Travel to the mountainous area of northern Thailand, a region famous for its beautiful views, unique culture, and the elephant keeping hill tribes that reside here. This internship is an excellent opportunity to genuinely experience the unique Karen hill tribe culture, as well as gaining teaching experience and helping to significantly improve the English language knowledge of the villagers.
During your time on project you will work alongside other like-minded volunteers and receive relevant training from our experienced staff. A lot of your time will be spent in and around the local school; teaching English and elephant conservation to children, lesson planning, and building relationships with the local teachers. You will also attend nursery and after school clubs to play with the younger children of the village, and teach English to Mahouts and other adults in the evening.
You will be an essential part of the community team; planning and leading your own classes, after the initial training, as well as helping to train new volunteers and interns who also want to experience teaching. With your help, we hope to expand the community project further, to include more lessons at the school, as well as introduce a consistent conservation/environment related syllabus that local children will learn from.
As you will be working and living in a Karen hill tribe village you will become truly immersed in this fascinating and friendly community, as well as having the chance to learn the local language (Pakinyaw) and Thai while interacting around the village. There is also the opportunity for you to hike with mahouts and their elephants, a couple of times a week, as they roam in the surrounding forest.
After a successful internship, qualifying candidates may be given the opportunity to work for GVI or selected partner organisations in Thailand or in other countries around the world where GVI operate. Teaching positions can be paid or unpaid, range in duration from one month to one year, and availability varies. Qualification for possible GVI positions is at the sole discretion of Global Vision International.
All internships are geared at developing your leadership and role model skills, allowing you to develop a variety of key soft and hard skills that will put you a step ahead the rest of the pack. GVI have been running community development, education, and conservation projects since 1997 and our highly experienced field staff will help you gain and improve vital skill sets to improve your future job prospects.
"As an intern on this program I've had what I can genuinely say to be some of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life. Living and working closely with the Karen people of Huay Pakoot village, I've gained firm friends, learnt a great deal about Karen culture, helped the villagers sustain their environmentally sound traditional way of living, been involved with the education of the village children, and fallen in love with this remote, lush and stunningly beautiful part of Thailand."
These updates cover all programs in this location
Life on the Internship
During your first few weeks, you will work alongside other volunteers and learn about the day to day running of the project and receive teacher and community training from staff and older interns. Your days will be split between lessons at the school in the day, after school club, and mahout/villager English in the evenings. As well as having time to plan and prepare for lessons later in the week.
The second part of your internship will be spent running and organising your own class. Our community internship will allow you to work closely with the community, in an effort to promote a wider knowledge of English. In order to provide the village with the tools they need to run their own sustainable eco-tourism project.
You will be focused on the community side of the project, where being a consistent presence is a very important part. But this won’t stop you from experiencing other aspects of the project hub; you will have the opportunity to hike with elephants, walk to see the sunrise over the mountains, and build relationships with all the other volunteers in the village.
You will stay in basic accommodation with a traditional Karen family. As this is a traditional community, you should expect to adapt and show respect for the environment and the culture in which you will be living as well as act a role model for both locals and volunteers. Over time you will become truly immersed as you learn the local language and cultural traditions.
What's Not Included
The population of Asian elephants and their habitat is rapidly declining. With less than 1,000 left in the wild in Thailand and around 3,000 in captivity, we are one of very few viable alternatives to the unshakable reality of their domesticated future within tourist camps.
Please note, we operate serious projects and internship programmes and as such we do not partake in riding elephants or having them demonstrate skills learnt from being trained.
The focus of the community internship is on ensuring that the village acquires the knowledge and skills needed to run their own sustainable elephant conservation project, i.e. being able to speak English and interact with potential tourists/volunteers. Captive elephants (owned by the village) are successfully reintegrated in a protected forest. Your contribution will help the conservation of this beautiful animal species, by providing the funding and hands-on support needed to keep this project pushing forward.
The overall goal of the project is to have the village manage semi-wild herds of elephants living in their natural habitat; bringing volunteers and tourists to the village to see how these elephants behave naturally, not in a tourist camp. It is, therefore, very important that members of the community are able to communicate with potential tourists, and that’s the main aim of the community internship; providing villagers with a good level of English.
How this project makes a difference:
Elephants can be very expensive to care for and generally viewed as private property by locals used as a means of generating income, forced to make money through tourism because of a lack of viable alternatives.
However, as an unregulated industry, elephant tourism can be an ugly business. Elephants require a very specific environment, socially, mentally and physically to be able to thrive. With a huge increase in the demand for tourist camps elephants are deprived of the need of their self-medicating diet, highly migratory urges to move large distances, complex social interactions and brain stimulation. This can, in turn, lead to shocking health repercussions for the elephants.
Our volunteering with the local community aims to provide an alternative for elephants outside of camps so our villagers’ elephants can live healthy lives in the forest that will ensure their long-term conservation and survival.
By providing local children with a level of spoken English, we can also help improve their futures; increasing their job prospects through their ability to understand another language.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate in programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your programme. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about local activities and side trips, that may be available, through your association with GVI.
Huay Pakoot is a quiet rural Karen village, giving you a unique chance to learn about the traditional Karen culture. Learn to cook Thai and Karen dishes with community members, and learn about everyday life in this traditional setting.
Included Side Trips
The location of this project is remote. Leaving Chiang Mai city you embark on a 4-5 hour journey into the mountains. On the way, we pass through the Doi Inthanon National Park (Thailand’s highest peak) and usually stop for a walk to one of the spectacular waterfalls.
Due to the remoteness, our programme is based in and around the village. The programme is field based which gives you the opportunity to explore the surrounding forests on the daily hikes with the elephants. Travel and side-trip opportunities from the village need special arrangements, but the prospects for immersing yourself in the local area and village culture are huge.
Optional Side Trips
While on the programme, there is ample time for you to plan side trips and organise transportation. These are not part of the programme and are best taken as a weekend trip or as an activity before or after joining the programme. We are always ready to assist, provide recommendations and up-to-date information. Locally, trips can be arranged to neighbouring villages and town like Mae Chaem and Mae Hong Son. These are great places to wind down, get a traditional Thai massage or explore nearby temples.
Though we are well off the main tourist route, opportunities exist for you to go bamboo river rafting, rock climbing, visit Doi Inthanon National Park, relax at a local resort/spa, and for something completely different… learn how to make a machete using traditional techniques!
Further Travelling Opportunities
Thailand is a country with a massive range of fantastic places that you could visit. If you have the time and budget, you could consider going to see the following; the waterfalls of the picturesque Khao Yai National Park, the local tribes of Nam Province, the beaches of Ko Tao and Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, the golden kingdom of Ayutthaya, the temples and nightlife of Bangkok, just to name a few! Chiang Mai city abounds with tour operators offering a huge array of amazing side trips in the local province, throughout Thailand and beyond into neighbouring countries.
Meet Cormac, our lovely Country Expert for Thailand and Costa Rica. This Scotsman is a rather eccentric guy and his fantastic sense of humour is one of his most appreciated characteristics. He achieved a Master's degree in History and Politics, and quite evidently can keep his own in any conversation on any topic.
His love for travelling started in his younger years already and since then he has explored New Zealand, Canada, the states, and South Africa! What is his one travel must-have? "A towel of course (for further information please read a Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy)."
Mac particularly enjoys getting the chance to have a bit of banter on the phone with people who are really passionate about volunteering. He thinks of himself as Carl Frederickson from the movie Up. "Just a bloke who enjoys sitting in a comfy chair; I think we can all relate to that." Mac, we absolutely agree!
Meet Holly, our charismatic community co-ordinator. She has spent 6 months internin in North Thailand on an elephant project in the village of Huay Pakoot. She focused on the community and elephants, creating a curriculum for the school educating them about Asian elephants. She has degrees in primary education and wildlife and conservation.
Her favourite part about working for GVI is doing a job that she enjoys and is passionate about. To live in a "magically breath taking place, surrounded by a team of staff and volunteers all with same mentality to make a difference".
Meet Sulaiman, our fantastic field staff member. He has worked with elephants for 13 years in Borneo, where he is from. He was the head of the Elephant Conservation Unit, Hutan (a French NGO), for 6 years where he managed a team of 6 staff whose main role was to deter and protect wild elephants from agricultural areas, mainly palm oil plantations and locally owned land.
He was also involved in community education as well as data collection for elephant behaviour and ecology for university students and project sponsors. He has travelled to American universities to present information about the Bornean elephant on behalf of his organisation and he has lived in New Zealand and Australia and travelled in Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia.
What attracted his most to GVI was the idea that he would be involved in working for an organisation that is helping elephants to return to the forest for a better future away from the poor welfare often associated with their working within the trekking industry.
Phoebe van Doorn
Meet Phoebe, our brilliant field staff member in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She has spent many years working in Australia as a bushwalking tour guide, as a teacher’s aide with disable children and working her way up the hospitality ladder to assistant manager and supervisor positions. She has spent time traveling through South East Asia, parts of Central America and North America.
She has also volunteered at animal rescue shelters in Australia and spent 6 months as an intern (volunteering) with GVI with the Chiang Mai hub. She loved it so much that she decided to stay on as staff.
What attracted her most to GVI was the opportunity to live and work in a remote, culture rich community and of course the chance to work alongside elephants.
Meet Megan, our stellar science officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She's spent many years living throughout Asia (Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia) as well as travelling extensively throughout India, Nepal and the South Pacific. She was born in Sri Lanka but is an Australian citizen and has spent the last couple of years, after lengthy fieldwork in Sabah, living in New Zealand while completing her PhD.
She was first attracted by GVI’s interest in developing scientific research of a herd of semi-wild elephants. She was also interested in working for an organisation that not only collaborates closely with the local community in an elephant range country but also put her in a position where she could help train and teach volunteers/interns from around the world about elephant behaviour, ecology and conservation.
She has a degree in Animal Science (Latrobe University, Melbourne), Honours in Zoology (captive elephant behaviour at Melbourne Zoo, University of New England, Armidale) and PhD in Ecology and Biodiversity (wild elephants in Borneo, Victoria University of Wellington).
Elephant Field Staff
Meet Danielle, our fun loving Elephant Field Staff member in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She had never really travelled much until interning with GVI Chiang Mai (apart from a Kenyan Safari which encouraged her love and passion for elephants.). She joined GVI as an intern, and loved the project so much that she couldn't leave.
For her, the travel must-have is a positive outlook; "Every day may not be what you first expect, but only you have the ability to turn it around and make your experience memorable".
Her favourite thing about working for GVI is that her job is so unique and every day is different. Having the opportunity to partake in numerous traditional ceremonies and celebrations has given her so many unforgettable memories.
Meet Molly, our hard working country director for both Thailand and Laos. Over seeing operations in two countries is no easy task but Molly is more than capable.
She started volunteering and travelling at a young age, working in soup kitchens, with AmeriCorps, at animal shelters, as a Big Sister with Big Brother Big Sisters of America and as a Guardian ad Litem. She studied family development and psychology and loves to dance.
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 Thailand. GVI has hubs all around the world and she has been lucky enough to visit the hubs in Nepal, Thailand, Laos and the office in South Africa.
Assistant Director of Programs
Meet Jill, our Assistant Director of Programs and line manager for Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Australia and Kenya programs. ‘Manow’ (lime), as she’s locally known in Thailand where she's based, taught English, environmental education and art in the USA and Thailand before joining us to set up a TEFL and Community Development Expedition. “I haven’t looked back since!”
When Jill isn’t working, she likes reading or doing just about anything energetic. “I devour books, love cooking and enjoy finding some time to get some exercise – yoga, dancing and aerobics are some of my faves.”
What does Jill like most about her job? “It’s great to see volunteers rising above the cultural and language barriers between themselves and the communities. That, and every day is completely different, which is the way I like it- it keeps me from getting bored.” Being ‘allergic’ to being bored has led to Manow doing some pretty amazing things. “I once ended up spending a week living in a cave with some Buddhist monks while I helped them build a small adobe monk hut.”