Women's Empowerment With Karen Hill Tribes

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founded in 1997
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Coordinator | Natalie
Coordinator | Natalie


Become culturally aware living among an ethnic minority village and learn the local language Pakinyaw
Observe Asian Elephants in their natural habitats and social groups rather than in unnatural, damaging and often solitary environment
See the benefits of our ethical elephant tourism model in the elephants' physical and psychological health
Learn about the unique role of women in the village and forge a unique relationship
Teach English at the local school and to women
Hike with elephants in the forests of Northern Thailand, while immersing yourself in Karen culture, learning about how gender is perceived in the community. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+
Travel to the jungle-covered hillsides of Northern Thailand, to support elephant conservation, education, and gender equality, in a local Karen cultural village. 

In the morning hike with mahouts, traditional elephant trainers, through the mountainous forest terrain to conduct health checks of the elephants being reintegrated into their natural environment. Length and difficulty of hikes can vary depending on the time of year, and can be from 3-7 hours long! 
In the afternoons, support English education for young learners in the local primary school. In the evenings, you will also have the opportunity to conduct English language, vocational or professional development classes with women in the community. 

Throughout your time on the program, you will stay with a local homestay family, giving you the opportunity to learn more about the Karen culture, an ethnic and cultural group, originally from Burma, who live in the hills of Northern Thailand. Learn unique aspects of their culture first hand, like their language, Pakinyaw, their cooking methods, and how to make traditional Karen clothing and jewelry.

The specific focus of this program is how gender is perceived in Karen society. For example, mahouts are traditionally men, whereas women weave traditional Karen clothes. Both men and women take part in farming and rearing children. We work on empowering both genders through increasing access to English language education and supporting alternative income generation initiatives. 

Typical day

The program is a hands off program.
  • Volunteers will not get in direct contact with the elephants but will watch them from a distance while taking data and observing behaviour.
  • The hikes are only in the mornings
  • Other types of community and conservation activities are available in the afternoon but they will not include hiking.
  • Volunteers must be pro-active about joining other activities. There may be lots of downtime in the afternoon so bring books and games.
Typical Day:
6:30am - Breakfast at Base
7:30am - Elephant Hikes leave
8:00am - Bio Hike
12pm - Lunch at Base
1:00pm - Karen Lesson #1
2:00pm - School/bio activity
3:30pm - Empowerment presentation
4:30pm - Teaching Prep
6:00pm - Dinner at Homestay
7:30pm - Homestay English.

  • Women's Empowerment is a small segment which is mostly related to teaching the women English in the evenings and learning skills from them such as weaving, as well as helping out in the primary school.
  • We are working on introducing some other workshops at the primary school which could involve things like bullying or self-esteem, confidence, teeth brushing skills and basic health, but again it is mostly English teaching.
  • The women here are actually already pretty empowered - most of them own small shops or businesses and they are not particularly interested to expand these businesses further. So that's why we are concentrating more on developing their English skills as well as learning more about their culture, and sharing our culture with them too.
  • The homestay arrangements we have here means volunteers can build up strong friendships with these women if they are pro-active about being involved and learning the language.
  • By sharing our culture and language with the local women too, it allows them to continue to provide this homestay business to volunteers, and in the future tourists, who are coming to see the elephants, and know how to best accommodate these people.

Free-time activities

It is a 2 hour drive to the town of Mae Chaem. Travelling around the local area is easily done on foot. There is no public transport but visits into the city by car can be arranged at your expense
In your down time you will be free to travel in the local area. The program is unscheduled during weekends. In this time you could visit Doi Inthanon National Park, go bamboo rafting, or make a trip into the Chiang Mai or Mae Hong Son for some western comforts. There is the opportunity to go into Chiang Mai every two weeks, with the staff and volunteers going in for the new volunteer intake.
Short or extended trips to neighboring Laos or Thailand's beautiful islands and beaches are also possible after completion of the program.
Water Sports


In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Criminal Background Check
Education Requirements
at High School level
Required Documents
Medical Form
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
No specific skills are required, all training is provided in field
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

What's Included

Services by Global Vision International (GVI)


  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting


  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

Airport Pickup at Chiang Mai International Airport
Airport pick-ups can be arranged from 12:00 PM - 05:00 PM on your project start date, please request this from your support coordinator who will be in touch with you as soon as you have confirmed your spot on program. 

If you are not arriving within the pick-up window you will find regulated taxi stands to your left upon exiting the baggage pick-up area where you can arrange a taxi to the Eco Resort. The fee should be a flat rate of 200 THB.

On Saturday, at the end of your placement, you will be transferred back to Chiang Mai Airport, returning around 12pm. Do not book a flight with a check-in before 12:00pm. If you would like to leave the project early or arrive late the cost is 3,000 THB per trip, to be covered by the volunteer arriving late/leaving early.
Discount domestic flights depart to Bangkok daily. International flights can also be booked to depart from Chiang Mai Airport, via Bangkok.
First night accommodation is in shared rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

In the village, each volunteer has their own room in a local homestay. This will either be in the homestay with the family (private room) or in a private hut away from the main house. There is cold running water for washing and drinking water is provided. Asian style squat toilet facilities are available. Participants will also be given at least one base duty day whilst on project to help keep base hygienic for everyone to use.
Guest Family
Food & Beverages
All meals are provided in the village. Most meals are rice based with fresh vegetables and meat/fish/egg. The food is typically richly flavored with chili and local herbs. Vegetarians can easily be catered for and spice levels can be adjusted. With dietary requirements, keep in mind the food will be basic. Breakfast is served at base on a daily basis. Lunch is provided by the homestay as a pack-up each day. Dinner will be served for the homestay in the evening, but volunteers do not eat with the homestay family.
Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) in Chiang Mai. We assist you to find cheap flights to Thailand.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Thailand provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Thailand you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Thailand.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

  • 2019
  • 02 Nov 2019
    16 Nov 2019
    30 Nov 2019
    14 Dec 2019
    28 Dec 2019
    • 2020
    • 11 Jan 2020
      25 Jan 2020
      08 Feb 2020
      22 Feb 2020
      07 Mar 2020
      21 Mar 2020
      04 Apr 2020
      18 Apr 2020
      02 May 2020
      16 May 2020
      30 May 2020
      13 Jun 2020
      27 Jun 2020
      11 Jul 2020
      25 Jul 2020
      08 Aug 2020
      22 Aug 2020
      05 Sep 2020
      19 Sep 2020
      03 Oct 2020
      17 Oct 2020
      31 Oct 2020
      14 Nov 2020
      28 Nov 2020
      12 Dec 2020
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
4 - 12 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in EUR (USD)
4 weeks (min. stay)
€2,465 ($2,761)
5 weeks
€2,705 ($3,030)
6 weeks
€2,945 ($3,298)
7 weeks
€3,185 ($3,567)
8 weeks
€3,425 ($3,836)
9 weeks
€3,665 ($4,105)
10 weeks
€3,905 ($4,374)
11 weeks
€4,145 ($4,642)
12 weeks (max. stay)
€4,385 ($4,911)
Average fees
€491 ($550) /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Global Vision International (GVI) will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Global Vision International (GVI) during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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We refund your fees if Global Vision International (GVI) cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Global Vision International (GVI).

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  Asia South-Eastern Asia Thailand  Huay Pakoot, Thailand

Women's Empowerment With Karen Hill Tribes

Hike with elephants in the forests of Northern Thailand, while immersing yourself in Karen culture, learning about how gender is perceived in the community.


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