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Thailand: The Elephant Village Initiative™

Thailand: The Elephant Village Initiative™

Split your time between working with gentle Asian elephants and teaching English to children.


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  • Responsibly care for elephants living at a true sanctuary
  • Learn about cultural, social and environmental issues related to elephant tourism
  • Teach English in a primary school classroom
  • Hike to waterfalls and soak in natural hot springs
  • Visit colorful night bazaars filled with local cuisine and handicrafts

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Travel to Chiang Rai, where you’ll lend your compassion to caring for elephants at a true elephant sanctuary. These animals are an important part of Thailand’s culture: traditional symbols of royal power, an essential feature of Buddhist art and regarded as spiritual mentors. Learn how their cultural significance, conservation and controversial tourism are all deeply interwoven in complex discussions. Then, volunteer as an English teacher in local schools and temples. Exploring Chiang Rai’s waterfall trails, hot springs and national parks after service will inspire an appreciation for nature and an easy pace of life.

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Community Service

Spend one week volunteering at a sanctuary for elephants, and the other teaching English to local children in classrooms and temples. The goal of the elephant sanctuary is to let the animals lead their lives as naturally and stress-free as possible. Work alongside leaders of this movement, who have committed their lives to promoting healthy relationships between humans and elephants. You’ll help by harvesting organic elephant food, feeding the animals and helping with daily tasks of the sanctuary. In your other project, teach English to enthusiastic primary school students and novice monks who are around your age. Play learning games and come up with ways to help them improve their language skills.

Hands-On Learning

After decades of human exploitation, working toward returning independence, natural behaviors and dignity to Asian elephants is not easy, and depends on the awareness of travelers like you. Discuss complex cultural issues regarding captive elephant welfare, tourism and conservation. Listen to experts speak on these controversial topics, and determine your own first steps to encouraging a culture that promotes high standards of animal ethics around the world. Reflect on the similarities and differences in education systems and culture between East and West. Visit beautiful temples in Northern Thailand and chat with a monk about Thai Buddhism.

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Volunteering at the elephant sanctuary and teaching English both require hard work, but giving your energy and effort to these causes will yield memorable, rewarding moments. At each project’s end, relax with a day of adventure in Chiang Rai’s lush, rural environment. Hike a trail that leads to a breathtaking waterfall. Swim in its pools and visit a natural hot spring. You’ll also go on a full-day bicycle tour around Chiang Rai, spotting numerous temples, rice fields and orchards. At night, visit the street bazaars, shop for artisanal handicrafts and sample Thai cuisine.


Students travel to two different Home Bases on this program. While volunteering at the elephant sanctuary, the group stays at a traditional Thai property on the sanctuary premises. Wake up to elephants meandering right outside your window! During the other week of the program, students stay at a boutique resort north of Chiang Rai. In both Home Bases, students live with roommates, have access to shared bathrooms and enjoy exceptional Thai cuisine daily.

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Dates & Tuition

Thailand: The Elephant Village Initiative™ 14-Day Program
Duration: 14 days
Tuition: $3,799
Student/Staff Ratio: 6 to 1
Community Service Hours: 30
Language Hours: N/A
See What's Included
Tuition includes all in-country expenses including:
  • All educational materials
  • Lodging
  • 3 meals per day
  • All in-country transportation
  • Airport pick-up/drop-off
  • Professional full-time staff and experts from the USA/Europe
  • 24/7 Parent Support Hotline during the program
  • Secondary medical and travel insurance
  • All cultural activities, lectures and weekend excursions
  • Pre-departure materials and support
More Information

Interested in Family-Friendly trips? Check out Discover Corps, our volunteer vacations for adults and families, in collaboration with the National Peace Corps Association.

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GLA provided a wonderful support system on The Elephant Village Initiative™, and the mentors on the trip were amazing. I would definitely recommend Global Leadership Adventures to anyone who wanted to do service abroad while simultaneously learning about different cultures.

Thailand: The Elephant Village Initiative™
Hometown: Hoboken, NJ

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