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.
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.
- 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.