VESA’s humanitarian and conservation projects aim to provide direct action support to communities in parts of the world overlooked by traditional charities and aid organisations.Learn more
Join us in Laos, a charming country known for its Buddhist traditions, breathtaking nature, UNESCO protected temples and culture that echoes the tranquillity of the Mekong. Stay in a remote elephant sanctuary and get right up close to its residents, volunteer at a village school, and experience the captivating nature and unique culture of Laos, Southeast Asia’s hidden gem.
Week one: There are countless elephant programs run across Southeast Asia, and it can be tricky to know which ones are ethical and directly benefit the elephants, not the tourists. We work within the Nam Tien Protected Area at the Elephant Conservation Center or ECC, where there is a strict no elephant riding policy. The ECC is funded by the Australian Embassy in Laos and Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC and of course you, a Laos VESA volunteer. The ECC’s paramount objective is to rehabilitate formerly domesticated elephants and eventually release them into the wild. This has now been achieved with a ‘soft release’ of five elephants into Nam Pouy National Protected Area where they are being observed interacting with the local wild elephant population…..watch this space. During the complex and lengthy process of preparation, the elephants will receive treatment for their physical and/or mental injuries and spend time socialising with other elephants.
You’ll plant and harvest banana and sugar cane, help out with the building and maintenance of the centre’s infrastructure (including the veterinary clinic, elephant nursery and viewing platforms), create and set up enrichment exercises and observe the elephants’ socialisation time.
Fancy yourself a bit of a foodie? After a hard day’s work, a team of chefs will prepare a feast of traditional Laotian and western cuisines, using the freshest, locally sourced produce. Be daring and try something completely new, or enjoy a comforting taste of home – either way we guarantee you won’t go hungry!
Bid farewell to the elephants and begin your village school project. In the rural Sayaboury region the community is suffering from a severe lack of resources. As well as teaching young children English, basic hygiene, nutrition, recycling and waste management, we help to brighten up the school facilities with a fresh coat of paint, uplifting murals and infrastructure. Our volunteers work to revitalise existing buildings as well as construct new classrooms, bathroom blocks and water-catchments. By contributing to this vital education and infrastructure, you are actively helping to secure the future of these children, and help them to escape the poverty cycle.
Week two: Get ready to discover this gorgeous country as we show you the very best of Laotian culture and epic nature. During this week we take a full day tour of charming Luang Prabang, including a visit to the local market and the national museum and ancient temples, a traditional silk-weaving workshop and a stunning climb up Mt Phusay for a 360 degree view of the city and landscapes beyond.
We’ll pay a visit to the Living Land Farm to learn about rice farming and how this project has empowered the local community, followed by a visit to the magical Kuang Si Waterfall – it’s so beautiful you really do have to see it to believe it!
Bike riding is a popular form of sightseeing in Laos – take a leisurely ride through the scenic countryside, past rural villages and temples and finish the day experiencing the beauty of the Mekong with a kayak trip downriver.
During the second half of the week we travel to Vang Vieng, Laos’s adventure capital. Lap up those tropical temperatures with kayaking, tubing, caving and waterfall jumping, the nature activities that Laos is famous for. Vang Vieng’s mountainous limestone landscape is even more captivating from above – the optional sunset hot air balloon tour awaits, if you aren’t too afraid of heights!
Whether it’s with high intensity adventure activities, kayaking down the Song River, wandering the bustling streets or exploring traditional markets, this week you are free to explore at a pace that suits you.
Care for and socialise with the elephants in a remote elephant sanctuary
Teach English at local schools
Restore the local primary schools
Take a tour of the country's markets and temples
Go kayaking, tubing, cycling and visit waterfalls on the adventure tour of Laos
Visit the 'Living Land' farm, an incredible community empowerment project
Six primary schools fully refurbished and painted and two brand new classroom blocks added.
Over twelve hundred hours of hands-on elephant conservation work and over seven hundred- and fifty-hours hours planting elephant feed. Fifteen hundred hours of construction work at the ECC including building steps, agricultural tanks, tracks and trails for elephants.
Over ten thousand hours of face to face English language education. The children can now read, write and converse in basic English. Health and hygiene as well as environmental awareness programs introduced in local schools.
Primary schools fully refurbished and painted with two classroom blocks added.
Hours spent on hands-on elephant conservation work.
Hours spent on planting elephant feed, building steps, agricultural tanks and trails at the sanctuary.
Hours spent on face to face English teaching, including speaking, writing and conversation.