My Experience Volunteering in Thailand with the Akha Hill Tribe

Posted by: Tamar

It was an experience in and of itself – living in a bamboo hut in the forest, working with the Akha people – it was awe-inspiring. The Akha Hill Tribe Experience project I volunteered at in Thailand is a unique place where people live by their own two hands, all the while full of love and joy. The Akha people’s culture is unique and fascinating and we, as volunteers, had an amazing opportunity to take part and develop a feeling of belonging.

My overall experience volunteering with in Thailand was amazing. Tutu and Gunn, my program managers, were excellent. The project was very organized and the coordinators were versatile and flexible with our requests and input. Tutu’s family was more than accommodating to us volunteers and we really got a sense of home from them. The village itself is located in the mountains of Northern Thailand, an hour and fifteen minutes from the city of Chiang Rai, and is surround on all sides by breathtaking scenery. Eighty families live in the village in handmade houses made of wood and bamboo – it is very impressive.

We lived in a small yet charming bamboo hut that even had an electrical outlet. The compound for the volunteers has a toilet and shower (cold as it was). Although the compound is secluded, we felt very integrated with the village not isolated (which was very important).

For two nights we stayed with a local family – it was a truly unique experience. The lives the local people lead are fascinating and they are so warm and inviting. In terms of the volunteer work – the projects included assisting in the establishment of an educational center that serves as a center of information about the Akha people and culture. In practice, we built the structure of the building. This included mixing cement, carrying bricks, and delegating work to the guys. The physical work was not easy, but it was both enjoyable and fulfilling.

Beyond the construction of the center we took part in various activites such as help the tribe to build a bamboo fence around the local school (it was really cool to learn the unique work and craft of the Akha). One day we helped with the agricultural work in the cornfields.Another task, which was of personal interest to me, was teaching in the children’s school. The plan was to have one day teaching in the school but I requested to extend my job there for three days, during which I was able to teach all the different grade levels. The kids were really charming and were eager to learn.

The food we ate was a real surprise. While we did eat sticky rice three times a day, we also had many side dishes prepared for us, like cooked vegetables and pork that were unique and delicious. During the second week we were joined by two additional volunteers. We took turns cooking breakfast, cleaning, and washing dishes.

The farewell ceremony at the end of our stay was really fun – we got to make meals from our home countries to add to the local cuisine.  The mix of cultures was great and it was such a rich experience.  The Akha attended all the ceremonies and we all danced together and sang songs from home, I even did some belly dancing (it was the first time the villagers had ever seen anything like this and the response was amazing).

In conclusion, I do not have enough words to describe the depth of the experience. I only know that the people I’ve met have influenced my life and I strongly recommend volunteering in this village. They need lots of help in establishing educational center and the overall experience for the volunteers is one of a kind and very rewarding… I recommend it to all those interested. Thanks again GoEco for organizing this amazing project.