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Published on September 11, 2013

Voluntourism is an emerging trend in global tourism, favored by travellers who want to do more than simply visit and look at new places. It is a new type of tourism for those wishing to get involved in the places they visit in a meaningful and long-lasting way, be it with the local culture, the natural resources, or the wildlife of the area.

This community development project is for those who enjoy hands-on work – with nature, with agriculture, with construction, and especially with children. Daily work includes doing light construction, teaching English, and otherwise improving the lives of these young Akha minority group children.

The project takes place in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand, several hours north of Chiang Mai, Thailand “second city.” This is a beautiful rural area, with low, rolling mountains on the Burmese border that form the foothills of the great Himalayan mountain range.

Rapid modernization in northern Thailand has dramatically changed the lives of the country’s mountain peoples, the so-called hill tribes. Developing infrastructure, increasing population, and growing numbers of tourists visiting the area has forever changed their traditional lifestyle, while making some of their ancient practices virtually impossible to continue.

This Volunteer Project and activities are part of a joint effort between ISV Foundation Thailand and the Mae Kok Foundation. The ultimate goal is to improve the life of underprivileged children by providing housing, food, education and other vocational training to them.

The training activities which the volunteers will perform with them include improving agricultural knowledge and working skills in the areas of vegetable gardening, welding, building and embroidery, as a way to provide the children with better opportunities for their future independence and livelihood.

There are now about 25-26 children living at the Mae Kok Foundation ranging from 4-18 years old. TAT’s “The Little Big Project” actively supports the foundation’s efforts to work with, teach, and educate these children, and encourages volunteers from around the world to come and contribute to this important work.

Volunteers will be involved in teaching English and running an English camp for a variety of children with different levels of English knowledge. Volunteer teams will spend time preparing lessons and teaching English-speaking and listening skills to primary school aged children using informal approaches, such as activities and games.

Additional daily activities will include: manual labor around the foundation, assisting with preparation and cleanup before and after meals, and attending vocational and artistic workshops, such as embroidery, as a way to enhance life experience at Mae Kok Foundation.

As usual, there are many exciting, rewarding, and educational leisure activities available to the volunteers during their time off including: Visiting the children’s families at a local Akha village; exploring local hot springs and waterfalls; and walking through local tea plantations where some of the children’s families work.

One can also go on short trips to discover the famous temples and landmarks of Chiang Rai such as the “White Temple” and the “Black House,” and visit local markets. A trip to the “Golden Triangle” is a must, with a stop at the fascinating Opium Museum.

Projects for volunteers were chosen because they meet the needs of the foundation and because they are small enough that volunteers can make noticeable progress in a relatively short period of time.

Without these volunteer efforts, it would be incredibly difficult for a small foundation like Mae Kok to meet the daily needs of its children while continuing to improve its facilities and outreach programs.Through your labor and commitment, your accomplishments on this Voluntour will be far-reaching and long lasting. Your hard work will make a lasting impact on these children’s lives and your grassroots efforts will help support the daily needs and long-term goals of the foundation.

TAT invites you to take a different kind of tour; to get involved with a totally different culture from your own; to work to physically build shelters for these young people; and to show them that people from around the world care about them and admire their culture.

Please go to to learn more about this very special project and other voluntourism projects supported by the TAT.

For more information about Thailand, please visit