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Laos Cultural Immersion Teen Volunteer Program

Embark on a Southeast Asian cultural adventure with other teens in the gilded ancient capital of Laos.

Program Code: LALP0531F

Program Information

Join a group of international teen volunteers in Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos, to participate in a cross-cultural exchange with local Lao students. Learn about the diverse cultures of Laos, how Theravada Buddhism is practiced, master the basics of the Laos language, and explore the pristine tropical landscape by visiting local sites such as the cascading turquoise pools of the Kuang Si Falls.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, famous for its Buddhist temples and monasteries, situated at the meeting place of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, surrounded by the dramatic forested mountains and hillsides for which the area is well-known.

The main focus of teens on this program will be engagement in cultural exchange activities. This might include language exchange programs where international students learn Lao language skill and cultural practices from Lao students, and Lao students learn English language skills and Western cultural practices from international students. This is a form of horizontal learning, where all students benefit. We hope to inspire both Lao and international students to start their journey toward becoming global citizens, who actively participate in local and global issues. They might also participate in life skills, environmental sustainability,  water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) or other health-related workshops.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Immerse yourself in Laos culture.

  • Experience the Southern Asian landscape while swimming, hiking, or kayaking.

  • Learn about Theravada Buddhism.

  • Start your journey toward becoming a global citizen.

  • Earn your ILM Youth Leadership certificate.

Program Details

Further Program Details

The project has been designed specifically for teens between the ages of 15- and 17-years-old who are looking for a teen volunteering program abroad. Throughout the their time in Laos, teens will learn about GVI’s ongoing sustainable development project in Luang Prabang. Each of the long-term objectives set by GVI staff in partnership with local organisations and communities in Luang Prabang are tied to three specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, #4, Quality Education, #5 Gender Equality, and #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Teens will also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in local Buddhist culture by watching novices and monks chant at a local temple and visiting sacred sites. On the weekend they might also experience adventure activities like swimming in the Kuang Si Waterfalls or kayaking down the Mekong river.  

All GVI teen volunteers, including those in Laos, have access to higher levels of support than our over 18 volunteers. All their activities are supervised by leaders in the field who have been chosen for their mix of relevant experience and ability to mentor and inspire young people.

Select a Start Date

  • 2020

Select a Duration

Select a start date first.

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Luang-Prabang's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVILaosLuangPrabang

Arrivals Info

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from their initial contact with us, all the way through their program, and even afterwards, when they become part of GVI’s Alumni network.


Flight chaperoning services are available for all our under 18 participants. To book a chaperone simply speak to one of our enrolment managers. Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a member of our in-country staff, who will be wearing a GVI t-shirt or carrying a GVI signboard, and will always be wearing a friendly smile. From there, participants will journey to their accommodation and meet up with other volunteers in their group to start their GVI adventure.


 
 
 
 

Meet the team - Senior Field Management

Jill Walker

Deputy Director of Programs
Meet GVI’s Jill,also known by her rap name, Rainmaker, or her spiritual name, Field Whisperer. Her journey with GVI began back in 2007 as Thailand's Country Director, where she helped set up GVI’s first TEFL program!

Now she is based in Chaing Rai, Thailand. Jill's role involves providing support for all of our programs around the world. Working closing with each base, she looks to identify and manage any issues that occur so GVI are able to offer the best programs possible.

Katie

Field Staff

Meet Katie, a 26-year-old from the US! She is another one of our Field Staff in Laos. It was originally a trip to India which inspired her journey to where she is now. The time spent reflecting on this trip made her realise making a real difference is what she wanted to do and is why she is where she is now.

Molly Plexico

Regional Director for Southeast Asia
Meet Molly, our hard working Regional Director for Southeast Asia. Overseeing operations in 3 countries is no easy task but Molly is more than capable.

Her goal is to visit one country for every year she is alive. The most unusual place she has travelled to is Uzbekistan, on a trip beginning in Europe and ending in Southeast Asia. This is where she fell in love with Laos which began her journey with GVI. She started working for GVI back in 2012 and she is now based in Cambodia.

Meet the team - In-Country Staff

Beatrice

Education Coordinator

Meet Beatrice! She is 25 and from Italy. She works as an Education Coordinator at GVI’s base in Luang Prabang,Laos.


She began with GVI back in 2016 when she volunteered for one month in Laos. Once she arrived back in Italy she realised she wanted to come back for more! And after completing this second stint, we offered her a position as Scholar for the base. She eventually applied for a job with GVI and is now one of our staff members!

George

Education Coordinator

Introducing you to George, who is 27 and from England. Geoge first found GVI in 2015, when he volunteered in Laos as part of a career break. After completing his program, he realised this is what he wanted to do with his life and decided to return to Laos as a six month intern. After this he got a job with GVI working with the interns in a village north of Luang Prabang.


Soon after this he earned the position of Field Staff, before being promoted to Education Coordinator, which is his current role. As part of this job he is responsible for: creating curriculums, mentoring, lesson planning and resourcing.

George

Field Staff

This is George, one of our Field Staff in Laos. His journey to this position has been eventful to say the least. He first became involved with GVI when volunteering back in 2015 after taking a career break. George loved the program so much he returned as an intern, which ended in a job with GVI. We hope that George doesn't want to end his career break anytime soon!

Lyly

Community Liaison

This is Lyly. She first found GVI after her brothers and sister came to study English with GVI. Now Lyly is proud to say that she is GVI’s first Lao female member of staff!

Valee

Community Liaison

Meet Valee. Valee lives in the mountains and was a Novice in a temple for 7 years. He has worked for GVI for 4 years and since introduced some of his siblings to GVI programs. His role includes teaching and translating for classes, and organising locations for meetings.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Laos, specifically Luang Prabang, is quickly becoming a popular Southeast Asian destination among international visitors. As a result the tourism industry is a growing rapidly which provides many locals with new career opportunities. However, English language skills are an important requirement for accessing these jobs.


Three quarters of the population live in rural areas and economic limitations, limited infrastructure, and deep-rooted cultural values, restrict access to education for many. Boys from rural villages travel to cities such as the capital of Luang Prabang to seek out a good education by joining the temples and becoming novice monks. Temples do not accept girls, so women are further restricted from accessing employment opportunities through entrenched gender roles.


Our program in Laos assists the socio-economic development of the country by supporting English language learning at temple schools and other local educational institutions in the capital of Luang Prabang. We assist local teachers, novice monks, lay students, including both children and young adults, and run a program that focuses specifically on providing further educational support for young girls and women.


As such, the main UN Sustainable Development Goals of this project include, #4, Quality Education, and #5, Gender Equality.


Our Partners In Luang Prabang

Project Objectives

 


GVI Luang Prabang Long-term Objectives:


1. To empower locals to increase their access to employment opportunities and improve their socio-economic status through increased access to educational opportunities.


2. To develop relationships with educational institutions, temples, partners and individuals with the aim of increasing their ability to provide educational opportunities (local leadership and capacity building).


3. Provide an authentic experience to GVI Laos volunteers, which develop both personal and professional skills within the field of education and community development through thorough training and mentorship by long term staff.


Publications

The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research. Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies. We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.


Qualifications

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


Festivals

April: Lao New Year is celebrated in mid-April and is a massive festival in which just about every citizen participates. It represents the lunar new year and during this time homes are cleaned and people visit temples to wash the figures of the Buddha.


May: The Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in May with much fanfare.


August, September, October, and November: The Boat Racing Festival starts in August and continues for six weeks until October. This corresponds to when Buddhist monks complete their three month retreat. The retreat ends with Boun Awk Phansa, a festival of lights and water dragon boats.


Spirituality and Religion

Laos has a mostly Theravada Buddhist population, however there is also a significant portion of the population who still practice their traditional animist customs.


Weaving and Pottery

Silk creation is a centuries old craft in Laos, although it has become less popular due to its time-consuming process. You can learn about how this beautiful textile is hand-produced in a nearby village. Ceramics are also an important part of Laos traditional art and culture. You also learn more about this Laos artform by visiting a village near Luang Prabang.  


Cooking

Laos cuisine shares many elements with other Southeastern Asian neighbours. Staples include the famous sticky rice and fresh, spicy papaya salad. Its French heritage comes out in the many baguettes still sold by street vendors.


Languages

Other than Laos, there are also opportunities to learn some of the other languages native to the country like Hmong and Khmu.


Luang Prabang

Discover Laos’ ancient capital of Luang Prabang, a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has roots dating back more than 8 millennial but first became an official city under the Khmer monarchy. Later the city became a French colonialist outpost forever impacting the cuisine and architecture. Its many temples feature traditional Laos and French colonial elements combined.


Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


Support

Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)