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 76 - 90 of 93
Default avatar
Becca
8/10

A trip worth remembering

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
obianuju
10/10

THAILAND ADVENTIURES

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
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Daralynn
10/10

Beyond my Expectations!

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!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Aaron
8/10

my thoughts

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
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Michelle
10/10

ISV THAILAND

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Shelby
10/10

Amazing opportunity that will change you!

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 .
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Elizabeth
10/10

Volunteering in Thailand - A Life Changing Experience

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sarah
9/10

ISV Thailand-Wildlife 1

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Lyndsey
10/10

Amazing!

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Hilary
7/10

Only worth it when looked back on

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.

Response from ISV (International Student Volunteers)

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.

No, I don't recommend
Default avatar
chelseasmith92
10/10

Volunteering with animals

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Maeghan
10/10

BanSamChong Experience

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Amy
10/10

A life-changing experience

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.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sophie
9/10

Change the World With ISV

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.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Kat
10/10

Unforgettable Experience

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.

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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