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What we did in 4 days. Cambodia Volunteers

Posted on February 23, 2015Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

We spent 4 days with a local NGO working in and around the majestic temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Millions of tourists come each year to visit the temples but unfortunately the money it generates does not go directly to the people who live around the area.

volunteer cambodia hugs

We don’t pretend to be the experts when it comes to social and sustainable development so we give the funds to the people who do. In Siem Reap we work with the lovely folks from New Hope Cambodia who for 8 years have established themselves as the number 1 NGO in the area supporting up to 15,000 people, most not able to afford basic meals, education, health or a adequate living conditions. Just spending a single day working with them it is easy to see how they directly support their own people and it was an honour to be a part of their team during our 4 day volunteer project.

Cambodia Volunteers water pump project

The way we approach any volunteer project is by listening to the needs of the community. Our volunteers are told to “expect anything and everything” as things can change on a daily occurrence. For our Feb group we were able to work and complete 3 projects.

1. Training Restaurant

Work to establish a non-profit training restaurant that supports the local people of Bakong. Right in the shadows of the oldest temple in the area. This restaurant not only provides employment for locals, vocational training, and funds that go back into supporting all of New Hopes many many projects. Our volunteers were split into 2 groups working on paving the outdoor area and planting grass in and around the restaurant. A good looking restaurant is going to attract more tourists, more tourists = more money to help them, help themselves.

“It was great to see that exactly what we did helped and supported some poor families, it felt good to make and see the difference” Corey Voight & Alana Russel, Australia

2. Water Pump

The next day we spent out in the field working with a poor rural family to construct a fresh water supply from a water pump. This was the first time Bamboo had ever worked on such an amazing project. We of course hired some local contractors to assist in the complicated process of drilling down to the under ground water level then putting in the pump. We also used our volunteers to clean up an area of land that the owner of the house, a single mother with a million kids, could plant some vegetables and again help   herself out of poverty.

“I think it was good that it was such a small group, it was great to see where the money went and that we worked with people that really cared about the cause” Amy Temple, UK

Bamboo in Cambodia Volunteering

3. Another Water Pump

We soon became water pumping experts so it was back into one of the city slums to provide another pump. This time to a heavily pregnant mum of 2. We also planted 8 fruit trees in the hope that with all this gushing water her life would improve.

“I felt so humble to be a part of something that can truly make a difference, I will leave Cambodia and never forget what we achieved together” Jess Parsons, UK

Overall it was an amazing experience and one that we hope to do again and again! If this is something you would like to get involved in please do send us a message. We are accepting volunteer placements now for all of this year and hope that the more people we get the more lives we can improve.

Naturally we ended all this volunteering on pub street, Siem Reap. Dancing the night away and doing what Bamboo do best:

“Work hard, Play Hard”

For more info send us an email to steve@bamboo-project.com or click the chat box in the bottom right, we’re always up for a good natter!

The morning after the night before...

The morning after the night before…

 

 

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5 things you MUST pack for your travels. Bamboo’s Top 5.

Posted on February 7, 2015Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

We have been in this game of travel and give-back-packing for nearly 10 years so suffice to say we know a thing or two about what you really need to pack! Here is our top 5 must haves. You might have some other items you feel are a must so please feel free to comment below with any more suggestions.

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1. Multi socket lead

Believe us you will be an absolute legend in the travelling world if you bring one of these along. Yes it’s annoyingly oversized, and takes up valuable rucksack space but it is worth it. Let’s be honest your average backpacker has at least 2/3 maybe more of the following:

Mobile phone(s)
Tablet/Kindle
Laptop/Notebook
Speaker dock
Camera/GoPro
IPod
Beard trimmer (for those with designer stubble)

It may be that have a mission of a journey ahead of you aboard the dreaded overnight bus and you need everything ready for the ride, OR worst case you check into that one room with 2 plug sockets to share between 3 people #awkward

Trust us, you don’t want to be the one stealthily trying to unplug someone’s phone because they’re charged up 45% and you’re on 3%

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2. Travel pillow

This is another life saver when you’re on the road. If you’re lucky enough to win the game of ‘bus seat roulette’ you may get the widow throne. In which case, you can rest your pretty little face on the glass, which is always a comfortable place for a quick 10 minute nap, which is until you hit that pot hole and boom you’re wide awake again.

Everyone needs their beauty sleep, so whether you invest in luxury memory foam (VIP), bean filled (standard) or blow up (budget) get yourself one of these and chances are you’ll wake without a stiff neck and feeling a million times better.

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3. First aid kit

Call us old before our time, but you should always be prepared. Not always for yourself (because of course nothing bad ever happens to you) but for that one time someone else needs some TLC.

It doesn’t have to be a St John’s ambulance standard, but the essentials like plasters, bandage, tape, Ibuprofen and antiseptic wipes/cream. You’ll been surprised how often you stub your toes in flip flops, cut you foot on the beach, or wake up with a hangover (optional)

Of course this can be bolstered with optional extras; I personally always carry travel sickness tablets, for those eventual boat journeys from island to island. For those of you who like to spice up your food we would suggest Imodium, you may also think about loading it up with wet wipes/tissues. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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4. Diary/Notebook

Once upon a time we would have laughed at this suggestion; You’re not 8 years old anymore with my ‘Filofax’ but seriously, make notes, write down telephone numbers, places you’ve seen, names of people you’ve met.

Keeping a log is a great way of looking back on experiences and things you want to remember. Get people you meet to write in it, leave you a message. One of the down sides to travelling is that people come and go and you get the “meet up soon” and the moment is gone, but a moment shared on a page will mean more than a Facebook wall post when you’re on the road. It’s a little old school but I’d like to think it’s a little personal.

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5. Home from home

Anyone who has been away from home a long period of time will agree that sometimes it’s the little things or reminders of home that keep you going when things aren’t going to plan. Food cravings are a great example of this. Maybe you found that place that does a real cup of tea, or you discover that restaurant that serves HP sauce, or better yet you stumble upon a supermarket that is charging three times the price for a bar of your favourite chocolate, but who cares, you’ll pay it anyway right? The difference that this can make in travellers morale is unbelievable.

Now we know that travelling is all about finding new experiences and trying new things, and that is certainly the case, but If we were to give someone a piece of advice, we would suggest that you pack a little momento to get you through what you might miss the most. we can’t tell you what that is, but a little forward thinking can be the difference between getting home sick and getting through a bad day. Save it for when you really need it and you’ll thank us when you do.

 

 

 

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Donation of 8 laptops to our Elephant Village. Kids giving Back & Shomer Achi

Posted on January 31, 2015Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

bamboo and partners donate 8 laptops to our elephant village

This month saw one of those ‘special’ days for everyone involved with The Bamboo Project and our lovely Australian partners Kids Giving Back

The story began In January 2014 when a Jewish Synagogue group from Australia called ‘Shomer Achi’ brought along 2 adults and 12 kids to volunteer in a number of our projects in Surin, Thailand

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The Shomer Achi Group made possible with Kids Giving Back

Like with all of our projects, the local people from the communities genuinely need and require assistance in many different areas, whether that may be in student nursing, teaching or childcare.

The kids and organisers of Shomer Achi clearly shared the same passion as everyone at Bamboo and made some serious differences to the people they met. At the end of their time, it was clear that the group were touched by the local people that they had been spending so much of their time helping.

The most amazing part is that upon their return to Australian the hard work didn’t end. With the families and needs of the local under funded school still etched in their mind, they set about to raise funds to provide much needed laptops for the whole community, something that would change so many lives.

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Bamboo Team Azza & May with volunteer Bobbi enjoyed the day and the kids were very happy!

Almost 12 months later and over 6000km travelled here we are, 8 shiny laptops have arrived at their destination pride of place in the schools computer lab in Baan Tha Thit, the location of our Elephant, Teaching & Childcare projects in Surin.

The day really does emphasise what The Bamboo Project and our beautiful partners want to achieve. The kindness showed by Shomer Achi is something to admire in a society where kindness and compassion is often overlooked.

Find out more about what our Australian partner ‘Kids Giving Back’ and the wonderful work they achieve in the land down under. Like their Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/KidsGivingBack and check out http://kidsgivingback.org

The whole school turned up for the event.

The whole school turned up for the event.

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Sustainable Travel & Volun-Tourism. What’s the Crack?

Posted on January 25, 2015Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

An interview with Co-founders Mark & Steve

Recently we were interviewed by South East Asia Backpacker Magazine who asked us some difficult and challenging questions  that any legit Tour Operator or Volunteer Organisation should be able to answer. The subject may be difficult but none-the-less should be embraced. Have a read and let us know your thoughts below.

Sustainable Travel & Volun-Tourism. What’s the Crack?

Backpackers these days get a bad rap, particularly in South East Asia, which is one of the world’s most popular places to take a ‘gap year’. Films such as ‘Gringo Trails’ attempt to show the impact of global tourism and the threat that it poses to the environment and the local communities. A grim picture is created. One in which travelers have little respect for the cultures or landscapes that they are visiting. But is this really fair? Do backpackers want to experience more than just partying and do they knowingly destroy the places that they travel?

Is backpacking in general, a force for good or bad for the world? Like everything of course, it depends how you do it! We believe that backpacking is such an incredible and varied pursuit and that if done in the right way, can certainly have a positive impact on the world. After all, understanding other cultures and learning from each other is surely the only way to progress and live together in harmony! Backpacking can be an enriching experience for all. So, how can we make sure that our travels have a positive impact upon the countries and communities that we visit? And, at the same time – have an absolutely incredible experience!

The Growth of Voluntourism

In recent years, a number of travel companies have attempted to bridge the ‘gap’ between having a good time whilst you travel and putting something back into the communities that you visit. These companies aim to lessen the impact of the environmental footprint of the backpacker whilst at the same time contributing in a positive way to local projects; schooling, animal sanctuaries, eco-building and more…

But are these companies all that they are cracked up to be? Do they actually help the communities that they claim to care about? How can we be sure that they are not just jumping on the bandwagon of ‘voluntourism’ and using this latest trend simply to sell more tours!?

We caught up with British-born Mark and Steve who are the founders of ‘The Bamboo Project,’ a company that helps to put backpackers in touch with sustainable NGO projects in South East Asia and creates trips that are a mix of adventure and volunteering.

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A Chat with Mark and Steve from The Bamboo Project

Tell us about your company and why you started it?

The Bamboo Project is not just a travel/volunteer company, it’s a collection of people, volunteers, adventure travellers, local NGOs, tour guides and international partners that all share a common goal: to provide a ‘win-win’ for both the communities we visit and the ‘customers’ we take along for the ride. It’s not complicated or difficult, it’s a simple, honest approach to group adventure travel that incorporates sustainable volunteer projects. Basically for those ‘backpackers’ who want to come to SE Asia, party hard, meet new people, explore new worlds but ‘give-back’ at the same time, the all-round ‘Give-Back-Packer!’

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It was started as both Steve and I felt that although ‘voluntourism’ does have a lot of negative press (and some of it deservedly so), this does not mean that there is still not a legitimate ‘need’ for its existence. As long as the tours / projects are done right, open and transparent then we see no reason why supporting under-privileged schools, elephant villages, a small independent NGO in the Northern hill tribes of Chiang Rai, the Cat & Dog population on Koh Samui, the marine life around Koh Tao, a locally founded NGO that offers free education and healthcare to 15,000 people in Siem Reap can ever be a ‘negative’ experience for either party. Again, a simple ‘win-win’!

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Why do people have to pay to volunteer?

Something we hear about all the time and to be honest I would have thought the same before launching Bamboo. It’s probably the one thing that bugs everyone, and gives the business such a bad rap. For us though it’s simple; you’re not paying to volunteer, you’re paying for EVERYTHING that surrounds the experience. Your accommodation, transportation, project materials, the staff that are with you 24/7, donation to the project, the ‘safe-in-the-knowledge’ that you know who you are working with, protecting you from when it all goes wrong scenarios, holding your hand if you feel insecure or pushing you in the right direction if you need a bit of help and guidance.

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Sure, we appreciate that not everyone will want to join the team. There are a lot of independent people out there and of course we support and applaud them. I am not aware of any schools that would accept ‘walk-in’ volunteers and would worry if there are any that do. With us, and our reputation within communities we can ensure that everyone, both project and volunteer, is protected.

What questions should a backpacker ask before signing up to volunteer?

I love questions and the trickier the better! Any company in the world should embrace being asked the hardest of questions, because if they can’t answer them they’re probably in the wrong game.

For us we found that working with local NGOs is a must for the legitimacy of our organisation. We don’t pretend to be professors in sustainable development, so we hand over the cash and hard labor to the people who are. In our line of work I would most certainly ask“What benefit is the project to the local community?” and really there should be a zillion answers to this and potentially even photographic evidence to support them.

Both Steve and I have experienced the horrors of volun-tourism where companies literally ‘make-up’ projects for the benefit of looking good on their websites or to appear more appealing to a potential sale when in reality the project will only ‘run’ if ‘they’ manage to sell to people who are perhaps naïve enough to join.

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This is why we only work with local NGOs and organisations that have the experience and know-how of their own community, rather than a being company that dictates to a community what is going to happen as it will be more marketable to a certain demographic. So a good question to combat this would perhaps be:

Why did you set up this project in this region, do you work with locals from the area, how do you decide where to go and what to do?”

To which they should be able to give you masses of information about the process of working with (and listening to) local communities, why that particular region was chosen and with whom they work with to ensure the project is really benefiting those who need it.

Another good strategy would be to go on the Facebook page of that organisation and perhaps contact some of the people who ‘Like’ their page and ask for their thoughts towards that organisation. And finally which is probably the most obvious question of all:

“Where exactly does my money go?”

And this should be an EASY, quick response followed by countless photos, videos and testimonials. Which I see leads nicely to your next question…

Where does the money go when a backpacker signs up for Bamboo Project?

In our opinion, this should be question number one. If you don’t receive a clear and concise answer, it may be that something’s being hidden. For our customers, we have this explained on our website. We also have documents here in Thailand that support what it states – we don’t just throw figures at you in the hope it’ll confuse you!

It’s not always possible however to give an exact breakdown when dealing with NGOs. This is purely because we can’t control how they spend the money we give them. We have a rough idea but there are many variables involved.

These variables work like this; a four week development project in the northern hill tribe communities of Chiang Rai is more expensive to set up than a two week English teaching placement on Koh Samui and that Chiang Rai development project will vary depending on the number of volunteers and the needs of the community that’s at the top of the list to be supported! You get the picture. There are far more overheads involved. These variables continue in to how long a volunteer is staying, which project they have chosen, the time of year, if they’re accompanied by a friend who is or isn’t volunteering, are they experienced and so on.

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As we’ve touched on above, the volunteering part of any trip is free. The cost is generated by the amount of work behind the scenes that goes in to ensuring that the volunteer receives the very best time during their stay, that the project is supported the way we promise it will be, the staff receive a salary (we do have to eat!) and so on. We do have to operate as a business, and every business the world over has bills to pay. Without our volunteers understanding this and putting their trust in us, the projects we support wouldn’t receive anything like the support they receive now, and in some cases would simply have to shut down completely. 

What type of NGOs do you work with? Why is it so important that they are local?

We only work with established, experienced and ‘local’ organisations. This is quite simply because there are no better people to help a community than the community itself. We listen, observe and support local efforts to provide better health, education and to try and improve the local environment. A good example of this would be our projects in Chiang Rai that exist in conjunction with a home-grown NGO, established for over 30 years and who work with with over 100 hill-tribe villages. They understand each and every dialect, cultural nuance and specific ‘need’ of each individual tribe and we would never, ever tell them they’re doing it wrong. This for us is the only way we can ensure that our projects throughout South East Asia specifically target the exact needs of the community.

school chiang rai

Unfortunately it often happens that international NGOs set up camp in some remote village or dark corner of a country (not just in Asia) and tell the locals what they’re going to get, how they’re getting it, when it’s happening and what it’s for. They arrive with the best of intentions and a genuine desire to help. However, they rarely consider the real needs of the community and don’t look at the long term goals or the projects sustainability. What’s right for the NGO is very often not required or simply cannot be maintained by the locals who don’t have the education, training or even tools required to maintain whatever it is. The NGO then completes the project, stands back, expects a huge pat on the back and leaves. We’ve seen this happen in Thailand and we’re not in to that, oh no. We actually want to help the locals achieve what they want to achieve. We want to aid them through financial and physical help and, if required, advice from a different perspective.

How does volunteering actually help?

In terms of the Teaching, and to some extent the childcare projects, that’s an easy reply as our ‘native’ English speaking volunteers can provide direct access to quality language learning simply by opening their mouths. The schools we work with have no funding or access to ‘expensive’ foreign teachers. Our volunteers, supported by our trained and qualified team, are able to apply and overcome a direct need to a poor community; the gift of language. For the emerging tourism market of SE Asia this is so important for under-privileged people and children to help themselves out of poverty. Having just a basic grasp of the English language opens up a whole mass of opportunities for locals.

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As for our development or building volunteers they are not only a bit of ‘elbow grease’, they also provide funding, awareness, cultural exchanges, a boost to the local economy and are able to speed up the entire process. With a group of 25 university students from the USA we were able to complete, within a week, a community centre that will house educational classes, workshops, village meetings, childcare facilities, out-reach medical days and so on for an entire hill tribe community in northern Chiang Rai province. Only with a group this size were we able to fully fund the construction of this much needed facility and have it completed in a week! And this project also employed 12 locally skilled craftsmen, who without this project, may have had zero income – it’s that old ‘win-win’ again…..

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Of course it could be argued “why not just raise the money and send it over?” which of course is something that we love to see and encourage. Any amount of fund-raising or awareness raising to a worthy cause should be encouraged. We simply feel that our approach brings the fundraiser to the action, no better way to raise awareness than witnessing the need yourself. As long as it is professionally managed and executed and working in conjunction WITH the community. Moreover, you raise money, send it off, and can then only hope that it goes where you’ve been told it’s going. By joining the project yourself you actually get to see your money working for the benefit of the people, animals, children etc.

Tell us about some of your specific projects at the moment?

We currently deal with 27 projects across 4 countries in SE Asia with more in the pipeline as we begin to ‘clone’ our concept of ‘Give-Back-Packing’: working WITH local NGOs and charities with the mix of adventure travel touring goodness.

Our most popular projects are located on the beautiful island of Koh Samui with our Teach & Beach or Beach & Build. These both center on a small school on the quieter northern part of the island.

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Here we have two approaches to improving education and the actual learning environment of the school and quite simply this is achieved by providing quality English classes and micro-development on the buildings and the grounds. We want the kids to WANT to go to school rather than feel they HAVE to go to school – yup, it’s the same the world over!

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Over the past several months just 11 volunteers have been able to: implement and create a recycling system that provides additional income to the school, dig out a drainage system to stop one of the buildings from flooding during monsoon season, expand the dining and eating area so that the children do not have to eat their food whilst sitting on the floor, created an educational garden and given the entire school a good solid lick of paint. By working with the school staff we’ve also managed to produce a rather lengthy list of projects for 2015 that are going to require a large number of volunteers. These include building a new library building, from scratch! We’re currently recruiting any volunteers, skilled or not, to help us out on that one in particular.

Having the teaching and the development projects at the same location is perfect as it enables the volunteers to work together. The banter is a great inspiration to keep going and the fun that comes with dealing with 250 ‘wild’ Thai children is immense! Our team of coordinators is always on hand to help, support and guide and most importantly to make sure that the volunteers are kept informed. OH, and at the end of each day, when the volunteers have used up the last drop of sweat, or they’re covered in chalk dust, it’s rather nice that the best beach on Samui is literally a few hundred meters away – Pina Colada optional!

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What do you think of backpackers who volunteer for a few days / visit orphanages while they travel?

That’s a belter of a questions and one that gets asked again and again in all sorts of press and with all sorts of answers. In my opinion anyone who wants to spend their own time in the pursuit of helping others can be nothing but a wonderful thing BUT (and this is a BIG BUT) it has to be only to the benefit of others and not your Facebook profile picture.

I have witnessed both the best and the worst of this business and it is clear and obvious what can be done in a few days to what can be done in 2 weeks or 2 months. If you have a few days spare, why not spend it raising awareness for a cause through your friends and social media? Or if you have a particular skill that you think may benefit a project perhaps contact the organisation offering such skills (We are looking for any good website programmers FYI).

Wherever there is money involved there are always going to be unscrupulous individuals looking to cash in. This is life 101 and isn’t confined to international volun-tourism as some articles may like you to believe. Regarding the orphanage debate in particular, we believe that the more media attention this is given the better due to the fact there are so many companies out there simply creating orphanages and childcare projects to get rich. We’ve experienced ourselves cases of children being ‘shipped’ to fake homes to act as orphans, only to be returned to their families at the end of the day or week! There are SO many dodgy companies out there making money off the backs of these kids BUT (Again my BUT is MASSIVE) there are also noble and worthy causes out there too. It’s such a pity that the minority of fake or just simply bad companies can tarnish the entire business.

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So I guess to answer your question, during your travels I would not recommend visiting an orphanage or children’s home without A LOT of research before hand. Remember to ask those questions and get those answers.

How do you mix this volunteering with adventure tours? 

This really comes down to our spirit of adventure as an organisation and as people. Steve and I are in this game as we simply love travel, love the people we meet and the places we go and this is why we feel compelled to ensure we give something back to the countries that have given us so much. When working in SE Asia it’s not hard to find the adventure, every time you walk down the road here it punches you in the face, egging you to take the dive and release.

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In order for us to pay the bills we need to offer our unique take on adventure travel. So if you’re going to come to Thailand, drink your buckets, visit your temples, dance under the moon, race your Tuk Tuks, get that Tattoo (sorry mum!) why not do it ALL and more but give back at the same time. We offer adventure tours that incorporate volunteering (Like our Thailand Rediscovered) but also tours that don’t (like our FULL MOON party island hopping) but either way a percentage of the margin goes towards maintaining our projects and keeping them sustainable and supporting the people we meet along the way.

KAYAKTime to kayak…

party… and party!

Do you think backpacking is a force of good / bad for the world?

Naturally I would of course say “good”. Backpacking is about ‘finding yourself’ or even if you’re like me ‘losing yourself’. As long as you tread softly, politely and with a constant smile on your face, I can’t see how it could possibly be bad. Backpacking as a concept is wonderful. It is only the individual who can decide to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

How can a backpacker make sure that their visit makes a positive impact?

In general I would say avoid changing the environment you are in. By that I mean be culturally aware of your surroundings. SEA Asia is a shy, reserved place and should be respected as such. While on the flight over spend some time checking out the local taboos, but don’t get overwhelmed by them. Tolerance is one of many lovely qualities that SE Asian people have, as long as they see you making the effort they will be beaming with smiles.

beachDo you Bamboo!?

If you are thinking of doing something different such as giving back to the communities that you visit, do your research, ask the questions. If whomever you’re asking can’t answer then that in itself is the answer you need.

Check out The Bamboo Project to discover their projects and follow them on their Facebook Page to get to know more about what they do!

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Our 2014 VIDEO! What a year!

Posted on January 2, 2015Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

They say a photo says a thousand words…well this video says a MILLION!

We are so proud to be a part of something that is a force for good in the world. Check out our 2014 video of our best bamboo moments. Can you spot yourself, if so say hello below! Be part of our 2015 by reserving a placement today.

Check out our 2014 in numbers:

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2 weeks Island Hopping

Posted on November 27, 2014Posted by Arron Barrett

Island Hopping Thailand
Arron Barrett | He makes the islands bounce!

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The past 2 weeks at ‘The Bamboo Project’ have without doubt been my favourite since I joined the team.

Some time ago I was asked whether I could get together a group friends/family/strangers who would be daring enough to do a trial run of our ‘Island hopping’ adventure around Thailand, and make sure is was as epic as we wanted it to be…

Low and behold, a few people came forward and were brave enough to take on the challenge.

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The short list included;

Thomas Rosenfeld – My best friend, who I met ironically 4 years ago whilst travelling in Thailand.
Adam Barrett – My younger, charismatic, little brother who needed some time out of the office.
Joe Beatty – Forest Hill’s chief banter bus driver, this chap loves a Pad Thai and a dance off.
Chris Burns – A man of previous travel experience, still looking for find himself, continuing his search.
Annie McFall – My cousin, who has wanted to tick Thailand off her bucket list for too long.
Ash Blatch – Mr Back flip to his friends, he loves an adventure and desperately needed a sun tan.

Once everyone has arrived and had checked in, the group got together on Khaosan Road, the world famous backpacking hotspot. Over a few bottles of beer, we let our hair down, and absorbed the sights, sounds, of Bangkok.

With the ‘Chang-Overs’ somewhat avoided, it was onto the tour of the Capitals most wondrous temples ‘Wat Arun’ and ‘Wat Pho’ if you can’t get a half decent cover picture for your Facebook profile here then I would be disappointed.
It was the perfect way to see some of the real Thailand after the baptism of fire the previous night, and we were even luckily enough to receive a special blessing from the local monk, which was pretty humbling. Not many tourists get this experience and without May (Bamboos chief tour guide) and her talking the talk, it would not of been possible.

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After a tuk tuk back to HQ, a few light refreshments were in order, so the group did their own thing, explored the surrounding area and re charged their batteries. The great thing about the Bamboo style is that nothing is set in cement. Originally the plan was to have a welcome meal, and shake a few dance moves in the local bars, BUT a fantastic suggestion from the soul searcher Chris, meant that after we had eaten, the group jumped into Taxi’s and headed to the infamous neon lights, and home to the ‘Hangover 2’ set. It was certainly an interesting night, and well worth a visit just for giggles.

The following day after breakfast, the group took the short hop across the city the shopping Mecca that is MBK shopping centre, 8 Floors of clothing, footwear, food, electrical goods, souvenirs, watches, and much more! I can confirm a few thousand baht was spent that afternoon, and that was just on the selfie sticks!

That evening we packed up and waved goodbye to Bangkok, the next leg of our journey was only a night bus ride away, the next time we saw the sun rise we’d be at Chumphon pier awaiting our Ferry to the party capital of Thailand and home to the FULL MOON PARTY Koh Phangan

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We arrived at our accommodation or should I say Paradise, pretty early. This was ideal we all had to buy our neon headbands, tie-dye t-shirts and face paint in preparation for the evening. The hotel was lush, with facilities on par with a 5* resort in Ibiza, I’m talking beach bar, live DJs, beachside swimming pool #decent.

You could tell there was a massive buzz around the island, some people say that the Full Moon Party is overrated but try telling that to the 10,000 partygoers that evening. I don’t want to give too much away but it is defiantly something that every party animal should experience, from the first bucket to the last beer, watching the sunrise on Haad Rin beach, with tunes still playing loud until way past my bed time, it was a had to be there moment.

A well deserved rest day followed, with massages all around, from all the shape popping, water sliding and fire rope skipping the night before. It was the first time we all had a chance to just do completely nothing and appreciate the beautiful scenery. Rehydrated, good food, beautiful sunset, what more do you want?

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A little hidden gem of Koh Phangan was next on the to-do list. Thailand’s has it’s very own version of Total Wipeout. Rope swings, obstacles course and massive red balls, were just a few of the highlights. We all had a go around the course just for laughs and some on a clock, and obviously my time would have been the quickest but it wasn’t being timed so we will never know. Tom and Ash on the other hand did manage a timed effort and both put in a respectable time, and I’m sure they wouldn’t have been too far behind me.
It was probably one of those unexpected things that would be handed out on a flyer about and would probably just drop in bin, but the Bamboo head office had clearly done their research well and it turned out to be one the highlights of the trip.

Other highlights from our time on Koh Phangan included an elephant trek in the hills of the island, an evening of live Muay Thai including one epic KO, and possibly the best Thai food I have ever tasted in all my time visiting Thailand. Koh Phangan was good to us, it served a purpose and it gave us some good times, but this was of course island hopping and it was time to move on… So long Phangan and Hello Koh Tao!

Koh Tao, has seems to be ranked highly from anyone who visits the Island, and for us it was no different. It was exactly what the doctor ordered! So much smaller than Koh Phangan, it was nice to be able to stroll from your bedroom to the beach in less than 2 minutes.

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The place had a nice vibe, for most of the time we admired its beauty, sunk a few bottles of beer, ate good food, and threw a Frisbee between us. Our original plans of visiting the Koh Tao equivalent of ‘Go-Ape’ were dashed as it was  closed whilst we were there. But we decided put the dosh towards something cool at a later date. The cool thing about Koh Tao is that most of the beach bars face out towards the sunset. I was lucky enough to see 2 of the best I have ever seen! The photos were epic. The time seemed to fly on the island and we were all very sad to leave, but we had another leg of the journey to take… Samui were coming for you!

The Bamboo Project and Koh Samui already go hand in hand. With our already established ‘Teach and Beach’ & ‘Beach and Build’ programs, it was no surprise that things ran as smooth as silk. We were met by Lucy (Samui Project Manager) in the Bamboo-mobile.

We headed into Chaweng, the heart and soul of Samui. After some careful negotiation of the one way road system, we arrived at our destination. Again I couldn’t believe the quality of our accommodation, it was lush. Right in the middle of the action, and the standard was exceptional.
The first thing we wanted to get sorted was the boat trip to Ang Thong National Park. So May dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s and it was on for the following morning.
Once we had all checked in and done our makeup, we had a welcome to Samui meal, and because of the sheer number of tourists the island gets the choices were endless. We stuffed our faces, and got a little tipsy… night one done.

In the morning it was a nice and early start for us all. We were collected from our resort and taken to the pier to rendezvous with our captain for the day. If you haven’t heard of Ang Thong before, then please Google it. It gave the inspiration for the blockbuster movie ‘The Beach’ it really is breathtaking. We all did some really cool stuff like sea kayaking, snorkelling, and a few of the group even brave enough to jump from the top deck of the boat, I would have done it myself but I didn’t want to show off.  It genuinely was a brilliant day out and was worth every penny. Around 6pm the group were taken back to the hotel to regroup and recharge.

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The original plan was to meet at reception around 8:30, But Annie decided to practice her break dancing moves in the shower but unfortunately she caused herself an injury. The team at Bamboo clearly stated in the T&Cs that any form of dancing in the shower can cause serious injury but this girl just loves to dance. For May and I, it was a ‘hip-hop’ to the hospital with the damsel in distress. The rest of the group got dressed up and hit the town. I was secretly grateful for a night alcohol free but shhh don’t tell anyone!

The following day (our last) was a free day for the group, so a few of the guys decided to try their hand at the golf driving range. I had a hospital visit to do and a bunch of grapes to find. The day seemed to go really fast and before we knew it, Annie was check out of the hospital, and back with the group.

As luck would have it, coincidentally The Bamboo Project had a group of volunteers working hard on Koh Samui at the same time as we were partying hard. So a few phone calls later, we had arranged to combine our powers and have a MASSIVE Bambooze up, kicking off at the beach bar resort of ARK Bar.

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It reminded me of when Captain Planet brought together his planeteers and their abilities worked together to beat the bad guys, but for us our abilities to party, dance, and a good time amplified 10 fold. It really did make for a great evening. Some would say it was poetry in motion, and hats off the Bamboo Project logistics department for making it happen accidently of purpose.

As our heads hit the pillows, it was almost time to wake up for the early morning transfer back the capital. I won’t lie or bend the truth. I have certainly had better boat journeys than the one that I experienced that day, but it was completely self-inflicted. I have never wanted to reach dry land as much as I did that day. I’m sure if the Bamboo team could have sorted me out a private airlift to Bangkok within the budget, then they would have. Unfortunately there comes a time in every man’s life where he needs to accept he drank too much and get through it. Once the group got on the bus at the pier, then it was nice and easy all the way back to Khaosan Road, in fact I think we all slept like babies!

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Back to where it all began, and the circuit was complete. We arrived around 9pm of our final evening together. It was nice to be back in the hustle and bustle of Khasosan. Nobody really wanted to hit it hard, so we got checked in, freshened up, and some of the group including myself, ventured out for a farewell feast. It was like an all you can eat buffet with the amount of food that we ordered and as you’d expect we were not left disappointed.
There was a nice ambiance and we had a good reflection on the good times we’d all shared.
A few last minute gifts to take home for friends and family and it was time to hit the sack for the final time. But this is not where the story ends… for there is a final twist… an episode of ‘Man Vs Wild’ and Man Vs Food’ awaited us on the laptop just to ease us to sleep #LADs

As daylight broke, we met for breakfast and we pondered what we had all learned from the whole experience before they group disbursed for the airport, these were the following conclusions.

Tom had realised that no matter how many times you come to Thailand, you will never get the better of the buckets.
Adam had finally learned the difference between “Sawadee Kap” and “Kob Khun Kap” after two weeks
Joe Is no longer a driver of the banter bus, and has invested in a banter ‘tuk-tuk’ it’s going to be the next big thing. He has also invested in dance lessons after having his ass handed to him in a “pants off dance off”.
Chris is still trying to find himself although he is a little closer.
Annie has signed a contract with Thai fashion magazine ‘Oh Slip Krap’ as is expected to release her own rage of fashionable leg cast in Spring 2015
Ash has applied for a full time position at Koh Phangans ‘Total Wipeout’ as their back flip stunt man, he is still waiting for an interview…

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Thai Tips • What Visa?

Posted on July 30, 2014Posted by Steve Williams

Thailand and the Dreaded Visa – Aaaargghh!!
Steve Williams | Co-Founder

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Whether you’re an international jet-setter or a newbie backpacker, one thing you’ll have in common is that to enter Thailand, as with most other countries, you need permission from the immigration department of that country. This can come in the way of a simple stamp in your passport at the international airport Passport control, or by way of a pre-applied for visa. Whatever way you do it, this is both a worrisome and stressful period as without one or the other, you won’t be getting in!

Thailand was once a country where visitors could stay for months on end by ‘working the system’ and obtaining back-to-back visa’s or entry stamps. But alas, not anymore. Recent changes with the political system have had a momentous knock-on effect to other departments including the Royal Thai Immigration Department. This is a very confusing time for all visitors to the Kingdom and ex-pat’s alike. Those foreign visitors in Thailand on something other than the absolute correct visa are in for a very worrying period of time as ‘cheating’ the system can lead to deportation, a prison stay, heavy fine or all three, but in almost all cases that foreigner will be blacklisted from returning from returning to Thailand for a period between 1 and 10 years!

Let me be clear, this blog hasn’t been written to put anybody off coming to Thailand, far from it! This has been written to help you understand the new rules and to ensure that you arrive in theKingdom with the correct visa in your passport so that you can enjoy your stay without worry.

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To help you understand this blog a little more, I will define the two main tourist visa points –

  1. Most foreign visitors to Thailand can enter for free for up to 30 days by receiving a tourist ‘stamp’ in their passport at the international airport of their arrival. This is not a visa. This is purely the immigration accepting you in to the country as a visitor/tourist.
    Any visitor who exceeds the stay of 30 days without extending or replacing that stamp will be fined 500 Thai Baht for every day they exceed the departure date.
    It is possible to extend the tourist stamp within Thailand at an official immigration office. Right now the cost to do so is 1,900 Thai Baht to extend for a period of 7 days. However, it is my understanding that from August 29th 2014 tourists will be able to extend this to a maximum of 30 days for the same cost. A little piece of good news! BUT, if you’re planning to be in an area of Thailand that’s far from an immigration office at the end of your initial 30 day period, you may have to take a full day out of your trip to visit the immigration office. This could be expensive, time consuming, annoying, or all three!
    To extend your tourist stamp you will need to prove that you are a tourist by showing hotel bookings (if possible) and also your return flight ticket.
    A list of those nationalities who are eligible to enter Thailand on the free 30 day tourist stamp can be found here – http://www.thaiconsulatela.org/service_visa_detail.aspx?link_id=28
  2. The VISA! There are many types of visa available for entering Thailand. However, just because you want it, doesn’t mean you can get it! For most purposes the Tourist Visa is the way to go. This allows eligible foreigners to enter Thailand for up to 60 days at a time. They can also be applied for with single or multiple entries. A multiple entry visa means that if you wish to leave Thailand and enter a neighbouring country for the purpose of tourism, your visa won’t be cancelled and you can re-enter Thailand without trouble. The single entry version means that you if you leave Thailand, you will re-enter on the free tourist stamp as your tourist visa will be cancelled. It is also possible to extend a tourist visa at an immigration office in Thailand but, as with the tourist stamp, you will need to prove that you are indeed a tourist.
    The other option for entering Thailand, and especially for anybody wanting to volunteer, is to obtain the visa called the ‘non-immigrant Type O’ visa. To apply for this you will need to prove who you are, why you want the visa (for volunteering purposes) and with whom you will be volunteering. That volunteering organization should also be willing to supply you with various documents that will prove to the Thai Consulate or Embassy at which you’re applying, that they are genuine, registered and guarantee your application. At The Bamboo Project we are more than happy to supply you with everything you need to apply for this visa.
    The ‘non O’ as it is nicknamed, can give you entry to Thailand for up to 90 days and is available in the single or multiple entry formats. The more ‘extras’ you want from your visa, the more it will cost you.

One of the biggest reasons these new rules have been put in place and are being enforced is to stop those who are in Thailand illegally, have no visa, are working without the necessary permits or are otherwise cheating the system. As a genuine tourist you would have absolutely nothing to worry about and your stay in Thailand would go as smooth as silk.

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The most important thing to remember with all visa applications is that you must apply for this in your own country BEFORE you leave to travel to Thailand. Give yourself as much time as possible to make the application and please contact the Consulate of Embassy with any and all visa related questions. Each Embassy and Consulate has their own way of doing things and in many cases the paperwork required to support your application differs from country to country.

It is imperative that you arrive in Thailand with the country visa. This will make the whole arrival and stay experience far less worrying and stressful. After all, you want to come to Thailand to relax, have fun and not worry about official paperwork. Take some time to do some research about which visa works best for you because it will be worth it in the long run. In almost all cases, answers to visa questions, forms you need to download and other useful hints and tips can be found on the internet.

The visa application rules have changed so please update yourself to avoid any unnecessary confusion and hassle.

Here at Bamboo we love to embrace a challenge, help our volunteers, and make sure you guys have the best time of your life! So pick up that laptop and email us today to begin your Bamboo Adventure!

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Bamboo Beats • Tunes to travel with

Posted on March 23, 2014Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

Click here, press play, then come back and read this blog.

 

We  have created a mix that just about says everything about that ‘feeling’ you get when you’re on that bus in the middle of nowhere staring out into the jungle, laying down on the beach watching the sunset, waiting at the airport about to embark on your epic journey or just sitting on the street eating street food watching the world watch you.

Taking it one step further we have copies now for sale with 100% of proceeds going towards the Bamboo fund, supporting our teaching, building and conservation projects throughout Asia. Contact us for more info and how to get your copy.

Track list

1. Atlas Hands • Benjamin Francis Leftwich
2. Riptide • Vance Joy
3. Sun Models • ODESZA
4. Changes • FAUL (Robin Shulz Remix)
5.  Kaya • Androma
6. Dancin  • Aaron Smith (KRONO Remix)
7. No Scrubs • Bastille feat Ella
8. Sunday • Max Manie (Klangkarussel Remix)
9. Feather on the Clyde • Passenger
10. Run • Daughter (LCAW Remix)
11. It’s because • The Geek x VRV
12. I follow rivers • Lykke Li (FlicFlac edit)
13. Weekend Wild Child • Liliane Puma
14. In Da Club • 50 Cent (Woodys Produce Remix)
15. No Diggity • Blackstreet (Bondax Edit)
16. Another Love • Tom Odell (Zwette Edit)
17. Breezeblocks • Alt-J (#Hashtag Remix)
18. Tracey Champan • Tracey Chapman
19. No Diggity Vs Thrift Shop • Ed Sheeran & Passenger
20. Happy Endings • FAUL

 

 

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Bamboo ❤’s Food | How to cook Pad Thai

Posted on March 19, 2014Posted by admin

How to cook delicious, authentic and mouth watering Pad Thai.

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So here we go with the very first in our series of mouthwatering tasty Thai treats! This is the classic beginner-friendly favourite that you can buy on most street corners in the Land of Smiles. Easy to eat, choose from vegetarian, pork, chicken or prawn, grab some chopsticks and fill your face!

OK, so the ingredients list may look a little daunting, but trust us, it’s easier to make than you think. Well, I’ve used exactly this recipe and I’m such a bad cook I can actually burn water!

INSTRUCTIONS 

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 3-4 hungry mouths

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz./250 g. pad Thai rice noodles (or simple rice noodles are fine)
  • 3/4 lbs./.34 kg. boneless chicken thigh or breast, cut into small pieces or strips (replace with Tofu, prawns, pork as you choose)
  • 1.5 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh red or green chili, sliced
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger, grated
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts or cashews, ground or roughly chopped with a knife
  • 1 fresh lime, sliced into wedges
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Pad Thai Sauce (you can get these in packet or bottle variety in most supermarkets)
  • 1/3 cup good-tasting chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar (or substitute white vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper

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Preparation:

  1. Place prepared chicken in a bowl and toss with 1.5 Tbsp. soy sauce. Set aside.
  2. Sort out your pad Thai sauce mix and if required, follow the instructions to make sure the taste is as required.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dunk in rice noodles and switch off heat. Allow noodles to soak approximately 6 minutes, OR until soft enough to bend easily, but still firm and ‘undercooked’. Drain and rinse noodles briefly with cold water to keep from sticking. Leave them on the side for now.
  4. Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the oil and swirl around, then add the garlic, chili, ginger, and half of green onion (or just the white parts), keeping the rest for later. Stir-fry for just a minute to release the smell.
  5. Add chicken and stir-fry 3-4 minutes, or until cooked. If pan becomes dry, add 1-2 Tbsp. of the pad Thai sauce, just enough to keep ingredients frying nicely.
  6. Push ingredients aside and crack egg into center of pan. Stir quickly to scramble, then combine with other ingredients.
  7. Add prepared noodles plus 3-4 Tbsp. of the pad Thai sauce. Lift and turn noodles to stir-fry and combine with other ingredients. Continue frying in this way, adding more of the sauce every minute or two, until all sauce has been added and the noodles are chewy-delicious and a little bit sticky (8-10 minutes). When sauce has been absorbed and noodles are cooked, fold in the bean sprouts; don’t do it too early as you want them to stay crispy.
  8. Remove from heat and taste-test, adding more fish sauce until desired taste is achieved. Serve up the plates for your friends adding a lime wedge on the side. Before stuffing your face, top with remaining green onion and squeeze over the lime wedge, then finish with a generous sprinkling of chopped/ground nuts. For those whole like it extra spicy, serve with Thai chili sauce on the side, and don’t forget a few bottles of Chang or Singha beer to help wash it down!

Come and try and cook the real deal in a real Thai kitchen, anyone of our projects or tours gives you the opportunity to embrace Thai cuisine.

Check this for an idea of where we go and how we get there:

 

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Teach on a Tropical Island | Teach & Beach

Posted on March 16, 2014Posted by Steve Williams

Volunteer Teaching on Koh Samui

Having the ability to speak even the smallest amount of English is a huge help for Thai youths to escape what could be an otherwise extremely hard life in to adulthood and there are many reasons for this.

In many cases, nowadays in Thailand, having the ability to speak, read and write English is a pre-requisite for being accepted in to university. For any Thai child looking to further their education and be taken seriously for the higher paid jobs, this is an essential piece of that puzzle.

Without question one of Thailand’s most important industries is tourism. Employers in this industry will always place applicants with the ability to speak English higher on the list than those who can’t. This is where the better paid jobs are. Depending on who you believe, Thailand receives around 20-30 million visitors annually so you can imagine the size of the workforce required to cater for these demands. There are and there always will be work available for Thai’s in this industry.

Unlike where you and I come from, where the salary we earn is largely spent taking care of ourselves or our immediate families, in Thailand it’s quite the opposite. For the majority of Thai’s who earn money, much of it goes straight back to the parents and younger siblings to help them to have a better life. So for any Thai in a full-time job, once they’ve paid their immediate bills, the money is mostly gone! Never decreasing circle…..

The majority of Thai schools don’t receive enough funding. This has a negative impact on almost every facet of the day to day education of the children; the buildings crumble, the curriculum suffers, the kids suffer. For these children to have access to teaching volunteer in Thailand is awesome. Especially a volunteer teacher who can help them with English. Not only will having a foreigner in their classroom be a welcome addition – Thai children really enjoy to be around foreigners who are genuinely interested in their welfare – but learning from somebody with new, interesting and fun learning methods offers these children a new and fresh perspective on the language.

Volunteer teachers in Thailand don’t need to be experienced. All you need to be is fun, hard-working, dedicated and responsible. If you have no experience then our team will show you how to do it, how to control the class, give you ideas of games and teaching methods and will always be with you to help ensure the kids understand what you’re trying to say.

Come and join our Koh Samui teaching volunteer placement and see for yourselves. We guarantee you an amazing experience whilst giving these poor kids something unique. You can make a difference. You can give these kids the tools required to escape their daily struggles. You can be the difference

Volunteering is amazing. Volunteering on Koh Samui island is beyond that! Contact us and book your placement today!

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