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Overview

In Laos, volunteer in construction or education. Live in a Volunteer House perfectly located in the heart of Luang Prabang. Additionally:

 

 

 

 

About Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang embodies the enormous potential of Laos. Endowed with a breathtaking natural landscape and fertile soil, Luang Prabang is holding onto its agricultural roots while being the heart of the Lao tourism industry. The local government has taken important steps to manage the growth in a way that benefits the poor and contributes to the conservation of the environment. However, limited resources and high levels of poverty mean that significant challenges remain.

Nearly 20 percent of the population lives in poverty. Problems in education, health and environmental protection limit the opportunities of many people. The growth of tourism is adding pressure on the already fragile infrastructure, and most of the local population does not benefit from tourism because their skills are largely geared towards agriculture. In Laos, numerous volunteering opportunities are open to you, including construction and teaching English. Click on the tabs above to learn more.

 

“UBELONG and the mentor I was given during my volunteer placement really helped me feel prepared to go to Laos. I felt a lot of my nervousness disappear as UBELONG supported and guided me as I arrived and began my placement.” Laura Smith, UBELONG Laos Volunteer from Canada – read her interview here.

Projects

Construction

A challenge Laos continues to face is its poor infrastructure. While upscale developments can be found throughout Luang Prabang, facilities like community centers, schools and hospitals that are depended upon by the poor continue to be run down. Volunteers bring labor to help restore buildings serving the poorest. Volunteers live in Luang Prabang and work in the city and surrounding areas.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers work four to six hours a day doing light construction work in a local school or social organization like an after-school center. Their tasks depend on local need, as well as the skills of the volunteers. Tasks range widely and examples include drawing and painting murals in a hospital; cleaning up a playground and fixing and/or painting the play-sets; doing light construction work in a classroom, which may include fixing the desks and repairing damaged walls; and beautifying a room in a community center by cleaning it up, painting and/or performing light handiwork.

Requirements to participate: 
-The health and physical capability to do manual work in a tropical environment with few amenities.
-The flexibility to participate in many different activities depending on the ever-changing local needs.
-Education and/or professional experience in a construction-related field is not required.

Minimum time commitment: 
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except during the Lao New Year, which in 2018 falls between April 9 and April 15 (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and let you start another day of the week – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. To join, you must be part of a self-organized group of five or more planning to apply and volunteer on the project together – we do not organize groups.

3. Each volunteer must bring to Luang Prabang US$20 in cash for every week of their placement. The money will go towards purchasing materials, for example brooms, paints and paint brushes.

4. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

UBELONGers doing light construction work in Laos!

UBELONGers doing light construction work in Laos!

Education

While there are significant efforts to improve the quality of education in Laos, serious problems persist, including an insufficient number of qualified teachers, deficient school infrastructure and low student enrollment. These problems are visible in Luang Prabang, a small community where the growing tourist market is demanding skills such as English speaking ability. The failure to communicate with foreign travelers is the most significant obstacle for locals in search of decent jobs in the tourism sector.

The education project connects a non-profit project in Luang Prabang with volunteers so that the students can obtain valuable English language skills. Additionally, volunteers bring new ideas and perspectives that promote cross-cultural understanding. Volunteers live in Luang Prabang and work in nearby community centers and schools.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers work four to six hours a day teaching English to young Buddhist monks, poor children or disadvantaged students from remote areas of Luang Prabang and other parts of northern Laos. The school has around 300 students from 10 to 22 years old. As the level of English of some teachers can be very low, volunteers should expect a high level of independence in designing classes and leading them. Volunteers teach together or, if needed, on their own. Volunteers sometimes also have the opportunity to give private English lessons and workshops to the teachers.

Requirements to participate: 
-At least an advanced level of English.
-The creativity and initiative to lead classes with limited resources.
-Teaching experience and/or certifications are not required.

Minimum time commitment: 
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except during the Lao New Year, which in 2018 falls between April 9 and April 15 (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and let you start another day of the week – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

UBELONG Volunteers together with their English class

Mackenzie and Travis, from Alaska, taught their students shapes vocabulary by teaching them how to make a paper crane.

Living

When you become a UBELONG Volunteer, you have a world-class team supporting you. We empower you to have an excellent trip that is all about volunteering, living the local culture and making new friends in a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable manner.

Housing

You live in a cozy and comfortable Volunteer House, which is part of a guesthouse in Luang Prabang. Most rooms host two to four volunteers and have their own private bathroom with showers and flush toilets. Bed sheets and towels are provided. All rooms have air conditioning, windows and electricity plugs. There is a phone for emergencies and free wireless internet as well as a spacious kitchen volunteers can use. Coffee and tea are available at no charge. The house is in the center where you can find many conveniences like banks, bars, coffee shops, telephone booths and restaurants. It is located on a short, less trafficked lane running up from the Mekong river.

Food

Lao cuisine is unique and very tasty, and you can expect to eat well during your stay. Every day you will be served breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast: It typically includes coffee, tea or juice with eggs, rice soup, baguette, jam or fruit. Depending on your work schedule, you eat breakfast alone or with other volunteers.

Lunch: Lunch typically includes a main dish featuring noodles, fish sauce, spring rolls or sticky rice with chicken, beef or fish. Lunch is a fun time to socialize and share stories, and it is served in an excellent local restaurant in downtown Luang Prabang.

For dinner, we used to offer it, but not anymore. The feedback from volunteers was that they preferred to have dinner on their own. Considering the perfect location of the Volunteer House in downtown Luang Prabang, volunteers felt it was much more culturally immersive, fun and economical to eat dinner together at one of the many local restaurants serving everything from Laotian specialties to Western-style food. Alternatively, some volunteers also simply like to purchase food and prepare it themselves  at the Volunteer House, where a kitchen is available.

Free Time

You live in a stunning semi-rural location. Distinctive karst hills impressively rise from lush green forests crisscrossed by rivers and streams. There are caves and rice paddies to explore, and nearby lagoons offer great opportunities for refreshing dips. You can partake in many outdoor activities, including cave exploring, hiking, kayaking, tubing and rock climbing. In town you can enjoy a fun and laid-back scene. There are bars and restaurants serving Lao and international foods, and you can stroll past Buddhist temples, colorful textile shops and open-air markets to mingle with locals.

 

alex-huang-volunteer-laos

Alex, a UBELONG Volunteer from Taiwan, enjoying a fantastic view!

 

Cost

Volunteering abroad with UBELONG is extremely affordable. Plus, when you consider that UBELONG Volunteers receive extensive support and the trust of joining an organization based in the United States with top reviews, you realize the unmatchable value UBELONG offers. It’s one of the main reasons thousands have already decided to join a UBELONG volunteer trip.

 

Volunteer Placement Program Fee (USD)
1 week $205
2 weeks $325
3 weeks $445
4 weeks $535
5 weeks $675
6 weeks $715
7 weeks $805
8 weeks $895
12 weeks $1195
16 weeks $1515
20 weeks $1835
24 weeks $2155

In addition to the program fee, there is a US$295 reservation fee due upon your being accepted into a project.

 

Additionally, please note:

Before your trip

Easy online application: You can apply online using our Volunteer Abroad application form. We use the application to get to know you and make sure that you join a volunteer project that is right for you based on your background, interests, and skills.

Preparation Booklet: The booklet offers you a wealth of information and helpful tips to prepare you for your volunteer trip with UBELONG. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the development challenges that your host community faces.

UBELONG Mentor: We pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Briefing Meeting: Prior to your departure, you have a meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your volunteer placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your Volunteer Abroad experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

UBELONG Shop 25% discount: The UBELONG Shop is a clothing store selling shirts, bracelets and other items that are inspired by travel. It’s another way for us to advance our social mission. A part of the Shop’s profits go to where UBELONGers serve, for example the hospitals, schools, environmental reserves, etc.

When you are accepted into a UBELONG program, you receive a 25% promo code for the UBELONG Shop. You can share it with your friends and family. The donations from purchases made with your promo code go to the projects in the location where you are travelling.

During your trip

Airport pickup: When you arrive at the Luang Prabang airport, a driver meets you and brings you to your accommodations.

First week extra R&R day: On the Sunday prior to your first Monday, which is the start of your placement, your housing is included so that you can comfortably settle in. You can arrive earlier, just note the US$15 per night extra charge.

Orientation: Our Local Team Leader gives you an orientation to introduce you to the local team and go over everything from living locally to the volunteer work that you will be doing. The orientation is generally your first Monday.

Housing: You live in a comfortable volunteer house. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

Food: You receive breakfast and lunch every day. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

United States and Europe based support: UBELONG is an American organization with headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. We also have a European office in Lisbon, Portugal. As such, you have the peace of mind that comes from having the support of a volunteer organization with an American and European presence.

In-country support: Throughout your Volunteer Abroad placement, we work with our Local Team Leader to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, the local team is there for you.

After your trip

Reference letter (including for graduate degree and job references): Upon request, we provide you with a letter stating that you joined our Volunteer Abroad program. As the UBELONG network extends widely into the university and professional worlds, participating in a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program can be a strong positive in a university or job application. See some of the institutions in the UBELONG network.

Fundraising and networking: We hold fundraising and networking events throughout the year to support development initiatives. Join us online, in the United States or wherever in the world we are holding an event. To keep up with events, see the UBELONG Facebook page.

United States President’s Volunteer Service Award: If you are a U.S. citizen and shared your story in our Volunteer Abroad blog, you are eligible for the award, which we have been certified to give as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

Airfare, airport drop-off, travel medical insurance, and visas are not included. 

We also require that every person 18 years of age or older obtain a police background check to volunteer with UBELONG – this is part of our commitment to volunteer safety and community safety. The price you pay depends on what location you are in because every country/city has a different price. However, in general, the cost of a police background check ranges from US$40 to US$150 per person.

Additionally, in Luang Prabang dinner and miscellaneous spending like snacks and toiletries are not included. You may also have to take transportation to reach your volunteer project and you are responsible for the fare. Most volunteers budget US$3 to US$6 for each day of their placement for additional expenses in the field.

Please note: We require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your volunteer placement with UBELONG. We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

You can pay us via PayPal (which includes credit and debit card), bank wire, United States Postal Service money order, or certified bank check. We do not accept cash or personal checks. To learn about when fees are due, see our how to apply section.

FAQ

Application

Applying is easy, simply follow the steps we lay out in our How To Apply section.

If you still have questions after doing so, please contact us, we are glad to help.

Our accepting you into a project is based on three aspects:

  • Availability: We receive many more applications than we have spots for. As such, there may be projects where we simply don’t have a need for volunteers anymore. This is why you should apply as soon as possible. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.
  • Your background, experience and skills: Under the description of each project under the “project” tab above, there is a “requirements to participate” section. You should review it carefully, as well as any associated notes below.
  • The UBELONG Mindest: UBELONG Volunteers have the well-deserved reputation of being the best of the best. On our end, we take our work very seriously. From large details to ones you will never notice but that are still crucial to you having a safe, comfortable and meaningful experience, we put an enormous amount of resources into developing programs of the highest quality. On your end, we expect that you will approach your UBELONG experience eager to contribute, and with a caring, humble, proactive and respectful attitude. Simply, in your application we want to see that you are ready to be flexible, proactive and adaptive to the local need.

Yes, as long as your dates meet the “minimum time commitment” and “project schedule” requirements we have for the project you want to join. You can see these requirements by clicking on the “project” tab above and looking at the description for your project.

Additionally, considering how affordable and popular UBELONG opportunities are, we sometimes run out of spots. So, while you should only apply when you are completely sure you will join if accepted, the earlier you can apply the better your chances of being accepted. Until you have submitted an application, we will not be able to tell you if certain dates have been filled or not – you must apply first.

For additional information, visit our how to apply section and see our application.

Yes. We believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable.

Yes. Many of our Volunteer Abroad projects are designed to offer highly-skilled professionals the opportunity to contribute their expertise while growing professionally and personally.

We were founded by international development professionals and university professors determined to raise the bar in international volunteering. Empowering even the most senior development professionals to volunteer overseas is a key part of our mission.

While we are based in the United States, we offer programs for people of all nationalities. Most of our volunteers come from North America, Europe, and Australia, yet every year we welcome into the UBELONG community thousands of individuals from all corners of the world. As long as you have a willingness to discover the world and volunteer abroad, you’re welcome to join one of our Volunteer Abroad projects.

You should apply as soon as possible as we receive a very high volume of applications for a limited number of spots. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.

Most individuals apply three to six months before their start date, although some apply even earlier and some with as little as a week before. Again, the earlier you apply the better, but only do so when you’re completely ready to commit if accepted.

As of the date you submit your application, you must be at least 18 years old. There is no maximum age requirement. Whether you are a student or have recently retired, or whether you are a young professional or a middle-aged housewife, we probably have a Volunteer Abroad project that is right for you.

Please note: In certain cases, we will allow people under 18 years old to become UBELONG Volunteers. To learn more, see the two FAQs right below this one.

Yes, we have many wonderful families with children volunteer on our projects. It is a great way for families to come together, and we have found that children coming in as volunteers can very positively impact the local communities.

For families with everybody 13 years or older, all our volunteer projects are open to you.

For families with children younger than 13 years old, due to project qualification requirements, logistical challenges and safety precautions, in certain of our locations we cannot have children under 13 years old join. To know the list of volunteer projects that are open to families with children under 13 years old, please contact us.

If you are under 18 years old, you can still volunteer with UBELONG either with your family or with a high school group. Contact us for more information about each option.

Groups

Yes. All groups, including couples, families and friends, can join any of our Volunteer Abroad projects and volunteer together. Every year we have thousands of individuals become UBELONG volunteers as part of corporate, university and religious groups. We can have groups of up to 500 people.

The application procedure for groups is easy and very similar as the one for individuals. You can review the entire process in our How To Apply section, and for your convenience here is an overview:

1. Each group member submits his or her own application online with these points in mind:

  • Everybody in the group should apply within the same 24 hours so we can review all the applications together.
  • In part 1 of the application there is a field where each person types a common group name. The group makes up its own name, past examples:
    • For a couple: “Jane and John”
    • For friends: “Peter, Trent and Mike”
    • For large groups: “Cornell University summer 2015 team” or “Jake’s winter 2018 team from the University of Michigan”
  • If you want to house together or volunteer on the same project, please let us know in your application. We will do everything we can to accommodate you; generally it is not a problem as long as you let us know in your application.

2. Once we receive all the applications, we will review them together. Assuming you are all accepted, we will pair the group with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience to support you. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

As always, if you have any further question please contact us, we are glad to help.

Yes, we have accepted many alternative breaks teams into our Volunteer Abroad program and had great success.

We have had teams from over 100 institutions from throughout the world, including:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Rice University
  • McGill University
  • Oxford University
  • La Sorbonne
  • College of Charleston
  • University of Indiana
  • New Mexico State University
  • University of Melbourne
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • University of South Dakota
  • New York University

The teams volunteered throughout the world on our projects across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some have gone for a week during spring break, while others went for longer periods. Moreover, as we have over 150 projects, depending on their backgrounds teams have joined projects ranging from teaching English and conservation to healthcare and microfinance.

We encourage you to connect with past teams by visiting our Volunteer Abroad News section as well as the UBELONG Facebook page.

Yes, we work with many high school groups from all over the world.

Visit our high school groups page to learn more about high school groups volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

Mindset

We believe everybody has something to offer by volunteering abroad – this is why our Volunteer Abroad program is rooted in affordability and flexibility.

At the same time, volunteering abroad is not easy. You will have a lot of fun travelling, making new friends and having new experiences, but expect challenges.

There is no typical day or script to follow, and in the developing world conditions can change quickly. You must be flexible and ready for anything. Some days will be frustrating and not what you expected, but this is part of the volunteering experience and why patience and a positive attitude are fundamental traits of a good international volunteer.

Moreover, as a volunteer your role is to fit in with your project and not the other way around. We expect you to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in an area you were not expecting to work in. Do not ask what your project can do for you, ask what you can do for your project.

Volunteers are not tourists. Volunteers expect to serve, tourists expect to be served. As a volunteer your role is to fit in your project and not the other way around. Think what you can do for your hosting community, not what it can do for you. We expect you to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in an area you were not expecting to work in.

You must be open, flexible and proactive. That is the challenge, but also the beauty of becoming a UBELONG Volunteer – you will be out of your comfort zone, but don’t be surprised if in making an impact you yourself have the experience of a lifetime.

Finally, while tourism companies offer overpriced “voluntourism” opportunities, we believe that’s unfortunate. Volunteerism and tourism have nothing to do with one another. They require very different attitudes, and attempting to combine them creates disappointment for the volunteer and generates no positive impact for the local community. And, while tourism companies may speak of the “volunteer travel industry”, authentic volunteering has nothing to do with an industry. For UBELONG Volunteers, volunteering is about people coming together for positive change – there is nothing industrial about it.

As long as you take your volunteering seriously and approach your experience with an open and proactive mindset, absolutely.

Your impact will be specific to you – every person experiences life differently. And while you will not “save the world”, as a UBELONG Volunteer you will be part of a large and wonderful community of individuals who, together, are making a significant positive global impact.

There are three general areas where you can expect to make an impact:

  • Project: You bring energy, experience and skills to share with the local community. Whether you are helping plant trees or sharing medical skills on a health project, you are making your mark.
  • Cross-cultural sharing: When people come across borders to live and work together, it’s powerful. It breaks down barriers and dispels stereotypes. Whether you are connecting with a local or another UBELONG Volunteer from a different country, those relationships you create matter.
  • Yourself: In travelling and volunteering, you will probably change for the better. You will pick up new skills, have new experiences and make new friends. How each of us grows is deeply personal to who we are, but be ready to change in ways you may never have imagined.

One of the best ways to learn about the impact of UBELONG Volunteers is to meet them. Do so by reading their interviews in the Volunteer Abroad news section and meeting them on the UBELONG Facebook page.

Community

Yes. While certain times of the year are busier than others, there are generally 5 to 20 UBELONG volunteers in any location at any point in time. You’ll be meeting plenty of other volunteers during your UBELONG experience. A great place to meet them beforehand is our Facebook page – you should like our page and connect with the other people hanging out there.

We encourage you to connect with others in the rapidly growing UBELONG community. It is a great way for you to hear firsthand about what it’s like to be a UBELONG volunteer.

There are thousands of UBELONG volunteers around the world, so getting in touch is easy. You have three principle ways:

1. We frequently publish interviews with alumni in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

2. Many people connect with each other via our rapidly growing UBELONG Facebook page. We suggest scrolling through the timeline and seeing the many pictures, videos, and testimonials posted there. If you have a comment or question, do not be shy, start a conversation.

3. Read some of our volunteer abroad reviews.

Health and Safety

Luang Prabang is a small town where people are kind and the atmosphere is peaceful and welcoming. There is very little crime and, like the rest of Laos, Luang Prabang is known to be very safe.

With that said, as is the case for all international travelers, you must be alert. You should be careful with petty crime and certain aspects of daily life. For example, we strongly suggest you never ride the motorbikes that many locals use in a way that, in our opinion, is very unsafe relative to Western standards.

Additionally, as Luang Prabang is crisscrossed by natural terrain, including forests, rivers and wetland, you should always take precautions and use sound judgment before venturing out into nature. As long as you use your head and follow the instructions of our team, you should have no problems in Luang Prabang during your UBELONG experience. Once you become a UBELONG Volunteer, we will provide you with extensive materials and support to help make sure you stay safe and comfortable.

As international travel and volunteering carry inherent risks, we cannot guarantee your safety. However, your safety is our top priority and we work hard to minimize the risks. We design our programs so that you are surrounded by five layers of protection:

1. Comprehensive program set up
All our programs are personally inspected by a member of our team who goes through an extensive field checklist. We evaluate the local staff, inspect the living facilities, ride the public transportation, speak to former and current participants, taste the food, visit the work sites, and walk the neighborhoods, among many other activities. The program set-up process is long and thorough, but we consider it the most important part of our work. Our philosophy is to only offer placements where we would feel comfortable sending our own families.

2. Your preparation
When you sign up for a Volunteer Abroad project we send you a Preparation Booklet. The booklet offers a wealth of information and helpful tips to help you prepare for your experience. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the challenges in your hosting community.

We also pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Additionally, prior to your departure you have a Briefing Meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your Volunteer Abroad placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

3. Local partners
We have built and continuously manage a network of local partners, including community organizations, NGOs, private citizens and schools. They are well positioned to look after your day-to-day safety and comfort. They have extensive local contacts, understand how things work on the ground, and implement appropriate safety measures.

4. Continual program monitoring
We are proactive in identifying and dealing with issues that may affect your safety. We monitor local conditions where programs are located and continuously communicate with our local partners to determine if any safety steps need to be taken. Our team also spends many months on the road every year supervising placements and checking the safety of our programs.

5. Communication with you
Throughout your Volunteer Abroad experience, we work with our local partners to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, staff is reachable 24/7.

For all of the projects you should be in excellent physical health. The construction and infrastructure project require sustained physical work. You work in a variety of settings, including dense forest, elevated heights and rugged trails. During the rainy season the trails can become especially muddy and slippery.

While the other projects do not require sustained manual work, living in Luang Prabang requires energy and vigor. The weather can be hot and humid. To get around you must walk or ride a bike on uneven dirt trails, and there are much fewer amenities than you are probably used to at home.

Prior to arriving in Laos, we suggest that you visit your physician or a travel health clinic to ensure that you are in good enough health for your placement and to obtain any immunizations that you require.

If you are coming from a country that is considered to have a risk of yellow fever then you must present an International Certificate of Vaccination (Yellow Card) to show proof of yellow fever immunization. Most of the countries requiring yellow fever immunization are in Africa and South America, although regardless of where you are coming from you should consult your country’s Laotian embassy for the latest information.

Additionally, you should see your physician or a travel health clinic prior to arriving in Laos as most doctors recommend at least a few precautionary vaccinations before arriving, including:

-Routine immunizations for polio, measles/mumps/rubella, etc.
-Hepatitis A
-Hepatitis B
-Japanese encephalitis
-Rabies
-Tetanus
-Typhoid
-Yellow fever

There is a very low, but still present, risk of malaria in the area, so you should consult a medical professional as they may prescribe you medication, typically prophylactic malaria pills. Additionally, while the risk of yellow fever in the area is low, as an extra precaution we recommend you ask your doctor about obtaining the vaccination before arriving.

Yes. For all our Volunteer Abroad projects we require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your experience.

We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

Travel Logistics

Citizens of most countries can receive a 30-day tourist visa in advance from a Laotian embassy or consulate. The cost typically ranges from US$50 to US$150. Alternatively, a tourist visa can be obtained upon arrival at the Luang Prabang airport. The cost is approximately US$35. If you are planning on staying in Laos for longer than your visa, we offer you further information in the Preparation Booklet you receive when you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

Most volunteers arrive by plane at Luang Prabang’s international airport. As the airport mostly serves destinations in Asia, volunteers coming from non-Asian countries usually have a layover in a country like Singapore, South Korea, Thailand or Vietnam. We offer you further information about transportation to Luang Prabang in the Preparation Booklet you receive when you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

We recommend that you arrive the Sunday before your first Monday. During your first week, housing and food is included on the Sunday before so that you can comfortably settle in.

A driver will be waiting for you at the airport to welcome you and bring you to your accommodations.

Yes, you’re welcome to volunteer in multiple of our locations back to back. Just remember that travelling between locations takes a lot of energy and time. You also need time to settle in and get up the learning curve in each location.

So, while you can do back to back placements, we suggest you think it through to make sure you’re not cutting yourself short. Generally, we advise against volunteering in multiple locations back to back if you’re spending less than two weeks in any particular location.

Project

Your orientation happens on your first Monday and is led by our Local Team Leader. During the orientation you go over your project scheduling and receive further information about your work. You also meet other volunteers and staff, and take a tour of Luang Prabang to become familiarized with the area and learn where banks, public phones, restaurants, taxi stands, and other local services are located.

Yes, the majority of the local team speaks English.

There are no formal lessons for you to take in Luang Prabang. However, our Local Team Leader can arrange for you to meet a local Laotian student so that you can partake in a language interchange.

It depends on the availability of positions and the participation requirements of the project you wish to join. Additionally, remember that it takes time to settle in, get up the learning curve and find your role within a project. As such, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, we expect you to stay in your original project for at least two weeks before requesting a switch.

Yes, but we ask that you limit any financial or material donation to your project to US$20 for every month you spend in the field. We do not want to encourage a culture of dependency whereby volunteers are viewed as a source of money.

Additionally, as an international development organization, we believe the culture of handouts that has been perpetuated by “voluntourism” organizations with no real commitment to making a genuine local impact is unfortunate. Handouts stifle local innovation, self-reliance, and long-term sustainability.

In general, all of the projects run Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday are off, as well as local holidays. Your days off are free, so it’s entirely up to you what to do.

As for the number of hours a day you will spend at your project, every project is different. For every project description under the “project” tab above we offer an approximation of what you can expect.

Finally, remember that in accepting you as a UBELONG Volunteer we expect you to be understanding that local needs are always changing. You may find yourself volunteering either more or less days and hours than you expected, and you must be adaptable and flexible.

As it says in each project description under the “projects” tab above, we require a police background check from every UBELONG Volunteer. Once you apply and are accepted into a project your UBELONG Mentor will ask you for it.

In terms of obtaining one, every country, state and city is different. For example, getting a background check in Washington, DC, where UBELONG was founded, is different than getting one in a neighboring city like Boston or New York. Similarly, countries like Australia and Canada all have their own unique processes.

In general though, it is a relatively easy process that simply requires you to walk into your local police station and ask for one. For volunteers living in the United States we also have a couple helpful tips that we offer you in your Preparation Booklet once you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

Living

In most cases yes and, considering the difficulty of meeting dietary restrictions in the countries UBELONG Volunteers serve in, we believe we do an excellent job. For example, restrictions related to dairy, eggs, gluten, poultry, meat, nuts and shellfish are generally not a problem.

With that said, there are limitations because of the different resources available in the field. For example, if your allergy is very severe, we cannot guarantee cooking environments that are completely free of a particular type of food product, for example peanuts or seafood. Remember, you are travelling to an environment that may not be built to cater to your requirements.

So, if you have a dietary restriction, simply let us know in your application and, if we cannot meet it, we will let you know. You can also contact us before you submit your application and ask us about your particular needs.

Yes. We encourage you to discover different places, experience new cultures, and meet other people. These are fundamental parts of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience, and you should take advantage of your free time in the field.

Luang Prabang has a tropical climate and experiences the monsoon cycle. The weather is hot and humid throughout the year with temperatures ranging from 55°F (13°C) to 95°F (35°C). The dry season runs from November to May and the wet season from June to October. The driest months are typically December and January and the wettest July and August, when the area can receive up to 40 inches of precipitation per month.

No. The UBELONG experience is as much about volunteering on your project, as it is about cross-cultural exchange and community building. A lot of that happens through the housing that we have set up. Additionally, for safety reasons all volunteers must live in vetted housing. As such, for you to become a UBELONG Volunteer you must live in our accommodations. 

Network Opportunities

The United States President’s Volunteer Service Award was created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize the contributions of American volunteers and encourage others to serve. There are various award levels, depending on the number of hours served.

UBELONG has been certified to give the award to UBELONG Volunteers. UBELONG successfully passed the selection process as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

The award can be bestowed to U.S. citizens, and we award it to UBELONG Volunteers who, upon returning home, share their stories in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

Washington, DC is the most important international volunteering center in the world. Our network is strong and we have unparalleled resources at our fingertips. Most notably, the city is home to influential development organizations, government agencies, embassies, think-tanks and universities. We tap heavily into these networks to help us design safe, affordable, and high-quality programs.

Cost

You are not “paying to volunteer.” Among other services, you are paying for your pre-departure preparation with a UBELONG Mentor, project supervision, housing and meals. Additionally, your fee goes towards the extensive structure we put in place to support you. Offering safe, comfortable and meaningful volunteering experiences in developing countries takes an enormous amount of resources. It does not “just happen.” From large details to ones you will never notice but that are still crucial, we make sure that you can focus on discovering new places and making a difference instead of worrying about logistics.

Additionally, in many cases it is significantly cheaper to join a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad project than traveling alone and trying to plan logistics like airport pickup, housing and meals on your own. Not even counting UBELONG services like pre-departure preparation, project supervision and volunteer flight discounts, it is very difficult to travel on your own and have what we charge you give you the same comfort, security, and support that UBELONG volunteers receive.

UBELONG has revolutionized how people volunteer abroad. A fundamental part of our mission is to offer the highest quality experiences at the lowest possible cost. We are able to do so for two principal reasons:

1. There are very few organizations offering one week to six month international volunteering opportunities. As a result, even those claiming to be nonprofit get away charging exorbitantly high prices. Strong demand and low supply means elevated prices.

We believe that a new approach is needed. We are a social venture, which means we aim to advance our social mission in a sustainable manner instead of widening our profit margins. Moreover, being led by former international volunteers with extensive academic, international development and management experience, we can keep our overhead costs low while focusing on the quality of our programs. We do much more with much less.

2. The resources we have as a US-based organization are unmatchable. We have access to embassies, governmental organizations, NGOs and universities that allow us to build the highest quality programs in the most cost-effective manner. Additionally, considering that the majority of international volunteers come from North America and Europe, our being an American company led by North Americans and Europeans lets us reach volunteers very easily. Instead of spending resources on marketing we can focus on building our programs and supporting our volunteers.

To learn more, we encourage you to read a post by UBELONG Founder Cedric Hodgeman, in which he talks about the affordability of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program.