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Laos Cultural Immersion Teen Volunteer Program

Volunteer on education projects and embark on a cultural adventure trip on this under 18 project in Laos.


Program Information

Join a team of international under 18 volunteers in Laos' ancient city of Luang Prabang where you will work towards increasing the educational opportunities of students in Luang Prabang, while fostering a cross-cultural exchange through the mediums of language and sport. Immerse yourself in the fascinating Lao culture, learn more about Buddhist Novice Monks, visit local sites such as Kuang Si Waterfalls and learn the basics of the Lao language.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

This project has been specially designed for those looking to volunteer, but are aged between 15 and 17 years old. Throughout this project, our younger volunteers will have greater supervision, training, and world-class leaders in the field who have been chosen for their mix of relevant experience and ability to mentor and inspire young people.



The project
The beautiful ancient city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated in northern central Laos. Project work is in this idyllic setting, at the meeting of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, famous for its Buddhist temples and monasteries. As with many of our education projects, what you will work on is determined by the needs and requirements of our local partner communities, but will involve a combination of the following projects:

  • Contributing to the Library Summer Kids Program (may include English classes, dancing, singing, arts and crafts)

  • GVI Laos GOALS (Giving Opportunities to All Laos Students) Sports Program

  • Language and Culture Exchange Program


Through your contribution and our relationships with local communities, you can be sure that your efforts are being channelled in ethical and sustainable ways to meet overall aims and goals. Please note that this program offers durations of 2 to 4 weeks. Please speak to your Country Expert for further information.

Highlights include 
Being immersed in the Lao culture; learning about the fascinating language, history, food, religion and traditions; having the rare opportunity to come in contact with Novice Monks; visiting local sights or being able to enjoy a weekend break on the banks of the Mekong River.

Program Details

Project Life

Volunteering

Your cultural adventure in Laos begins when you are picked up from the airport and taken to your accommodation at  a local guesthouse. You will attend a cultural orientation, health and safety briefing and then be given a guided tour and orientation around the community. Following this you will experience chanting at one of the many temples in Luang Prabang, followed by dinner. The next morning you will attend a presentation introducing you to GVI’s work in Laos and around the rest of the world. Our local staff will present a cultural talk and you will learn more about the local area and community where you will be volunteering. This also includes a Lao language lesson. After lunch, you will visit Kuang Si Waterfalls;, learning more about the local culture and beautiful scenery in Luang Prabang.

The Work Begins

Your project kicks off the next day when you arrive at the project sites for an overview of the project work and an orientation of the locations, where you will work for the duration of your program as well as meeting our local partners. Volunteers will then be organised into teams or pairs and given instructions and guidance on expectations and roles when working with the Lao students.

Cultural Weekend and Adventure Side Trip

Throughout your time on project, you will also have the opportunity to appreciate the rich cultural history and diversity the region has to offer. Over the course of our cultural weekend as well as organised additional side trips, you will take part in an array of activities, ranging from visiting beautiful temples and villages, hiking up to the view point in Nong Khiaw, going on a river cruise, trekking and visiting caves. Other activities might include kayaking, mountain biking, and learning more about the local communities and the rice farming industry.

On your last day in Laos, we will sit down and reflect on the trip, the contribution you have made and review your experiences as you prepare to say your final goodbyes. After some last minute shopping and a departure dinner, you will be dropped off at the airport to make your way home with a camera full of amazing pictures, new friends and a myriad of new experiences.

Project Details

Your support and efforts in field are a welcomed contribution to the continued increase in educational opportunities of students in Luang Prabang. As a volunteer you will be expected to serve as a community role model, promoting respect for Laos’ heritage and environment.

As Laos’s tourism industry has begun to expand and diversify, the demand and need for English education as well as cross cultural experiences is rapidly increasing. Working directly with the community, you will contribute to increasing students access to education and skills development in both of these important areas.

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 programs target disadvantaged social groups with the aim of helping to increase students’ access to education. 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.

Laos short, mid, and long-term objectives

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 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 visualize 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.

Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Laos:

1. To develop relationships with educational institutions and temples with the aim of increasing their ability to provide educational opportunities
2. To improve quality of education in Laos for students taught by GVI
3.To provide educational opportunities to all students in the local community, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity and gender
4. Improving the health and wellbeing of the Lao community
5. Improving employment opportunities and socioeconomic status of community members.
6. Reduce Carbon Footprint

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’S 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.


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.

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.


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 conduct, 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.


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)

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. Our minimum staff to participant ratio 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.


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 the GVI experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your GVI 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.


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. It’s many temples feature traditional Laos and French colonial elements combined.


Languages

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


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.


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.  


Spirituality and Religion

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


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.


Select a Start Date

  • 2019
  • 2020

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Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, 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.
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.