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Conservation & Community: Collaboration and Conflict in Saving Thailand's Elephants

This unique course offers you a rare view into the ways that communities and conservationists perceive and react to the realities of saving elephants in one region of Thailand.

Program Code: THCM0702U

Program Information

The population of Asian elephants and their habitat is rapidly declining and there is an urgent need for successful approaches to saving this important member of our ecosystem. GVI offers one of a few viable alternatives to the reality and without our help Thai elephants will soon exist only as domesticated animals confined to tourist camps. Through exploration of the areas where conservationists and community members’ goals conflict, you will better understand and be able to advocate for members of both groups to collaborate on a better future for both human and elephant.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

All GVI study abroad programs have a 6 week duration, but students will only be in country conducting field work on community or conservation projects for 2 weeks.

The focus of this program is to ensure that the villagers in Chiang Mai acquire the knowledge and skills needed to run their own sustainable elephant conservation project. The goal is for captive elephants (owned by inhabitants of the village) to be successfully reintegrated in a protected forest maintained by GVI. In addition to the opportunity to view elephants in a more natural environment, you will also be able to contribute to the conservation of this beautiful animal species, by participating in the data collection and maintenance support needed to keep pushing this project forward.

Program Details

Select a Start Date

  • 2020

Select a Duration

Select a start date first.

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.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Chiang-Mai'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.
 
GVIThailandChiangMai

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Meet the team - Senior Field Management

Jill Walker

Deputy Director of Programs
Meet GVI’s Jill,also known by her rap name, Rainmaker, or her spiritual name, Field Whisperer. Her journey with GVI began back in 2007 as Thailand's Country Director, where she helped set up GVI’s first TEFL program!

Now she is based in Chaing Rai, Thailand. Jill's role involves providing support for all of our programs around the world. Working closing with each base, she looks to identify and manage any issues that occur so GVI are able to offer the best programs possible.

Liane

Base Manager

Meet Liane! Liane is known on base as “Base Mum” and is originally from England. Her journey with GVI began in March 2018 after she had finished working in Malawi for six months. Liane has also worked in both China and Australia, where she was a teacher. In her spare time Liane enjoys making the most of what Thailand has to offer, hiking mountains and scuba diving!

Matt

Program Manager

This is Matt, the Program Manager for GVI’s base in Accra, Ghana. Matt has a vast array of experience in Ghana, having lived there for over 11 years. He considers his beachside village to be his new home, as he is originally from the UK.


Matt completed his Masters Degree in International Development, back in 2008. He has since put it to good work, working with a variety of NGO’s before finding GVI. He loves Ghana, its music, dance, beaches as well as the cats and dogs at the base!

Molly Plexico

Regional Director for Southeast Asia
Meet Molly, our hard working Regional Director for Southeast Asia. Overseeing operations in 3 countries is no easy task but Molly is more than capable.

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 Cambodia.

Meet the team - In-Country Staff

Dee

Community Liaison

Meet Dee! Dee is from Thailand and has been with GVI for a year now. His family looks after six elephants and he has been a Mahout for 17 years. He helps to take care of the elephants that are in the care of his family.

Don

Community Liaison

This is Suwan, also known as Don! He is has been working with GVI for three months now. Don is a Mahout in Chiang Mai and so he plays a very important role in the day to day care of the elephants. Further Don loves the forest that he is surrounded by everyday!

Ed

Field Staff

This is Ed another one of our Field Staff here in Chiang Mai. Ed studied Zoology at university and his favourite thing about the program is getting to know the village and the people in it!

KT

Field Staff

Meet Katie, from England. Like many of our other Field Staff Katie was originally a volunteer before becoming an intern and finally a full time member of staff.

Myles

Assistant Base Manager

Introducing you to Myles, also referred to as Coach. Coach is from Brooklyn, New York and has been the Assistant Base Manager for over a year now. Other experience includes working with cobras in Thailand, monkeys in Zanzibar and crocodiles in Florida. On top all this, Myle has 127 dreadlocks!

Toby Craze

Field Staff
Meet Toby, who is originally from Cornwall in the UK. Toby came to GVI Chiang Mai, Thailand, in September of 2018 as an intern, fresh out of university. He has since become one of our Field Staff. Fun fact, once upon a time Toby was urinated on by a lion!

Tom Mitchell

Field Staff
This is Tom! He is one of our Field Staff at GVI’s base in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Tom is from the UK and began his time with GVI four months ago as an intern. Before his arrival in the jungles of Chiang Mai, Tom had no experience within conservation. In fact Tom had never been outside the UK. Quite the jump, to say the least!

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.


Please note: Both conservation- and community-focused programs are offered at this location.


GVI Chiang Mai’s programs work in collaboration with the local Karen hill tribe and village of Huay Pakoot. Here we work with the elephant-keeping community to help monitor the introduction of elephants into their natural habitat from their previous lives in tourist camps.


Your contribution will help to keep these elephants in protected forests, continuing the conservation of these beautiful animals and what remains of their fragmented forest habitats, as well as providing funding to keep the project running whilst offering alternative livelihoods to the local community. The goal of this project is to have semi-wild herds of elephants living, socializing, and foraging in their natural habitat, supervised by their mahouts around their local village.


This allows us to offer support to the local community, assist in the conservation of these amazing animals, and to address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as #15 – Life On Land, #4 – Quality Education, and #8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth.


Project Objectives

 


GVI Chiang Mai Long-term Objectives:  


1. Increase and promote ethical elephant tourism.


2. Create a viable self-sustaining eco-tourism program for the village. As well as supporting a stable herd of elephants living naturally in the forested area of the village.


3. Improve standards of living and job opportunities for people in the Huay Pakoot village


4. Improve sustainable natural resource management in the Huay Pakoot area


Publications

The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research. Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies. We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.


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


Wildlife

The Asian Elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, but there are also many other notable species found in Thailand. These include the two species of bear, namely the Asiatic black bear and Malayan sun bear; gibbons and a dhole, also know as an Asiatic wild dog. You might consider doing a night hike while on base to look for snakes, frogs and other nocturnal animals. Otherwise try your hand at identifying unique birds and insects, and surveying the biodiversity in the forests around the village.

Spirituality and Religion

The official religion of the Kingdom of Thailand is Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced by the majority of the population, who visit monastery temples found throughout the country.


Cooking

Many visitors to Thailand choose it as a destination because of its amazing food culture. From street food to culinary delights in the finest Thai restaurants, you will never be short of local dishes to try when exploring Thailand. The national dish of Thailand is Pad Thai, which is a popular rice noodle dish combining the flavours of sweet, sour, salty and spicy with stir-fried egg, tofu, sprouts, and other vegetables, served with lime and crushed peanuts. During your stay in the Huay Pakoot village, you will have the unique opportunity to sample traditional Karen food.

Festivals

There are festivals throughout the year, the most notable being Songkran, the Thai new year and water festival, held in mid-April, and the lantern festival in November.

Languages

Thai – This is the official language of Thailand and is spoken by roughly 36 million people across the world. In the project location, their first language is Pakinyaw, which you will learn whilst on-project.

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.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

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 conducted, 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.


Parent Info

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

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. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs 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.


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
  • Instruction and grade report
  • 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
  • School of Record transcript
  • Visa costs (where necessary)