Project Overview

Our week-long Immersion Trips are more than a vacation or volunteer experience. The GYA Program prides itself on creating a trip filled with cultural immersion and critical thinking. Ambassadors will leave with a better understanding of Thai culture, endangered wildlife, and of their own personal beliefs. 

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Ambassadors will be based at a rural farming village just outside of Surin (approximately 6-7 hours from Bangkok). This village is home to 38 elephants and is one of the few government supported elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.

While our focus will be on learning about the plight of elephants in Thailand, what’s being done for their protection, and the effects of poaching; the GYAs will also take part in workshops highlighting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, their role as Global Youth Ambassadors and how they can continue to develop their leadership skills at home. 

These workshops are focused around eco-tourism, endangered wildlife, and sustainability. Our final workshop is a discussion on how to take this experience home and make this week more than just another vacation. This workshops are lead by GYAP leaders as well as expert Thai staff. 

The immersion portion of this project includes hands-on involvement caring for elephants, including ‘preparing’ their food. A major highlight of the trip is when we walk the elephants to the river and Ambassadors are able to take a bath and swim with the elephants! Additionally, we may also take on a few small projects at the local school helping to improve their environment and there will be plenty of opportunities to spend time with the children playing sports, teaching English, and getting to know the locals and the rest of the team.

Ambassadors and GYA Leaders will live together in a homestay during our week in the village and learn more about rural village life in Thailand. This genuine Thai experience will help Ambassadors gain a deeper understanding and empathy towards the community.

partner Overview


The Bamboo Project began in 2013 by Steve Williams and Mark Foster-Murray both from the UK. Steve and Mark worked together for many years in the field of international volunteer travel. Their work took them around Asia where they experienced both the exceptional and inspirational, to the down-right awful. Indeed it was because of those ‘cowboy operators’ that these guys decided the best way to do this properly was to do it themselves.

The Bamboo Project work and support locally operated NGOs on almost all of their projects. This ensures that the work you do is actually required, helps those it promises to, and that your financial investment goes a very long way.

Team Bamboo have a combined experience of over 20 years working with volunteers from around the globe.

steve williams


steve bamboo-gvn

mark foster murrary


mark bamboo-gvn


(Program Specialist)

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Day One

On arrival in Bangkok we will be met by our Thailand partner and transferred to a hotel in the city. This evening we will have an informal gathering to chat and get to know each other.

Day Two

After breakfast we will do a brief introduction to Thailand and a walking tour of local temples. After an early lunch we will transfer from Bangkok to Surin by private bus (approximately 6-7hours, with several stops along the way including a famous national temple). Once checked into our Surin hotel there will be an orientation of the local area and we will go over our schedule for the coming week.

Day Three

Transfer to the ‘elephant village’, stopping at the Surin Elephant Study Centre en route for an introduction to the region and the elephants. Arriving at the village we will settle into our homestays and have lunch followed by a walking tour of the community, where we will meet some of the elephants. Workshop 1 will take place later in the afternoon. 

Day Four

Head back to the Elephant Study Centre in the morning to make paper from ‘ele poo’ and jewelry from elephant hair (these items are sold to raise funds for the Centre), and to help with any work the Centre requires. Workshop 2 will take place after lunch, with free time in the evening.

Day Five

Farm work this morning includes chopping grass for elephant food and replanting sugar cane to ensure sustainability. This afternoon we will be working on a project at the local school. 

Day Six

Workshop 3 will take place in the morning. This afternoon we will walk the elephants to the river and take a group bath! The afternoon also includes an option to kayak followed by free time in the evening to interact with the local children.

Day Seven

We will wash, clean, and feed the elephants this morning. After lunch we head back to Surin via the Silk Village to see a different side to the area and learn how silk is still produced by hand in this district. We have a short rest at the hotel to prepare for the night train back to Bangkok.

Day Eight

We will arrive in Bangkok around 6:00am and transfer to a guesthouse close to the airport. There will be an
opportunity to shower and prepare for our
departure flight.

GYAP Trip Leaders

Catarina Tarvin


Cat is the Program Director for the GYA Program. She is passionate about global health and holds a degree in Health Science. She also believes strongly in the potential for real change by making others feel loved, investing deeply in individuals, and allowing them to know their own self-worth. Cat has lived and worked in the United States, Rwanda, and New Zealand.

Avalon Bourne


Avalon is our Program Specialist. She works in youth leadership and development and believes that young people hold the key to achieving major positive change in the world. Avalon has studied International Relations and has lived and worked in Australia, Spain, Kenya, the U.K. and India.