Thailand

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I loved my time at Cross-Cultural Solutions in Bangkok, Thailand. I was sad to come home. I was so impressed with the staff, the cleanliness of the home base, the food at the home base and the cultural activities. I felt immersed in the culture in Thailand. I was a lot older than the majority of the folks in the program, but it was all good. My work assignment was a little rough the first week because of the lack of organization at the school, but in the end I felt I was able to make a difference there. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jul 23, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Hi Lauren1972, Thanks for sharing with us about your experience in Thailand on a CCS program! We are sorry to hear it was difficult to come home after your time there. We always hear that it's difficult to leave since you become so connected to your program and volunteer work. Also, thank you for the high praise on our Home-Base, it was our pleasure to host you. We are so glad to hear it was one of the greatest experiences of your life. Hope to see you on another program soon.

Travel to Teach

Before I chose to volunteer with Travel to Teach during my time in Thailand, I researched many other volunteer opportunities. And, although I was skeptical of the program, we still went through with my choice, mostly because monetarily, they couldn’t be beat. There were plenty of other organizations that had far more reviews and that were accredited. Well, now I know why.

We, two teachers from the US, originally signed on for a two week volunteer opportunity with Travel to Teach, but conflicting plans only allowed for us to stay for one week. Just like they say on their website, one week is not nearly enough time to get the full volunteer experience with the students that you make connections with, but it was surely enough time for us to figure out that Travel to Teach has A LOT more work to do before they can be considered a volunteer organization we would ever recommend.

Travel to Teach put us in contact with two wonderful places to volunteer, in Mae Hong Son, but they offered little to no support or resources throughout the process. Had we not been experienced teachers or advocated for ourselves, it would have been a counter-productive experience for the students and intimidating for us.

Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, we were met at the airport by the head of media, Laura, who greeted us with a smile on her face. She had left her plans to pick us up at the airport because her boss called regarding a “conflicting meeting” 30 minutes before our arrival at 8:30 that evening. It should have been the first warning sign of what was to come. Jim, Laura’s boss, and the contact person for the volunteers in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son was spread completely thin and had a lot of brushing up to do in regards to her training. She travelled to Mae Hong Son on an earlier bus, met us at the station and only stayed for a day and a half. She changed her prolonged stay because “she was needed in Chiang Mai” – a 6 hour bus ride away. During her time with us, she hastily made arrangements for us to teach 4 days a week at a temple in the town and at a Kayan village that was a 30-minute drive away. She went over Thai customs, which was the most help she provided during her time and introduced us to Jess, a novice English speaker and kind man who drove us back and forth from the Kayan village. We were left in a guesthouse bare of resources (pens, paper, etc), with the exception of a desk in the corner of the living room stacked with books. Like I said, we were on our own from the start.

On our first day of teaching at the temple, that we had one hour to prepare and eat lunch before, the four of us (there were two other volunteers that would be staying for a prolonged period of time) broke up into smaller groups during the first hour and co-taught during the last two, since we only had 3 students. Alex, the English teacher at the temple, was exactly what we needed! He sat in on all of our lessons, was interactive and co-taught whenever he could. He is the reason the program works and thrives at the temple. Jim, on the other hand, was less than helpful, offering suggestions that were not needed and interrupting lessons that were otherwise working. She seemed to have little experience teaching and interacting with students, making them feel uncomfortable when opening up dictionaries or referencing their notes, something any teacher knows is okay during beginner lessons. Although it would have been nice to have Jim there to assist us as a translator and support, considering her debut, we were better off alone.

We would arrive at the Kayan village the next day, without Jim – who suddenly had to leave for Chiang Mai that morning. The four of us spent the entire day there – 9am to 3pm – with 50 children ranging from ages 4-18. Although we had the opportunity to visit the day prior (30 minutes), we were unaware of how the students would be broken up, who would be assisting us or how advanced their English was. Within 10 minutes we found out. There would be no assistance from the principal or teachers and we had no interpreter. This was nothing like the temple experience and we were left to structure our day. So, we broke up the students on our own and went along with the lessons we planned, attempting to differentiate instruction in accordance to their levels. The day ended with us feeling defeated, but happy with our attempts, considering the lack of support. We quickly realized that the only way this opportunity would thrive was if we became our own advocates, which is exactly what we did. We no longer relied on Travel to Teach for any feedback and solely communicated and planned with each other.

Although my review is quite candid, my goal is not to deter people from volunteering with Travel to Teach. I merely want all volunteers to know what they are signing up for. I do believe that there is a desire to help, but, before that can come to fruition, I also believe that more time and resources need to be spent on structure. The staff needs to be appropriately trained (or retrained) and there needs to be a point of contact for the hosts and volunteers. Once unqualified person cannot coordinate volunteer efforts for locations that are 6 hours apart.

Simply put, there is no structure and guidance in this program. If you are looking to make an impact and provide your services to those in need, you will have that opportunity, but be prepared to be on your own.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jul 22, 2013
Overall:
4
Support:
1
Value:
3

Original Volunteers

MOROCCO.
twice now in the last year I have used OV to volunteer abroad.. firstly last August I travelled alone to Morocco. Using the travel buddy list, I found a friend prior to departing to fly with, this was super useful as this was my first time travelling alone I felt a little more at ease. Three weeks was spent in the heart of Marrakech and it was amazing! The children that I got to share my experiences with literally made me smile every single day. The reward of spending time with children who have so little yet continue to smile, laugh and play with you as if they are your best friend was overwhelming. The organisation out there were great, however like anywhere, go with no expectations and put into it what you want to get out. Sessions ranged from feeding the street people, taking the street children swimming - which was amazing to see how much they appreciate a day in a pool! seven hours and they didn't get out once, and play time in orphanages. These are to name a few. I went in August so schools were closed! Overall, location wise morocco was a pleasure. The culture is so different compared to England, and I personally enjoyed that, getting lost in the Souks was a personal favourite. Also, staying in a traditional Riad was an experience, basic but you aren't there to stay in a five star hotel :) OV were brilliant overall with this trip, and i'm glad I picked this as my first volunteering experience.
THAILAND.
I have just come back from 4 weeks in Thailand, choosing to teach English for two of the weeks to primary children. This was a difference from Morocco however I loved it! Again, the children were amazing and so willing to learn. Having them knowing little English made it a challenging task but something that was worth it in the end. Being able to organize your own lesson plans was a good as you could adapt it to your own knowledge and skills that you may already previously had. Even the teachers wanted you to help them learn English! This project tests your ability to be patient and persistent, but at the same time is so much fun! if you want to teach in the future it is brilliant for your confidence.

Overall, my two experiences of volunteering with OV have been priceless. I have gained some friends for life, memories that will last forever and more importantly been able to impact some of the most happy and amazing children I am yet to come across. If your thinking of doing, DO! you won't regret it :):)

Program:
Location: Morocco, Thailand
Posted: Jul 9, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Original Volunteers

I volunteered with Original Volunteers last August in south Thailand. There are a lot of posts here which do appear really fake and seem to exaggerate how great their experiences with the company were. For those who are worrying about the company and whether they are worth the money and credible, the honest answer is that for the relatively little amount you pay they are very good and they do what they say their going to do. I had no problems with them when I went last year and had a great time in Thailand. Communication with them was always easy prior to leaving and they were always happy to answer my queries. Once out in Thailand they offered an airport transfer and the accommodation I was in (called Walker's Inn) was a great little hostel with such a friendly vibe. With regards to the teaching itself we had lots of resources to use, but as with any volunteer company you are expected to be able to think on your feet and use your initiative. After all, you are not there to be spoon fed, but to have a challenging experience.

For around £200 for 3 weeks of volunteering I did have a great experience and would definitely go again. The company didn't let me down and I think that if you want a cheap experience where you're willing to make the most of it then Original Volunteers are a good choice.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jul 2, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
7
Value:
9

Frontier

Doing my gap year with Frontier has been an unforgettable experience and an incredible gap year some may say. The diversity of the accomodation, activities and the places we have travelled to was organised so well as it gave us a wide outlook on South East Asia. The trip itself was made due to the sick travel leaders ; Jane, Ruth, Theo, Priya and Shadia. They kept the trip lively and fun yet also were extremely organised and were very supporting at times, Especially when it came to choosing the activities and what the plans were. I have now seen some of the most incredible sights and shared an amazing 10 weeks with a great great great group of people which is definitely ok. If you wanted to know also - my favourite places were Pai, Koh Chang and Hoi An. I LOVE SONGKRAM. and Priya is mine.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jun 9, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
7
Value:
8

Frontier

I had an amazing time on Frontier's South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail. The leaders were incredible and for the most part, the project was very well organised. I would definitely recommend this trail!

Program: Gap Year
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jun 7, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
7
Value:
7

Frontier

The last 10 weeks have been some of the best of my life. As a first time traveller, just left school, Frontier are perfect. It is guided traveling, the trail leaders use their knowladge of the countries to arrange the best activities to do and they arrange the transport. Frontier's greatest asset seems to me to be the field staff they employ. My month spent on Koh Smach was made infinatley better by Jack Henry who was in charge of the camp. Shadia Maali lead the trail efficiently and was on top of everything and was relentlessy friendly. A special mention has to go to Priya Sharma who was less a trail leader, and more a friend, frontier could not ask for a better spokesman for their company than her. However, Frontier has one very major flaw. I simply cannot see where the money I spent on this trip has gone. A tiny portion of it is actually spent on you. They are supposed to supply breakfast and Lunch, though in reality the money we were given was hardly sufficient to get even get a side dish. However in reality I can't put a price on how much fun I have had in the last ten weeks, though if you are struggling for money or don't have a big budget, I could not reccomend frontier. I have met some brilliant people, made life long friends and seen the most beautiful part of the world. We were doing activities almost every day. From visiting beautiful waterfalls, trecking through the vast jungle to spend a night with elephants, going tubing down a river, seeing Angkor Wat, going to to the war remenants museum and much more. It's a once in a life time adventure. Frontier just need to take a serious look at the price tag. If the field staff were paid I could most certainly justify the money I spent, all three people I mentioned desrved it. However, as it is, I simply don't know what I paid for. I have had the most brilliant ten weeks, given the oppurtunity I would do it all again. Frontier are a friendly helpful company who really know what they're doing. You're in safe hands.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jun 7, 2013
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
1

Comments

Tim; Your trail leader, Shadia, wanted to address some of your feedback. Her comments follow: Hi Tim, Thank you very much for posting your review about your time on the April South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail on abroadreviews.com. It is great to hear that you have had such a great time on the trail and enjoyed all the activities. Priya and myself have very much enjoyed having you as one of our group on this trail. I would like to respond to one aspect of your review where you mention that "if field staff were paid I could certainly justify the money I spent". As field staff for Frontier we are given a great opportunity to work in some of the most exciting and exotic locations in the world. Personally having worked for Frontier for over a year I have gained a great deal in terms of developing my own personal skill set from the logistical and operational side of things to the reality of running a trail on the ground. The remuneration that both Priya and I receive for this work is reflective across our industry and we both feel lucky that we were able to come and work for Frontier out in the field and meet great volunteers such as yourself. As mentioned in our group feedback session, paid work for conservation organisations is hard to come by and I believe my position to be an amazing opportunity for my own career development and future jobs prospects. Thank you again for your review, as mentioned previously we really enjoyed having you with us and hope you have a safe trip home. Best wishes, Shadia, Eco Trail Leader, Frontier/The Society for Environmental Exploration
It's nice to hear from Shadia but that doesn't sound like all her own words. Shadia was a better trail leader than I could have possibly hoped for, she was excellent. I'm very pleased to hear that she got a lot out of the trail even if it wasn't money that she (in my opinion) deserved. The point I'd like to raise is just that I paid nearly £3,000 for the trail and the budget didn't stretch far enough to feed me. I had to use my own money for every meal time, even the meals that you clearly state are provided for us, with the money that we had already paid. I would also like to reiterate that I did rate your company 9/10 for both support and organisation and I had an absolutely fantastic time. I'm just insulted by the generic and impersonal response from your company
I can assure you that the response is neither generic nor impersonal. Shadia was surprised by your comments and this response was written specifically to address the concern you brought up. I am sure you're still in contact with her electronically, so you are more than welcome to confirm this with her. On the subject of money there are two main points i'd like to address: 1) Field staff ARE paid, so there must have been a misunderstanding about this. 2) Our trails are equal in price or cheaper than any comparable trips with other companes. What we believe sets our trips apart is our superb staff - which i gather you agree with. Most of the field staff on your trail had already worked at Frontier HQ, and at least one of them will be returning to work for us again. The suggestion that our field staff are unhappy with our company's policies is - i'm sorry - plain wrong. That said, i do appreciate your review, and we will take your points on board. We will be looking at the idea of trails with more included but this will, neccesarily, make it more expensive. Most feedback suggests that volunteers would rather pay less and have more spending money abroad, but this may not be the case for all. Again, thanks for your review, and we're glad that you had a great time.

Frontier

The South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail has been one of the lost memorable experiences of my life. All the new and exciting things I have done and seen and smelled have all made this a phenomenal experience. The beginning of the trail in Thailand was a great way to begin with everyone getting used to the heat and each other and obviously the new food. Starting in Bangkok but also visiting small, quaint places such as Pai and Kanchanaburi gave a great perspective of the various different levels of civilisation in countries such as Thailand. The next part of the trail was my favourite by far. The teaching English at a local school in Siem Reap in Cambodia. Seeing all those earnst little faces each day and playing with them and getting to know them has become the most amazing thing thing I have ever done in my life. I will always remember this trip and what for a few weeks I was able to give those little children and what they were able to give me. The last part of our trail in Vietnam for the last two weeks have been great, allowing everyone to relax and enjoy some site seeing and last few activities.

Program: TEFL
Location: Thailand
Posted: Jun 5, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
9
Value:
7

Frontier

Almost at the end of the our 10 weeks trail now and I have really enjoyed it. Frontier has taken us to many of the best places to see in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. My highlight has been scuba diving in Koh Tao. I have also really enjoyed visiting the temples in Thailand and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Our trip has included a 4 week beach conservation trip on a desert island in Cambodia. The trip is very good for people interested in marine life, although the living conditions are tough! It really helped being on the island with a local Cambodian called Mr Toy. He was great fun to be around, teaching us the local language and camp songs. Also helping with island skills such as cooking and camp fires.
Only negatives of this trail is you sometimes feel like you may not be getting value for money when you have to pay for some meals, drinks and extra activities. Advantages are that you get to travel in a big group and enjoy the experiences with other people. The trail leaders are also very helpful, most have experience of travelling and can give you good advice.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: May 29, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
2

Frontier

As a frontier volunteer I could not ask for a better experience on the South East Asia trail. With a group of 11 volunteers and 3 trail leaders, I could not fault any of them. Seeing the grand palace in Bangkok on day 3 of the trail, I fell in love with Thailand. We visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Kanchanburi, Phuket and Koh Chang. The place we stayed in Koh Chang had the best accommodation with breathtaking views and hammocks on the sea front. It was a very chilled out place with stunning sunsets. Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the trip will bring!

Program: Gap Year
Location: Thailand
Posted: May 23, 2013
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
8

Comments

Thanks for the review, Laurence. From everything i've heard, this phase of the Asia Trail sounds like it's been the best ever!

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