ISV - Volunteer Projects in Thailand

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Program Update:

ISV will only be conducting programs for this coming summer, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.

About

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.

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

95%
based on 93 reviews
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 7.9
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 16 - 30 of 93
Shauna
10/10

An Experience I Will Never be Able to Stop Talking About

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Michelle
10/10

Fantastic

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Louise
10/10

Happiest month of my life (so far!)

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Janelle
10/10

Best thing I've ever done!

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Christine
10/10

Greatest Experience of My Life!

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!

Yes, I recommend
Jasmine
10/10

An amazing first time volunteer experience

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Jenna
8/10

An Incredible Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

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!
Yes, I recommend
Hannah
10/10

Out of this world!

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Briana
10/10

My trip to Thailand

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Tarek
10/10

ISV Changed My Life

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Samantha
10/10

ISV Thailand Volunteer Program - Teaching English

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.
Yes, I recommend
Kristen
10/10

What an experience!

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Kira
10/10

Veterinary focused volunteer abroad

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!

Yes, I recommend
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Shannon
10/10

Great First Trip

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
Yes, I recommend
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Schuyler
10/10

Mae Kok Foundation in Chiang Rai, Thailand

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).
Yes, I recommend

About ISV (International Student Volunteers)

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.

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