I may not have been the typical volunteer as I am 69 years old and was traveling alone. I more than once asked myself, “What was I thinking?”, but it turned out all right. I was volunteering in Thailand at the Akha Hill Tribe Experience project for only one week, but it was intensely educational and busy so I came away with more than I ever expected.
We planted vegetation to help stop erosion, prepared plantings in our homestay, went on a six hour trek, visited a number of historical and Buddhist sites and experienced the culture with the Akha people almost continually throughout the week. The Akha are the most tolerant and accepting of others of any group I have ever met. As far as an immersion learning experience goes, it would be hard to match.
I would suggest that acclimating to the heat and humidity might be a good idea along with perhaps resting a while after the plane ride and before the long bus trip to the site. I did not do either and, although I made it – much to the amazement of myself and others – it was perhaps more difficult than need be.
Otherwise, the project from start to finish was well organized; I always felt safe in country; and the transportation on buses across the country was coordinated well and the bus personnel were given information that they used to help you individually. Overall, this project is definitely not a vacation-like expereince, but an excellent cultural learning/immersion experience.