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Women's Empowerment Project in Laos

Contribute to sustainable, long-term women’s empowerment initiatives in Laos


Program Information

Travel to beautiful city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and contribute to sustainable women’s empowerment initiatives in the local community. Teach English lessons and life-skills workshops and play a significant role in increasing females’ access to education, while improving their employment opportunities and quality of life.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Discover the ancient city of Luang Prabang, Laos, a UNESCO World heritage site, while contributing to sustainable women’s empowerment initiatives in the local community. Through various forms of English, health and life skills classes, you will play a significant role in improving females’ access to education which can then empower them to increase their own employment opportunities and quality of life.



Highlights include:
Having the rare opportunity to work closely with girls and women from the local community and surrounding areas; learning about Lao culture, history, food, religion and language; visiting local sights and being able to enjoy a weekend break on the banks of the Mekong River.

Volunteering on these sustainable women’s empowerment initiatives, you will meaningfully contribute to GVI Laos’ objectives such as: promoting gender equality, improving equal access to education and empowering local females to gain increased employment opportunities and self-determination in order to break the cycle of poverty and inequality.

Program Details

Project Life

You will work with a variety of female students teaching both practical and conversational English, health and life skills classes across different ages and levels, depending on the needs of the local community at the time. This challenging but rewarding role will provide not only an insight into Lao culture, but also an increased understanding of females’ changing roles in Laos and will allow you to provide educational opportunities to local females that enables them to increase their own future employment opportunities and improving quality of life for themselves, their families and communities.

Volunteers can expect to be involved in numerous parts of our women’s empowerment programme, as well as other classes in the local community, depending on the needs of the projects at that given time. Consequently, volunteers should be prepared to be flexible and adapt to changes in the field. From providing one-on- one educational lessons or large group classes; to delivering health and life skills workshops. Your time and efforts will help females improve their self-determination, increase families and communities’ quality of life, and help females to meaningfully contribute towards increasing the productivity, economic, and social development of Laos.

You will work on the project Monday through Friday with weekends as yours to explore the surrounding area or simply relax at base with your fellow volunteers. The project is based in Luang Prabang where Southeast Asian architecture and French colonial mansions collide to create a beautiful and unique setting. Accommodation is in a centrally located guesthouse with electricity and shared rooms and bathrooms. You will enjoy daily communal meals with your fellow volunteers.

Project Details

Females’ access to education is paramount for individual self-determination and community and international development. Working closely with community needs, volunteers on this project will help us achieve our goals by providing access to education around the topics of English, literacy, health and life skills which in turn help females improve their employment opportunities, socio economic status, confidence and independence.

How the project makes a difference…

Laos is one of the least developed countries in Southeast Asia, with three quarters of the total population living in poor rural areas. Females in Laos face a unique set of barriers which impact their access to education and employment opportunities including traditional beliefs and practices, ethnic factors and entrenched gender roles. These barriers are magnified for the large population of women living in rural areas. Females’ access to education, choices and employment opportunities are vital for improving the quality of life of individuals, families and communities, and is imperative for the development of Laos as a whole. Playing a role in increasing women’s access to education, assists these women to increase their own future employment opportunities and positively impact the socio-economic status of themselves and their families and communities, break the poverty cycle and help women become more financially independent. Through these initiatives, females can begin to or continue to meaningfully contribute towards increasing the productivity, economic, and social development of Laos.

*During traditional festivals and holiday periods volunteers will have the opportunity to join in community celebrations and cultural activities.

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.


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
  • A guided tour of Luang Prabang to show you the sights and point out the best restaurants, internet cafe’s, banks, etc
  • A safe, shared room in guesthouse accommodation in the ancient city Luang Prabang
  • 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
  • Communal local meals
  • Learning about Lao culture, history, food, religion and language
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Orientation on teaching methods and techniques, language and culture
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • The rare opportunity to work closely with the women and girls of Laos
  • 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.


Country Exploration

Joining a GVI program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunity to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer. Many decide to travel before or after their GVI experience, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.


Our own long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.


Weekend Trips

Kuang Si or Tad Sae Waterfall

The magical cascading turquoise pools of the Kuang Si and Tad Sae falls are not far from Luang Prabang.


Pak Ou Caves

Take a Mekong river boat ride the sacred cave site filled with thousands of image of the Buddha.


Buddhist Temples

Visit some of the many beautiful Buddhist temples, or Wats, in Luang Prabang. Some of the most popular include Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai.


Royal Palace Museum

Visit the sprawling Royal Palace complex to learn more about Laos history or relax in the colonial gardens.  


Nong Khiaw Hike

Trek up to the top of Nong Khiaw to Phadeng Peak to be rewarded with amazing vistas over the famously spectacular scenery of Laos.


Mountain Biking

Another way to explore the scenic landscapes of this Southeast Asian gem is on a mountain bike. Rent one in Luang Prabang and choose one of the many trails in the nearby countryside.


Kayaking

There are plenty of opportunities to kayak down the Mekong or other smaller river.


Rice farm visit

Learn how rice is made and even participate in the production by visiting one of the many nearby rice farms.


Weaving Village

Laos has been known for its silk production, unique dying and weaving patterns since ancient times. Visit the weaving village to learn about how this textile is made the traditional way.


Further Travels

Nam Ha Npa

Experience the biodiversity of Laos by visiting Nam Ha Npa. You could spot rare species like the the Asian elephant, tiger, and the clouded leopard.


Vang Vieng

Visit the Vang Vieng, a holiday resort town catering to international visitors to Loas. Tube and kayak on the Nam Song river and hike or climb the local hillsides.


Vat Phou

Much like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Vat Phou is an ancient Khmer Hindu temple. Learn more about the ancient Khmer empire by exploring the vast complex.


Southeast Asian Mekong River Cruise

Book a luxurious Mekong river cruise from Laos through to nearby Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.


The Team

Leyla Isin

Program Manager
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!"

Molly Plexico

Country Director
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.

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.

When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!

Sue Williams

Education Coordinator
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!

 

Jill Walker

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.”

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

  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020

Select a Duration

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Select Add-Ons

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+ £195
 
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+ £130
 

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.

live base 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

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.


As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.