How do I volunteer in Laos?

ENGAGEMENT – How to go? What are the pitfalls to avoid when volunteering or doing humanitarian service in Laos?

Very often, it is the thirst for discovery that motivates us to travel. Everyone is looking for what suits them. Some are attracted by white sandy beaches lined with coconut palms, others by the grandiose temples lost in the Burmese jungle or even by the teeming megalopolis such as Tokyo or Bangkok. In short, we all love to be blown away by magnificent landscapes and to learn about the world that surrounds us.

And yet, who hasn’t wanted to put the world to rights, sometimes until the break of day, saying how it should be improved, how mentalities and things should change. This is exactly what volunteering and associative work allows you to do, to implement your ideas through concrete actions on a local but also international scale, as in Laos.

Indeed, this country still has progress to make in many areas, especially after its recent decolonisation and the bombings related to the Vietnamese conflict. Laos is one of the most traditional countries in Asia. More than a third of the population has never been to school, which has a major impact on its development. It constitutes a real obstacle. Almost everything must still be done, especially with regard to the efforts to combat poverty, improve health and education structures, enhance the cultural heritage and safeguard natural areas. This is why volunteering, voluntary work and humanitarian commitment in general are more essential than ever, even vital, in this part of the world.

How to go on a humanitarian mission to Laos?

You can easily find many websites on which to exchange and share ideas and experiences about humanitarian aid. Registering on these sites allows you to get in touch with people who have already been on a humanitarian mission to discuss it with them. This will help you at some point. Most of the time, registration is free. However, you should be careful, especially in the face of the many structures offering “turnkey” humanitarian stays, which can be very expensive. Also, if you have experience in teaching, education or even expertise in a field such as plumbing or architecture, this is a real plus for a humanitarian mission. The time spent canvassing, collecting data and making enquiries is crucial to fulfilling the commitment. To do so, we draw up a list of useful and reliable links to help you start your research. You can find it at the end of the article.

The points to look out for

There are several security issues that are essential to know before venturing out. Ethnic conflicts, banditry and unexploded ordnance are sources of danger in Laos, although they are more and more under control. However, you should be cautious when travelling north from Van Vieng to Luang Prabang because of the increased military presence there. In addition, there is a growing threat of terrorist attacks in the south-eastern region. There is also an increase in criminal attacks in Vientiane and Van Vieng. Bag snatching have increased significantly, particularly targeting Westerners. Attacks on vehicles are also regularly reported. It is therefore necessary to be very careful. In any case, it is imperative to find out about the security situation of the country and the regions where you want to go before leaving blindly (see useful links at the bottom of the articles).

Reliable and recognised associations and NGOs in Laos

There are plenty of organisations operating in Laos. Sister Marie Catherine’s orphanage, ACF or Action Against Hunger, ACFL or Amitié Coopération Franco-Laotienne, AFESIP or Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, AFLAPA or the Association Franco-Laotienne d’Aide aux personnes Aveugles are organisations that are present in Laos and that are nationally recognised and listed by the diplomatic services. They offer a framework favourable to commitment. Hence do not hesitate to contact them directly to find out about their needs. There are often pitfalls behind the “all-inclusive” humanitarian offers. Therefore, contacting the associations personally will prevent you from being fooled and spending considerable sums of money for the sole benefit of these very dubious organisations which are making themselves rich in this way. In addition to the major organisations mentioned above, there are also wider and more diverse opportunities to get involved with smaller but reliable actors. Talking to other volunteers and having a first experience will undoubtedly help you find your way in this environment. You should also know that with Animal Sanctuary Laos, depending on the needs of the reserve, visitors have the opportunity to share their time and energy to work in favour of wildlife. Whether it is in the animal, educational or economic field. There are many opportunities to help improve the lives of local people. So don’t hesitate to commit yourself!