I chose to volunteer with GVI because a close friend with mine had gone to Fiji with GVI and recommended the company. I knew I wanted to volunteer abroad, but there are so many options to choose from and it’s hard to know which company to trust with both your safety and your money. I would highly recommend GVI to anyone looking to volunteer abroad -- my experience in Laos was absolutely incredible. I made so many wonderful friends from all over the world who I never would have met if it weren’t for this program.
The classes I taught in ranged from about 8 to 25 years old, and their English abilities ranged from beginners (learning the English alphabet) to quite advanced (learning about pollution and the environment in English). I grew very attached to my students and it was really exciting and rewarding to see them improve each week that I was there. During the weekdays we would spend the mornings lesson planning for the various classes we were in charge of teaching, and then we would go off (either on foot on by tuk tuk) to the various temples or colleges we were teaching in. Each class was taught either by two volunteers or by a volunteer and a Lao teacher. I personally was always partnered up with another volunteer, and there were always staff members around if you had any questions during lesson planning.
On the weekends we explored the city, visiting the caves, waterfalls, and nearby villages. It is quite inexpensive to take a tuk tuk anywhere you need to go (especially if you have a large group to split the cost) so I was able to visit everywhere I wanted to see, and return to some of my favourites. The waterfalls were especially spectacular -- they are crystal blue and surrounded by jungle. The smaller set of waterfalls has a large swimming area, and elephant rides that you can take through the water. The weekends were definitely more “touristy” than the weekdays, where I was immersed in the Lao culture. It was extremely apparent how appreciative the local people are of tourists and volunteers who respect the local culture and dress appropriately (no bikinis, short shorts, or tank tops). Overall I had the time of my life on this volunteer trip, and I can’t wait to go again.