U18 Elephant and Wildlife - Volunteer Reviews

THAILAND

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Under 18 Elephant Care & Wildlife Rescue project

Volunteer reviews (see below for parent reviews)

Amy – 2018

“By far the best 2 weeks of my life! Working with the mistreated animals from 6:30 each day was a lot of hard work but definitely worth it! You definitely feel like you are helping and making a difference to their lives. Such an amazing opportunity to take part in and to go with such amazing people just made the whole trip even better! The memories will last forever.

What did you find most rewarding?

Realising how much you help these animals and improve their life in the rescue sanctuary

What did you find most challenging?

Definitely leaving at the end of the trip

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

You will not regret it! Such an amazing experience that you should definitely take part in.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

I was looking for a company that lets under 18s volunteer abroad with animals.”

Amie – 2018

“The whole trip was such an amazing experience, the others in my group were such a mix of great people who really made the trip. The accommodation was very basic but the work all day was so rewarding that it didn’t really matter. Every day you were dealing with animals with some horrific pasts and helping the centre provide these animals with a better life was brilliant.

What did you find most rewarding?

Seeing all the animals in better situations than they were before

What did you find most challenging?

Leaving!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Bring more clothes than you think as you get dirty and bring a lot of antihistamine

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

Found out about them through a schools career fair in Cheltenham.”

Emilie – 2018

“Volunteering at the Elephant Care and Wildlife Rescue project was an eye-opening experience that was very educational and rewarding! I felt that we really were of help to the centre and that they are making a real difference in these animals lives. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and learn more about other cultures and countries. Overall it was a fantastic trip and I am overjoyed that I was able to go with so many amazing people!

What did you find most rewarding?

I found helping the elephants the most rewarding because they all seemed very happy that they were able to live in a safe environment because of the team’s work.

What did you find most challenging?

I found the long work days the most challenging at first, it took some time getting used to getting up early and working before breakfast but eventually we got used to it

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

I would tell them to bring detergent so you can wash your clothes, to not be afraid of getting dirty because it will happen no matter what you do and to go full out in every task they give to make it the most fun

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

It seemed like a true volunteering experience designed for under 18’s and not just a vacation tour with a couple of hours of work thrown in.”

Millie – 2018

“The mornings are early (6am wake-up, more than likely) and breakfast comes later - but the animals come first. However, when breakfast arrives (at 8am), you feel content - knowing that you are helping the sanctuary in a massive way and also that you're now getting food. Throughout the day, there's lots of work to be done (more so on elephants than on wildlife, but still) it can be challenging, but it's so rewarding. There is lunch at noon, and then a return to work. When work ends (normally at around 5pm) the best feeling you have ever experienced on this planet originates from a cold shower and (semi-) clean clothes. Finally, dinner at 6pm and then anything you feel like doing for the night. So, mainly sleep.

What did you find most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing was probably our role in the development of the orangutan enclosure. Our help will mean that Maggie and Chico are able to move to their new, larger and more suitable home sooner than anticipated.

What did you find most challenging?

At the start it was the insects, but as I spent more time in that climate I appeared to grow more accustomed to the bites. They were a nuisance still, but I was glad that my reaction to them seemed to have calmed.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

The long hours are entirely worth it, but be prepared to work hard.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

I was searching for u18 volunteering trips abroad, and the idea of a group of young people around my own age - especially for my first trip outside of Europe - was very appealing.”

Hannah – 2018

“The support via email from Pod Volunteer was fantastic before the trip, very informative and let me know exactly what I needed to take and when I should make payments etc. The help from the leaders out in Thailand was also amazing as they were super supportive and caring- made me feel far more at ease whilst volunteering.

The volunteering was challenging but extremely rewarding and worthwhile. The days are tiring but being part of a community out there to help and support animals was the most amazing experience I have ever had. The work that is undertaken in Thailand is invaluable and although it’s very different I thoroughly enjoyed it and wish I had stayed out there for longer. Showering, walking and working alongside elephants is a unique and unforgettable opportunity which many would dream of having. Cleaning lakes and sleeping in hot humidity was my toughest part of the experience but even these tasks became easier as you get involved and know that others are going through the same experience. Stripping life down to basics for just 2 weeks opened my eyes to the simple things that we take for granted e.g hot water.

This volunteering experience for me was life changing and has allowed me to grow as a more open minded individual with confidence and appreciation of the life I have. For me the long hours were not a problem as there is always jobs to be done and I really enjoy being busy and getting stuck in as part of a team- making enrichments and banana balls were definitely highlights of my trip! Even with food allergies I managed most of the time to fill my tummy with delicious Thai curries which I wish I could have taken home with me!!

What did you find most rewarding?

Knowing that I was making a difference to animals that had been abused and mistreated- giving them a much better life than the one they would have had previously. Also working alongside other volunteers as a huge part of a team with people of all different nationalities.

What did you find most challenging?

Sleeping in the humidity and lake clearing

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Be ready to work hard and get involved- you are not going for a holiday. To make the most of the opportunity by taking part in everything and allowing yourself to open your eyes to a different culture and way of life.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

They looked like a safe and secure company to travel with- reviews and parents feedback we’re all positive. The details on the website were extremely informative and the application process was efficient and effective.”

Megan – 2018

“Being at the sanctuary and working so closely amongst all the different animals was such a wonderful experience i will never forget. Regardless of the early starts and long hours it was all worth it and i had the best time! Meeting people from all over the world was so interesting and i am so lucky to have made some new friends for life. I appreciate smaller things now like flushing toilets and warm showers which i am so privileged to have and will never take for granted again.

What did you find most rewarding?

Seeing how happy the animals are and how they appreciate all the hard work you put in. They wouldn't have such a great life if it wasn't for the volunteers so it makes you feel like you're really making a difference.

What did you find most challenging?

How dirty i felt and not knowing when i could next fit a shower into the busy schedule. I also found sleeping for the first few nights challenging and i got barely any sleep, however after we got settled in my sleep was fine.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

If you are considering doing this trip i say just do it - there's nothing to lose and it was one of the best things i have ever done! Not many people get to say they helped conserve wildlife at an elephant and wildlife sanctuary under the age of 18!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

I am under 18 and wanted to volunteer abroad so i had to find a programme that allowed me to do so, and this pod volunteer one looked like it was just suited for me!!”

Emily – 2018

“Everything was better than I ever imagined it could be. All the planning working up towards the trip was made extremely easy thanks to the help of Lucy and the trip itself was really fun and rewarding.

The U18 trip to Thailand was the best, most unforgettable two weeks of my entire life. We spent the two weeks looking after and caring for Asian elephants, Bears, Monkeys, Pigs, Dogs, Tortoises, Birds, Cows and much more. Each day we worked from 6:30 till 5:00 preparing food, enrichments and cleaning out enclosures. Although it was hard work it was so much fun working with the animals and the other volunteers. I wouldn't change the whole experience one bit as I met the nicest people and hope to go back when I'm older.

What did you find most rewarding?

The cold showers after a long day of work

What did you find most challenging?

The humidity, hot weather and early mornings are hard at first but you get used to them

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Go for it! It might seem like a huge leap outside your comfort zone but it is so worth it. So long as you love animals and are not afraid of getting your hands dirty, it is definitely something for you.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

It was the only organisation that I could find that offered group volunteering trips for people under the age of 18. The whole experience was unforgettable, thank you so much for making it all possible.”

Shoni – 2018

"My experience in Thailand was one of the best, I have never felt so free and happy before. I made plenty of new friends and Alex and Lucy, our Pod leaders, were extremely helpful and fun. Thank you Pod volunteer for giving me this chance to help animals and learn more about them.

What did you find most rewarding?

The cleaning of the enclosures. It was hard work but afterwards you can see the huge difference you have made.

What did you find most challenging?

Keeping up with the work, there was plenty to do and we had long days.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Be prepared to work hard, bring plenty of mosquito repellent and on harvest (during elephant week) wear long trousers to avoid any bites. And always try hard to finish a task and make friends.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

It was exactly what I was hoping to do as I wanted to go abroad and volunteer by myself. They had a great support team and it was the cheapest.”

Heather – 2018

“In the first week of my trip, I was given the role of wildlife care which included the duties of animals such as macaques, langurs, gibbons, sunbears, nocturnal creatures, iguanas, pigs, cows, deers and even a cassowary. Each night you'd wait to see what group you were placed in for the next day and such duties included food preparation, enclosure cleaning, water changing and enrichment making. The jobs were similar for each group but the different wildlife made it so exciting as you didn't always know what to expect.

Days started early at 6.30am and finished at 5pm with 2 hours for breakfast and lunch. The second week of my stay involved elephant care which was incredible to be so up close and personal with the elephants as the wildlife was hands-off. Duties were very similar each day, such as food preparation and enrichment making, but the thrill of being able to walk, hand feed and wash an elephant was by far the highlight of each day. This wasn't always guaranteed as on occasion the tourists were given this role instead. Enrichments were also similar most days, such as filling tyres with fruit, banana tree and hay for the elephants to dig in and enjoy. Twice I was put on harvest duty which involved loading banana trees onto a large truck - this was very messy and tiring but it was so satisfying seeing the truck finally full after an hour's hard work!

Alex and Lucy were wonderful hosts and were always there to help out when we needed it, down to the smallest scratch on our hands.They kept us occupied during our free time in the evenings with trips to 7Eleven, a tour around the local Buddhist temple, viewing the bat cave and shopping trips in the form of night markets and shopping malls. They were so friendly and made an effort to talk to all of us and join in on our jokes.

What did you find most rewarding?

Knowing that these animals are now in safe hands and being able to make their life just that little bit nicer by feeding them and giving them enrichments.

What did you find most challenging?

The humidity! I never felt clean or dry, even after a shower. My boots wouldn't dry out and so I always had wet feet which was not a pleasant experience. The wet weather brought lots of mosquitos and flies which bug spray couldn't always keep at bay.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Bring lots of spare clothes, especially socks - it's not always practical to use the onsite washing facilities.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

They offered an excellent Under 18 volunteer experience. I was nervous to go alone so to be in the presence of a similar aged group and two staff made me feel a lot more comfortable about the trip.”

Ava  – 2018

“After an exciting meet up at Heathrow filled with chats getting to know each other. The long flight meant that we were ready to finally get to Thailand. The three hour mini bus journey to the centre consisted of admiring the view and new culture and talking to each other.

The two weeks went by sooo quickly but were the most rewarding two weeks of my life and I made some great friends. It was really busy - I had wildlife first which meant preparing and feeding a whole array of animals from a brain damaged cassowary to loads of loud crazy gibbons. Who may sometimes tip the water buckets on your head whilst you try to tie it to a high enough point on their enclosures. You also make enrichments for the animals so they have to work for their food. Your day starts at 6:15 so it does mean you have to get up early so you have time to layer on the suncream and bug spray. You are put in teams on different tasks and you have schedule to complete making it mostly non stop work. So make sure you are ready to work hard.

You get an hour breakfast break at 8 and lunch for an hour at 12. The food is great but can get a bit repetitive and involves a lot of rice and noodles. You can also buy snacks and drinks from the small bar.

We had two days off one a few days in to the first week (the weeks are six days long) and one half way through the second week. The first day off invoked going to the national park and luckily getting to see elephants in the wild. Then going to a night market for shopping and dinner. The second day off involved a well earned relaxing day at the spa where we got to hang by the pool and some people had a massage.

The second week I was on elephants which involved a lot of cleaning composting of poo and old food. Make sure you remember gloves but ones you don't mind getting very dirty. On the contrast walking and feeding the elephants was the most amazing magical experience of my life. The feeling is unreal when you are cutting a bucket full of fruit and there are these beautiful animals looking at you or just being elephants.

During your time with elephants you will have to do harvest every two days which involves carrying a tree that has is cut down by the mahouts. The banana trees are quite heavy and much like all the tasks requires a lot of teamwork and strength. Don't worry I was am not strong and it could be hard but I grew strength throughout all the activities.

After two amazing weeks I didn't want to leave after creating so many great friends and experiences I will never forget.

What did you find most rewarding?

Working with the animals and seeing them look so happy as they eat and play. Especially food and enrichments you have made yourself for them.

What did you find most challenging?

The consistent hard work and determination required to get through the long and task filled day. Also the heavy lifting that is often required, from tires to trees. Having to adapt to the new climate and lifestyle of the centre.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?

Do it you won't regret it. As long as you are willing to work hard and you care about animals you will have a great time. It can be hard and quite tiring but it is well worth it. You make great friends and have great experiences. The Pod leaders are amazing and give great advice and will help you with anything. Don't worry if you are questioning it I did too but I'm so glad that I did because of the support and experiences I had.”

Alice – 2017

“I had an amazing time in Thailand and loved every second, Erin and Sarah where supportive but also gave us our space which allowed us to be independent. Accommodation was what I was expecting and not an issue for me as we weren't in our rooms much. I loved my time volunteering on this project, I found the first day fairly challenging but I quickly got used to working in the humidity, it's amazing getting to know the animals and their individual quirks. The trip is very rewarding and it was lovely seeing the animals enjoy themselves after you scrub their pool or clean their lake for the special projects. The days off were definitely needed and it was fun exploring Thailand a little more on those days.

What did you find most rewarding?
Watching the elephants Pin, Pun and the aunts jump in the lake after we cleared it from weeds.

What did you find most challenging?
First time doing harvest was challenging in the heat but the second one was a lot easier because i new exactly what to expect, and going back with a truck full of banana trees for the elephants is rewarding.

What advice would you give to others who areconsidering this placement?
It is an incredible experience however you should be prepared to work hard. If you love an want to help the animals this is the trip for you and it's awesome experiencing another country without parents.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
It looked reliable and the reviews where very persuasive

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Zach – 2017

“Amazing once in a lifetime experience. Even better than I imagined surrounded by a lovely community of people who all have the same passion for animals

What did you find most rewarding?
Harvest

What did you find most challenging?
Listening to the elephant talk about animal abuse

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Remember to bring lots of old clothes because they WILL get dirty, also bring lots of mosquito repellent

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Because the project seemed perfect and the company looked reliable, friendly and at a good value

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Madeleine – 2017

“What did you find most rewarding?
Knowing that it is volunteers like us that keep the center going and allow for the center to care for so many animals.

What did you find most challenging?
Lots of bugs. I got a lot of bug bites.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
If you really want to experience the culture of Thailand in its true form, it is a trip like this that will do it. On this trip you are not a tourist, you are one of the people so get ready to experience the food, labor, and accommodations that you are not used to.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
It wasn't like everything else out there. I wanted to volunteer, not just be a tourist which was something that was really different and unique.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Katey – 2017

“My trip to Thailand is definitely something I will never forget, it was hard work but rewarding. Looking after the animals knowing you are giving them better treatment than before they came to the centre makes the hard work worth it. I especially enjoyed working with elephants, doing a variety of activities and being hands on.

What did you find most rewarding?
I found working with the elephants most rewarding as hearing about their backstories makes you feel better knowing they have a better life now.

What did you find most challenging?
The long days, waking up at 5:30 and not finishing until 5pm was difficult but becomes routine.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Know it will be hard work and it's not a holiday but it is worth it and I found it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
They seemed experienced in what they were doing and gave lots support in preparing for the trip.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Amber – 2017

“The whole trip was absolutely amazing. Can’t wait to go again and would recommend POD to anyone wanting to volunteer. Team leaders were excellent and the application process was easy and clear. The website also gave clear info about the trip without having to look for it.

It was the best experience ever. You do have to get your hands dirty to make the most of it and join in with everything. All the volunteers at the project whether with the under 18 group or not are all friendly and most have the same views in helping animals. The aplication process is simple and easy and there is regular contact with the team leaders and you are never left in the dark or not knwoing what to do. Again this was the best experince and will definatly be going to the centre again aswell as volunteering through POD.

What did you find most rewarding?
When you finish a long hard days work and you can see how the animals benefit from everything you have done. (Not to mention feeding the elephants- that was extra special)

What did you find most challenging?
Harvest was the most challenging thing but was rather enjoyable ( my advice would be to team up with someone)

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Just go for it (sounds cheesy) and get stuck in. Just wear flipflops its alot easier than constantly getting wet trainers or boots from water and more often sweat). Dont forget to bring gloves.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Pod has the best website around for infomation. All the info was sat there infront of you and u didnt have to look for it. Also they are very helpful on the phone to reassure parents of under 18s before you book it.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Kerry - 2017

“The U18 project in Thailand is an amazing experience and anyone considering it should definitely go for it because you won't regret it! The days are long and hot and work is hard but the people are great and atmosphere is amazing because everyone is enthusiastic and cares about the work they are doing !
Being able to help animals who have been through so much have a good life and be able to live as they were meant to is so rewarding and makes the work so
enjoyable.

What did you find most rewarding?
Seeing the wildlife and elephants being able to act like animals and not as tourist attractions is amazing! Watching the monkeys playing in the pool or the older elephants teaching baby Pin how to trumpet reminds you that your work at the centre is allowing them to live as naturally as possible after everything they've been through is what makes it worthwhile!

What did you find most challenging?
Dealing with heat and humidity was difficult for me but you get used it ! Just remember to stay hydrated!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Do it! Traveling, meeting new people and doing work for a cause you care about is such an amazing experience! If animal welfare is something your interested in then you won't regret taking part in this project!”

Elizabeth – 2016

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the wildlife care project. I learned so much about the animals there and the culture we were in plus the work we did at the placement was so worthwhile. The center had a really friendly, relaxed atmosphere and everyone in the group had become so close by end of the two weeks. I would really recommend this project to anyone wanting to help animals, explore new cultures and meet lots of amazing people.

What did you find most rewarding?
Working with elephants and exploring the culture

What did you find most challenging?
The week working on wildlife

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Keep clear of the monkey cages

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes. Had good projects for under 18s. Had an amazing time. Thank you very much!”

Kayleigh – 2016

"What did you find most rewarding?
The whole experience was unforgettable, working the long days showering and walking the elephants or feeding the gibbons (who enjoy grabbing people's hair) was just so rewarding.

It’s just knowing that you are taking part in this bigger picture, especially when you learn some of the animals’ tragic background stories but then, you can see the incredible improvements in the individual elephant or macaque or other wildlife.

What did you find most challenging?
What I found the most challenging was definitely the heat on the first day, and especially at night, the temperature hardly cools down, but you are usually tired from your long but very rewarding day that it does not cause much of an issue. I also struggled with the food a little bit (well just the rice really, that you were given 2 times a day), you just have to be willing to try lots of different foods.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
My advice would be make sure you bring with you and use a mosquito net every night because otherwise you will be bitten alive. I would also say take plenty of insect repellent and sun cream but that is pretty obvious!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes. It gave me the opportunity to volunteer abroad being under 18years old!”

Abi – 2016

“My placement was absolutely outstanding. Fantastic people - staff/coordinators and other volunteers, beautiful Country and a very exciting and rewarding centre to be volunteering at.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the placement, I loved working with the elephants for my first week and then all the other wildlife in the next, although I really wish we had more time there! 2 weeks just doesn't feel long enough. I would have definitely loved to have spent more time especially with the elephants as the work is very relaxed and you get to be up close and personal with some amazing and beautiful creatures! Wildlife is a bit more hectic than elephants as there's less staff and a lot more work to be done and sometimes we didn't finish on time for breakfast/lunch and the gibbons are probably my least favourite animals ever now as they do seem quite angry and tend to like grabbing peoples hair! Despite this I have loved my placement and will definitely consider coming back in a few years as it was worth every penny!

(James the otter and Pin and Pun the elephants were my favourite to work with because they were sooo cute!)

What did you find most rewarding?
Harvesting the banana trees is incredibly rewarding because you see exactly where all your hard work is going, but that's similar for all aspects of the placement, all the chopping of fruit and making banana balls or creating enrichment you see directly you are helping the elephants and other wildlife at the centre.

What did you find most challenging?
Harvest by a landslide was the hardest part of the placement, although despite the physically demanding work it was still enjoyable and swimming in the river after definitely made up for it.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Go for it! You'll meet lots of new people and hopefully life long friends, everyone's in the same boat as you so there's hardly any awkwardness. The centre and all of the staff are fantastic and the two weeks I was there were gone before I knew it! Just remember to bring lots of sun cream and a mosquito net!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes. It came up on my DofE page for abroad placements.”

Lily – 2016

“I really enjoyed my time at the centre and would definitely recommend the project. It is such a great opportunity for Under 18 year olds as it can be very difficult to find volunteering projects abroad for people so young. It was nice to have a relatively small group of people in the U18 group but I really liked the extent to which we could get to know the other volunteers at the centre as well.

I expected that the U18 group would be together the entire time, but in reality we saw each other at mealtimes and during free time, not so much during work. Each day the team you work on changes. The team size is about three to five and you're likely to have one or two other U18s with you. This gave me the opportunity to meet a real range of people from all over the world, as well as having the comfort of someone I knew slightly already.

What did you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of the experience was the feeling at the end of every day, knowing how much you had managed to achieve. Each day is long and quite tiring, as we would start work at 6.30 and finish at around 5, so it's a pretty rewarding feeling to have done so much! Also rewarding was seeing the truck stacked full of banana trees after a hard harvest and then being able to cool off in the river!

What did you find most challenging?
The most challenging part for me was trying to sleep in the heat whilst still trying to be covered enough to prevent mosquito bites. Being bitten seemed inevitable despite mosquito nets (which are not provided, so I would definitely recommend taking one) and lots of insect repellent spray. The heat during the day was more manageable, just remember to always put on plenty of suncream even if it looks cloudy.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
I would advice you to stop considering the project and just book it! As long as you like animals and are prepared to work hard, you'll really enjoy yourself.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes because they offer volunteering to 16 year olds.”

Kizzie – 2016

“A typical day at the centre would involve getting up and ready for 6:30 to start work, from 6:30 to 8 you would feed the animals. From 8 to 9 you would then have breakfast, after this you would work from 9 to 12 then from 12 till 1 have lunch. After lunch you would work from 1 till 5 and then relax for the rest of the evening.

What did you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding thing about the volunteering programme was actually doing things that were going to help the animals so it felt like you were really making a difference.

What did you find most challenging?
I found adapting to the heat in Thailand challenging as it was still very hot at night so it was difficult to sleep. I also found the food challenging as the meals are basic and all very similar so I got a bit bored of rice!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Be prepared to get stuck in, the work that you do when volunteering can be very demanding which can sometimes be difficult in the heat. Also be prepared to get very dirty as the centre is quite dusty so you never stay clean for long.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes, as it did a volunteer programme for under 18's”

Kaitie - 2015

"This trip was one of the most rewarding, eye-opening experiences of my life. For years all I've wanted to do was help animals. And I didn't feel like I was doing enough by just wanting to pursue it. In America, there are no decapitating rain forests, or animals that are truly part of the culture of our country; and frankly I belive that that causes us to think of endangered species and exotic wildlife as "out of sight, out of mind."

I was just one kid, but I went half way across the world to do something I was that passionate about; and in return found tons of other people coming together to do something amazing.

Every day you realize what an impact you're making in these animals lives as well as discovering things about cultures around the world. You learn the reality of animal abuse and tourism that the Western world is somewhat sheltered from, in hopes to start to reverse it.

I recommend and encourage anyone anywhere in the world to do this program and see the changed person they become.

What was a typical day at the Elephant Care & Wildlife Rescue project? A typical day would probably involve getting up, meeting the crew and scattering to each of our assigned positions. Then the daily toast breakfast, and back to work. Of course feeding and water rounds and enrichments to every furry friend (as well as the likely pool scrub), until dinner time. Which do contain very different conversations than the dinner table back home. (In a good way!)

What did you find most rewarding? Feeling as though I was really making a difference in an animal's life. I was finally doing more than being a concerned spectator.

What did you find most challenging? Probably the lack of normality that comes with being in a foreign country. Although I think I needed that, it’s the challenges that you grow from… Except the weird toilets...! But there is not one thing I would change about this place.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Bring your own food. I suggest: peanut butter, tortillas, spreads, cheese, etc. Bring clothes to leave there. Don't over pack, you honestly wearing the same 3 pairs of everything. Keep an open mind, you’re in a developing world now.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? I think others should volunteer abroad because something somewhere is waiting to be discovered.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I chose Pod because everything looked very professional and there was a lot of support for the under 18 group."

Amie – 2015

“The whole experience was amazing! I couldn’t of imagined it to be any better. Apart from maybe the mosquitos and feeling like the sun is cooking me, but that wasn’t too much of an issue as i had such a good time i didn’t even think about it. I would recommend this to anyone that wants to volunteer with animals but can work really hard when needed as some of the jobs could be found difficult to certain people.

Our group leader Becky was amazing, she was so fun and made everyone feel comfortable and relaxed from the day we met her. I really couldn’t imagine anyone better for the job, i wouldn’t change anything about the whole trip and I am definitely going back next year!

What was a typical day on the Under-18s Trip? 6:30 - Feed the animals. Then when we finished we would have our own breakfast and have a bit of spare time. 9 - Back to work for a while. Either cleaning enclosures, walking the elephants or washing the elephants. Sometimes there would be a harvest at 8:30 for people that were on elephants. 12 - Lunch 1 - Back to work for a few hours with a break in the middle then another few hours cleaning enclosures, feeding again, maybe walk or wash the elephants again and make treats for the animals. Work is normally finished around 4:30 on elephants and 5 on wildlife. 6/6:30 –Dinner When you finish dinner you have free time until you go to bed.

What did you find most rewarding? Knowing that you are helping all the animals that are there by volunteering.

What did you find most challenging? Personally, i found the harvest difficult because i have back pain so if you have an injury you should let the team know, but honestly even the harvest wasn’t too bad, just a tad hot.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Take a lot of mosquito repellent, drink as much water as you can and get to bed early or the next day you will feel drained.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it’s a great experience to discover other countries and cultures. You get to work with animals that you wouldn’t normally find anywhere near you and it’s great.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes. They were the under 18's volunteer trip that i most liked the look of , and they seemed very organised and helpful! If you are doubting it at all.. STOP! If you go on this trip you will definitely not regret it!”

Harriet – 2015

“I thought that the trip was very well organised and communicated. The accommodation and food on site was above what I expected, and I had an amazing time on the placement.

I was nervous before going, because I wouldn't know any of the people and I was worried I wouldn't get along with anyone, but everyone on the trip was very friendly, in and out of the group. Both the staff and volunteers on site created a great and enjoyable atmosphere. I enjoyed working on both elephants and wildlife, as both were really rewarding and gave you the opportunity to get to know the centre better and how to care after the different wildlife.

What did you find most rewarding? I probably found giving the enrichments the most rewarding things because it was great to see how the animals reacted to giving something different. I loved giving the fruit ice cubes to the gibbons, as they kept licking them or chewing them and you could see that they enjoyed the treat. I also enjoyed seeing the elephants hunting for the corn decorations.

What did you find most challenging? I found working in the heat the hardest thing because I wasn't used to the humidity or climate and so it made some tasks more draining, but I got used to working in it fairly quickly.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Definitely do it, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I've met so many amazing people and it has changed my opinion on several things. Don't worry about the trip or the people and only pack clothes that you are willing to throw away. Don't have second thoughts because once you've done it you won't regret it.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? I think gaining a greater perspective of other cultures and issues being faced in that culture, provides a more rounded perspective on everyday tasks as well as greater issues. It places you out of your comfort zone and helps you discover how you truly feel about issues as well as how you act and think when around people and things that are relatively new to you.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It appeared well organised and provided an entrance into volunteering abroad for U18's. It communicated all the info well and was very friendly.

Becky was a great team leader and I thought that without her the experience would not have been as amazing as it was. She was very patient and supportive and thought she couldn't have been any better.”

Ellie - 2015

"I found my time away a very rewarding experience as it was clear how valued our help was at the centre, even just for the couple of weeks that we were there.

I loved the hands-on element of working with the elephants and learning and working with species of animals that I'd never even heard of before.

Our placement manager, Becky, was really helpful when I was arranging the placement and during it. I always felt comfortable and assured that we were in safe hands.

What was a typical day on the Under-18s Trip? We would wake up at about 6 in the morning and get ready. For 6:30 we would go to the volunteer house to find out our role for the day - either which elephants we would be working with or which types of wildlife e.g. Primates, bears or nocturnals. Before breakfast all the animals have to be fed, banana balls have to be made for the elephants and a lot of fruit chopped for the other wildlife.

After breakfast we would clean out enclosures and compost in the elephant enclosures. If you're working with the elephants you may have to go on harvest, which starts at 8:30 and you have to carry banana trees in to a truck for the elephants to eat.

Work generally finished between 4 and 5 so there was plenty of time to socialise with the other volunteers at the centre and drink the amazing smoothies from the bar.

What did you find most rewarding? Working with so many different animals and feeling like we were making a difference to their lives but also meeting all the other volunteers and getting to know people from all over the world.

What did you find most challenging? Harvest! It was hard work during it but being able to jump in the lake afterwards made it seem worthwhile.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be prepared to work hard and get sweaty! The heat takes a bit  of getting used to but as long as you have sun cream and a lot of water you should be fine. Make sure you like rice… there's lots of it!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a great way to learn about different cultures and meet others with the same interests as you. It's also a good way to explore the world from a perspective other than a tourist's.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I didn't find many other organisations that offered an under 18 placement. I read a lot of reviews and they all seemed to be positive."

Steph – 2014

Being 17, the thought of going on my first solo trip abroad was pretty daunting so having the support of my Pod leader and the other people on the Under 18’s trip was incredibly helpful and I hope I have made friends for life.

I didn’t go on the trip expecting it to be a glamorous lifestyle and it wasn’t, but it was all part of the experience and I wouldn’t change any of it.

What is a typical day at the project? My typical day was wake up at 5:30am to have a cold shower as there was 5 other people in our room. We would be out working by 6:30am and then come in for breakfast around 7:30am to 8:00am. This gave us more than enough time to have breakfast before going back out at 9:00am to work until lunch which was served at 12pm.

Work then started again at 1pm until 5pm. If you are with elephants some days you will either do banana harvest at 9 or pineapple harvest usually at 1ish, but this is not all bad as you can go swimming in the nearby river afterwards which is really fun. After 5 most people had a cold shower and cleaned up for the evening, where apart from dinner being served at 6:30pm time is completely your own. Evenings usually involved chatting with other volunteers, playing games, going into the local village or going to bar night.

What did you find most rewarding? For me the most rewarding part of the trip was knowing that I was helping make a difference in the animal’s lives. You soon learn the past of the animals and when you think that the money you paid to volunteer is going toward healing them mentally and physically you feel privileged to be working with them. The hands-off policy is really important in my eyes because they are wild animals, and wild animals are not meant to want hugs and kisses, it is much more enjoyable seeing them act as they would in the wild. It also lovely seeing the elephants finally being cared for in their retirement and I couldn’t be happier to have been a part of their recovery.

What did you find most challenging? At first the most challenging thing was working in 30ᵒC, but if you just work through it, drink lots of water and you wear loose, cool clothing you soon get used to it. It also can be quite hard to getting up that early in the morning as well as dealing with the time difference but that’s only to begin with.

Overall however I think the hardest thing for me was leaving and coming home because you can get really used to the rescue centre lifestyle and going back to reality that is far less exciting, is much tougher than I would have ever expected.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Firstly, I would say bring lots of clothing as things do get very dirty, I find mid-thigh shorts were the best thing to wear while working even though you need some long ones to wear on harvest and in the evening, but also have clothes which dry quickly so you can wash them easily. Plenty of money is also a good idea so you can buy things at the night markets. And finally go with an open mind and take part in as much as possible as that's the best way to really make the most of your experience.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering is a fantastic way of putting your time and effort toward a good cause. It is also a great way to escape and experience new things, and make new friends from around the world. I have never had a more fulfilling experience.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I found that Pod offered the trip best suited to me, as the Under 18's trip provided me that bit extra support throughout the process which was extremely valuable.”

Callum – 2014

“My experience was amazing Erin my team leader could not have been more helpful and was a credit to the company in many ways. One of these was how a week before we were due to leave she managed to get us into the elephants project for no extra cost which really made the trip .The activity that she also organised for us several trips where they were all amazing and well organized.

What is a typical day at the project? A typical day would be waking up at 6am to be ready for 6:20am.You would then have to walk to volunteer house for 6:30am which is where you would then meet your team for day. Normally you then work till half seven before eating breakfast . Then there was an hour and a half break before then going back to work and working from 9 till about 11:30 most days. There was then normally a hour half break again to have lunch in and relax before then working from 1 till around 5. Then would dinner at around 6:30 then rest of evening was yours to choose how to use it whether going village or sitting with other volunteers.

What did you find most rewarding? Bathing the elephants

What did you find most challenging? Waking up in the morning

What advice would you give to others considering this project? It’s not a holiday it hard work make sure that you know what you have let yourself in for.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It allowed for me to have holiday but still be feel like I was doing something till help someone else.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! First one on the internet but I'm glad I chose it”

Parent reviews

Andrew - 2018

“Before the trip, we were nervous regarding our daughter travelling to Thailand on her own. The support and communication from Pod Volunteer prior to and throughout the trip was excellent and helped to mitigate our concerns. The trip was an amazing experience for our daughter.”

Martin and Sally - 2018

“The pre-trip information especially how Emily should meet up with the group in Bangkok airport was very detailed as this was our main concern. The trip in general was a great experience for Emily and gave her a taste of independence and adventure whilst we felt confident that she was in safe hands. I particularly liked the phone call that we had with Lucy before the trip as this gave us the feeling that she would be well cared for.”

Evelyn - 2018

“I really enjoyed the experience of working with Lucy prior to the Thailand 16/17 year old trip! We spent a great deal of time looking for a volunteer organization for her to travel with and I am thrilled we picked POD volunteer - we would love to travel with them in the future as a mother daughter team.

From the beginning I enjoyed working with POD and Lucy. The phone calls and e-mails were helpful and clear. The lists of what needed to do when and what to expect were easy to work with and definitely helped when it came to packing for my daughter. We appreciated that Lucy and Alex were with them through the entire experience. When looking for a volunteer experience we wanted something that required a reasonable commitment of time to the actual volunteer work and this trip fit that requirement.

My daughter would have stayed for several more weeks if she could and I think that speaks the success of the experience. I have been recommending POD to many of my Canadian friends and think my daughter and I may try to do a volunteer trip together with POD in the future.”

Rebecca - 2018

“I felt completely comfortable sending Sam off to Thailand with POD. It could have been a bit nerve racking thinking of him so far away, but the communication beforehand and whilst they were away was really good and banished any anxieties! It seemed very well organised and safe. Sam certainly had an amazing time and I would recommend it unreservedly.”

Alison - 2018

“From start to finish as a parent I felt that communication with Pod was excellent. Staff & leaders were always pleasant and helpful on the phone. Information documents & emails were very thorough including a detailed risk assessment. I'd recommend booking well in advance as I believe it booked out pretty quickly and early booking early gave me plenty of time to schedule in vaccinations so they didn't clash with important exam time.

Also Pod were able to set up a Facebook chat for the group before the trip which helped friendships too. Once the group arrived in Thailand the leaders, Alex & Lucy, sent regular newsy email updates with photos of what the young people were working on and about days off too. Amy easily bought & used a local sim for her phone and sent us photos and news almost every day too which was excellent. I felt pretty excited for her throughout the experience. She made fabulous new friends, worked hard with the team, had amazing animal experiences and loved every minute! We have no regrets letting our 16 year old daughter do this trip and would recommend it!

PS take trainers to work in, they get smelly, wet & muddy so be prepared to leave them behind. She also left her towel behind. And stock up on washing powder at home... The washing machine hasn't stopped since she's been back, some of the clothes have been washed twice!”

Laura - 2018

“The whole process of signing my daughter up went very well. Lucy was in contact with us promptly when we had questions. After they arrived in Thailand, the team was very good at posting information to keep us informed of what was going on there. Was a wonderful experience."

Mary - 2017

“Lena very much enjoyed her trip and it has confirmed for her that she would like to pursue the study of animal science in university. This trip satisfied Lena's requirement for her D of E residential trip. Although it was a very far destination, Lena was well cared for and she learned a lot. The training, work, guidance, fun, and overall care was excellent. Besides the work, the trips that she was able to go on with the group helped her to see some other aspects and sites in the country. Lena would recommend this trip for sure!

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas?
Go for it!

What did you like most about Pod Volunteer?
The children are well cared for, but there is also an expectation that they complete specific daily tasks, and for their age, this is a good preparation for their future working life.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes Thank you Sarah and Erin!!!”

Jason – 2017

“The experience for our son Zach was positive on every front. From the first morning waking to the sounds of monkeys and birds to his last evening spent with the team, each day brought something new and valuable skills and experiences to him.

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas?
Look very carefully at vaccination s costs. They are a substantial, additional portion of total costs.

What did you like most about Pod Volunteer?
The structure of the planning stage was thorough and well presented to volunteers and patents. The feedback about Pod generally from our child was very positive.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Liz – 2017

“As a parent of a young independent teenager who does not have world wide experiences in travelling, I was initially very anxious about her desire to volunteer abroad. After researching the internet, I felt happier with her plans to gain experience with Pod Volunteers as it was aimed at the 16-18 age group. I definitely appreciated that I was involved in the process in organising her travel and welcomed the links to arrange her travel insurance and flight plans.
Sarah, the Pod Voluteer organiser also contacted me and we were able to discuss Katey's character, what she liked to do, eat and how she interacted with others. I took this opportunity to ask questions which I felt pertained to Katey as an individual and was reassured by Sarah that Katey would be looked after and have a great experience

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas?
Definitely try Pod Volunteers, as I felt that my child was safe and cared for throughout the. 2 weeks she was away. I was glad they emailed updates and sent photos.

What did you like most about Pod Volunteer?
Organisational skills are brilliant

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Tracey – 2016

“I am very impressed with the organisation before the trip and the communication we received while our daughter was away. The booking system, advice and support (before and during the trip) for us and our daughter cannot be faulted.

Our daughter was travelling without anyone she knew but the communication via email and the pre-trip telephone call left me in no doubt she would be able to enjoy the experience of independent travel but with Pod's support if needed.

I would definitely use this company again and have/would happily recommend them to other families.

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas?
If you have any questions or doubts speak to the Pod team and they will alleviate any concerns.

What did you like most about Pod Volunteer?
Professional, efficient, excellent communication with parents and volunteers.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer?
Yes. A massive thank you to Becky and Erin for all the hard work you put into giving my daughter memories she will treasure for a lifetime”

Karen – 2016

“Pod volunteer is a great way for a young person to feel adventurous, take responsibility for the organisation of a trip whilst having a 'safety net' in place. This really gave me the confidence to allow my daughter to take the bold step of travelling independently for the first time. There was just the right amount of contact from Pod to reassure me that my daughter would be safe and able to access help and support should she need it. She had the most amazing time and I would thoroughly recommend Pod volunteer to other families.

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas?
Providing your child is independent and fairly confident, allow them to go, you won't regret it.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer?
Yes. Erin and Becky were fantastic, did a great job in organising the trip and provided a trip of a lifetime for my daughter.”

Jacky – 2016

“The POD team were very helpful, friendly and professional throughout the experience. They put us at ease from the first communication and were always on hand in the run up to the project.

Whilst Abi was on the trip the regular updates and photographs were so nice to receive and made the experience as a parent much less daunting. My daughter was full of praise for Erin, her leader and I would recommend this company highly to any other parents.

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas?
Use podvolunteer

What did you like most about Pod Volunteer?
The personal communication and professionalism

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer?
Yes. Thank you very much for the high quality experience you provided!”

Liz - 2015

"When Ellie announced that she wanted to do some volunteering abroad, I advised her to do some careful research. Straight away, Pod Volunteer stood out as being an ethical, well-run company. We weren't disappointed. The initial telephone conversations and the comprehensive website gave all the right information and asked all the right questions of us. Once we had decided to go ahead, there was timely information on what needed to be organised and when.

Ellie had a fantastic time, one she will never forget. She made new friends, and had her eyes opened to other cultures. It was hard work and she spent a lot of time exhausted and covered in mud, and it may be a while yet before she can eat rice or bananas again!

Ellie would do it again at the drop of a hat.

As a parent I was never concerned about her well-being while she was away and the regular updates from Becky, the group leader gave a good overview of what was going on at the camp.

Overall, a well organised, safe, life enhancing, value for money trip. Thank you to all the team!

What advice would you give other parents considering sending their child to volunteer overseas? It's not a holiday. If your child has an interest in helping animals and having new experiences and making new friends, they should do it

What did you like most about Pod Volunteer? The good organisation, but also not wrapping the kids up and allowing them to really get on with it all."

Find out more about the Under 18 Elephant Care & Wildlife Rescue project

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal