those annoyances pale in comparison to the fact that I have had a lifechanging experience and have made friends for life! So while it was some of the hardest weeks of my life it was also the greatest!

What would you improve about this program?
Less Birds, more butterflies!! Maybe more clothes and shoes for when things get really muddy, e.g wellies and waterproof trousers?
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Mariana
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing experience

At first I booked this project for the cultural immersion that volunteers got when they lived here and share the experience with the locals as living in the same environment and having the same food, etc. Nevertheless, when I arrived here I found out that aside from what I was expecting the program got to offer me so many other things that made my experience way better than what I had in mind. Is amazing how you come here with the idea that you are going to help a village with some needs and at the end of the day you get to know that the impact that this type of communities do in you is probably bigger. Honestly could not think of a better experience to open up my mind and think about how I want to change the things that surround me and maybe in that way create a better future to live in.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
There was one hike in which I honestly thought I was not going to be able to achieve it and almost break up in tears, nevertheless, as soon as I came with the group they helped me to get through the hike and now when I remember that moment it is probably the best moment of my program.
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Erin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI Chiang Mai

I made the most amazing memories during the 2 months I spent with GVI Chiang Mai. Getting to see elephants up close in the wild was truly a magnificent experience and something I will never forget. It was not just the elephants that made the experience amazing. The community of Huay Pakoot, is something really to behold. Getting to live amongst a community that is so far removed from what we can imagine from western society, is honestly one of the most eye opening experiences i’ve Ever had.
I also met some truly amazing people during my time there. Some of which I would now consider life long friends.
I would recommend this programme to anybody, young and old. It’s draws in people from all facets of life. I want to go back as soon as I possibly can, and can not wait.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Try and make time to go on this project for a least a month