Cultural Immersion & Community Service in Southeast Asia

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, Operation Groundswell has decided to offer flexible booking options for some of their upcoming programs. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.

Video and Photos

Not always appropriate but sometime being silly makes the best stories.
Leaving all worries behind when crossing into the Kingdom of Cambodia
All about perspective
Southeast Asia Programs | Operation Groundswell
Southeast Asia Programs | Operation Groundswell
Southeast Asia Programs | Operation Groundswell
Southeast Asia Programs | Operation Groundswell

About

You might’ve heard of this region’s 30 cent street pad thai, deep-fried tarantulas, and bucket-fuelled dance parties. Sure enough, all of this exists, but there’s so much more.

Thailand is a country that seamlessly blends modernity with its deeply rooted cultural traditions. Cambodians are moving past their tragic recent history to forge a brighter and more equitable future. Both countries face many challenges – Thailand struggles with ongoing political divisions and widespread inequality and Cambodia is ranked as one of the world’s poorest nations. While thousands of backpackers stream through this part of the world, few are put in touch with these realities.

Our Southeast Asia programs are designed to dig beneath the surface of how this region is commonly experienced. From dedicated activists promoting sustainable farming practices to young break-dancers empowering a new generation of Cambodians, join Operation Groundswell to discover a Southeast Asia you had no idea existed.

Highlights
  • Explore an 800-year-old ancient temple complex and get to know our friends in Banteay Chhmar as we learn about community-based tourism and heritage preservation.
  • Dive deep into the Cambodian countryside as we help to build a permaculture centre designed for local farmers who are combatting drought and promoting sustainable agricultural practice.
  • Volunteer at the Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia, an ecotourism project that provides an alternative approach to elephant care, rehabilitation, and conservation.
  • Live with homestays in northern hill tribe communities to learn about one of Thailand’s most successful volunteer- and community-based tourism initiatives.
  • Feast your way through the streets of Chiang Mai, trying savory, sweet, and spicy delights… and everything in between!

Financial Grants Available!

Our financial grants program can cover 15-25% of your program fee. Simply apply for an OG program and contact our financial support team. Visit our website for more information!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.56 Rating
based on 16 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 10
  • Fun 8.9
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 8 of 16
Becca
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Trip of a life time

Anybody can travel to a location all you need to do is book a flight and had over to another country. But what's not easy to do is immerse yourself with local cultures stay at a home in a rural Village, do a community service project, and have the inside scoop of the best food, coolest places and the funniest hostels to stay around the country ( to a whole different level than a lonely planet book can offer). You also have team leaders who know the area, history, people and places that can help guide you mentally emotionally and physically in the area. That's what makes operation Groundswell trip so great you get the immediate in to a country and are able to enjoy an experience of a lifetime.

What would you improve about this program?
It's the best.
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Hailey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Southeast Asia: Cities and Sanctuaries

Operation Groundswell was the most incredible experience! I'd travelled to quite a few countries before this trip, but they completely changed the way I view the world. I've always felt skeptical about the idea of voluntourism and how random volunteer projects abroad affect people in local contexts. OG showed me how endless the possibilities are for having positive impacts on the places you visit. This trip has helped me reframe the way I look at my personal travels. I also had the most amazing team to travel and learn with! We had a small team, everyone was coming from different locations around the US and Canada and we all were in different places in our lives and our travel experience. But everyone was so like-minded and easygoing. Our Program Leaders were hilarious and fun and loved to show us around the countries they call home. They encouraged us to learn and to see the world for all it has to offer. This program pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, and taught me to find comfort in the unknown. One of my favourite memories of the trip was at a homestay where we were all so uncomfortable with sleeping on the floor and having animals around all the time and sharing one squat toilet with over a dozen people. We started off so uncomfortable and scared, but it ended up being one of our favourite parts of the trip. We learned so much at that homestay, got to know each other really well and it felt like we had a truly positive impact on the community we were working with. Everyone who is interested in the world and how to explore it better, should definitely do a program with OG!

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Sacha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible trip!

OG is a wonderful organization that engages with tourism in a pretty unique way. This was my first ever time in Southeast Asia so I didn't want to go all by myself. Having studied international development in undergrad, it was very important to me that I travel with an ethical company that respects local cultures and doesn't charge you a fortune to build part of a school for a couple weeks and have you thinking you're changing the world. OG was exactly what I was looking for. We definitely had our share of touristy experiences, but getting off the beaten track is what made this trip special. The value for the price is excellent, considering that everything is planned out for you and how much is packed into these 6 weeks. Despite the fact that it's been a few years, my experience in Cambodia and Thailand is still something I constantly talk about (pretty sure my friends and family are sick of hearing about it). I can't say enough good things about OG and would not hesitate to travel with them again.

What would you improve about this program?
More time in Thailand would have been great, but there's only so much you can squeeze into 6 weeks (especially when the Thai military declares a coup a week before you arrive).
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Christine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

OG is the best trip you'll ever take!

OG is such an incredible organization! We spent roughly half our time volunteering and half travelling around. Although you could definitely do SEA more cheaply by yourself, OG provides experiences you would never have otherwise. There is no way I would have spent a week on a farm in rural Cambodia if I was travelling solo. It felt like a very authentic way to see the country. OG has a great attitude towards voluntourism, which is great. I really felt that our contribution was valuable, unlike some of the problematic organizations focused on making money.
Our program leaders were also amazing. They knew so much about the area, and took great care of me when I got sick.
Overall, the experience of a lifetime.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked to do a bit more volunteering. Due to unforeseen circumstances, one of our placements was cancelled. Not the program's fault, but still a bummer.
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Katrina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome Experience

This trip was amazing! I still find myself telling friends, family, and strangers about some of the lessons I've learned in Asia. If you have a passion for the environment, animals, helping people, or just want to learn something for your own benefit, this type of program can do just that.
You'll get out of it what you put in so go in with an open mind, and a willingness to listen and learn. It's perhaps the most cliché thing to say, but the best part of the entire program was seeing that what I worked on was actually making a difference somewhere in the world.

Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This program changed my life

This program opened me into a new world where I got to experience things I never thought possible. I have been highly dedicated to volunteering for a long time, but this trip took it to a new level. I actually saw myself grow up and mature more through the course of the trip and I also saw myself becoming even more independent. The way this program is structured allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture and learn an amazing amount of perspective, but if you come onto this trip with a closed mindset you are in trouble. Being open minded allowed me fully experience everything OG had to offer and I am eternally grateful for my experience, what I learned, the service we did and the lifetime bonds I made with the rest of my group.

Amy
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Absoutley outstanding program!!

The amount of effort and enthusiasm Operations Groundswell put into this program is just unbeatable. I've been on Two OG(operation groundswell) programs and couldn't be more pleased with this organization. I would recommend this program to everyone and overall give it the highest rating. I've learnt so much being over seas with OG , not only about such incredible cultures but about myself and my country aswell.
I also believe that if I planned this trip by myself I wouldn't get to experience all there is that OG sets up for you. You get the chance to eat local dishes(more then you'd like) experience culture background , including the devastations, and explore places you wouldn't even imagine.
I couldn't say this enough , PLEASE go on a OG trip ! You won't regret it !

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly , the only thing would be to work on a more understanding group dynamic.
Your stuck with the same people for over a month. Of course people's personalities don't click.
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Ashley
5/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Southeast Asia

It was definitely a journey that doesn't compare to any other volunteer trip I've ever done before. Things happened that you never think will happen to you but OG was there every step along the way. It was an eye opening experience for sure. It made me more educated about different issues I had no idea even existed.