ISV - Volunteer Projects in Thailand

By ISV (International Student Volunteers)   Reviews (93)   95% Rating

Sun-swept beaches, spiritual temples, smiling faces, lush tropical rainforests and tasty cooking are just a few of the wonders awaiting visitors to Thailand - but through volunteering with International Student Volunteers (ISV) you can be more than a tourist and address the needs of rural Thai communities and environments.

On ISV’s conservation projects, you could be working in rescue and rehabilitation centers for elephants, Asian black bear, gibbons and other animals. When it comes to community development, you can help tackle issues like human trafficking through providing support in centres for those at risk, or helping to maintain infrastructure and provide teaching assistance in Thai orphanages.

This exotic country has the perfect balance of culture and nature and it truly is a place that will capture your heart. For more details on how to make a difference visit ISV’s website at www.isvolunteers.org and sign up for the experience of a lifetime.

Locations
Asia › Thailand
Starting Price
2000.00

Rating Values

  • Impact
    91%
  • Support
    93%
  • Fun
    79%
  • Value
    90%
  • Safety
    93%

Program Reviews (93)

Yidi
Female
17 years old
China

2016 High school program

Overall 10

we cried a lot during the time in Thailand with our buddies, they are like my real sister and brothers, and i hope i can come to Thailand again to visit Maekok Foundation .
It was the most memorable experience in my life. I learned so much during the time spending with the Kids, and i miss them so so so so much!!!
We taught the Kids English while they also taught us how to do the work, like how to mix the sand and rock, how to plan rice.

Charles
Other
22 years old
Sparks
University of Nevada Reno

ISV - Thailand - Elephant's World - July 21st

Overall 7

It was cool working with the elephants first-hand. On the very first day, we got to feed them, bathe them, and make them sticky rice. These creatures were absolutely beautiful.
I liked this project quite a bit, but I later found another elephant conservation place, called Elephant Nature Park, that seemed much more aligned with my personal values. I would recommend volunteering there instead, if at all possible.

Morgan
Female
20 years old
Upstate New York
University at Albany- SUNY

Visit Thailand... But Visiting with ISV is a MUST!

Overall 10

This past July (2016) I traveled to Chiang Mai Thailand with International Students Volunteer (ISV) to volunteer at Ran Tong Elephant Sanctuary. While we were there we lived with the elephants for two weeks! Never in my life did I think this itself was a possibility!! I knew I would be volunteering with elephants (which itself is amazing and a dream come true), but I had no idea that every morning I would wake up to a view of twenty elephants roaming around enjoying their new life Ran Tong provided for them. During the day we made a fence for the sanctuary, helped WASH ELEPHANTS, feed elephants, clean up after them, tend to the baby elephants, and learn about the daily routines the caretakers have to go through to provide the elephants with a safe and happy life. Most of the elephants were saved from the logging or tourist industry. The best part was that you feel like you are making a difference for these amazing creatures and that they appreciate your hard work. While I was there I made so many friends. Not just from my group, but the people who lived in Thailand as well. One friend I made that had a lasting impression was Adam. He worked at the sanctuary and helped us along the way. He help translate for us and helped us get the things we needed. He was so friendly and immediately became our friend. Another man I met was Gaga. Gaga lived near the sanctuary and would drive us to locations like the market or into the jungle to cut down food for the elephants. He was the nicest man I ever met. He even introduced us to his young son, who we played with many days when we were there! Gaga reminded me of Indiana Jones! I wish I could explain how nice the people there are! They would give you the shirt off their back even if they did not know you.

One of my favorite memories from my trip was bathing the elephants. We made soap out of bark and brought the elephants to a watering hole to wash them. My elephant was named Maku, she was 37 years old and the most gentle giant! We went in to about our chest and the elephants sat down in the water. We rubbed the soap on them and used buckets to rinse them off. The coolest part was the elephants could eat the soap. Maku knew this and tried to steal the soap from me. If I didn't give her the soap she would spray me with water from her truck!! I feel like I bonded with Maku and this will forever be a lasting memory for me. The fact that I was bathing an animal that giant in a watering hole in Thailand is the most humbling feeling ever. I hope when you read this you can see how excited I am about my experience! I have many more stories, but this was my favorite!

Everyday in Thailand is an adventure and ISV made it the most memorable trip ever! This was my first trip out of the country and my first trip by myself. ISV made me feel so comfortable every step of the way. The team is very supportive and the work that they do is amazing. I can never go on vacation again! I will always make my trips about volunteering to help better our world. ISV helped me see this and makes me want to continue making a difference. ISV helps you IMPACT YOUR WORLD. I recommend this project to anyone and everyone. BEST TRIP OF MY LIFE!

How can this program be improved?
It can't be improved, it's perfect!
Paige
Female
21 years old
Kitchener, Ontario
Queen's University

Friendships and Independence in Thailand

Overall 9

My time in Thailand was amazing, I learned so many things but mostly and most importantly bout myself. This trip pushed me out of my comfort zones and also re-instilled what is important to me. I learned many things during the first two weeks of volunteering like, international and national relations, trades/construction skills, time and money management, sustainable development and fostering beginning friendships. My project leader was very friendly and helpful, he made sure to really highlight the core values and purpose of our volunteering time and work to the Lisu village and women's group. Every day he had us write out five things we were grateful for that day. This activity really made me see how the simple and small things are what we take for granted so easily and so often; for example, so many times the fresh fruits served at dinner were on my grateful list because it was a bright and sweet end no matter how tired I was at the end of the day. The constant smiles and words of appreciation from our project leader, our project supervisor, and the village people we were ultimately helping was always a sweet and kind reminder of why we initially chose to be on this volunteer trip: to help others and learn about ourselves and what we are capable of, both physically and emotionally.

The final two weeks of adventure tour however is where I really learned about being myself and about being independent. Though all of our activities were done together, I found some of my favourite days where when I did solo full day of half day trips. The friends I made on this trip were wonderful in that though we all had great times together (dancing in the rain by the ocean, helping each other overcome anxiety on snorkelling for the first time, bonding over amazing food and getting tipsy over a coupe drinks, offering words of support and hands to hold while getting traditional bamboo stick tattoos, or having memorable conversations while laying on a bed with tangled sea hair and sun sensitive skin at the end of an adventuresome day) they still understood times when I wanted to be alone and enjoy the busy city streets or rolling sea sands by myself. Some of my best memories are when I took a day trip to the highest peak of Thailand, did some self-guided temple touring, and traveled to one of the most renowned temples of the country. These moments are when I was really able to admire and understand myself and the world I marvelled at. Though these people I'm traveling with are from all over the globe, I have made friends and lasting memories with them. I learned so much about myself in that month abroad that I was truly saddened to have to return home; but, one of the things that this trip really showed me is that I have had this independent, curious, social, and adventuresome side within me all along, it just never had the opportunity to come out.

The universality of friendship and individuality really made this trip meaningful and beautiful to me. I hope to never forget all that I learned over in Thailand and that I will always keep open to meeting new people and learning from new adventures.

How can this program be improved?
This program is pretty good as it is. However, I would suggest that in the volunteering weeks that there was more instruction on the upcoming tasks with considerable time before they happened. In the instance of teaching English to local school children, I was riveted with anxiety and stress before we even stepped foot on the school property because there was little to no instruction on how to teach and what we should be teaching the kids. It was very difficult to keep an three hour lesson plan open to the possibilities of how old the children were, what their English learning level was, what they know and did not know, etc. I would highly suggest to provide more insight into what each project entails from the volunteer.

Also, on the first day of adventure tour I had gone up to my tour leader and told her of a place in Thailand that I had been wanting to go to since I first booked the trip. I had it all figured out on time, minor supplies, and self-motivation to go alone and it was only in that moment when I had asked her where the bus station was to go to to get there that I was told I could not go on the trip because it was "too far away." If I had been previously informed by ISV that I can not take "long day trips" to neighbouring towns/provinces that would have saved me a lot of emotional upset.
Lindsey
Female
22 years old

Rewarding in Every Aspect

Overall 10

I went into this trip knowing it was going to be a blast. Little did I know that I would find myself along the way. I spent two weeks volunteering at Ran Tong Elephant Sanctuary where I learned not only about Asian elephants but about how an individual can make a difference. I found a new family at Ran Tong between the other volunteers and the workers/locals. I grew as an individual in more ways than one. Volunteering abroad with ISV was the best choice I could have made.

How can this program be improved?
More learning opportunities for volunteer to learn more about the host country.

Getting volunteers in touch with alumni so they can ask questions about what to bring/expect.
Cailley
Female
22 years old
Chester
State University of New York- Oneonta

From Tourist to Traveler

Overall 10

ISV provided this first-time lone international traveler with the opportunity of a lifetime. Throughout the program, I felt very safe. It was clear that ISV had put much time and consideration into the activities we did and tried very hard to accommodate our needs. I made friends with people I never would have met otherwise and despite our different backgrounds, ISV provided an environment where we could all feel comfortable with each other.
Throughout the program ISV encouraged us to become smart travelers over tourists and to respect and understand the environmental needs. As we got to the end of the trip I could tell I learned about the culture and the people enough that I felt comfortable enough to consider returning on my own at some point.
The volunteer project was extremely life changing. I will never forget the family I lived with and the impact I was able to make on the community. After the two weeks were up I had a greater appreciation for the accommodations and privileges we received during the second two weeks.

Nia
Female
22 years old
Los Angeles
University of California- Los Angeles

Best Month of My Life

Overall 10

I knew going into this trip that it would be an experience of a lifetime and that I would learn so much about a new culture, the world and myself. Every single day of the entire month completely exceeded my already high expectations. It was truly life changing and I'm forever grateful to have been apart of ISV. The adventure tour was insanely incredible and I went on adventures that I never thought I would go on but volunteering was no doubt my favorite part. Highly recommend!!!

Sabrina
Female
23 years old
Queens, New York
State University of New York- Oneonta

ISV Thailand 2016

Overall 10

When I first heard of ISV programs, I knew right away that it was going to be a lifetime experience. ISV Thailand was an adventure that I will never forget. The Volunteer Project at DEPDC really touched my heart. The staff and the children are amazing people and I was privileged enough to be part of the community. The adventure tour was so much fun! Did so many different things with a group of people that will be lifelong friends! my favorite part was traveling with a group of people that had a common goal. It was to impact our world in a positive way while traveling and exploring an exotic country like Thailand.

Chelsea
Female
23 years old
Tulare
California State University- Fresno

My Thailand experiece

Overall 10

"Traveling makes you speechless, but you come back a story teller."
That's exactly what happened in Thailand. Within the last 4 weeks of being in Thailand I've kissed Asian elephants trunks. I rubbed Siberian tigers bellies. I got an authentic bamboo Sak yant tattoo from a monk and had it blessed by the Abbott of the temple. I took walks with monkeys. I got stung by jelly fish as I sea snorkeled in the phi phi islands. I learned a new language. I've had birds land all over my arms and eat out of my hands. I saw elephants with half of a foot and one ear and severely abused by man kind. I've also witnessed a bond between a man and an elephant that is the strongest love anyone can have. I tried so many new foods. I worked in the agricultural fields of Thailand harvesting bana grass and sugar cane. I hiked over mountains, through rice fields and kayaked through ocean caves. I've swam under water falls where fish would nip at my feet. I've felt an unborn elephant kick my hand. I've floated down rivers on my back, on a bamboo raft, and on a white water raft. I've bargained with Thai people at the market. I've fed elephants by morning and bathed them in rivers by afternoon. I found and lost love. I walked through homes that are almost shacks where a family of 30 live in. I got traditional Thai massages by ex criminals. I learned how to cook authentic Thai foods. I stood in caves where bats soared above my head. I saw spiders bigger than my own hand. I taught English in a Thai school. I've meditated in a Thai temples. I learned the history and the culture of several villages around Thailand. I won free shots at a bar by playing connect 4 with the bartender. I was taught Muay Thai kickboxing. I danced with strangers. I raced home made go karts down a hill in the Hmong village. I soared above tree tops in the rainforest by zip line. I've offered rice to monks on the street. I learned a whole new religion and way of thinking. I've cried and laughed with so many new people. I've traveled by airplane, boat, van, back of pick up trucks, and even by tracker. I've gained so many new friendships that will last me a life time and will give me new opportunities of travel.
I came back home with so many stories and memories that will last me a life time. I recommend anyone setting out on a new adventure to a new place and immerse yourself into their culture.

How can this program be improved?
During the project tour, I felt apart of the Thai culture and it's people. However, I did feel that during the adventure tour, it was a bit touristy.
Kelly
Female
22 years old
New York
Northeastern University

Going with Strangers, Leaving with a Family

Overall 10

International Student Volunteers in Thailand gave me the most amazing experience I have ever had abroad. I have traveled to many different countries, but my time in Thailand is still my favorite. From teaching children english, building a church, to bathing elephants and zip lining, I've had so many high points of the trip that it would be hard to just share one. Educating the children of the villages of Thailand was definitely one that will always be close to my heart. Their willingness to learn and immerse themselves in a foreign language was unparalleled to anything I've seen in the US. The scenery, mountain views, and temples are unlike any other I've ever seen; they were simply breathtaking. The food is satisfyingly delicious and the language was fascinating to learn.

But when I remember my trip, I instantly remember the people and relationships I made in Thailand. The Thai people are the friendliest people you will ever meet and the reason why they are called the "land of smiles". Our ISV leaders were so compassionate, caring, and generous. They helped us along every step of the way and quickly felt like family to us. Going to Thailand, I knew absolutely no other students in the same program as me. However once we all met at the airport, it was like we all knew each other for years. We instantly became a family, helping one another through homesickness and actual sicknesses and looking out for each other. We still talk to this day, exactly a year after we came back. They were from all over Northern America and exposed me to the different mindsets, lifestyles, and customs of people who live in different regions. Not only was I getting culturally immersed into the Thai culture, but I was also learning from those who just lived in the next state over from me. The Thai people and friends I've met on this trip taught me to be more open-minded, to be more free-spirited and to "give my hands to serve and my heart to love".

The cultural immersion, heartwarming memories, meaningful relationships, and life changing experience I found in Thailand will forever make this trip my favorite.

How can this program be improved?
It's perfect the way it is!
Ashley
Female
24 years old
Williamsburg, Virginia

The trip of a lifetime

Overall 10

Traveling with ISV is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Traveling to a different country can be scary, and a bit of a hassle when it comes to planning everything. I did not have one worry throughout my entire trip because everything through ISV is pre-planned by the program down to meals and accommodations. The best part was that we had tour leaders who lived in Thailand and they were always knowledgeable and teaching us fun facts and recommending what to try every step of the way! Our tour leaders were fun and participated in every activity with us. I never once worried about my safety because my leaders made me feel very secure and confident with where we were, what we were doing and who we were doing it with. Aside from the outstanding program coordination, I had so much fun and learned so much on this trip. The volunteer portion of the trip was very rewarding in that every single day we did something productive. We got to go to bed knowing we were making a difference and that is why most of us were on the trip. The adventure tour was better than I could have imagined. I can't believe how many fun things we did; zip lining, white water rafting, snorkeling, island hopping, a Thai boxing class, a cooking class, canoeing, and more. We did more in this portion of the trip (2 weeks) than most people can say they have done in a lifetime. I absolutely recommend this program to others, and I hope to continue traveling through ISV myself!

How can this program be improved?
N/A!
Madeline
Female
21 years old
Covina, California

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!

Overall 10

I'm not too sure that typing my experience through text will come anywhere close to actually getting the real life experience. To say the least my eyes were opened up more than I expected from this amazing trip and I definitely recommend volunteering abroad to any, and everybody. This was my first time out of the country and I feel that Thailand was the country for me. The people, the cities, the villages, the culture, the climate, everything about Thailand I fell in love with. I was there for a month and I feel that was the perfect amount of time to see everything that I saw on my trip. I volunteered for two weeks in Northern Thailand, at the DEPDC which was the most amazing two weeks of my entire life. I am hoping that someday soon I can already go back and visit all the kids again. Then I spent two weeks sight-seeing throughout some of Northern Thailand and some of the Southern areas as well. Overall, this was a trip and an experience of a lifetime. A trip I will never forget with some of the most amazing people I have ever encountered. I can not even stress it enough how amazing it was to get the experience to make a difference and volunteer abroad in a different country. I just want to thank ISV for making this all possible for me.

How can this program be improved?
N/A
Alexis
Female
20 years old
Chandler, Arizona

Thailand Trip 2016 International Student Volunteers

Overall 10

ISV was an amazing program to travel with and I plan to take more trips through this program as well. I took a month long volunteer trip to Thailand and had never really traveled outside the United States before. Everything was well planned and directed; I never felt in danger during the time I was there. There are so many things that I would not have been able to do if I had made this trip by myself or even with others that have never been to Thailand before. All the staff and leaders that were with my group were very informative and had lived in Thailand, so they were able to share special information all throughout the trip. I learned so much about the culture and language with the ISV leaders help. Not only were there many activities planned, but there was also free time to go out and explore on your own which was very cool. I highly recommend taking a trip with the ISV program and will never forget this trip of a lifetime.

Phoebe
Female
20 years old
Oakley, California

This Is An Essential!

Overall 10

From the moment I was handed a flyer for ISV in my Political Science class I knew it was something I wanted to do. I took it into my own hands to go to an information session about ISV and the different programs it offers and I was blown away. They offer so many different countries and many types of volunteer work. Of course, I chose Thailand. I have an immense love for elephants and have wanted to visit Thailand for years, and going through ISV seemed like the best way to do it. Throughout my two weeks working elephant conservation, I learned more about not only myself, but about elephants, thai culture and thai language. The village people even took us out to places we would have never seen or known about without their friendship and kindness. I worked at Ran Tong Save & Rescue Centre, and loved every second of it. They aren't funded by the government so people that come to volunteer, or pay for a whole day with elephants makes a huge difference for the site. That's how the fund everything. Our main task was to build a bamboo fence along the entrance of the centre so that the elephants may roam wherever they please without disturbing the nearby villagers. While the work was hard and strenuous, I wouldn't have traded that opportunity for anything. Getting to know the elephants and the mahouts on a personal level was unbelievable. We even got a day off from the elephant conservation (who would want that?) & we got to teach English at the local elementary school! That was an amazing experience, I purchased things at a local store to donate to the class and they absolutely loved it. The students already knew so much English it was hard to actually teach them! We ended up just playing games. That was really cool, and I feel lucky that they through something like that into our work. The people at Ran Tong have so much kindness and generosity it is absolutely amazing. My group and I didn't even want to leave Ran Tong at the end of the Project Tour! We would have been easily happy working there for the whole month. Yet, moving on to the Adventure Tour was insane! We got to experience things together that I've never experienced before. From white water rafting in Northern Thailand to Snorkeling at the Phi Phi Islands. We adventured our butts off! This experience was actually mind blowing, and it still amazes me that I've done all the things I've done in such a small amount of time. I did not want to leave Thailand and all the wonderful friends I made through the ISV program. I definitely recommend it, and I would encourage everyone to choose elephant conservation in hopes that they get Ran Tong Save & Rescue Centre, because they deserve so much more attention and gratitude.

How can this program be improved?
N/A. It's amazing!
Kathryn
Female
21 years old
West Lafayette
Belmont University

Ran Tong Save and Rescue Center

Overall 10

Serving at Ran Tong Elephant Save and Rescue Center was the most rewarding and amazing experience. I learned about myself, my faith, the elephants, Thailand's culture and language, and made friends with the locals. My group was fortunate enough to work along side some of the local villagers who taught us how to say things in Thai and picked fruits off of the trees for us to try. We were fully immersed and engaged with Thai culture. They took us on adventures that we would not have experienced had we been typical tourists. Hiking to the waterfalls and hunting for Earth Star mushrooms were unlike anything I've ever done before. We made friends with the men from the village and in return, we were given special blessings and gifts to bring home with us.

Shauna
Female
19 years old
San Diego, CA
Purdue University

An Experience I Will Never be Able to Stop Talking About

Overall 10

The moments that will stick with me most from my experience in Thailand will definitely be from the two weeks I spent at Ran Tong Save and Rescue Elephant Centre. Every day we were immersed into the lives of the elephants and shown that there is no need to be afraid of these gentle giants. We were able to build relationships with them, especially the newest member of the Ran Tong family, the four month old baby named Harry Potter. Now, don't take "baby" the wrong way, he is more like a 400 pound puppy. While trying to clean his pen he would try and play with us by pushing us around and trying to take our tools and hats. He would grab our hands with his little trunk and teethe on them gently.
Not only did we get to experience the elephant's world, but we got to experience the villager's world. During our project we had the mayor of the village, the head of the village, and the former head of the village, helping us the entire time with our construction. They were incredibly kind and welcoming and taught us as much Thai as they could considering their English was quite poor.

How can this program be improved?
It was clear during the entire experience that all scenarios and situations had been carefully thought out by the ISV staff. The only thing I wish I would have known going in was that the local people would be able to do our laundry for us at very cheap. Other than that everything was perfect and I cannot imagine going through my time in Thailand any other way.
Michelle
Female
29 years old
Aberdeen, Scotland
University of Aberdeen

Fantastic

Overall 10

I always had a thought and image of how Thailand would be, but after arriving it completely surpassed my expectations.
Fantastic place, and great people, cannot wait to get back over there!
The staff with ISV were great and very helpful, and made me feel at ease when in a new country. Would definitely recommend.
Also, traveling with people who knew the areas made the whole experience a lot more comfortable too, no worries or stresses.

Louise
Female
20 years old
Glasgow, Scotland
University of Glasgow

Happiest month of my life (so far!)

Overall 10

An unforgettable time spent exploring the many wonders of Thailand and volunteering in an eco-tourism village. 100% the best month of my life, the first two weeks were spent on the adventure tour, and the second fortnight in a homestay. Normally the two are the other way around which might have better suited me but the order wasn't a big deal.
The first two weeks : zip-lining through jungles, white water rafting, bungee jumping, Muay Thai kickboxing, cooking classes, night markets, kayaking, floating restaurants, elephant washing, monkey attacks, mountain top temples, hikes through rice paddies, paradise-evoking beaches, fertility shrines with hundreds of wooden penises, neon paint parties and 27 new friends.
The second : living with a host family and the crab in the toilet, being given a new name by schoolchildren who can't figure out how your name works, having your fortunes read, trying (and failing) to create toys out of bamboo leaves, discovering the joys of squat toilets, getting rescued after sinking knee deep into mud while planting mangroves, watching the tide recede beneath the floorboards in the kitchen.
I learned so much in my time in Thailand about myself and about others. I learned that through perseverance I could climb that mountain and find the courage to bungee jump. I learned that I do like flavourful food and I can also cook without burning everything. I learned that there is a technique to using squat toilets and that motorbikes can fit a family of four. I learned that having to share a bed with someone will quickly turn that stranger into a friend so long as they can put up with my sleepwalking. I rediscovered my love of swimming and learned that making friends isn't quite as daunting as I had thought. I learned that you make your own happiness and I learned that there's nothing holding me back but myself.

How can this program be improved?
I'm not sure how much of a lasting effect our efforts will have in the village. We were repainting a classroom but we all felt we could have done more like fix furniture or fill in holes in the wall but we were told it wasn't possible to get fillers, even when we offered to pay for it. We were on an island but it was only two minutes from the mainland and it would have been relatively simple to buy, and now the work we did will probably have to be re-done because of all the holes.
Janelle
Female
25 years old
Kent, Washington
Pacific Lutheran University

Best thing I've ever done!

Overall 10

This was by far the best experience I've ever had. I got to work with elephants hand-on. We took walks, gave them baths, feed them, and learned a lot about them and about animals in the tourist industry. It was my first time in a different country and ISV helped me feel safe and prepared. I was worried about funds, but they offered solutions to help with fundraising. Overall, it was the best experience and I would recommend it to anyone.

How can this program be improved?
My only complaint was that I did not get my information about where I was going or what to expect until a month before and the time waiting for that information was very stressful.
Christine
Female
23 years old
Marshallville, Georgia
Georgia Southern University

Greatest Experience of My Life!

Overall 10

Asia was one continent that I never had a burning desire to go too, until I found information on ISV's Thailand volunteer program. While there, I volunteered at a school for low income children who were at high risk for becoming part of the human trafficking system. Majority of these kids came from nothing. Many of them wore the same clothes everyday, but even though they had nothing, they were the absolute happiest children I have ever seen! While at DEPDC, we (the volunteers) taught the children English, built a fence, painted a wall, cooked for the kids, and just played with them. It was the most rewarding experience I have ever been a part of, and I miss being there every single day! We also did a lot of adventure activities as well, such as zip lining, snorkeling/scuba diving, a Thai cooking class, sea and lake kayaking, elephant sanctuary, waterfalls,Thai kickboxing class, Xorbing,Thai massages, and lots of shopping and free time. All of these activities were pre-planned, so we were the only group participating while there. It was great because we NEVER had to wait in line anywhere. The food was AMAZING!!! So much better than Americanized Thai food.
I signed up to go on this trip by myself, and it was the best decision I have ever made! I met some absolutely amazing people from all over the world, and I still keep in touch with many of them. My experiences in Thailand are the best I have ever had, and I would 100% recommend this trip to anyone who has a desire to travel. This experience made me realize how lucky I am and has changed my views on the world and how to live life. I am forever grateful for ISV and this volunteer trip and am already trying to plan a trip back!

Jasmine
Female
30 years old
London, Ontario
McMaster University

An amazing first time volunteer experience

Overall 10

If you are new to volunteering or prefer a program that is all prearranged for you ISV is definitely the way to go. They create the itinerary and incorporate work and play very well. Having done other volunteer programs after this one I can appreciate how organized it was now. Great for people fresh out of school (average age was late teens to early 20's in my group) who are looking to see the country and make a difference at the same time.

How can this program be improved?
can't think of anything off the top of my head. I really enjoyed the experience.
Jenna
Female
24 years old
Sparta, NJ
Pennsylvania State University

An Incredible Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Overall 8

If you're looking to fully immerse yourself in a culture unlike your own, this program is a great fit. As a student who had studied abroad and visited 15+ countries, I could still never really say that I had been completely uncomfortable. And don't be nervous by my use of the word "uncomfortable"- because my "uncomfortable" experiences in life were my most fulfilling. This trip isn't your typical study abroad adventure. I had the opportunity to sleep in a Thai cabin in the middle of the jungle (~2 hours from major city Chiang Mai) on a floor mat, surrounded by girls who became some of my truest friends (and not going to lie, a lot of bugs- but the mosquito nets will protect you!).

The work wasn't glamorous or easy. But the reward is something I will carry with me for my entire life. We were working on the site of the kindest man I have ever met who strives to educate Thai people on sustainable living. However, they have very little resources. Despite this, they cooked for us 3 times a day, provided fresh filtered water and great games/discussions for us in the evening. For one week, we constructed a community church/meeting center for their small village where people could gather to learn, pray and communicate.

Over the weekend, we had two free days. Our project leader was kind enough to (at our request) book a hostel for us in Chiang Mai for Saturday night. We got in a van Saturday morning, and went to the city where we got to shop at markets and get fish pedicures! We explored the restaurants and nightlife a little bit at night as well. Sunday our leader took us to visit a temple, and we headed back to our volunteer site.

The second week, we had a little more fun- we paired off and each created lesson plans for different classes at a local elementary/middle school. The kids in this village are nothing like those in the US- teachers in Thailand are treated like royalty. They are appreciated, loved and respected. I had a class of adorable first graders, and even though we pretty much just learned the alphabet each day (they forget quickly at that age), I still felt like I was making an impact. When we gave them breaks, they all tackled me in hugs and brought me outside to play with them. No, they didn't play with video games, iPads or anything of the sort. They had sword fights with sticks fallen from the trees, they braided flowers into my hair and they kicked around a soccer ball. And they were having the time of their lives. I brought my iPhone one day to play the Chicken Dance song, and they were completely mesmerized by the strange device. It was really refreshing, and humbling to see the joy in their eyes as they played with the toys that the natural world gave them- sticks and flowers.

After our two week volunteer trip, I had also signed up for the adventure tour. This was the really fun part. We traveled throughout the country to about 6-8 different hotels, participating in a different adventure every day. My favorite was the zip-lining course (it's super safe and fun, I promise!). I also got to Xorb ball, white water raft, get a Thai massage, go to an elephant park, and much more. The elephant lessons are really eye-opening as well- there is a lot of controversy over the domestication of this beautiful creature, but at the elephant park you get to bathe, feed and touch the elephants in a safe place where they can roam free.

There is a lot of free time as well. Shopping is extremely inexpensive, so leave extra room in your bag! You need to respect the culture with your clothing during your volunteer portion for sure, but it's a little more lenient in the cities. The food is great, but prepare for spice (or make sure you tell them you don't like it ahead of time). I would recommend reiterating and mentioning any allergies you listed to your host family/leader upon arrival to verify they've been accounted for.

Overall, incredible experience. Don't be afraid to sign up alone, either. This program puts you with people you may not normally hang out with, but those people are the ones who are going to teach you the most about yourself. I left this trip a more appreciative, confident person with memories and friends that will last a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
Maybe a little more warning on the conditions of the volunteer project. Everything was safe and completely livable, but they kind of made it sound like it was going to be more glamorous than it was. I expected a bed based on the description, but wouldn't have been upset if it had read "You will be provided with a floor mat", instead of listing this as a "bed". It's nicer to not have high expectations let down.

There were also a lot of friendly lizards around the site and that would have been a good warning as well!
Hannah
Female
21 years old
Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona

Out of this world!

Overall 10

This trip was, by far, the most incredible thing I have ever done. I signed up knowing that it would be a new experience and I would be stepping out of my comfort zone, and that is exactly what the trip was about. I knew nobody going into the trip, and came back with lifelong friends. I learned so much about the many cultures of Thailand and so much about myself. My favorite moment was being surrounded by elephants and exquisite people in the jungle-something I will never forget.

How can this program be improved?
Nothing, it was quite organized.
Briana
Female
25 years old
Fairfield, CA
Sonoma State University

My trip to Thailand

Overall 10

I was lucky enough to go on an amazing trip to Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Not only did I get to experience the amazing culture, I also got to take care of one of the most magnificent creatures, the Elephant. It's hard to put into words how extraordinary this trip was. Every morning our group got to wake up to the sound of Elephants. Not only did we get to hear them every morning, we also got to dine with during breakfast on occasion! I wanted an up close experience with these animals and I got it. As volunteers, we cleaned the animals's "beds," fed them yummy fruits and vegetables, bathed them in the River Kwai, but we also got to help the sanctuary where the animals lived. We helped maintain the greenery and also traveled to collect more food for the hungry animals! Personally, living with these animals was my favorite part but experiencing the amazing culture in Thailand was eye-opening. While I have traveled in the United States, this was my first adventure abroad and the people of Thailand were some of the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever come across. My trip turned out to be more amazing than I could have ever imagined. I feel so lucky and so greatful to have been apart of something like this. Even though it has been a few years since I went, it is one of my most fondest memories that I continue to share with anyone who will listen! :-) It would be a dream come true to be able to go abroad again and volunteer somewhere special.

How can this program be improved?
I didn't have any problems with this program, everything ran very smoothly and I felt safe the enitire time.
Tarek
Male
30 years old
Chicago, IL
James Madison University

ISV Changed My Life

Overall 10

In 2009 I participated in an ISV student volunteer program in Thailand and it truly was a life changing experience. I volunteered for two weeks in a small fishing village, promoting eco-tourism by painting school buildings, teaching English to school children and adults, planting mangrove trees, and many other community development projects. Then I traveled Thailand for two weeks on a cultural adventure tour visiting the Elephant Nature Park, rock climbing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, white water rafting, jungle trekking, and more. I did more in those two weeks than I had previously done in my lifetime!

My experience in Thailand left me wanting more, inspiring me to join the Peace Corps. Five years later, I still look back fondly on my experience and continue to keep in touch with the friends, both fellow volunteers and Thai locals, that I made.

How can this program be improved?
The cost does seem high, but it is really a bargain for how much you get to do, and they do help with financing for those who need it.
Samantha
Female
22 years old
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
St. Mary's University College

ISV Thailand Volunteer Program - Teaching English

Overall 10

My ISV experience was largely excellent, however there were some aspects I believed could be better. For example, the work we were sent to do in the village didn't seem to have much of an impact. We were teaching English to small children who wouldn't have remembered the lessons after we'd left. We also we painting their school, but were not given the proper supplies to do so (broken paint brushes, watered down paint, etc.) We all wished we could do something better for them, such as teaching them not to litter and cleaning up the village. My program leader and I spent a lot of our free time doing just that in the hopes that we could help. It was frustrating because we all spent upwards of $5000 on the trip and had hoped to make a lasting impact, but we weren't provided with the tools to do so. Where did our money go? The Adventure Tour part of the program was excellent though!

How can this program be improved?
I would change the project in the village we volunteered in from teaching English to teaching proper methods of garbage disposal. Perhaps building some garbage cans to place around the village, and teaching the kids not to litter.
Kristen
Female
22 years old
San Diego, California
University of San Diego

What an experience!

Overall 10

Traveling to Thailand through ISV has truly been one of the best experiences of my entire life. I was able to work with elephants everyday and explore a culture vastly different from my own. It was extremely touching to interact with the local farmers and provide much-needed help. Seeing such a different culture truly broadened my global lens and inspired me to spend my life trying to better global conditions to the best of my abilities. In addition to being extremely meaningful, the trip was also very fun! My favorite part of our daily routine was cutting down banana trees for the farmers and bringing them back for the elephants to eat. We would cool off by swimming in the river with the elephants and giving them baths! We did this every single day, and it never ceased to brighten my day. We also were able to spend 2 days exploring the local town. We visited several Buddhist temples, a war museum, a famous bridge, and many shops. Furthermore, we spent 3 days on a wildlife reservation, where the ranger helped us pick our own food and we witnessed several wild elephants entering our camp! It was incredible! I never imagined I would have this opportunity, and I am incredibly grateful that I did.

How can this program be improved?
It would be helpful if flights were incorporated into the costs of the program.
Kira
Male
23 years old
Michigan
Michigan State University

Veterinary focused volunteer abroad

Overall 10

This was my first big trip abroad. Traveling to Thailand and working with elephants and people from all different backgrounds was a truly amazing experience. I can't put into words how much this trip impacted my life. I tried so many new things and immersed myself in a different culture. I left Thailand completely in love with traveling, I've gone to three other countries since!

Shannon
Female
24 years old
Colorado
Colorado State University

Great First Trip

Overall 10

My trip to Thailand was my first time out of the country. The group of people that I went with I became life long friends with! It was the most influential and life changing experience. Since this first trip, I have traveled all over Europe and to Africa. It sparked the travel bug in me! One of my favorite experience from Thailand was the ceremony we did on a kayak trip we went on. Being able to go into the ocean late at night with nothing but a blow up kayak and our guide was terrifying but moving. There was nothing else that mattered in the world than where we were at that moment. It was a very freeing experience that everyone should do. It felt like this was the only thing that mattered. This is just one small thing that happened during the trip. There are more stories than I could possibly write.

How can this program be improved?
The price of the program was the one thing I would change. it was a lot more expensive than other volunteer trips I have done
Schuyler
Female
20 years old
Appleton, WI
Lawrence University

Mae Kok Foundation in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Overall 10

In this program, we stayed at the Mae Kok Foundation. It is a nonprofit organization in which children, ages 3-17, can live and grow around Christian principles and discipline. The program is established for children whose families are unable to provide proper care for their children. The ultimate goal is to produce smart young men and women with the capabilities and knowledge about how to be successful in college and the future. We played with the children and taught them English. This place was our home just like theirs for two weeks.

How can this program be improved?
It would have been better if we would have been able to be around more of the locals to learn more about Thai culture (it was only two weeks).
Jenna
Female
25 years old
Glasgow
University of Glasgow

Baan Unrak Orphanage, Thailand

Overall 10

This company and programme qere absolutely fantastic. As cheesy as it sounds, it really was an experience of a lifetime. You make friends for life (which you get close to very quickly living in close proximity. .ie. learning how to use the squat toilet with trial and error was hilarious!). It was amazing to immerse yourself in the Thai culture, feel like you're really helping out and making a huge impact to the children's lives was very special and will always stay close to my heart.the adventure tour after the programme was insane and we saw Thailand in the most amazing ways! I always recommend this company to my friends when talking about my experience. You only live once everyone-go travel!

How can this program be improved?
Slightly more affordable
Kristina
Female
24 years old
Toronto
University of Toronto

Life Changing!

Overall 10

ISV is unique in that not only do you get to volunteer and help those in another country but you also get the opportunity to have a guided tour of the country and major attractions. I travelled to Thailand with ISV and participated in the wildlife conservation program which involved living and working at an elephant sanctuary. The ISV group was amazing, our group was small (only 10 of us) and some of them became my closest friends who I am still in contact with! The program was also incredible, waking up and walking to grab coffee surrounded by elephants was a once in a lifetime experience that I consider to be the best thing I have ever done! I would highly recommend this program to anyone between the ages of 18-25 because most of the other volunteers were in this age group. Since the entire program has a full-time guide I felt safe and as though I was getting the most out of my time in Thailand. I miss being there and wish it could have lasted forever!

How can this program be improved?
Because the trip is only 3 weeks long and half of it is spent volunteering you do not get to spend very much time exploring the country, however I don't think this could really be improved on because it was nice to get to see the entire country even if each destination was only for a day or two.
Amara
Female
21 years old
Terre Haute, IN
Purdue University

An experience of a lifetime

Overall 10

I could tell a million stories from that wonderful adventure. It is most certainly something I will never forget. One of my favorite stories is about a baby elephant. I worked at an elephant rescue center on my trip. One day we were riding a taxi (a very different kind of taxi, the whole back was open!) into the elephant center. Once we got there, we started to get ready to start working. All of a sudden, we heard this big group of elephants making noise you could hear from miles away. They were making the noises you'd expect to hear but also making noises that sounded like a Tiger growling! I had no idea before coming on this trip that elephants could make sounds like that. Anyways, we looked over and there was the baby elephant in the middle of a circle of several adult elephants, protecting the baby between all of them. It turns out that the baby elephant had gotten on the nerves of another "teenage" (meaning moody and bossy) elephant, and the teenage elephant started to push back at the baby elephant. It was incredible to see the instant love that those elephants had for that baby and to see them form a circle around him to keep him safe. This stuff is what you'd only see in Elephants nearly in the wild, and not anywhere else. Elephants are such loving and caring creatures, with so many social aspects to their lives. It was an eye-opening experience just being around them and seeing how they let you in, even to the most vulnerable parts of them.

How can this program be improved?
nothing
Liz
Female
22 years old
Wilmington, NC
Other

ISV Thailand

Overall 10

Going to volunteer with ISV in Thailand was the most life changing experience I have ever partaken in. We worked at a school that educated children who were at risk for human trafficking. I have worked with many children where I live because I am an elementary education major, but getting to know these kids and impacting each other's lives for the better is something I will never forget. Not only was I able to make a difference in the lives of people across the world, I made some of the most genuine friendships. I live in the US and I have plans to meet up with friends from Canada, Egypt, and Italy next summer. We have all kept in contact even after knowing each other for only two weeks!

How can this program be improved?
Have more communication with us before the program starts.
Rachael
Female
21 years old
Red Deer, Alberta
University of Alberta

My 4 weeks in Thailand from Rags to Riches

Overall 10

How do I even describe this adventure... To start off with I traveled with my boyfriend of two years, Samuel, the love of my life. Together we booked this trip one cold evening almost 9 months before the departure date. Both of us scraping our student bank accounts to meet the bill. Together we volunteered in the northern most part of Thailand next to the border of Burma in a little tiny village called Lesu, that mostly consisted of people that had fled the harsh life in Burma. We hand mixed cement until our backs felt like they were breaking and together our group of 12 built a cinder block and concrete wall around the town church and volunteer "house." We visited an integrative agricultural farm that was breaking the tradition of herbicide and pesticide use to better the environment. We drove to the local hot springs in the back of a truck enjoying the warm wind in our faces, the smiling people we passed and the heavy exotic smell of all the tropical plants. The village was small and poor, most people had no flush toilets and there we chickens EVERYWHERE and I mean everywhere. You don't understand the crow of a rooster until you've heard the dammned noise of 300 of them crowing at the same time!!!! After the two volunteer weeks of sleeping on a mat in a dirt floor shed we engaged in the adventure tour side of the trip. What a change, it was culture shock, we stayed in 4-5 star hotel on the beach with showers, beds, air conditioning, warm water, pools, paved roads, american-ish food, running water, all this unbelievably grandeur that was completely eye opening after the past two weeks of absolute minimalist living. We visited Elephants at a conservation park, went zip lining, snorkeling, horseback riding on the beach, beach time, swam in the ocean, kayaking, boat rides around Kao Sok national park, kickboxing, cooking lessons.... and so so so so much more. Thailand is a beautiful country, the food is manageable for a picky white girl and a digestively challenged white boy so i'm sure anyone can survive it. Would go back in a heart beat.. just need to not be a broke ass student....

How can this program be improved?
Preferably better access to Wifi would have been nice, even though it was available we only got 5-10 minutes of it a day. It was somewhat difficult to stay in touch with family back home. But on the flip side you became disconnected from your phone and could really enjoy the beauty around you.
Kelsey
Female
22 years old
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
University of Edinburgh

The Trip of a Lifetime!

Overall 10

I know it sounds super cliché, but my experience with ISV Thailand was TRULY life-altering. Living and working with a group of people you've never met before can be daunting, but I can attest that you will make friends for life. Everyone comes to ISV with similar intentions and interests so you're guaranteed to meet people with the same passions as you. The staff at ISV are also beyond incredible. They are helpful and funny and I am so happy to call them my friends. Besides the people I met, I had such a wealth of experiences in such a short period of time: I went white water rafting, scuba diving, bungee jumping, hiking through bamboo forests, kayaking, and so much more. I even bathed (rescued) elephants in a river. Cramming so many wild experiences in such a short period of time made it even more transcendent. The volunteer project itself was also phenomenal. I worked with animals rescued from illegal trade. I want to pursue a career in animal rehabilitation so this was exactly the experience I needed in an extremely welcoming environment. I could go on and on! I cannot sing ISV's praises enough: they are remarkably thorough and ethical and it is obvious that they care deeply about how much people enjoy the program. ISV Thailand had it all: cultural immersion, language exposure, AMAZING people, valuable and rewarding work, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I would recommend this program to everyone.

How can this program be improved?
I suppose that one thing that could be changed is the price; it is quite an expensive program. However, I do recognize that the price was reflected in the quality of our accommodation during the tour weeks. Also, I would love to have an option for longer volunteer projects with ISV. On that same token, with a longer project, I would hope that we could be given more responsibilities and opportunities around the site (although I know this isn't always feasible, safe, or appropriate depending on the host organization and the participants).
Dane
Male
22 years old
Greeley, Colorado / Victorville, California
University of Northern Colorado

International Student Volunteers - Thailand. Wildlife Rehabilitation

Overall 10

I loved seeing all of the temples and different displays of the Thai culture. I went on countless adventures and got to experience a great opportunity that kick-started my career in wildlife rehabilitation. I even got offered a job from the manager at the Love Wildlife center and I am pretty sure I'll be taking up that offer so I can gain some international reputation with NGOs and other organizations that I can work with after establishing connections overseas.

How can this program be improved?
I honestly can't think of anything that ISV themselves did wrong before/during/after the trip. The one thing I would change, would probably be the cost of it. Then again, we definitely got what we paid for.
Katy
Female
22 years old
Laramie, Wyoming
University of Wyoming

Best experience of my life

Overall 10

I can't express how incredible this trip was. Thailand is so unique and beautiful. My love wildlife project was amazing and I have never seen more in a month than in this trip. I met so many incredible people and saw beautiful sights. I'll never forget bungee jumping, white water rafting, hiking through the beautiful forests, and kayaking into a secret island full of monkeys. All together, it is a month of my life that I will never forget and I wish I could go back every day.

Kelly
Female
25 years old
Clifton park NY

Pre-vet Thailand was all the hands on experience I hoped for

Overall 8

I really enjoyed my time in Thailand because not only did I get a taste of Asian culture during my two weeks of travel but I got tons of hands on work with elephants at elephants world during my two weeks volunteering. We drew blood, cleaned wounds, bathed, fed, made blood smears and helped teach the mahouts how to clean the wounds properly for faster healing. We were welcomed with open arms by the staff at elephants world and I really felt like we helped make everything in their day to day operations easier. Adjusting to the intense heat and rough accommodations took some time but if you pack based on ISVs list you will have everything you need and more to be comfortable. It satiated my longing for adventure, exotic animals, and change of scene. The activities were well worth the little bit of extra money but I was content without the optional Cambodia package because after a long four weeks I was ready to sleep in my own bed. I met some great friends on the trip that I still keep in touch with and our tour leader Dr. Erika ward was a great asset to have since she had been living in Thailand and working will elephants for the past few years.

How can this program be improved?
Be able to get more information up front. A lot of trip information wasn't provided until a few weeks before departure and after payment so it was hard to assess for myself if the trip would be worth all of the money ahead of time
Heather
Female
Columbia, SC
University of South Carolina- Columbia

Life Changing Trip

Overall 10

Thailand was the most beautiful place I have ever visited. In the coarse of to weeks I met life long friends while helping others. One of the silliest stories from my trip was an adventure on the school bust with the children from DEDPC. Everyday we got to take the bus home with the kids, and the views were incredible. At the last stop one day the bus driver stopped and at first we thought it was odd, but then we got off and the views of the mountains were breath taking, and life just seemed simple.

How can this program be improved?
I would want to know how much money was going to our host organizations, and for there to be a little more structure at the host organizations.
Brittany
Female
Saginaw, Michigan
Saginaw Valley State University

A life-changing trip to say the least.

Overall 10

I absolutely loved Thailand. I feel in love with the people, the culture and most of all the experience. I instantly felt at home during my project and during my adventure tour. My only complaint is to update the travel manual to include an updated version of what to pack and what not to. I was aware of how conservative Thailand was, but not to the extent I should have been. Other than that, I would not change a thing. If I had the time left, I would go on another trip. I know I will be back to Thailand, the question is: When?

How can this program be improved?
Update the Travel Manuel: i.e. Packing list, Money.. ect.
Maria
Female
Raleigh, NC
North Carolina State University

The Experience of a Lifetime

Overall 9

During my travels I not only got the experience to be immersed in wildlife and work/play with elephants, but I got to be completed excepted by a group of friends and people in The Kingdom of Thailand and have a great time with them. The local people are lovely, genuine and sweet. The cities are beautiful and the islands will blow your mind! All the activities we get to do in each place makes the trip worth it. I felt really comfortable with everyone I met in every city I went to. It was special to volunteer in Thailand with elephants because the elephant is Thailand's national symbol, yet they are being mistreated. It was great to see the rescued elephants and educate others about how to properly care for elephants as well. This trip means so much to me and it has encouraged me to want to go back to Thailand again in the future. ISV made it a safe and awesome travel experience!!!

How can this program be improved?
I think the packing list should be more efficient and have less items on it, I ended up not needing so much stuff.

Sierra
Female
Flagstaff, AZ
Northern Arizona University

DEPDC Volunteer Work

Overall 9

Being in Thailand for a month was absolutely amazing. It was very eye-opening to get to spend two weeks working at a center for women and children in rural Thailand. I came back home extremely grateful for all that I have, and with the desire to continue serving this world.

How can this program be improved?
Less orientations. Or shorter ones at least.
Arlenys
Female
23 years old
Gainesville, FL
University of Florida

A Never Ending Story #TheThailandExperience

Overall 10

The program was clearly meant to help the community for those in the community development project, but what I never expected was my life to be impacted with amazing friendships and lessons to learn.

How can this program be improved?
During the adventure weeks, volunteers should not be treated like children. There should be different methods to communicate and promote the daily safety and policies without a daily (sometimes twice a day) speech on the same subjects.
Sherene
Female
18 years old
Doha,Qatar

Village visit

Overall 10

We went to the hill tribe village with the children and they were able to show us around. We hiked up the hills and it was muddy and slippery, but definetly worth it, as the view from that point is breathtaking.

How can this program be improved?
extend the length of time for volunteering
Amina
Female
18 years old
Jacksonville, Florida

ISV's Positive Impact

Overall 10

ISV has impacted my life in just two weeks so far and I cannot wait to see what is has in store for the next two. I absolutely adore the bond I created with almost every orphan I was around and I will be forever thankful and appreciative of this experience.

How can this program be improved?
I would work harder to assure that all of the ISV participants are required to actually volunteer, because there were a few instances where people did not do as much work as others.
Audrey
Female
18 years old
Fresno, California

Eye Opening Experience

Overall 10

Coming to Thailand with ISV was so life changing. I met such beautiful people in Mae Kok and I helped the community in multiple ways that I didn't know I was capable of. I would love to come back to volunteer again.

How can this program be improved?
For the high school program, I think the age limit should be 16 years old. Most of the volunteers in Thailand this June and July were under 16 and their maturity level was not fun to deal with.
Amanda
Female
18 years old
Gilbert, Arizona

Inspiring and Amazing

Overall 10

Overall, the program was very educational and fun. I learned a lot about Thai culture and the people I'm around, as well as myself. I felt very safe the whole time, and I think the program is amazing because of the adventurous and eye-opening activities and experiences that inspire.

R
Female
23 years old
Kingston
Queen's University

Incredibly Misleading and Money Grabbing Organization

Overall 6

In the Email from my project leader prior to my departure to Thailand, I was informed (the sentence underlined and strongly emphasized) that I would be assigned to teach English. However, as our group arrived for our first day of work, it quickly became apparent that the majority of what we were doing was manual labor. I would not have as much of a problem with this if we had been simply told upfront, but instead we were assured that we would be teaching English with literally not a single word about construction work only to get there and LITERALLY ONLY HAVE SPENT 2 HOURS OF A SINGLE DAY THE ENTIRE 2 WEEK TRIP teaching English with very short supplies. The rest was all construction work, helping cook, or babysitting children in highly unproductive settings with no teacher or staff present (the activity was literally called "babysitting"). The construction work in which we spent most of our time doing was highly unorganized and slow with half the group ending up standing around because they were unable to do anything. With a $4k+ program cost , I seriously question where all our money is going. The travel manual's program cost breakdown is vague and most of it seems to go to isv employees. The initial program cost that you see listed on their website is also not at all accurate. Expect to pay at least double that amount in the end with flight costs, "mandatory insurance", shots and medications, b.s. fees such as an extra $100 if you book your own separate flight from the group (dont pay it) if you do not live near LAX, an "optional " activity package and so on. The majority, if not my entire volunteer group of 15 people feel the same way and I personally would honestly not recommend ISV. There are plenty of other programs of a similar nature out there, where you can walk away feeling that you have made an actual impact, not spend 2 weeks to build 1/20th of a structure due to bad organization, chop vegetables , babysit a room of screaming children and spend under 2 hours actually teaching English the entire trip, and making no real impact.

Provider Response

Dear RG,

First of all, we are very concerned upon reading this review. We read all reviews and take the feedback seriously and act upon any issues or problem areas that are in within our power to improve.

We have been running ISV programs in partnership with DEPDC since 2007 and our volunteers have not only raved about the project, but together we have made some very meaningful and inspiring progress here, so please do not think that your project had no impact.

There are a numbers of issues that you raised in your review and I will address some of them here. For questions related to where your ISV program fees go, the travel/medical insurance requirement, and own flight fees, I will ask that you please contact our main office in California (by phone or via email) as we will be happy to explain these to you.

Since we saw this review, we have been working to determine what could have led you to believe we were misleading you in regards to your volunteer project description of tasks. We sent you a Project Summary about 55 days prior to your departure and a more detailed Project Overview 30 days prior, and both clearly state construction tasks at the top of the list of tasks, followed by teaching Basic English.

However, we’ve also read the introductory email from your Project Leader which does include a reminder that you will be involved in English language instruction with your group, along with a request to think ahead about lesson planning, fun games, and any donations of supplies, such as crayons, etc. that you may want to contribute to the DEPDC project. That email from your Thai Project Leader is meant to be an introduction to your ISV Leader before you arrive and to include any important reminders or other pre-departure information that may be useful to you. It is certainly not meant to give or substitute for the detailed information you are sent in the ISV Travel Manual, Project Summary or Project Overview. In fact, that introductory email also included an underlined and italicized reminder to read those important documents.

We certainly regret any misunderstanding that the introductory email resulted in, and we have altered the wording to make it clear that the English instruction is in addition to the construction tasks to ensure that this does not reoccur.

We feel strongly that the DEPDC project is a high quality and worthwhile endeavor in need of volunteer assistance as they work to prevent and raise awareness of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children, youth and women and to improve the lives of children in their care. Your Project Overview explains the type of interactions you can expect with the children and the reasons why the Center employs a “Play with Purpose” approach where volunteers use informal, fun and interactive games and activities to engage the children.

As for the construction tasks, we are addressing any shortage of tasks or lack of organization with the project hosts. It is possible that our hosts underestimated how quickly the tasks would be accomplished by your group and did not have sufficient back-up plans in place. ISV volunteers tend to be incredibly driven and hard workers and have been known to complete tasks in half the time or less than what was anticipated at their project site. I can tell you that we are in touch with all stakeholders involved to find out if indeed volunteers were left standing around with nothing to do, and if so what happened and why.

While we have yet to receive the participant evaluations from this group, I can tell you that the previous group (May 2015) of 14 ISV volunteers at DEPDC rated the project 4.8/5 and here are a couple of their testimonies:
• I loved this experience and it's really rewarding to see that just our presence in a community can change their whole day and give people a smile.
• I would mention the great organisation during the project. Also, the opportunity I had to learn and grow as an individual. This volunteer project was life changing. I have gained so much knowledge about the culture and people. The skills I have learned on this journey will not only impact me but the people I served too. I'm grateful for the time and effort that went into this project. I will never forget the children and friends I've met on this trip.
• I had amazing opportunities to learn and grow in a culture which taught me so much. My project leader made this experience so much fun. Her knowledge of Thai culture pushed me to want to learn more.
• Volunteering at DEPDC was so fulfilling. It was hard work but our efforts on the wall were much needed. It seemed like something they would not have been able to do without us, so I felt like I made a difference!
• It was incredibly rewarding and eye opening.
• I felt so accomplished and could visibly see change.

Sincerely,

Deanna Mathewson, International Education Director ISV

Sarah
Female
23 years old
Chicago
University of Wisconsin- Madison

Awful from day 1.

Overall 3

My ISV trip to Thailand was a disaster. The trip overview I received was nothing like the trip. The program's disorganization was appauling. From the Thai side, they could not have been more open and friendly. But from the ISV side, it seemed as if everything was strung together last minute. The outline sent to the volunteers described our work as "teaching English" but upon arrival was actually manual labor. Either way, I would have signed up, but that was very disleading. Also, having one leader guide and entire group of individuals in a foreign country was not enough. The amount of times my leader was not around was concerning. If something was needed and she wasn't close by, nothing got done. Overall, this organization is a disgrace to other international student volunteer services and it is astounding they have been able to stay afloat for so long.

Provider Response

Dear Sarah,

We're really disappointed to read this review. We've just checked every feedback/evaluation form for Thailand for volunteers that have just returned home from group 1, May 2015, and cannot find any comments like those you have provided as I had hoped to find specific comments that relate to your review.

Our community/children's development project for this date was rated by 14 total volunteers as 4.8/5, with nothing less than a 4/5 for overall experience and the project leader (the only female for this date) a 5/5. If you didn't feel comfortable expressing your concerns at the time that's fine, but instead, I would like to encourage you to write to our office ([email protected]) so we can openly talk about the issues you've raised. You may ask directly for the International Program Director as we want you to know that all feedback from volunteers are treated seriously but it will be necessary to get more specific feedback.

In regards to a couple of your comments - "everything was strung together last minute" - can you give us specifics in your email? I promise you, we take months to prepare for each group's arrival. Nothing is last minute, but that doesn't mean that at the project level, there aren't sometimes unavoidable changes to project tasks or project needs. This might explain the Project Overview listing tasks that might have been a bit different to what you actually experienced. This isn't deliberate, just a reality of working on community based projects where local situations do change from the time we send you the information until you arrive. We are sorry that you felt misled, but it sincerely wasn't intentional.

Regarding the ISV leader to guide volunteer group ratio - 1:15 is the maximum we usually work to. Generally most groups are smaller (more like 1:10). It depends on volunteers' preferences on that departure date, the capacity of our host organisation and the volunteer tasks planned. Our host organisation is also required to have a local supervisor/representative working alongside us at all times, in effect halving that ratio. Again, I would appreciate hearing from you any specific concerns you have about the leader's availability as it becomes a safety issue (safety was rated for this group as 4/9/5).

We've been proudly supporting sustainable development efforts now since 2002 and I genuinely wish your experience had been different to your review, but all we can do is ask that you help us by working more closely with us on details that we can action.

Most sincerely,

Narelle, International Student Volunteers Inc.

Cassidy
Female
23 years old
Perth, Western Australia
Murdoch University

Give it a go!

Overall 10

I would definitely recommend travelling to Thailand with ISV. They arranged everything and took a lot of worry off my mind. I had the best time, and met lots of new, interesting and friendly people. It's a great way to make new friends!

How can this program be improved?
less hiking
KATELIN
Female
23 years old
Perth, Australia
Edith Cowan University

Dramtically life changing

Overall 10

Trip of a lifetime! feeding, bathing, observing, caretaking for the elephants was breathtaking, learning and being amongst the elephants was incredible. You become carefree and change your perspective

How can this program be improved?
1. Western breakfasts - just a simple cereal would suffice, eating rice and deep fried food 3 meals a day got a bit too much
2. A clearer outline on the itinerary for the people who are only doing the 2 week programme e.g. what to pack... there was only a list for the 4 week programme
Kathrina
Female
23 years old
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco State University

Trip of a Lifetime

Overall 10

This trip was the best thing I've done for myself. Ive wanted to go to Asia for a little while, and when I heard about this, I took the plunge. As a solo traveler, it was great having ISV organize everything for me. I met people on this trip who are still my friends and now I have contacts across the globe. I loved being able to impact the country I was visiting, but also experience all it has to offer. I always felt safe, even when we would go out on our own. The guides helped us to have fun but also be safe when in a different country.
It was a bit expensive and getting the money together was a little difficult, but in the end it was worth every penny and I would do it all over again.
Best trip of my life, hands down.

How can this program be improved?
If i could change one thing, it would be to have more late starts. It didnt bother me much, but after a month of 9am starts you get tired and just want to sleep in. But like i said, not a huge deal, but if i had to change one thing that would be it
Sarah
Female
Los Angeles
Ithaca College

Amazing Unbeatable Life Changing Experience!

Overall 10

ISV is unique from other programs, it separates your trip into two parts, volunteer work and adventure tour.

VOLUNTEER Project: I was at a Life Development Center (LDC).

We raked a forest to help prevent spread of fires, we built dams to help slow the flow of water during the rainy season, we built a cement wall to stop flooding during the rainy season, and we taught local Thai kids English and played with them.

At night our project leader Racha taught us basic Thai phrases and discussed various topics including tourist vs. traveler, sustainability/development, and culture. She is super knowledgeable and answered all our questions.

We slept next to each other on mats on the floor, while surrounded by mosquito nets. We woke up to roosters crowing every morning at 5am.

Weekends were open. Our first weekend our host Manop gave us a tour of the hill tribes and background info on the land and the tribes, and our project leader Racha took us (we paid for taxis and entry) to a waterfall, hot spring, and cave. She also showed us a nearby hotel/cottage we could stay at the following weekend, we all agreed. For 4 cottages with 4 people in each, a lot of food and alcohol, and some unforgettable memories we each paid around $20 for that weekend. It was a great bonding experience.

Our project leader Racha is now the head of volunteer projects for the ISV Thailand programs. I still keep in touch with her, she has stayed with me twice now while visiting Los Angeles.

This was a very fulfilling and meaningful experience and great send off in to the adventure tour. I learned a lot and the living conditions were completely out of my comfort zone.

ADVENTURE Tour:

Included rockclimbing, a Thai cooking class, temples tour, couple day jungle trek/hike, white water rafting, Elephant Nature Park (favorite spot), lake tour, kayaking, young locals boxing, locals playing with fire, islands (some of the most beautiful places I have ever been).

We had a couple free days, our adventure leader Milk suggested stuff to do. I went zip lining with some people from our group one of the days, we could also just hang out and walk around if we wanted. We had time to do some lunches and dinners together. There were a good amount of fun nights out and everlasting memories in here as well. Our group had 4 birthdays during the adventure tour, and our adventure leader Milk got each of them a cake.

We only stayed at one typical hotel during the adventure tour. The rest were more like cottages, felt natural and outdoorsy, made of bamboo and wood. One even had a closed in outdoors shower and bathroom, this was nice with the touch of natural light. I absolutely loved the places we stayed at, they were mostly near beaches, rivers, or mountains, they were all beautiful and felt different like we were more immersed in the society. We were warned of monkeys getting into our stuff at some of the places, we had to ensure windows were closed and food was not left out. There some spider and lizard freak outs as well.

ISV:
- I like that ISV separates volunteer and adventure... Our volunteer project leader was perfect for her position and our adventure tour leader was perfect for her position.

I am still close with several people from my group. I am lucky to have grown such a close bond with them. They are what made the trip so amazing.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly all I can remember is the good. The main issue is probably cost, that's typical of these types of programs though.

I remember wishing we were brought to the kids sooner while at the Life Development Center, we would have gone to play with them every afternoon if we knew we could, but we did not do anything with them until the final days.

I wouldn't take back any of the days they gave us on the adventure tour, ISV's itinerary was great. Perhaps if their were more days, I would add stuff in. I would have liked to spend time in Bangkok, I figured we didn't go there because the program is focused on less developed parts of Thailand which is understandable for what they're going for. I also hear Bangkok is just like any city, and I liked getting out of my comfort zone and seeing something different from what I can find at home.

I think having a group of 12 for the volunteer project was the perfect amount. It was small enough to grow close without being too small.

**Something to keep in mind by doing this type of program is that we did not interact with many thai people. When you travel independently you meet locals and can learn from them and their stories, but everyone in our group was from US/Canada and spoke English and we did everything together. So we were not as immersed in the culture in that sense. If you're new to traveling this program is probably a better start. I felt safer by having my new friends to experience all the new places with me.

**It also feels safer to have thai native leaders and an organized program from professionals who know the ins and outs of the country, planning a trip like this from another country without years of knowledge has the potential to not go as smoothly or be as safe.

I'd suggest improving this review site to allow me to include more pictures in my review.
Amazing Unbeatable Life Changing Experience!
Alyssa
Female
23 years old
Canada
Mount Royal University

ISV - Thailand

Overall 9

My day to day experiences in Thailand for the volunteer experience included learning about organic farming, and helping to plant a variety of fruit in order to help encourage the development of sustainable farming in the area. We met some different tribes, and also went to a local school where we taught the children some english, as well as played games with them.
The following two weeks was the adventure part, and my favourite part of that included the island hopping. The scenery is amazing, the most beautiful I have ever seen, memories of Railay beach are still so vibrant in my mind.
The people I met were also awesome, I had never travelled by myself before and our group was made up of such chill people, we all got along so well.
Definitely an amazing experience for what it teaches you about the world and yourself.

How can this program be improved?
There was an abundance of people who wanted to be involved with the elephant nature park and did not get to. It seemed to be the most popular program, so I would suggest allowing a greater number of people, or perhaps more excursions to this area.
Bethany
Female
23 years old
Pullman, Washington
Washington State University

Wish I could write more!

Overall 10

This was the best vacation I had ever had. I am so thankful I chose to stay for the adventure tour, because I would not have seen/done as much if I went on my own. I won't soon forget the incredible experiences I had volunteering with the elephant nature park, the unique experiences I gained, and how much I learned! Not many can say they bathed, fed, treated, and even were kissed by an elephant, and I hope prospective employers (I'm a zoologist) with recognize that.
The hill tribe village was an other experience entirely. My experience there so was extraordinary, I can barely put it into words. The feeling you get when the shy children begin to trust you, then become so comfortable with you that they take pictures on your camera, play with your hair, and demand piggy back rides, even when you can't verbally communicate, is incredible.

How can this program be improved?
We didn't get to do everything that was on the list on the kayak tour, so perhaps chose a better company?
Ericka
Female
31 years old
Melbourne, Australia
University of Alberta

ISV- Thailand elephants

Overall 9

This program consisted of a week at ENP (elephant nature park) where the highlights included feeding and bathing the elephants. The second week was spent with a hill tribe where we built a squat toilet and "taught" English to school kids, highlight was definitely playing with the kids. The last two weeks were spent travelling with the group. I would really recommend this program especially to new travellers as it is stress free and everything is scheduled and arranged for you.

Katie
Female
23 years old
Fargo, ND
North Dakota State University

Summer with ISV Thailand

Overall 10

The Thailand trip was a culture shock in the best way. We got to see through real life experiences how villagers live and got to experience wild elephant sanctuary and learn how life is for the elephants. Even though the stories of the elephants were heartbreaking, it was such a relief to see then flourishing. The first week without electricity was interesting. I really got to see how much we rely on electricity and all of our electronics. We had to work out in the hot sun and cook our own meals but even with all of that, we all got really close so that was nice. We bonded over playing cards, taking breaks in the shade, and eating around our giant rectangular table.The second week with the elephants was very cool. Hearing the stories of the elephants and seeing how far they have come was amazing. My heart still breaks a little when I look back at some photo and when I hear people talking about riding elephants because I know how bad that is for them and have see what it does to the elephants. The last two weeks were amazing. We traveled all over the place doing a bunch of activities. My favorite was going to the markets in Chiang Mia. There was so much going on and so much to see you never got all the way through it. My only big difficulty with the trip was the fact that people could not get over being on their phones. You are in a beautiful country, so put down your phone and enjoy what is in front of you. That would be my advice. Put down the phone and look what is happening around. Yes I missed my family and friends but I was only in Thailand for 4 weeks. My family and friend will their when I get back, so why not enjoy it.

How can this program be improved?
There was a lot of time traveling in vans/vehicles. That would be the only thing I would change. Find a way to do many things but don't travel so much to get there.
Maddie
Female
23 years old
Milwaukee US
University of Nottingham

ISV - Trip to Thailand to Volunteer with Elephants!

Overall 10

There is literally nothing I would recommend more than this trip. The food, people, animals, scenery & education are indescribable and every single day brought new amazing moments. The leader Brian was the greatest teacher and was extremely passionate and calming. The volunteering itself was more than I could have imagined. You saw what you were contributing to at the roots of the community and you could literally see the change you were making with every brick. I met amazing people and actually met my wife whilst I was out there and we have stayed together through numerous time zones and country moves so its safe to say that my life was never the same. But in addition to how my life changed, what I learnt about myself was an absolutely invaluable experience.

How can this program be improved?
I would just like it to have been slightly longer in the two locations as I enjoyed them both so much!
Tristan
Male
23 years old
Moscow, ID
University of Idaho

More than I could have ever hoped for!

Overall 10

I knew very little about Thailand before visiting it and now I feel like I am fairly informed about the country's culture, political environment, and history. I loved my volunteer project most of all; I was able to live in a mountain Hill Tribe and build a tree nursery for a local tribe of Karen people. I was also fortunate enough to serve at the Elephant Nature Park and spend a week working for and with 39 rescued and rehabilitated elephants. That was the most life-changing aspect of the trip if I had to pick just one. I am now passionate about animal rights and conservation and I am working via social media to spread the word as well as taking every opportunity I can to talk to people and raise awareness to some of the problems going on throughout the world and specifically with elephant tourism.

The adventure tour was also incredible. I got to go sea kayaking, zip-lining, snorkeling, get a Thai massage (amazing!!), learn to cook Thai food (I'm now a master), and tour the many Buddhist temples around Chiang Mai while learning more about the philosophy and how the Thai people practice it. These are, of course, only a few of the many things extraordinary things I got to do on the adventure tour. I met some amazing people and made some life-long friends. I'm already making plans to go back and hopefully bring some of them along with me!

If you are considering this program, consider no more. Your decision has been made, you MUST go! It's the experience of a lifetime and you will never regret it!

Nathalia
Female
23 years old
Albuquerque, NM
University of New Mexico

Amazing!

Overall 10

My Thailand trip was amazing. I spent two weeks volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park and two weeks touring. The cost was extremely reasonable for the amount of knowledge and experience you gain! The staff involved, cared tremendously about the work they do and they take seriously the goals they are trying to reach. The staff was extremely friendly and informative; they educate you. This was definately a learning experience. You had the option to explore the cities yourself and really get the chance to immerse yourself in the culture. I would do it all over again. I strongly recommend taking the opportunity to travel with ISV. Make sure you take extra money. I took $500 US and in a month it was gone. I was able to stretch it until the very end but having $600 US probably would've helped. Take bug bite markers and lots of bug spray. I cannot recall the actual name, but it helps with scarring. Hiking boots, tall socks and windbreaker pants that can be converted to shorts really help as well. Do not forget to hydrate! I hope this review helps and gets you pumped! You won't regret it at all. You make life long friends as well. I love keeping up with the Park, my Tour guides and friends I made on the trip.

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to be warned a little more about what to expect. Although every ones experience differs, an idea of how much money to bring, and a heads up that they expect tip for the adventures would've been nice. Other then that, i had no issue. Everyone was friendly, informative and cautioned.
Laura
Female
23 years old
Australia
Other

Volunteering in a Paradise

Overall 9

Before this program I had not traveled overseas and although I was nervous I found that ISV was a great way for me to begin travelling and to experience other cultures. From the moment my application was approved to the moment I returned home ISV constantly ensured that I was enjoying my experience and that any questions, issues or concerns that I had were dealt with promptly.

I found that during my travels I met so many like minded people that made my experience even better.

I volunteered at Mae Kok Foundation which not only does amazing work for the community but also looks absolutely stunning! I was so excited to work with the children in the local community and found that playing with them and sharing knowledge was the most rewarding part of the whole experience.

We did work on physical projects like building a flood wall however the work was not too hard and as long as you give it a go you can still make a difference. along we this we visited local hill tribes, taught at "English camp" (a local college), played games with the children at Mae Kok and visited a local primary school.

Along with this we were spoiled by stunning views, yummy meals, mocha cake, fruit, natural hot spares, waterfalls, Buddhist temples and so much more. I was expecting to be exhausted and out of my comfort one but found I was in a kind of paradise.

a truly amazing first travelling experience.

How can this program be improved?
The packing list could probably be updated.
Heather
Female
23 years old
Canada
Dalhousie University

Costly, but worth it

Overall 10

The program cost was around $4000, though total cost (incl req'd gear and flights) came close to $10 000. That said, no regrets. If I'd known, I would have done more fundraising.

Word to the wise, plan to do the optional excursion pack. I was the only person in our group of 30 to not, and ended up spending the money while over there to keep from being on my own (safety first).

You will meet amazing, like-minded people on this trip. You'll learn so much and experience more than the itinerary can describe. And the food. Dear sweet baby jesus, the food. You'll fall in love with every aspect of this trip. Unexpected bonus: the bugs weren't even that bad!

How can this program be improved?
More volunteering during the first two weeks. We can work harder!
Megan
Female
23 years old
New Jersey
University of Delaware

ISV Thailand 2014

Overall 10

Over winter 2014 my sister and I traveled to Thailand with ISV. It was a life changing experience which I cherish the memories of. ISV was an amazingly run program with a very helpful staff. Our project was located in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai which we helped local refugees with daily actives. A group of about 15 of us helped build a pig pen, make a path for rainy season, taught English in school, and visited local tribes. The experience was something one could not get being a tourist. I would love to go back on another ISV trip and would highly encourage everyone to go on one!

Izzy
Female
23 years old
Perth, Western Australia
Curtin University- Perth

An adventure everyone should experience

Overall 7

This adventure was one where you didn't know what to expect but the uncertainty of it unraveled a sense of freedom. From living in a remote wildlife conservation center in the jungle and traveling through Thailand, you were rewarded with a life changing experience. Volunteering started off being emotionally and physically painful as you had no idea what to expect. But the feeling of helping construct an area where animals could be protected and given the life they deserve was honestly the most amazing gift. Especially seeing baby bears moved from their cage into an enclosure we built for them, it was like seeing a child enter a playground for the first time.

But helping the animals was not the most important part of the trip, it was mixing with so many different people which was the highlight for me. You formed a little family who you would venture of this journey with, whether you liked it or not. Through being placed in an environment you are not familiar with and being surrounded by people you didn't know, you began to develop a tolerance to each others differences and thrived as a group; making friends you'll never forget.

Jackie
Female
23 years old
New Jersey, USA
Rutgers University

The Best Way to Travel

Overall 10

I volunteered at the Life Development Center in the Chiang Dao region of Thailand with my sister and 11 other group members. Not only did I get to see and experience the coolest things, but I made great friends along the way. ISV did a great job of keeping us busy and filling every moment of the day with activities. We did everything from laying cement, to hiking, to teaching English in schools, to exploring the city of Chiang Mai. It was an experience that I know I will remember for a lifetime. We slept in plywood cabins, pretty much in the jungle, and only had very cold water showers. So we lived the way people in that region live, which was really eye opening. You would never get this view and understanding of the culture in Thailand going as a tourist. ISV did an amazing job of making volunteering fun and exciting everyday.

How can this program be improved?
I think the price of the program was a little too expensive, there were definitely some costs that I didn't think were necessary.
Sandri
Female
23 years old
New Zealand
Murdoch University

A Eyeopening Experience

Overall 10

This trip was one of the most rewarding things that I have done. Not only did I make some friends that I will keep for a lifetime, I have memories that will last a lifetime. The program offered the opportunity to get to know the how the people of Thailand live and what they believe in, to learn about some of the issue there are in Thailand and also provided our tour group with some varied and fantastic opportunities to travel as tourist in the country. I loved spending time in the north of Thailand, it was beautiful and relaxed but bustling and busy at the same time. The trip was very full on, which was great because I was never bored, I do recommend that you spend the few extra dollars and get the additional activity pack, it really is worth it.

How can this program be improved?
We went to a wildlife sanctuary which was absolutely amazing, but we were so cold every night for the 2 weeks that we spent there, so I would definitely recommend despite people claiming thailand is hot, that if you are going in winter you bring a nice work jumper and a long pair of pants to sleep in.
Toneya
Female
23 years old
Brisbane
University of Queensland

Highly Reccommended

Overall 9

My cousin and I spent an amazing two weeks helping at the Elephant Nature Park and at a Rural School with ISV in Thailand. The first week was jam packed with activities centered around helping the park, some of it was hard work but all extremely rewarding. The highlight was the daily washing of the Elephants, getting up close and personal was a fabulous experience. The second week we helped build the foundations of a kitchen for a rural school. I got to meet some inspiring people and look forward to going back.

Lynsey
Female
31 years old
Albany, NY
Albany State University

Wildlife One - where are the animals?

Overall 8

I thought this experience was worth it because I made lasting friendships with people across North America and because I was able to travel to Thailand. I didn't know what program I was part of before going on this trip, even though the tour guide emailed our group some information, she didn't even say what the volunteer work would be like or what we would be doing. It would have been more comforting to know this information before boarding the plane.

The staff at Wildlife One were very nice but not that accommodating. We were promised mosquito nets but didn't get those until the end of the last week we were there. I would wake up with bug bites all over me. The boss didn't have a solid plan of what he was going to do with us so we helped to dig holes and fill up those same holes. We had to move trees by hand because the mote had already been dug for the island. It was just all over poor planning.

Donya
Female
23 years old
United Kingdom
University of the West of Scotland

perfect summer

Overall 10

I loved every second about this program, from farming to teaching to painting even if it was tiring, the energy and atmosphere that you are in is incredible! its very rewarding that you can make a difference in someone's life.

Breana
Female
23 years old
Michigan
Michigan State University

Thailand Pre-vet Trip

Overall 9

This experience was very hands on and was an amazing vet experience. A variety of animals were available to get experience such as elephants, swamp buffalo, rabbits, dogs and cats. It was awesome to be able to work alongside the local veterinarians.

How can this program be improved?
Making sure other programs aren't scheduled at the same time. Traveling, not so much back and forth between destinations. Also, cost I understand there are program fees but it is a rather expensive experience.
Heather
Female
23 years old
Santa Barbara, California
University of California- Santa Barbara

Thailand stole my heart

Overall 10

Getting to be up close and personal with rescued elephants was something I will never forget. Thailand with ISV was a life-changing experience in the best possible way and the trip exceeded my expectations. The staff was absolutely amazing and I made a lot of new friends from all over the world which was really fun.

How can this program be improved?
The food was not very good at the Elephant Nature Park but it wasn't a big deal
Cora
Female
23 years old
Minneapolis
University of Minnesota

An absolutely wonderful program

Overall 10

Traveling to Thailand with ISV was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Everything was planned out so well, and the work we did was very meaningful. The other volunteers were so fabulous as well.

How can this program be improved?
I wished they had offered optional trips following the program to Cambodia or Vietnam.
Doraly
Female
23 years old
New York City
Syracuse University

Great Experience

Overall 8

The program was great. Learned a lot and experienced a great deal. There was little planning, minimal care for safety, things were figured out on the spot. For the price I expected more, I think it's a bit over priced for the average person to afford.

However the people were nice and caring, they attempted to make a schedule and tried to always accommodate the group. The stay itself was rough, but it was a great learning experience.

How can this program be improved?
Needs more safety and structure.
Rayna
Female
23 years old
Canada
University of Winnipeg

Thailand ISV

Overall 8

Signing myself up for a volunteer trip across the world was the scariest thing I had ever done in my life. But it was completely worth it. The 2 weeks of volunteer completely changed my life. The wildlife sanctuary I worked with were the kindest group of people who truly cared about the work they do with the animals and environment. Their passion was so evident to us students and they treated us with the same kindness and care. The work could sometimes be hard but the people you surrounded yourself with made it enjoyable. Our group leader specifically, did not impress me as much. He was kind, knowledgeable, and passionate about his volunteer work but he could get wrapped up in being social with some girls in the group. Afterwords, the 2 weeks of adventure and holiday were amazing but strange. Our activities were the time of my life. I cannot emphasize how amazing it was to go zip lining, white water rafting, bathe elephants, cook thai food and wander around Buddhist temples. It made everyday of the year that I worked to save for this trip worth it. The only issues I had with the program were the costs and where our money went to. The program cost itself was expensive and I realized most of the expenses were for the 2 weeks of holidays at the end. The hotels and villas we stayed in were beautiful, but some nights we were literally arriving to go to bed and leave early the next day for the next destination or activity. Then we would come back late, go to bed and pack up the next day. There was no time to fully enjoy the evening at the beautiful wooden cabins we were brought to. As we were boarding our flight to go to the islands for the last week of our ISV trip, we found out the program had forgotten to book our tour leader her own plane ticket. She gave us instructions where to go should we have to fly without her, but luckily she was able to buy herself a spot on the plane. This should have never been an issue and it gave us unnecessary worry.

All in all the 4 weeks of Thailand flew by so quickly and I would never trade this experience for anything. Despite going back to school with hardly any money in my bank account, I would recommend this program to anyone who loves to travel, loves adventure, and loves meeting new people and new experiences.

How can this program be improved?
Some of the organization of the adventure tour could be improved. I thought it was a little bit of a waste to fly, then bus, then boat, then tuk tuk to our hotel when we only got the chance to sleep there and then make half that trek back for our activity. We could have cut a lot of those costs back if we stayed somewhere closer.
Becca
Female
23 years old
Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University

A trip worth remembering

Overall 8

I traveled with ISV to Thailand during the summer of 2011 with 11 other college-age students from around the country. This was the first time I had been involved with a group outside of my community or school, and I would say it was definitely worth it.

I met other ISV participants at the LAX airport where we all wore our distinct t-shirts and waited in anticipation for the long flight ahead. As each group split into smaller flights, I got to know individual participants that I would be spending the next two weeks with. Three guys and nine girls from places like California, Washington, Texas, and Canada. We met our group leader at the Bangkok airport, and she immediately welcomed us and helped is feel comfortable. This would be a fun group.

We stayed at the Makhampom Theater Foundation in Chiang Dao. This organization partners with local schools to provide workshops and activities using books, puppetry, music, and theater. As a group, we got to prepare a day's worth of material to teach kids English, perform a skit about conserving the environment, and use recycled materials to create puppets and toys. We went to three different elementary schools, and my favorite part was the excited welcome we received from each of the young students. Although we couldn't communicate well through words, we chased each other across the playground, played hand games, and gave each other hugs and warm goodbyes at the end of the day. The kids loved having us there, and I learned so much from their instant love and desire to learn.

When we weren't teaching at a school, we spent our days biking to various sites. We rode past rice fields to temples, caves, hot springs, and a river where we went bamboo rafting. This trip was not without its adventures. We spent a day in Bangkok exploring the market and buying gifts for friends and family back home.

One of the best parts of traveling to a foreign country is the food. Every meal was rice based, and the dishes included a delicious variety of vegetables, meats, and spices. Breakfast always included yummy sweet foods such as dragon fruit, purple rice wrapped in a banana leaf, and pineapple. It was hard to return home without the native Thai fruits.

Yes, this trip was worth it. It was only two weeks long, but it stuck with me for life. I discovered lots about myself. I associated with people with many different beliefs and backgrounds, and we all accepted each other completely. I would recommend a volunteer trip to anyone, because you will get an important glimpse of a world beyond your own.

How can this program be improved?
The program was more expensive than I expected it to be. I wish ISV would have prepared me more for the expenses I would have to pay.
obianuju
Female
23 years old
Canada
McMaster University

THAILAND ADVENTIURES

Overall 10

My group spent a week planting seeds and working with the community. The next week was spent in and Elephant Nature Park which was amazing. Overall, the people were all lovely and I never saw anyone without a smile. The scenery and nightlife were gorgeous and I loved trying out the different foods. My absolute favourite is the mango sticky rice and Thai Ice Tea. What I wouldn't give to have those right now. The remaining 2 weeks were spent in an adventure tour. We went zip-lining,kayaking,snorkelling,hiking,white-water rafting and others. The program was very thorough in taking good care of us and I got to meet some amazing people.Would definitely do it again if I had the chance

How can this program be improved?
Incorporating more language lessons
Daralynn
Female
23 years old
Edmonton
University of Alberta

Beyond my Expectations!

Overall 10

The people, places, activities and the volunteering were all amazing! I was super nervous when I signed up for 4 weeks. But it was a really life changing experience that I wish would have lasted longer! I volunteered at Wildlife1 we helped feed animals, build new cages and a new volunteer space. Everyone I met were super nice and fun. During the adventure portion we did so many fun and physical challenging activities, (rock climbing, trekking, kayaking, snorkeling). It really pushed me. Being in Thailand was amazing, the culture was so fascinating and the food was always tasty! I would highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for something different, fun and valuable.

How can this program be improved?
It was expensive!
Aaron
Male
23 years old
Southfield Mi
Oakland University

my thoughts

Overall 8

it was a great expierence and I loved the people I was with. I have enjoyed on the idea of helping the community and also learning about a different culture all along the way. We see all the time people struggling but no one normally wants to help.

How can this program be improved?
none
Michelle
Female
31 years old
Atlanta, GA
George Washington University

ISV THAILAND

Overall 10

I spent a month with an amazing group of people I still stay in touch with to this day. We bonded over bamboo beds, thai tea and the inability to make our students pronounce "R" correctly. I love ISV!

How can this program be improved?
Not have it so super structured and let us do things on our own.
Shelby
Female
23 years old
Berkeley, California! Hi!!
University of Colorado- Boulder

Amazing opportunity that will change you!

Overall 10

ISV is a wonderful organization that is conscious of providing an authentic experience and always practices sustainable and respectful tourism! I am from America and it was definitely a challenge to be in such a different culture and cut off from instant technology, but that's also one of the many reasons it was so awesome. It's important to control your expectations and know that you are only volunteering for two weeks and that long term development takes time. Go in with an open mind, patience, and sense of adventure and you will have an incredible journey

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, it is a great program. My advice to volunteers would be to take advantage of the wise and wonderful people around you. And to the program maybe take advantage of individual strengths more instead of having us all do the same tasks .
Elizabeth
Female
23 years old
Fort Collins, CO
Colorado State University

Volunteering in Thailand - A Life Changing Experience

Overall 10

In 2013, I spent four weeks of my summer volunteering in Thailand, "the land of smiles." I participated in the ISV program at Wildlife 1 Rehabilitation Center in Chiang Dao.
Every day, we would wake up to the glow of the sunrise as it danced over our eyes through the wooden shudders of our sleeping quarters. The sounds of awakening jungle creatures acted as our alarm, never failing to raise us from our cots at the crack of dawn. Thirteen volunteers and five employees sat together at breakfast, discussing the plans and duties of the day below the radiance of the rising sun. Our days began early, but they ended early to avoid the powerful heat. The volunteers were always split in half; one half tended to the animals while the others continued work on the property. Everyday tasks included feeding animals and cleaning their cages, enriching new enclosures with infrastructure, and tending to the garden. A beautiful component of Thai culture is its unyielding appreciation for nature. At Wildlife 1, this gratitude and respect for the environment was heavily emphasized.
So little can be understood about life if we remain in our comfort zones, afraid to accept differences and grasp the complexities of other cultures. Thailand and Wildlife 1 taught me more in four weeks than I have learned in the twenty-one years of my life. I learned about the magnificence of another culture. I was struck by the glistening smiles of individuals as they walked barefoot through the streets, all of their belongings fitted in a bag slung over their back. I gained insight into the dark world of wildlife trafficking, and helped to nurse victims back to health. I discovered how much is taken for granted in the U.S. where we complain when our food isn't cooked right, or our hot water heater is broken. But above all, I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would.
Whether you are an experienced traveler, or you may be considering your first journey out of the country, ISV Thailand is a great program. ISV is very structured, so you don't have to do much in the way of planning. But you also have the freedom to choose different activities, and shape your experience towards your own personal goals.
Before embarking on my journey to Thailand, I was overpowered with nervousness and excitement for weeks leading up to my adventure; I had no idea what to expect. But upon my arrival, it didn't take long for me to realize that this was the best decision I had made with my life thus far. Traveling abroad is one of the most eye opening and mind expanding experiences in life, but volunteering abroad adds an entirely different element.

My advice to all:
1. Break your safety bubble, and jump out of your comfort zone. It may be scary at first, but it is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
2. Be flexible.
3. Open up. ISV is wonderful in the fact that you are surrounded by people with like minded ambitions. Get to know the strangers around you, and in turn you will learn more about yourself, and create lifelong friendships.
6. Work Hard! Volunteering is extremely rewarding. The more effort you put in, the bigger the impact you will make, and the better you will feel.
5. HAVE FUN
6. Bring bug spray...

How can this program be improved?
ISV can be quite expensive. Fundraise as much as you can, and the program will be that much more worth it through the hard work.
Sarah
Female
23 years old
Montreal, Canada
McGill University

ISV Thailand-Wildlife 1

Overall 9

Such an adventure-great project! Built enrichments for animal enclosures, fed rescued animals, planted permaculture garden, taught English and conservation at local school, set up camera traps, visited temples and explored the local culture. Project leaders were kind-hearted, organized, and knowledgable. Intimate project experience with a large impact.

How can this program be improved?
I wish that only the project group could have traveled on the adventure tour. There were too many people on the tour after the projects were finished, and some of them were not very respectful to the local people.
Lyndsey
Female
41 years old
Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin- Madison

Amazing!

Overall 10

Exceeded my expectations and changed my life. I am already saving for my next ISV trip. The organization was outstanding and I loved both my 3 ISV leaders as well as my local volunteer guide from ENP.

How can this program be improved?
The whitewater rafting. It was too early in the rainy season in June and the water was really low. Also, in order to get to the dtop off area in the river, we had to go through a trekking camp. After just being at ENP, seeing starving elephants being abused ruined the whole rafting experience that followed.

Also, I hated the school experience at ENP. I felt like all they cared about was our money instead of us meeting the children and actually helping them learn.
Hilary
Female
31 years old
Nashville, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University

Only worth it when looked back on

Overall 7

While many aspects of this adventure made it worthwhile overall, it absolutely was not what I was expecting. I did the Hill Tribe Village/Elephant Nature Park volunteer trip. I worked nonstop for 6 weeks to fundraise the money for the program because I applied so last minute, and only wanted to go to begin with because of the elephants. As an American, our journey there was incredibly long - but I expected that. I wasn't happy to have to front the cost of my flight to LA in addition to everything else, but I did anything necessary to make sure I could help the elephants. After 57 hours of continuous travel, we landed in Chiang Mai. From there it was another hour van ride, 30 minutes PICK UP truck ride [in the bed, not the cab] and hike to our destination.

Our first assignment was to build a new temple for a monk in a very remote Hill Tribe Village. Living conditions here were beyond horrid. Never mind the zero contact with the outside world, I'm talking the basics. No way to flush a toilet. No running water for showers [showers were bucket style, where you take a bowl of freezing FILTHY water and pour it over your head in a room with no hooks for clean clothes, and crawling with hundreds and hundreds of insects]. We only had one western style toilet, the rest were Asian squat, and no toilet paper after the first 2 days. The same filthy water for showering was used for cleaning ourselves after toilet visits.

The kitchen was outside, and our food was prepared on the same cutting boards that flea infested cats, dogs, and a number of other animals lounged on throughout the day. There were no sinks, only a filthy bucket to rinse our plates and pots and reuse them. There was also no soap. And the sponges that were used to 'clean' the items was black with dirt and mold. Nevertheless the food was somehow always delicious and only one in our group got sick. So I'll take that as a win.

As far as the physical labor went on this assignment - we were FAR from safe, but it was actually enjoyable work. We mixed our own cement by hand and cut our own bricks to build and sheet-rock a small temple for the village monk. For scaffolding, we used random pieces of wood haphazardly nailed together to climb and balance on while we held bricks over our heads to put into place. Some of us were lucky enough to climb up three wooden benches that we had borrowed from the local school and stacked atop one another to stand on. This lasted all day every day for a little over a week.

Air conditioning was obviously non existent. And we slept on hard mats on a wooden floor in one room together. Some of our group had to sleep outside for lack of space. It also rained every day, so we were in a constant state of dampness, but that wasn't so bad at all.. Except that our luggage was always damp and smelly and by the end of the tour, one in our group was left with a backpack covered in mold and legitimately growing mushrooms.

We finally left the village and headed to the Elephant Nature Park. The trip was DRASTICALLY improved at this point. The Nature park was wonderful, though the assignments were challenging and tiring. Housing was comfortable, showers were, at times, warm, and toilets were western. Food was AMAZING and prepared in a lovely kitchen with full time staff. [though there was a monkey in the kitchen at one point]. The buffet lines were also seemingly endless with dish fter delicious dish offered. Coffee and tea was available all day. Gift shop opened most of the day, too. Activities and local performances at night. Hour long Massages available for mere dollars [$7, I think]. AND wifi was avaiable and free. And the view was unbelievable. It was an incredible experience.

We were able to be with the elephants up close a few times through out the week. The experience isn't one I am likely to forget in my lifetime.

My favorite part of the nature park, in addition to the elephants, was the structure itself. It was like living in a MASSIVE tree house. The building was so expertly built into the land itself.. No picture could ever do that place justice.

Overall, my experience was worth it. I learned so much through the challenges. I would recommend, however, that you research as much as you can before setting out on your own journey.

Provider Response

Hello Hilary,
As the ISV Program Director for Thailand, I would like to personally respond to your comments. Everyone at ISV works very hard with local partners and communities to develop safe volunteer projects that meet the community's and conservation programs’ need for assistance. We have worked closely with the Elephant Nature Park to develop the "Thailand Cares" project which provides rural communities with the incredible volunteer support and development that your ISV group was involved with. We have local Thai staff and USA staff, including myself, based in Thailand and we conduct thorough site inspections of all of our volunteer projects prior to the start of the season. Many of our partner or host communities are very rural and very poor, as these are the communities with the most need. While the amenities are often quite basic, we try to ensure that they meet our high standard for cleanliness and sanitation. I am very disappointed to hear that you felt that these basic elements were missing or neglected and I have been speaking with our staff, ISV directors and our project hosts to ensure that this does not happen again.

ISV and Elephant Nature Park have been collaborating on projects in rural hill tribe villages and with elephants for more than 7 years and the projects are consistently rated very highly by both our participants and leadership staff. Although many aspects of a volunteer experience in rural Thailand will necessarily involve some of the discomforts you described, it is in no way acceptable for there to be unsanitary or unsafe conditions. I am happy to hear that your overall experience was a positive one and when you look back I hope you will also know that you made a difference in the lives of the people in that community. The volunteer experience is incredibly important to us and we thank you for your comments.

chelseasmith92
Female
23 years old
wollongong, australia
University of Wollongong

Volunteering with animals

Overall 10

In January this year I visited Thailand with the volunteer group ISV.
I completed a conservation project and an adventure tour.
Travelling with ISV was one of the best decision I ever made. I got to spend two weeks working with monkeys, elephants and bears, feeding and bathing them. cleaning out their cages and building new cages and just experiencing a once in a lifetime moment with these animals.
I then spent two weeks doing an ultimate adventure tour where i did everything you could ever imagine. I zip lined through the jungle, spent 2 days kayaking around islands. Spent new years with a local hill tribe family, spent a night in a treehouse where my shower was a waterfall.
I not only had the best time of my life, but i also met some of the best people who I will stay friends with forever. Thank you ISV for giving me the perfect volunteering experience! It was definitely the holiday of a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
everything went smoothly and to plan. all the guides were not just guides but friends. best trip of my life.
Maeghan
Female
23 years old
St.Catharines, Ontario, Canada
McMaster University

BanSamChong Experience

Overall 10

My experience in Thailand was awesome. I lived with locals in the Ban SamChong Village. Our days consisted mostly of waking up to breakfast (sweet rice, pastry things, fruit and instant coffee), painting a Mosque, learning different types of weaving (baskets, fans, etc), eating a delicious home cooked thai lunch, making a lesson plan and then teaching the local kids english and playing games, then another tasty meal and off to bed. The family who housed me were very welcoming and when I became sick my house mother treated me just as my mom would at home, giving me hugs and making sure I was okay. The fruit is absolutely fantastic, I found mangestine at home but its just so much better in Thailand! It was rainy during my stay, the village is on stilts above the water so it did flood and we would have to wade through the water to get around. This also made the walk ways rather slippery so we'd have to watch our step so we didn't fall. It's much hotter in Thailand so the rain wasn't always a bad thing as it cooled us off. We formed great relationships with our host families as well as the children we taught and the morning we left, the dock was filled with people wishing us off in the torrential down pour of rain. It was humbling to see how much of an impact our efforts had on their village. The other half of the trip was the adventure tour. The next accommodation was tree houses in the jungle. This was beside a river, which also happened to flood and although inconvenient, also very cool to see. We sea kayaked, learned muay thai, rock climbed, learned to cook and did so much more. The adventure tour was great fun and the other volunteers helped make the experience that much better. I made great friends and memories of a life time.

How can this program be improved?
If I could change something, I'd ask for the specific program information sooner, and maybe a follow up email asking if our project leader emailed us as I only knew I didn't get the email because of a Facebook group the volunteers made.
Amy
Female
23 years old
Adelaide, Australia
Flinders University

A life-changing experience

Overall 10

I travelled with ISV to Thailand in January 2012. It was my first overseas experience, and one that I can confidently say changed me for the rest of my life.

My specific project was volunteering in a local fishing community in the south of Thailand. Upon arriving in the village by long-tail boat, we were introduced to our host families who warmly opened their homes to us for the duration of our stay. Most host families spoke little to no English, but this did not prove a problem, in fact it resulted in many fun and amusing interactions. The housing was basic, but very clean and homely, with running water and electricity.

Every morning we would eat breakfast at our homes, with lunch and dinner provided by a local cook and eaten communally with the volunteer group. The house I stayed in was on the river-front by the small dock, so each morning we would get to watch as people went to and from the boats to cross over the river for work or the markets.

Following breakfast, we would meet at the school to commence one of our main projects during the volunteer stay; to paint mural on the new water treatment plant in the local primary school. Our other project was teaching English to the children, so we painted murals with Australian animals, shapes, weather and common sayings, all with Thai and English translations.

Following our delicious traditional Thai lunch, we would then do different activities each day; such as a cooking school, learning how to weave reeds into baskets, visiting the rubber tree plantation (how many locals made a living), rubbish collection and mangrove replantation.

Later in the afternoons (once school had finished) we taught English to local primary school children; aged anywhere from four to twelve years old. With younger children we played educational games such as Simon Says, while the older children enjoyed sitting down and learning vocabulary and grammar. This was the most rewarding part of the volunteer experience. Many children in Thailand do not continue on to high school, and it was inspirational to see how many children came to class of their own free will wanting to learn as much as possible.

The evenings were filled with way too much food, reflections on the days work, educational discussions and many fun card games.

The main focus of our volunteer project was to improve the lives of people in the village through promoting eco-tourism. This is obviously a huge project, and not something that can be achieved in two weeks, but the work that we did is one part of a whole that is continually being built on. For these children, learning English not only improves their future opportunities, but promotes their self-esteem and knowledge of the world. The increased self-confidence of the children is something that truly could be seen in two weeks.

While my volunteer group did give to the community, I felt as though they gave so much more to us. It opened my eyes to both the struggles that other people face, but also how happy people can be with seemingly less than what I felt I had. I have come to realise what is important to me, and have changed the way I live based on this. Since then I have travelled to another four countries, and look forward to a life-time of learning about other societies and cultures.

How can this program be improved?
I would love to hear more about what other groups have achieved since we left.
Sophie
Female
23 years old
Boulder, CO
University of Colorado- Boulder

Change the World With ISV

Overall 9

I absolutely loved this program. Not only do you get to volunteer but you get to go on an adventure tour in Chaing Mai, the Phi Phi Islands, and Railey Beach. Such a great way to see Thailand from a local perspective.

Kat
Female
18 years old
Sydney Australia
University of New South Wales

Unforgettable Experience

Overall 10

Excuse the cliche, but it was honestly the most amazing trip of my life. Working at Baan Unrak (Orphanage in Sangklaburi) was incredible, even though it was hot and the work was hard e.g. farming, painting or sanding areas to be painted, hanging out with the children and the smiles on their faces when we came to the home is something no one could forget. In addition to this the adventure topped it all off and going to the Elephant Nature Park and Zip lining were two experiences that are still in my mind everyday. I will admit that not everyday is easy and everyone had their difficulties over the trip but I made a group of friends who will honestly be friends for life and we all helped each other get through the rough times - we are basically each others second family and although we don't see each other often the bond it always there. Anyone who has the opportunity to go on a volunteer program with ISV should relish the opportunity because it is one of the most fulfilling and amazing experiences anyone could have.

Adam
Male
23 years old
Columbus, OH

The Trip of a Lifetime

Overall 10

I went on three trips to three countries and spent a total of 12 weeks abroad. I went to Ecuador (5 weeks), Dominican Republic (5 weeks) and Thailand (2 weeks). While in Ecuador and Dominican Republic, I spent a week getting Spanish lessons where I got to practice talking in Spanish while learning about the country. With the lessons, the teachers also provide dance lessons, salsa in Ecuador and meringue in the Dominican Republic, and cooking lessons to show off to volunteers’ friends back at home. While there, I stayed in local families in Quito, Ecuador and Santiago, Dominican Republic for the lessons.
Then, I traveled to my volunteer site. In Ecuador, I stayed in a local village in the Amazonian Jungle where my group helped teach English and helped take care of cocoa plants. The cocoa plants were used so the village could sell the cocoa bean and make money from that so the village did not have to rely on money from the oil companies who are destroying the rainforest.
For my Dominican Republic trip, I stayed a seminary (ISV has no religious affiliations) that was near the school and worksite. Half of the group went to the school and taught English and other fun stuff for educational summer camps while the other group was building a community center that was to be used by 17 communities. Then the groups switch the following day. The kids loved having us as much as the workers who watched over us during the build.
Lastly, I spent a couple weeks in Thailand where I spent the first week working at a school where we helped finished building a new classroom for the school and spent time playing with the kids. During this week, we learned about Thailand, the culture, the Thai language, and Buddhism. My group was even fortunate enough to witness Mother’s Day in Thailand which was extremely emotional for the Thai parents and kids as well as my group. The following week, I spent a week at the Elephant Nature Park where I helped the park take care of the elephants. Mainly our tasks were to clean pumpkins for the elephant’s lunch, get corn stalks for the elephant’s dinner, or clean up after the elephants that morning. Around lunch and dinner, volunteers and visitors were allowed to feed and bathe the elephants. Volunteers that are interested in veterinary could watch veterinarians apply medical care to the elephants.
Along with the volunteer project, most of the volunteers through ISV can do another two weeks touring the country. I extremely recommend this because one does more in two weeks with ISV and he or she can do in a lifetime. In Ecuador, I went rock climbing and mountain biking one day to climbing to the tropical glaciers on Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s most active volcano, to white water rafting to surfing on the beach and watching humpback whales. Ecuador has it all! I also went did the two weeks in the Dominican Republic where I did as more water activities than I thought was possible. From going surfing to jumping off waterfalls to white water rafting before exploring the colonial center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic it has everything you want in a tropical island.
I highly recommend this company which has allowed to me to travel and to see the world differently that a normal tourist would not see. While there, I got to make a difference to someone and made some great friends in the process. You will not be disappointed with ISV!

acsenior
Female
27 years old
Boston, MA

The best experience in Thailand!

Overall 10

The staff was incredible, the program was fun, and the experience was extremely fulfilling. I got to spend two weeks living at the Mae Kok Foundation for children, helping teach the kids English, cooking meals, and building a garage and a memorial. The experience brought meaning to my life and I wouldn't change it for anything. The program was well organized and everything happened according to plan. I felt well taken care of and very safe. I would recommend this program to anyone.

kgrube00
Female
23 years old
West Lafayette, Indiana

Meaningful and fun!

Overall 10

We were able to work directly with gibbons and elephants during their rehabilitation while feeling extremely safe with provisionals. The people are amazing and staff leaders know so much about the country. Everyday there was an amazing experience be it kayaking around limestone mountains, or visiting "The Beach" from the movie. I loooved Thailand and can't wait to go back.

About The Provider

ISV’s mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Destinations include South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. ISV has won multiple awards and over 40,000 participants from around the world have experienced their educational, cultural and adventure programs. Volunteers can join small teams for two-week projects in the field of conservation or community development, followed by a two week adventure tour. Many students earn academic credit for their involvement and highly qualified local staff carefully oversee programs in each country. ISV is recognized as one of the highest rated volunteer and travel organizations in the world and is a non-profit organization in California, USA. Its Australian operations are based in Sydney. Begin your ISV adventure today!

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