Laos

Volunteer in Laos | Teaching programs in Vang Vieng

Brief Description

Volunteer in Laos giving English class
  • Volunteers above all teach English, but can also give classes on a range of other subjects, such as IT, accounting, skills training and more.
  • Volunteers will teach anything from beginners to advanced level English to children and young adolescents.
  • The programme syllabus was written by staff members and allows children to be tested and to gain a certificate for passing their exams.
  • There are also less formal adult classes given to people in the village and the aim is to increase the number of these classes.
  • The classes are the most imoprtant part of the community project, but always go hand in hand with other daily chores, which can be any of the following; harvesting, construction, weeding, planting, watering, assisting in the restaurant, admin or other.
  • Volunteers that wish to be Education coordinators must dedicate at least one year. He/she is involved in student support with regards to scholarships and funding and the follow up of the education program as a whole.
  • English classes are NOT year round (see the chart below)
  • CHECK THE YEAR CALENDAR HERE!!!

Apply

Volunteer in Laos | Employment creation in Vang Vieng

Brief Description

employment creation-Laos-volunteer-abroad
  • Volunteers that apply to this program help to create high quality employment opportunities for people from nearby villages.
  • Generally these programs include involving the local community in producing and selling local / natural products, so as to boost their income.
  • Examples of projects are a soap producing project in which local women receive training in soap making, accounting, marketing and the management of a small business. Similarly a mud-brick factory project has been ongoing for some time. Here men in the local community receive training in mud-brick making, business management, accounting, marketing and more.
  • This program generally goes hand in hand with other tasks, such as the daily chores (harvesting, construction, weeding, planting, watering, assisting in the restaurant etc) and / or teaching.
  • Minimum commitment of 6 weeks
  • CHECK THE YEAR CALENDAR HERE!!!

Apply

Volunteer in Laos | Working on an organic farm in Vang Vieng

Brief Description

Voluntarios recogiendo arroz en Laos
  • There are a range of tasks that can be performed by volunteers applying to this program, dependant mainly upon their skill set and the time they can dedicate to the tasks / project.
  • The gardens have potential but need people who can and are willing to work on them. If you have skills with regards to permaculture, organic farming or soil improvement, you can always be of great assistance.
  • There is also a biogas system for the toilets, gas for the kitchen stoves and compost and the work done is ‘eco’ in many ways, but is always more that can be learnt about solar energy, mobility concepts and wastewater management. Anyone who is willing to help on any of these is always very welcome; people who want to help turn ideas into real sustainable projects!
  • Volunteers can also help with construction of new housing for long term volunteers, using mud bricks.
  • This program generally goes hand in hand with other tasks, such as the daily chores (harvesting, construction, weeding, planting, watering, assisting in the restaurant etc) and / or teaching.
  • CHECK THE YEAR CALENDAR HERE!!!

Apply

Laos program info

Accommodation

  • Volunteers can stay in any of the 3 options stipulated below:

Option 1: Dormitory with 17 beds at the project site. Showers with hot water and toilets are nearby.

Option 2: simple private room for 2 people in the Blue Lagoon (not owned by the local NGO), just a few minutes’ walk from the project site, with double bed, private bathroom and fan.

  • The NGO where volunteers work also has a kitchen. Volunteers can buy drinks from the kitchen.
  • Volunteers are asked to (taking turns) help with cleaning of the kitchen.

acomodation 

Food

  • 3 meals a day are included.
  • The food is local style, prepared by a local cook. The main types of foods are rice, meat, and vegetables. For vegetarians the choice is generally limited to rice, bread, vegetables, and eggs.


 What to see & do:
(Nearby)

  • Vang Vieng: Though Vang Vieng itsself is charming as a small city, its beauty lies in its immediate natural surroundings of beautiful limestone karst terrain. Going for a bike /motorbike ride close to Vang Vieng is like taking a ride through a picture card landscape! The city and its surroundings are also known for being Laos’ adventure capital. Sports such as kayaking, caving, trail and mountain-bike riding, rafting and rock climbing are everywhere to be found!
  • The Blue Lagoon: Just a few meters from the grounds there is a popular beautiful small lagoon, where tourists staying in Vang Vieng often go to enjoy the cool, crystal clear turquoise water. Volunteers often go to take a dip in the lagoon in the morning or during lunch breaks. Very refreshing!

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Others

  • Vang Vieng finds itself practically equally distant from the gorgeous Luang prabang as it does from the many fasceted Vietiane. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world heritage site and is an absolute must for anyone travelling to Laos. It is arguably one of Southe East Asia’s most beautiful destinations, due mainly to its natural beauty, but also because of the may man-made sites to see (a royal palace, dozens of temples, French colonial architecture…). Vietniane, Laos’ capital city, is a charming, peaceful riverside capital, which is also home to the sacred Pha That Luang, numerous museums…and lots of lovely cafés!

Schedule

There is no typical day, since tasks depend very much on the season and the projects in which they work, but volunteers are asked to work a minimum of five hours per day. The work week is 6 days a week, with one day off per week, based on the lunar calendar (Buddha day). If teaching is on a Buddha day, volunteers will also have an afternoon off at the weekend.

The day tends to be as follows:

  • 07:00: Meeting. Morning chores may include:
    • Prepare breakfast
    • Caring for the pig
    • Cleaning the bathrooms
    • Cleaning the community center
    • Cleaning the restaurant
    • Watering the garden
  • 08:30: Breakfast
    • Work begins at approximately 09:30 and may be any one of the tasks stipulated in the volunteer tasks stipulated above, depending on the profile of the volunteer (short term volunteer, long term volunteer or coordinator)
  • Between 12:00 & 15:00: Lunch. (Sometimes volunteers also have a nap).
  • 15:00: Volunteers start to prepare lessons or work on any of the tasks corresponding to their profile (short term volunteer, long term volunteer or coordinator).
  • 15:45 – 16:45: Activity classes
  • 17:00 to 20:00: English lessons are given from Monday to Friday.

Location

  • Vang Vieng is located in Northern laos, about 4 hours’ drive from Laos’ capital city Vientiane.
  • Nearby popular destinations are:
    • Vientiane; Laos’ capital city (about 4 hours’ drive away) is a charming, peaceful riverside capital, which is also home to the sacred Pha That Luang, numerous museums…and lots of lovely cafés!
    • Luang Prabang, a charming UNESCO World heritage site featuring temples, palaces and Frenh colonial architecture (about 6 hours’ drive)
    • Slightly further destinations are Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Bangkok (Thailand) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia), to which you can find return flights for about 100€, 160€ and 250€ respectively.


mapa de Laos

Volunteers should bring at least a few long trousers and long sleeved shirts for when working in the field.

The prerequisites depend on what it is you’re looking to do:

Short-term volunteers

  • Minimum commitment of 2 weeks
  • Minimum 18 years old.
  • Basic level of English (those volunteers that have a basic level of English may not have the possibility to teach English and may be asked to volunteer to help with other tasks) .
  • Have an open mind, patience and motivation.

Long-term volunteers

  • Minimum commitment of 6 weeks
  • Minimum 21 years old
  • Advanced level of English
  • Have an open mind, patience and motivation

Coordinators

  • Minimum commitment of 1 year
  • Minimum 21 years of age
  • Advanced level of English.
  • Have an open mind, patience and motivation.

 

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  • Accommodation (either in the ‘Dormitory’ of the NGO or in private rooms about 200 meters from the NGO).
  • 3 meals a day.
  • An introduction program to train each volunteer as to the different tasks, working with long-term volunteers and staff.
  • Information and practical arrangements.
  • Ongoing support and supervision during the program.
  • Internet access.
  • Pick-up from the centre of Vang Vieng

What is not included?

  • Flights.
  • Medical / Travel Insurance.
  • Vaccines.
  • Penal certificate.
  • Visas.
  • (INTVS, and sometimes our partner, gives information on all the above provisions, but does not cover these expenses)

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Volunteer period Option 1 (Per person) Option 2 (Per person)
2 weeks 1,410,000 KIP 2,110,000 KIP (or 1,760,000 KIP p.p if 2 people in the room)
Additional day 77,000 Kip 127,000 Kip (or 102,000 Kip if 2 people in the room)

Please click here to convert the prices to your local currency.

Option 1: Dormitory of 17 beds at the project site. Showers with hot water and toilets are close.
Option 2: Private rooms for 2 persons just before the Blue Lagoon a few minutes’ walk from the project site, with double bed, private bathroom and fan in the room. If 1 person in the room the price is 2,110,000 KIP for the first 2 weeks, then 127,000 KIP for each additional day. If 2 people in the room, the price is 1,760,000 KIP per person for the first two weeks, then 102,000 KIP per person for each additional day)

INTVS charges its own fee of 185€, regardless of the time that a volunteer stays abroad. This fee covers;

  • Volunteer support prior to, during and after the volunteer experience (in English, French & Spanish)
  • All necessary preparatory information including;
    • Visas
    • Vaccinations
    • Travel/Medical Insurance
    • Police Check form
    • The program (the site, schedule, role…)
    • Local contacts & important numbers

And also…

  • History, demographics & local norms
  • What to bring
  • Do’s and don’ts
  • And much more.
  • It also covers work and travel costs that INTVS staff incur to check up on and document the programs on a regular basis.
  • The payments to the local organizations and INTVS are completely separate. We do NOT charge them a commission and 100% of the program cost goes to them.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?

In order to be able to talk to the locals, to get to know a new culture and to live a new experience.

What did you find the most challenging?

To get to know the children and how to teach them.

What did you find the most rewarding?

When the children begin to understand what you’re teaching and actually want to learn more!

What have you learnt from the experience?

I’ve learnt to be patient and have learnt a lot about the Lao culture throughout my stay.

What advice would you give to furure volunteers?

Be ready for a big challenge…but also for a wonderful reward!

Blanche Roy-Brouard (Canada)

Demographics

  • Official name: Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
  • Surface: 236.800Km
  • Geographic boundaries: is a landlocked country located in Southeast Asia. Laos borders to the north with China and Vietnam, to the east with Vietnam, Cambodia to the south, to the west with Thailand and with Myanmar to the northwest.
  • Population: 6.8 million inhabitants
  • Population density: 29 inhabitants / km2.
  • Average age of population: 22.4 years
  • Birth rate: 25%
  • Fertility rate: 3 children per woman.
  • Population growth: 1.8% per annum
  • Capital: Vientiane (450,000, 750,000 metropolitan area)
  • Adult literacy rate: 72.7% (source UN).
  • Language: Official: Laos
  • Administrative division: The country is divided into 16 provinces (Kang).

Culture

  • The predominant religion is Theravaa Buddhism, which, together with animism (the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe), practiced among the mountain tribes, virtually coexists with the worship of the spirit. The way of life is strongly influenced by Buddhism, as are arts, language, music and other artistic performances. Lao people are taught to be patient and open.
  • Thanks to Buddhism, Lao people have a sense of unity and one is taught to be good and to avoid evil deeds.
  • A small number of the Lao population are Muslim or Christian.
  • The predominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. In mountainous regions, a variety of tribal languages are spoken .
  • The Laotian cuisine consists mainly of the omnipresent bread made from glutinous rice “Khao Niau”, an ideal accompaniment to dishes like “Tam Mak Hunk” (papaya salad), or “Mok” (thick locro bamboo and pork wrapped in banana leaves).
  • Once a year a very important day is celebrated: Boun Pha Vet; a Buddhist festival that lasts two days and which involves the whole community. Traditionally the festival takes place during January or February, depending on the lunar calendar. During the ceremony, the Sangha monks give a sermon on Jakata Vessantara chapters, also known as the Great Birth Sermon.
  • Laotian music and dance has developed around national holidays and ceremonies. The Sep Nyar is a traditional dance accompanied by the sound of a gong.
  • The architecture of the country is very expressive; very common is the image of Buddha in temples and ceremonial monasteries.
  • Local crafts are made of gold and silver and above all the making of jewelry is very popular. There is also a strong culture of weaving, with mothers teaching their daughters for generations.
  • The literature of the country has its origins in the Jataka tales, a collection of over 600 stories in which the previous lives of Buddha are recounted.


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History

  • Laos’ history is linked to the existence of the Lao people. They belonged to the Thai ethnic group, who migrated from China to the Mekong delta. Possibly the first inhabitants of the present Laos territory were the Ja (Kha), who lived under the Funan Empire until the 5th century BC. Later, the territory began to receive migration from other ethnic groups like the Shans, the Siamese, the Laotians and the Hmong-Mien tribes. They lived in the mountains and adopted Theravada Buddhism as early as the 9th century. All these groups shared the same stem of Thai language.
  • It was a society divided in clans without a sophisticated political organization, lacking its own form of state. This gradually led to being dominated by their more developed neighbours of the kingdom Jennie, later called the Khmer Empire, who settled south in what is now known as Cambodia, with Angkor Wat as capital.
  • Much later, during the 13th and 14th century migration occurred from Lao and Thai tribes, after the destruction of the Nanchao state, now situated in China, where Mongols rules in the early 13th century. Around this time, the Lao clans and tribes began to gather as autonomous entities.
  • The kingdom Lan Xang (Land of the million Elephants) – between the 14th and 18th century – can be considered as the first Laotian state to the detriment of the Khmer Empire.
  • In the 14th century we note the first unification of various regional entities in the area of what we now know as Luang Prabang. The kingdom of Lan Xang was established in 1353, with the currently named Luang Prabang as capital. The first king was called Fa Ngum. Progressively the kingdom expanded to the west of the Mekong River and into the mountainous northern regions.
  • In 1707 the state was divided into 3 smaller ones: Luang Prabang, Viang Chan (Vientiane) and Champasak. Siam managed to restore its power in 1828, when the kingdom of Viang Chan launched a war against the Siamese Viang Chan failed to win the war and their territory was turned into a Thai province. The two other kingdoms were very weak due to internal struggle, which facilitated the French colonialization of 1887…
  • The French established, already in 1862, a protectorate in Cochin. After they defeated the Vietnamese in 1885, Tonkin and Cambodia became part of the French protectorate. At the same time, the British Empire ended its occupation of Burma. The French began to rule over the Laotian kingdoms that were themselves vassals of the Annamites. After a French military campaign, the king of Siam ceded all rights to the Lao kingdoms – outside the Mekong – to France. 

Colonial period

  • During the colonial era, a model of indirect rule was introduced. The French allowed the King of Luang Prabang to stay in his post but under supervision of the French officers, who had the final say. Unlike Vietnam, Laos lacked a coastline that would allow the development of trade. Laos also lacked raw materials of value. Laos appeared to be the hinterland of Vietnam, with few resources, and to which not much attention was paid.
  • At the end of the 19th century, the main objective of the colony was to occupy the Laos territory in order to control the eastern bank of the Mekong River, because it was an important trade route to China. The lack of interest for the rest of the region meant that Laos stayed one of the less developed areas of the so-called region of “French Indochina”.
  • About 1919, however, France imposed an educational system on the Lao aristocracy, trying to make them local official administrators, loyal to the metropolis, in order to achieve greater cultural penetration in Laos.

The Second World War

  • During WW II, Japan invaded French Indochina, creating garrisons of locals, but leaving the French civil administration at work, while France itself was occupied by Nazi Germany.
  • After the war, Prince Savang Vatthan, son of the king of Laos Sisivan Vong, proclaimed independence from France in 1945, with the help of the Japanese. But the Japanese surrender reversed the roles and the territory fell once again under French administration.
  • The remaining resistance was overthrown late April 1946, forcing Lao leaders to flee to Thailand. A year later the French forces crowned the local king with the draft of the Laotian constitution. In 1949 Laos was declared independent, but linked to the French Union, which was withdrawn in 1957.

Postcolonial period

  • In the new post-colonial period, the administrative headquarters were established in Vientiane. But there remains a dissident movement forming a group called the Pathet Lao communist affiliation, who in 1953 invaded and took control of most of the countryside north of the country. In 1953 an agreement was signed in Geneva to end the war in Indochina. As a consequence the French were forced to leave Laos. In 1955 the UN took control of Laos to sustain the truce established. A guerrilla war was started with the support of North Vietnam and the Soviet Union.

Laotian civil war 

  • During 1960 the region was dominated by the Pathet Lao (political movement of nationalist and communist ideology) and was involved in the Vietnam War due to the existing support among the Pathet Lao and Vietn Minh. The regime of North Vietnam supported the communist Viet Cong guerrillas facing the South Vietnamese regime. The Pathet Lao sought to overthrow the monarchy.
  • In 1962 a new agreement was reached in Geneva by which Prince Souvanna Phouma returned to power but with the addition of communist ministers in the government and preserving the status of constitutional monarchy.
  • In 1972 the United States began to withdraw its troops from Vietnam and therefore decreased its support for the regime of Laos. This allowed the strengthening of the Pathet Lao and allowed the government of Souvanna Phouma to accept talks in accordance with the peace agreements signed in Paris to end the confrontation between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and the US.
  • With the arrival of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia a fragile coexistence between monarchists and Communists in Laos was established. During the month of May, the Pathet Lao sent his militia to occupy strategic points in the country, while demanding the overtake of the government.
  • In 1975 the Laotian monarchy was abolished. The country was proclaimed the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos, led by Souphanouvong and ruled by the Lao Phatet as single party (LPRP Lao People’s Revolutionary Party), following the communist political and economic model.
  • In 1989 the perestroika, initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, resulted in a severe shortage of financial aid to Laos because of the Soviet internal problems. This forced the government of Laos to seek help from France, Japan, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. The economic model became a hybrid of capitalist policies with a communist political system, following the Chinese model.

Currently

  • The presence of private companies has increased since 1980. However Laos is rated one of the countries with few economic freedom. However, in 2006 the economy grew at a rate of 7.2%, or the 35th fastest growing country in the world.
  • The Lao economy is based on the exploitation of natural resources, mining and hydroelectric power primarily. There is a small export-oriented manufacturing textile industry and an emerging agro-industry. Chinese and Vietnamese companies have invested in the mining sector, and Thai companies did so in hydroelectric projects.
  • Due to economic isolation, the global crisis did not affect Laos which has grown in recent years at a rate close to 8%. It is expected that these figures are maintained in the medium term thanks to new infrastructure projects.
  • Agriculture, which accounts for a quarter of GDP and employs 70% of the working population, has suffered from flooding in the past two years.
  • It is a country with a rather primitive infrastructure. It has no railways, it has a rudimentary system of roads and limited external and internal telecommunications. Many rural areas do not have access to electricity.
  • The 1991 Constitution enshrines a system of single party; the “People’s Revolutionary Party of Laos”.