I’m going to make the task of selecting your next voluntourism destination less daunting, by introducing you to the idea of traveling and becoming a volunteer in Laos, a little gem of South East Asia.
As part of International Volunteers HQ’s Program Launch Team, I have the lucky task of sharing what the experience will be like as an IVHQ volunteer in Laos, as well as in all of our volunteer programs in 27 countries worldwide. So hop on the road less traveled, and discover our 5 awesome reasons why Laos should jump to the top of your volunteer bucketlist.
1. Awesome Volunteer projects
Our volunteer program in Laos offers a project for everyone, no matter what area you want to help out in. Medical professionals and students are able to assist in a local community healthcare center in Vientiane. With a focus on rehabilitation, the Laos Medical project is in need of volunteers to assist in the areas of orthopaedics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology, musculoskeletal therapy and social work. The Construction and Renovation project is for those volunteers who are not afraid to get stuck in and get their hands dirty. Working alongside a local foreman, volunteers assist with building, painting, renovating and landscaping at local medical centers, schools and childcare centers. Teaching and Special Needs/Childcare projects are also available in Laos and these are based in local schools or childcare centers where the children come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. The Teaching project focuses on teaching English, while volunteers on the Special Needs/Childcare project focus on engaging the children in educational activities and games.
2. Awesome accommodation in Vientiane
IVHQ’s volunteer program in Laos is based in the capital of Vientiane. Volunteers live in dormitory style accommodation in the center of Vientiane, and are provided with three meals daily. Breakfast is self-service style at the accommodation; lunch and dinner is served at a local restaurant, so you can be assured of authentic cuisine. A special part of the Laos volunteer accommodation is that volunteers are provided with a bike and helmet to use during their stay, so you can bike to your placement daily or take a leisurely cycle along the Mekong River on an evening.
3. Awesome, Exotic and flavorsome food
Due to the fact that Laos borders’ were closed off to the rest of the world until the early 90s, Laos cuisine has managed to stay authentic and predominantly healthy, fresh and full of flavor. Expect plenty of fresh vegetables and herbs, meat, fish and spice. Coconut oil is not just the latest healthy eating craze, it is the staple cooking oil in Laos. The cuisine is heavily influenced by its bordering neighbors: Vietnam, Thailand and China. When dining out you will get to taste dishes like green papaya salad, rice balls and sour pork salad and spicy soups. Street food is very popular and the popular snack, steamed sticky rice with banana, is an IVHQ Staff favorite! An added bonus is that a French influence on food is still evident in the capital of Vientiane, I’m not going to lie - the idea of being able to get a baguette or croissant in South East Asia, is appealing.
4. Awesome IVHQ weekends in Luang Prabang and beyond
Weekend and pre/post volunteer travel opportunities are endless in Laos. Adventurous volunteers can choose from a vast array of outdoor sports, including mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, caving, trekking or rafting. If this is the type of activity that appeals head to Vang Vieng - the infamous tubing and adventure capital of Laos. For those after something a little more subdued, head to Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) in the south of Laos on the border of Cambodia. Here you can cool down by swimming in a pristine waterfall or relax with a book in a hammock on the banks of the Mekong. If you after an old-world cultural experience, Luang Prabang located north of Vientiane is your destination. A UNESCO World Geritage Site which has an eclectic mix of Buddhist temples and French colonial architecture. For more Laos sightseeing ideas check out these travel options in Laos.
5. Be in on South East Asia’s Awesome little secret
Let’s face it, as a tourist or volunteer destination, Laos has been kept on the down-low. However, if you speak to any intrepid traveler who has been here, it is their outright travel highlight from South East Asia; usually an unplanned and unknown adventure that had the right combination of relaxation, activity and culture to stand out amongst its incredible neighbors.
So why not make an informed decision to have an unforgettable volunteer experience in Laos with IVHQ and discover the wonders of South East Asia’s little secret - Laos.