Discover Laos' ancient city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and teach English to Buddhist Novice Monks and local lay students, both children and young adults, increasing quality and access to education, enabling them to increase their future employment opportunities and improving quality of life for themselves, their families and communities. Visit local sites such as the Mekong river, beautiful waterfalls and breath-taking mountains in your spare time.
The beautiful ancient city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated in
northern central Laos. Teach English in this idyllic setting, at the meeting of the Nam Khan
and Mekong rivers, famous for its Buddhist temples and monasteries.
In addition to spiritual and traditional beliefs, many males from rural villages commonly
travel to cities such as Luang Prabang to seek out food, shelter, education and employment
opportunities by joining the temples and becoming Novice Monks. This program seeks to
increase students’ access to education which in turn can positively impact their future
employment opportunities, socio-economic status and quality of life.
Having the rare opportunity to work closely with Novice Monks and local lay students, both
children and young adults, at various educational institutions in Luang Prabang; learning
about Lao culture, history, food, religion and language; visiting local sights or being able to enjoy a weekend break on the banks of the Mekong River.
"It was an amazing experience. To be able to interact with young novice Buddhist monks and know that you are actually making a positive impact on them seems almost a little surreal at first but then becomes so common place that it takes a moment when one grasps you on the arm and says "You are a very good teacher" to bring home exactly what you are doing.
But that is only a small part of it. The people that I met are what really made the Laos project something that will have a special place in my heart forever."
What's Not Included
You will work with a wide variety of students, both Novice Monk and Lay students of varying
ages, teaching both practical and conversational English across different levels.
You will work on the project Monday to Friday, planning and delivering English lessons. Weekends are yours to explore the surrounding area or simply relax at base with your fellow volunteers. This challenging but rewarding role will provide volunteers with a unique insight into Buddhism and Lao culture, while giving them a chance to make a tangible difference to the lives of their students and the local community. Accommodation is in a centrally located
guesthouse with electricity and shared rooms and bathrooms. You will enjoy daily communal meals with your fellow volunteers.
What's Not Included
As Laos’s tourism industry has begun to expand and diversify, the demand and need for English education is rapidly increasing. Working directly with the community, you will plan
lessons and teach English in a variety of settings with a GVI teaching partner and assist local teachers with their English lessons; fostering an exchange in teaching methods and
techniques. GVI Laos collaborates with 2 temple schools to provide English programs for
Novice Monks. In addition, we also provide several English classes for Novice Monks at the
local Luang Prabang library. Volunteers will teach Novice Monks at at least one of these
locations, while also contributing to the broader project, teaching local lay students, both
children and young adults.
How this Project Makes a Difference
The main focus of GVI Laos is education as a tool for individual and community development. Educational opportunities and socio-economic status are closely related in Laos. Economic disadvantage and deep-rooted cultural values restrict access to education. This is only magnified for those living in rural areas; for Laos, this equates to three quarters of the population. Our three programs target disadvantaged social groups: children and young adults, Novice Monks and girls and women. We aim to help to increase students’ access to education and improve their quality of life. By doing so, GVI Laos works to empower our students to increase their future employment opportunities, positively impact their socio-economic status and improve the quality of life of themselves, their families and communities while meaningfully contributing to the development of Laos as a whole.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs 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 program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.
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 discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Luang Prabang field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Laos!
Optional Side Trips
On your weekends or while off project, the following short trips are popular with our volunteers and should definitely be checked out! Swim in the crystal clear water of the Kuang Si waterfall, enjoy the cascades and walk to the top of the falls to enjoy the beautiful view of the course of the water below. There is also a protected bear camp at the falls that is well worth a visit; take a ride on the Mekong River to visit the historical Pak Ou Caves that hold thousands of Buddha images. Visit the “Jar Maker” and weaving villages on your way back to watch the weavers at work; a short ride out of town, you can kayak on the Nam Khan River, discovering village life, beautiful countryside and lush green mountains along the way; visiting the Royal Palace Museum and the beautiful temples of Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai; discover the Tad Sae waterfall, a multi-level limestone formation that creates numerous cascading pools; cycle through the Luang Prabang valley and experience the daily life of the local people, passing temple ruins and handicraft villages.
Further Travelling Opportunities
If you have the time and budget, there are a number of opportunities for exploring Laos further. These could include visiting the World Heritage-listed ancient temple of Wat Phu Champasak, the nature reserve of Nam Ha Npa, the dramatic Mekong River, the travellers' adventure hotspot of Vang Vieng, and many more. Even further afield, the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand all border Laos and are a travellers dream with an endless list of possibilities and activities. You’ll be left wondering why you didn’t stay for longer!
Women's Empowerment Coordinator
Meet Tara, our energetic Women's Empowerment Coordinator in Luang Prabang. Tara has had the privilege of visiting around 38 countries and she loves new adventures. She has parasailed in Spain over the Mediterranean, while staying in New Zealand she skydived over Queenstown and bungy jumped off the Auckland Harbor Bridge.
Tara has received a few degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Great Falls in Great Falls, Montana; completed a Semester Abroad Certificate of Proficiency from Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand; and a Master of Arts in International Human Rights and Service with specialisation in Not-for-Profit Management from the University of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado. She was initially attracted to GVI as a volunteer teaching novice Buddhist monks. "I immediately saw the impact of the work I was doing and felt deeply moved by the beauty of Lao culture and Lao traditions. Becoming the Women’s Empowerment Project Coordinator back in Luang Prabang was the perfect opportunity for me to put my skills to use while making an impact."
Meet Leyla, our wonderful program manager in Luang Prabang. She completed a degree in International Relations, specialising in International Development from the Australian National University, she is TESOL certified, moderately fluent in French and is currently studying Lao. Leyla is a passionate person with diverse interests; she has been playing the piano since age 6, she loves running and doing yoga, she loves travelling and has set foot in many countries, sky dived in Austria, and cliff dived in Croatia.
She was first attracted to GVI as a volunteer in 2013. "Our work as a non-political, non-religious organisation that runs bottom up, inclusive projects was what I admired and wanted to get involved in. After volunteering in Kenya for 6 weeks in 2013, I went back to Australia to finish my degree. I knew that I wanted to put my volunteer experience and knowledge into practice in the field, and Laos has been the perfect place to do this!"
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.
Meet Sue, one of GVI’s Field Staff members in Luang Prabang. Sue is an ex-volunteer herself and completed two GVI internships, one in 2012 in Thailand and then another in Luang Prabang in 2015. This Sri-Lankan born TEFL qualified teacher is currently studying BA Humanities and is passionate about the Asian climate, food and culture. Sue is a wizard in lesson planning, teaching, organising, administration, and making sure all the volunteers are happy and safe, both at work and at play.
Meeting new people gives her a thrill and she absolutely loves getting the chance to work with new volunteers on a day-to-day basis. Teaching Novice monks and making a difference in their lives have been a highlight on her GVI journey and she has been intrigued by their sense of humour! “Giving alms to the monks early in the morning is the best way to start the day and going to listen to the novices chanting in the evening is the best way to end a hectic day.”
She thrives off the energy from enthusiastic and open-minded volunteers and being able to mentor them from nervousness to confidence. Her skills aren’t restricted to the classroom; she is also very entrepreneurial and adventurous. Sue had her own business for over fifteen years and celebrated becoming a grandmother in 2012 by going zip-lining in Chiang Mai, Thailand!
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.”