Thailand - Akha Hilltribe Aid and Experience
Volunteer in Thailand assisting with the education and development of the Akha hill tribes. Experience unique new cultures and traditions while providing much needed aid to the local communities.
|Location of Project||Various villages around Chiang Rai / Northern Thailand|
|Project Length||Min 1 week – Max 6 weeks|
|Arrival Airport||Bangkok International Airport|
|Volunteer Work||Renovation, agriculture, and environmental work|
|Number of Participants||5 – 10 international volunteers|
|Age||18 - 80|
|Accommodation||Volunteer center in a shared room. Home-stay available to participants staying longer than 1 week|
|Food||3 meals a day|
|Support||Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support|
|Meeting Point||Chiang Rai bus station|
|Pre-Departure Kit||Full project details will be sent following registration|
|Orientation||Introduction and training in Chiang Rai|
|Travel Insurance||Comprehensive travel & health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage|
What's Not Included
The project takes place in various hill tribe villages around Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai province covers some 11,678 square kilometers with a population of 1.23 million people. The average elevation is 580 meters above sea level, Myanmar borders on the north, and Laos borders on the north and northeast. The provincial capital is 829 kilometers north of Bangkok.
Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai and was the first capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of a Million Rice fields). The province contains Thailand's northernmost point at Mae Sai which is well known for its crisp mountain scenery and hill tribes. North Chiang Rai falls within the region known as the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge.
Akha Hilltribe Village
About the Project
The Akha are a hill tribe of subsistence farmers known for their artistry. The ethnic group may have originated in Mongolia around 1,500 years ago. Most of the remaining Akha people are now distributed in small villages among the mountains of China, where they are considered part of the Hani by the government, though this is a subject of some dispute among the Akha themselves; Laos, where they are considered Lao Sung; Myanmar, Burma; and northern Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes.
The Akha began arriving in Thailand in the early twentieth century and continue to immigrate, with about 80,000 now living at high altitudes in Thailand's northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Many of these villages can be visited by tourists on trekking tours from either of these cities. They speak Akha, a language in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. Akha has a very closely related language with the Lisu and Lahu peoples, as they once belonged to the Lolohunter tribe that ruled the Paoshan and Teinchung plains before the invasion of the Ming Dynasty (A.D 1644) in Yunan, China. The practice of their mythology includes ornately carved village gates made of wood where the guardian spirits are said to dwell. They have an extensive recollection of ancestors going back 15 generations that they exhibit in ritual chants.
This project provides the opportunity to volunteer for the indigenous Akha tribes of Northern Thailand. As a volunteer, you will experience and learn about their unique culture and traditions. The aim of the project is to support the Akha way of life while promoting sustainable cultural exchange between the local community and the international volunteers.
Volunteer Work and Contribution
During the project, you will work with organizations that support the Akha minority. The work is very diverse from construction to teaching to working with the villagers; it will all depend upon the needs of the community at the time and on your personal preferences! During these two weeks you will also visit local markets and help to sustain local initiatives.
This volunteer program requires cultural sensitivity, flexibility, and an open mind in order to work and interact with the Akha people.
Here is a sample daily schedule:
- 06:30 Wake up, participate in the daily household chores and routines
- 07:30 Breakfast
- 08:30 Manual activities and cultural exchange
- 12:00 Lunch
- 13:00 Manual activities and visit the village to do some work
- 18:00 Dinner
- 19:00 Group meeting
- 19:30 Evening activities with the group and the local people
- 22:00 Lights off
Weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) are free days
Note: this schedule is a draft and gives you an idea of how life will be during the camp; it may change, depending on the specific needs of the local partner. The final schedule will be provided upon arrival. Thailand is a tropical country with occasional violent storms, heavy rains and floods. During such times, the above schedule may be subject to change.
Accommodations: volunteers will stay in a volunteer center. Please note that the accommodations are very basic. Rooms include two bunk beds (linens are not provided) and fans. Bathrooms include Asian toilets and a cold shower only.
Food: all food is included during your stay. The meals will be typical Akha / Thai fare, including plenty of rice dishes. Volunteers will learn to cook by helping to prepare the meals.
Internet: no Internet at the village.
Laundry: very limited facilities so expect to wash your clothes by hand.
Note: all participants are expected to be environmentally aware and to use all resources with restraint, especially water, paper, and electricity. You will be expected to clean up after yourself and to play your part in keeping the accommodations neat and organized.
The program offers free trips in the area to ensure you get the most out of your experience. Included in these are an overnight jungle trek and guided tours to White Marble Temple, Black Handicraft Museum, and the Khun Kon waterfalls.
In your free time, you will have the opportunity to learn about the Akha culture, attend traditional ceremonies and events, learn the local dialect, visit natural hot springs, or trek through the hills.
- Minimum age 18
- Good level of English
- Motivation to work with children and with new cultures
- Full travel and medical insurance
- Immunizations (please consult your doctor)
- Sleeping bag
Please note: Thailand has a tropical climate which means occasional violent storms involving rain and flooding. During these times, the schedule is very likely to change and a flexible attitude is appreciated.
Volunteers staying for longer than one week will be given the opportunity to stay in a home-stay for a couple nights during the week to fully immerse themselves in the Akha culture.
During a traditional Akha cultural event, they may ask that you present something representative of your culture. Volunteers in the past have cooked a traditional food, performed a song or dance, or taught a popular sport. This is your opportunity to get creative and open up to share with them a piece of your culture.
Here's an excerpt of Tamar's experience: