From the tasty cuisine in Luang Prabang to the graceful Mekong River to the rich architecture in Vientiane, Laos brings a lot to the table. The natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere and welcoming people of Laos simply make it a wonderful destination.
Laos is a rapidly growing country that offers the chance to experience the traditional culture while helping build a brighter tomorrow. Since Laos is a country in motion, many opportunities for volunteering, interning and teaching exists.
Here’s a guide for interning and volunteering in Laos:
Know Before You Go
Laos is a small, landlocked country that’s surrounded by much bigger neighbors, including China and Thailand. Throughout its history, Laos has continually struggled for independence, as it’s been a vassal state of the Khmer Empire and Siam. From 1893 through World War II, Laos was controlled by France until finally gaining independence today. Since then, the country has pushed through internal conflict and destruction from US bombs during the Vietnam War and is now growing in exciting and positive ways.
Intensely proud of their culture and history, Laotians live in a nation that is quite diverse for its size. There are a total of 49 distinct ethnicities in Laos. Roughly 40 to 50 percent of the country practices Theravada Buddhism, something that’s noticeable as soon as you touch down and see all the temples.
Lao is the official language, and it’s advised to learn a few words and phrases before going. You can get by with English or French to some degree, but knowing the local language will make it easier to immerse yourself in the culture.
Types of Internship and Volunteer Opportunities in Laos
Interning and volunteering in Laos is an attractive option for those interested in the culture, development and natural environment of this wonderful Southeast Asian country.
The economic growth of the country has opened up opportunities to gain work experience in a promising market. While progress has been great, Laos still faces pressing challenges when it comes to poverty, human rights, gender equality, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and other key areas. Be a part of the solution by volunteering or interning here.
All this means you have a diverse array of options, from educating students in the cities to delivering medical services in the countryside to protecting wildlife and the environment.
If you hope to volunteer in Laos, popular programs include:
- Community development: Build and renovate medical centers, schools, and childcare facilities in villages.
- Helping monks: Teach English to monks, assist with daily life at monasteries, and more.
- Childcare: Assist with homework and arrange after-school games and activities for students.
If you hope to intern in Laos, common options include:
- Teaching internships: Kick start your career in education by teaching English and other subjects, and get your TEFL certificate, too.
- Women’s empowerment: Help create sustainable programs for empowering women to lead financially independent lives and strengthen the communities in which they live.
Featured Program: Global Vision International (GVI)
Global Vision International has been offering people the opportunity the volunteer and intern abroad since 1998. A recognized and respected organization in volunteering, GVI runs multiple award-winning programs throughout the world. Many former GVI volunteers have gone on to work for them — a testament to GVI’s commitment to making a difference.
If you want to intern or volunteer in Laos through GVI, know they have numerous programs, including:
- Women’s Empowerment Project: Teach girls and women skills needed to improve their lives and obtain work. Hosted in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang, this project lasts four to 12 weeks, with prices starting at $2,450.
- Volunteer Project with Buddhist Novice Monks: Head to Luang Prabang, where you’ll teach English and life skills to young monks and local lay students. The program lasts two to 24 weeks, with prices starting at $1,995.
Featured Program: International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ)
When International Volunteer Headquarters opened their doors for volunteering in 2007, they had a mission to offer affordable, trustworthy programs across the world. Today, they offer more than 40 destinations and over 200 projects and have sent more than 80,000 people abroad.
If you want to volunteer in Laos with IVHQ, good programs include:
- Teaching English: Help Laotian children from disadvantaged backgrounds improve their English and future job prospects (English is important for positions in tourism and international business for Laos).
- Construction and Renovation: Build and improve the infrastructure of a rural village, and give people the facilities they need to thrive.
IVHQ’s programs are held in Honkau Village and last one to 12 weeks. Fees start at only $220.
Featured Program: Love Volunteers
Love Volunteers began in 2009 with the goal of making volunteering accessible and transparent. Love Volunteers prides itself on offering folks affordable, safe programs that are truly focused on empowering communities they visit. They currently have projects ongoing in nearly 40 countries (and counting).
If you want to volunteer in Laos with Love Volunteers, they have a great educational support project in Luang Prabang. The main goal is to teach children English in order to break the cycle of poverty and unlock future job opportunities. You also get to interact with Buddhist monks, help areas affected by land mines and immerse yourself in the local culture. You live in a family-run guesthouse. The program lasts one to 12 weeks, with costs starting at just $329.
Final Advice for Interning or Volunteering in Laos
There are many reputable programs for interning and volunteering in Laos. You can help out this wonderful country while gaining valuable experience. Just look for the program that matches your preferences, skills, needs, and budget. By doing your research, you’ll find a program in Laos that will be just right. And you’ll come home with memories to last a lifetime.
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.