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 the quality and access to education for disadvantaged females, while simultaneously increasing their employment opportunities and quality of life.
Having the rare opportunity to work closely with disadvantaged 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.
"The entire experience was amazingly rewarding. All the students I had the pleasure of interacting with were hardworking, dedicated and so appreciative of the work we were doing. Although I was only on the program for a month and had no previous teaching experience, I felt that I was able to play a real part in improving the life opportunities of the students I worked with. I would encourage anyone wanting to make a positive impact while travelling or wanting to experience a culture beyond the tourist experience to seriously consider a project with GVI. My only regret is that I did not stay longer."
What's Not Included
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 positively impact these females’ futures.
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.
What's Not Included
Females’ access to education is paramount for individual self-determination and community and international development. Through offering English classes in a safe learning environment, you will provide increased access to education, while helping young disadvantaged girls work towards a more positive future. Working closely with community needs, interns on this project will help us achieve our goals by providing access to education around the topics of English, literacy, health and life skills.
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. By playing a role in increasing women’s access to education, we can help more children stay in school, positively impact future employment opportunities and socio-economic status of 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.
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
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs such as providing
education to females from disadvantaged communities but it also offers wonderful
opportunities to travel in the local area during your downtime or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of knowledge about Laos 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 team 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. Or take a boat 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 travelers’
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.”