Laos Cultural Immersion Teen Volunteer Program

Volunteer on education projects and embark on a cultural adventure trip on this under 18 project in Laos.

Program Information

Join a team of international under 18 volunteers in Laos' ancient city of Luang Prabang where you will work towards increasing the educational opportunities of students in Luang Prabang, while fostering a cross-cultural exchange through the mediums of language and sport. Immerse yourself in the fascinating Lao culture, learn more about Buddhist Novice Monks, visit local sites such as Kuang Si Waterfalls and learn the basics of the Lao language.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals


This project has been specially designed for those looking to volunteer, but are aged between 15 and 17 years old. Throughout this project, our younger volunteers will have greater supervision, training, and world-class leaders in the field who have been chosen for their mix of relevant experience and ability to mentor and inspire young people.

The project
The beautiful ancient city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated in northern central Laos. Project work is in this idyllic setting, at the meeting of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, famous for its Buddhist temples and monasteries. As with many of our education projects, what you will work on is determined by the needs and requirements of our local partner communities, but will involve a combination of the following projects:

  • Contributing to the Library Summer Kids Program (may include English classes, dancing, singing, arts and crafts)

  • GVI Laos GOALS (Giving Opportunities to All Laos Students) Sports Program

  • Language and Culture Exchange Program

Through your contribution and our relationships with local communities, you can be sure that your efforts are being channelled in ethical and sustainable ways to meet overall aims and goals. Please note that this program offers durations of 2 to 4 weeks. Please speak to your Country Expert for further information.

Highlights include 
Being immersed in the Lao culture; learning about the fascinating language, history, food, religion and traditions; having the rare opportunity to come in contact with Novice Monks; visiting local sights or being able to enjoy a weekend break on the banks of the Mekong River.

Program Details

Program Type:
Location: Asia - Laos - Luang Prabang

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Project Life


Your cultural adventure in Laos begins when you are picked up from the airport and taken to your accommodation at  a local guesthouse. You will attend a cultural orientation, health and safety briefing and then be given a guided tour and orientation around the community. Following this you will experience chanting at one of the many temples in Luang Prabang, followed by dinner. The next morning you will attend a presentation introducing you to GVI’s work in Laos and around the rest of the world. Our local staff will present a cultural talk and you will learn more about the local area and community where you will be volunteering. This also includes a Lao language lesson. After lunch, you will visit Kuang Si Waterfalls;, learning more about the local culture and beautiful scenery in Luang Prabang.

The Work Begins

Your project kicks off the next day when you arrive at the project sites for an overview of the project work and an orientation of the locations, where you will work for the duration of your program as well as meeting our local partners. Volunteers will then be organised into teams or pairs and given instructions and guidance on expectations and roles when working with the Lao students.

Cultural Weekend and Adventure Side Trip

Throughout your time on project, you will also have the opportunity to appreciate the rich cultural history and diversity the region has to offer. Over the course of our cultural weekend as well as organised additional side trips, you will take part in an array of activities, ranging from visiting beautiful temples and villages, hiking up to the view point in Nong Khiaw, going on a river cruise, trekking and visiting caves. Other activities might include kayaking, mountain biking, and learning more about the local communities and the rice farming industry.

On your last day in Laos, we will sit down and reflect on the trip, the contribution you have made and review your experiences as you prepare to say your final goodbyes. After some last minute shopping and a departure dinner, you will be dropped off at the airport to make your way home with a camera full of amazing pictures, new friends and a myriad of new experiences.

Project Details

Your support and efforts in field are a welcomed contribution to the continued increase in educational opportunities of students in Luang Prabang. As a volunteer you will be expected to serve as a community role model, promoting respect for Laos’ heritage and environment.

As Laos’s tourism industry has begun to expand and diversify, the demand and need for English education as well as cross cultural experiences is rapidly increasing. Working directly with the community, you will contribute to increasing students access to education and skills development in both of these important areas.

How this project makes a difference

The main focus of GVI Laos is education as a tool for individual and community development. Educational opportunities and socio-economic status are closely related in Laos. Economic disadvantage and deep-rooted cultural values restrict access to education. This is only magnified for those living in rural areas; for Laos, this equates to three quarters of the population. Our programs target disadvantaged social groups with the aim of helping to increase students’ access to education. By doing so, GVI Laos works to empower our students to increase their future employment opportunities, positively impact their socio-economic status and improve the quality of life of themselves, their families and communities while meaningfully contributing to the development of Laos as a whole.

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 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Visa costs (where necessary)


Although this trip follows a structured itinerary, don’t think you won’t be seeing and doing some amazing things! You’ll embark on both a cultural weekend and additional side trips in order  to discover all the amazing sights the region has to offer!

Proposed Itinerary
Saturday Day 1:
AM: Introduction to Laos by Program Manager and U18’s staff. Greeting and Orientation.
PM: Cultural Orientation, health and safety briefing and chanting at one of the many temples at Luang Prabang. Welcome dinner.

Sunday Day 2:
AM: Presentation about GVI Laos and our objectives. Overview of the U18’s programs. Culture talk on Buddhism and life as a Novice Monk by a former Novice Monk. Lao Lesson. Teaching Training.
PM: Kuang Si waterfalls

Monday Day 3:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Visit to the museum and Wat Xieng Thong.

Tuesday Day 4:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Mekong River Boat Ride, Night market visit

Wednesday Day 5:
AM: Alms Giving, Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Katu Weaving class.

Thursday Day 6:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Preparation for language and culture exchange. Trivia and/or Movie night.

Friday Day 7: Day 1 Trek/Kayak tour
Saturday Day 8: Day 2 Trek/Kayak tour
Sunday Day 9: Lao Cooking Class

Monday Day 10:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Language and culture exchange Day 1. Culture talks on Ethnic groups in Laos.

Tuesday Day 11:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Language and culture student exchange Day 2. Scrabble Tournament Day 1.

Wednesday Day 12:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Scrabble Tournament 2 Finals.

Thursday Day 13:
AM: Library Kids Summer Program/Sports program
PM: Pak Ou Caves

Friday Day 14:
AM: Living Land Farm (Rice farming experience)
PM: Farewell Baci blessing ceremony and dinner

Saturday Day 15: Departure

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.”

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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.