Plan My Gap Year offers a range of safe, meaningful, affordable family volunteer abroad experiences located in Sri Lanka and Thailand. These opportunities have been hand-picked to ensure they provide a secure and worthwhile opportunity for families overseas.

PMGY programs start on two dedicated start dates every month throughout the year and participants can join us from 1-12 weeks. Volunteers are provided with an extensive pre-departure support service, airport pickup, orientation, meals, accommodation, project transportation and local support throughout.

Our family porgrammes have been designed to provide a more private and exclusive setting for families looking to support communities abroad.


Do something different and amazing with your family and give back to a local Sri Lankan community whilst immersing yourselves in the culture and lifestyle.





If you love elephants you will love this! Elephants in their natural habitat combined with meaningful research represent a perfect match!


1-12 WEEKS



Work closely with rescued Asian elephants in this inspiring elephant sanctuary in Thailand. If you love elephants, this experience is not to be missed!


1-12 WEEKS



Help preserve and protect these inspiring animals at this wildlife haven. Become part of a mission to rescue wild animals from neglect and abuse.


1-12 WEEKS

World map showing PMGY family volunteer abroad projects in Africa, Asia & South America


Most Affordable – PMGY’s programs are accessible to everyone who wants to make a difference, through low fees and high-impact projects.


Best Support – Our international and local teams provide extensive around the clock services to assist you every step of your PMGY adventure.


Safety Prioritised – With safety a PMGY number-1 priority, we have taken all necessary precautions to ensure our programs are as safe and structured as possible.


Extraordinary Experiences – With PMGY, you have the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in an amazing cultural exchange and travel experience, ensuring you leave with unforgettable memories.


Friendships for Life – Your PMGY experience not only opens up a doorway for new experiences and exciting memories, but also life-long friendships when meeting new people from around the world.



Join us in Sri Lanka on our family volunteer abroad program to play a key role in education, research and conservation of Asian elephants. Based in the central province, Wasgamuwa National Park is famous for hosting a large number of wild elephant herds. Participants will engage in a wide range of conservation techniques to see how these elephants live and mobilise in their natural setting. Help provide solutions and education to the conflicts that exist between the elephant population and multiple villages located within the area.


Your Volunteer Role & Typical Working Day


Based on the outskirts of the wild Wasgamuwa National Park, each elephant volunteer in Sri Lanka will be working in one of the most spectacular and tranquil places across the globe. Your day will be split into morning and afternoon activities, often working in subgroups depending on how many people are working on the project. Usually, you’ll be up early to start around 8am, breaking for lunch and finishing around 6pm from Monday-Friday. You will get around the project by jeep from the accommodation into the heart of the reserve and jungle. Journey times will usually be up to 45 minutes. The schedule is designed around limiting the impact by participants during the elephants busier and more active parts of their daily cycle.


Consequently, this ensures conservation techniques and research can be maximised and your role is varied and meaningful. The timings of each activity are set in a routine around minimising the impact on the elephant’s usual daily cycle. There are two main goals of the project; reducing the human-elephant conflict to protect elephants and help the local community as well as protecting elephants through conservation techniques. Here are a variety of tasks that you will get involved with for each category:


Reducing Human-Elephant Conflict – Throughout your time in Sri Lanka, you will work closely with the local villages to help them live compatibly with elephants. The main goal is to naturally decrease the conflict and repercussions that follow between humans and elephants. Your role in this includes:


Observing interactions – Most importantly, between wild elephants and also human-elephant interactions.


Conducting human-elephant conflict surveys – Participants can visit village homes that had been raided by elephants to question about the conflict.


Monitoring electric fences – These were erected to stop elephants from raiding village homes. Walking the length of solar-powered electric fences erected to protect villages and their fields, identifying the need for maintenance and repair along the way.


Meeting with community leaders – Monitoring human-elephant conflict resolution projects.


Riding the Elefriendly community bus – You can travel on the bus early in the morning when school children are transported to school and home through the elephant corridor. The bus was established in 2015 and educates the children on living alongside the elephants. It has been fully funded directly through the project. Before the bus, many children would not go to school or turn back home should they encounter an elephant on the long walking commute.


Promoting Project Orange Campaigns – Research by the team has found elephants dislike citrus flavours. Your role will see you work alongside the team to educate and promote citrus-based crops as natural deterrents within the village communities of Wasgamuwa. Consequently, this will protect and conserve their crops, property and livelihoods. Help farmers to take care of their orange groves, check for diseases and pests, dig holes to plant new orange plants. During the fruiting season, help count fruits, harvest and sort them for sale. The Sri Lanka elephant program will provide transport costs for the farmers to take them to the markets for sale with the long-term aim to get into supply with Sri Lanka’s largest supermarket supply chain.


Protecting Elephants Through Conservation Techniques – You will monitor elephants closely in order to help develop strategies to conserve and protect the local wildlife. Here you will use an array of technology, observations and conservation techniques:


Monitoring tracks – Setting up sand traps across the jungle and elephant corridors to detect tracks, building research, analysing findings and understanding the diversity that exists in the forest. This will require physical energy as you will dig up and rake fresh new 2 x 2-metre sand traps each week to check for new prints. Expect to find more wildlife prints than just elephants as you look for signs of leopard, sloth bears, wild buffalos and of course elephant activity.


Setting up camera traps – You may be responsible for setting these up in hotspot locations across the forest. You’ll be replacing these each week with new SD cards. After a busy morning in the depths of the Sri Lankan forest, its time to return to the office to download data from the SD cards you collected and check the computer for what the camera traps have picked up in the last week. Be ready to make conclusions on the findings as you learn what different wildlife exists in the forests, what times of day elephants pass through the corridor and more.


Gaining GPS experience – You’ll be polishing off your navigation skills on the Sri Lanka elephant program. For instance, in the use of GPS across your time in the forest.


Observing movements – During the afternoons you might be located high up in the jungle treetops. We have created multiple purpose-built viewing towers across the forest aligned to the elephant corridor, which is the traditional popular route elephants use to migrate between the national park. Here you will observe passing elephants, collate data on their movements, behaviours and other variables.


Gathering data – For example, on elephant foraging transects, plants elephants eat and their impact on various habitats and plant species.


Inspecting elephant dung – Taking measurements to assess what the elephants have been eating, any foreign objects inside and their movement patterns. An elephant volunteer in Sri Lanka can also learn about the elephant’s age through the size of the dung!


Trekking through dense jungles and wetlands – As you walk along typical elephant trails to record findings, you’ll assess any seasonal variations in behaviours, habitat preferences and better understand elephants on the outskirts of the national park.


Updating records – You will get to spend a session at the Weheragala Tank looking for Sri Lankan elephants to observe and photograph for ID purposes. You will also have to fill in an elephant care identification datasheet to build up a catalogue of elephant numbers, movement behaviours and any differing physical features.


Whatever the activity, being an elephant volunteer in Sri Lanka will incorporate you being based in the heart of their natural habitat as you trek through the jungles, wetlands and mountains of Wasgamuwa National Park along the way. In your free time enjoy the incredible views offered by the accommodation, with a large central reservoir engulfed by luscious towering mountains.


Each participant will receive an orientation session before heading into the field to better understand their role, impact and history of the program. If you truly want to make a difference in wildlife conservation efforts by working closely with local communities, then work in Sri Lanka with elephants is the project for you.



Do something powerful, different and a little bit out of the ordinary on your next on your next family volunteer abroad program! Spend ten days as a family volunteering in Sri Lanka, giving back to the local community of Ambalangoda, a small coastal town in the southwest. If your family work abroad then you get the best combination of travelling, making a difference and creating amazing memories. This is the best way for you and you and your family members to experience a more meaningful experience overseas.


Summary of the Family Volunteering in Sri Lanka Experience


The Sri Lanka Family Volunteer Experience offers adventurous families the opportunity to embark on a thrilling trip across Sri Lanka. Our local team provides a structured and inclusive itinerary across a number of amazing sites around the south. In addition, you and your family members will dedicate time to volunteer in Sri Lanka and support local communities. This makes the experience in Sri Lanka ideal for those who wish to explore and engage in new experiences with their loved ones.


On the program, you will arrive into Colombo on your chosen date, welcomed by your host family. You’ll receive an orientation and induction into the Sri Lankan lifestyle, plus the chance to learn about their traditional culture.


After that, your time will be spent working and making a positive impact in the local community. For the younger members of the family, participating in this family experience will play a fundamental role in learning many life skills.


For instance, the family will have the chance to give back, learn about self-sacrifice, plus develop an appreciation for new cultures and challenges that other less-developed communities face. You will also get to see the results of your efforts, which is in itself will be highly rewarding. All underpinned by the bonds and togetherness you will further establish as a family on this unique journey.


Finally, you and your family will have some well-deserved travel time to take in more of this stunning island. You will explore the culture of Galle, relax in the stunning beaches of Mirissa and spot elephants at Udawalawe National Park.


Sri Lanka may be small but it has over 2,000 years of culture, 8 (yes 8!) Unesco World Heritage Sites, endless beaches, lush rainforests, welcoming people, rolling surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea, oodles of elephants, wonderful food and so, so much more.


From one destination to the next, you won’t need to worry about a thing as a family volunteering in Sri Lanka. All your in-country private transport and accommodation will be arranged by our local team. This helps to ensure that your experience abroad is as smooth as possible. Our team will arrange numerous activities for you to enjoy and engage in during your family trip. For any spare time, our local experts will be able to help you discover the impressive range of activities you can get involved in during your time in Sri Lanka.


Across this 10 day itinerary, be prepared for breathtaking sites, developing family bonds and complete cultural immersion. The adventure is perfect for families with young children that are looking to travel within a safe and structured environment.




On your family volunteer abroad program in Thailand, you will have the unique chance to work behind the scenes to care for rescued elephants. Eager and passionate participants are required to assist with the general upkeep of the project throughout the year. The centre works to rescue and rehabilitate elephants within Thailand. With our team on this Thailand program, you will have an amazing chance to help care for these gentle giants.


Your Volunteer Role & Typical Working Day


Thailand elephant conservation participants are required to support and assist with the day-to-day operations at the project. This includes (but is not limited to): preparing and distributing food, preparing and distributing behavioural enrichments, assisting with environmental enrichments, cleaning the land, and general maintenance, including maintaining forest areas.


As an elephant volunteer in Thailand, the working day starts at 6:30am at the accommodation. The house is where all organisation and orientation of participants is based. On the Thailand elephant program, you will normally finish work around 5pm. There will be several breaks throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and water and toilet breaks. Participants are expected to work 6 days a week with one day off. The accommodation is based on-site at the rescue centre. Although working with elephants in Thailand is very physically and mentally demanding, the end result is always well worth it. Supporting elephants in Thailand is tremendously rewarding.


As an elephant volunteer in Thailand , you will stay on-site at the wildlife centre. This means that external transport is not required. Any required transport for the needs of the project will be included in your Program Fee.



As a PMGY volunteer with wildlife in Thailand, you will have the unique opportunity to work behind the scenes to care for animals. Enthusiastic and passionate workers are required to assist with the general upkeep of the project throughout the year. The centre works to rescue and rehabilitate animals within Thailand. With our team, you will have an amazing opportunity to care for a wide variety of rescued wildlife.


Your Volunteer Role & Typical Teaching Day


Participants are required to support and assist with the day-to-day operations of the project. This includes (but is not limited to): preparing and distributing food, preparing and distributing behavioural enrichments, assisting with environmental enrichments, cleaning enclosures, scrubbing animal pools and general maintenance, including maintaining forest areas in the local area.


The working day for a volunteer with wildlife in Thailand starts at 6:30am at the accommodation. The house is where all organisation and orientation of participants is based. On the Thailand elephant program, you will normally finish work around 5pm. There will be several breaks throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and water and toilet breaks. Participants are expected to work 6 days a week with one day off. The accommodation is based on-site at the rescue centre.


You will stay on-site at the wildlife centre. This means that external transport is not required. Any required transport for the needs of the project will be included in your Program Fee.


The work for a wildlife volunteer in Thailand is very physically and mentally demanding, but the end result is always well worth it. Local coordinators will assign participants to groups each day. The groups are managed by team leaders – longer-term experienced participants who assist and guide their teams throughout daily tasks.




After confirming your place on a PMGY volunteer program, we strongly advise that you book your flights as early as possible. This is since it will help ensure that you get the lowest airfare. You can choose to book your flights independently or we can help you with arranging them. PMGY has a wealth of experience in travelling to and from our host countries. Therefore, we know the most affordable ways to travel and the best airlines to use. Therefore, if you would like any assistance booking your flight, you can request an optional flight quote during your online application. Alternatively, feel free to contact us on the phone or by email.


Your arrival airport and date are dependent on the specific destination you are joining us in for your family volunteer abroad program:


🇱🇰 Ambalangoda and Wasgamuwa National Park – To join a family abroad project on our Sri Lanka volunteer program, you should book your flights to Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo on the Saturday start date. The airport code is CMB. Most participants can arrive at any time on their designated Saturday start date.


🇹🇭 Thamairuak – To join a family abroad project on our Thailand volunteer program, you should book your flights to Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok) Airport or Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok on the Sunday start date. The airport codes are BKK and DMK, respectively. Participants in Thailand can arrive between 6am-2pm on the Sunday.


Travel Insurance


Importantly, having an appropriate travel insurance policy during your time abroad is essential. Therefore, it is mandatory for all of our international volunteers to be appropriately covered across all of their trip dates. This includes your travel to and from the host country, as well as any onward travel. Although PMGY does everything to ensure your trip is safe, inevitably things can go wrong. Therefore, having a travel insurance policy in place helps you effectively deal with any problems you may encounter during your time away.


We have partnered up with the insurance company Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive optional policy. This has been designed with our international volunteers in mind, to cover our participants for all of their travel essentials. The policy is available to anyone across the globe, up to the age of 65 years. The document will cover you for your time on any PMGY destination and any onward travel (excluding the US and Canada). You can purchase PMGY Travel Insurance during your online application or you can contact us directly to arrange it.


Our International Team will work hard to provide extensive levels of support in the build-up to your trip. From our online chat service to email support and telephone conversations, our team are always ready to help. All international participants with PMGY will receive a trip handbook. This detailed hand guide will provide you with all you need to know in the build-up to your trip. From visa guidance to suggested packing lists, this will be the ultimate guide, helping you plan for your trip abroad.


We have Facebook groups for each of our destinations. Here you can find members of our international and local teams, as well as past, present and future participants. These pages, therefore, provide a great forum for participants to network, share experiences and community updates year-on-year.


Sometimes it can be difficult to picture yourself abroad without yet being there. We, therefore, do our best to further manage expectations before you arrive through a variety of informative and action-packed videos on our PMGY Vimeo channel. These clips help provide you with a visual perspective of what you can expect during your time overseas with us. Our webinars are not to be missed either. Running on selected Tuesdays, at 4pm UK time, our International Team provides invaluable advice for your upcoming overseas family trip. Each webinar covers something different. Our pre-departure webinar covers all of the essentials you need to know and do before joining us abroad. Our program preparation webinar is more project-specific, with advice and information for the time you will spend on placement. Finally, our safety webinar offers you some top tips on how to manage your safety and wellbeing across the pond. For those who are simply interested in learning more about PMGY, our team also run an introductory webinar. This provides an introduction to the organisation, our background, goals and opportunities overseas.


🇱🇰 Ambalangoda – Our main Sri Lanka volunteer program is based in Ambalangoda, on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka. It is approximately 2.5 hours away from Colombo Airport. Ambalangoda is a quaint ocean-side town. It is traditionally a fishing community but is famous for being the major production centre for demonic wooden masks.


🇱🇰 Wasgamuwa National Park – Our elephant conservation project on the Sri Lanka volunteer program is based in Wasgamuwa National Park. Wasgamuwa is one of Sri Lanka’s many magnificent National Parks, famous for its large number of elephant herds. The park is home to over 20-species of mammals. It is also identified as one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The accommodation here is located overlooking the Knuckles Mountain Range, approximately 15 minutes from the National Park.


🇹🇭 Thamairuak – Our elephant and wildlife conservation projects on the Thailand volunteer program are located on the same grounds as the conservation centre. This is a rural location, approximately 3 hours south of Bangkok and a 10 minute walk from the local village. There, participants in Thailand can find roadside restaurants, 2-small supermarkets and an internet cafe. The nearby tourist locations of Hua Hin and Cha-am are approximately a 45 minutes drive from the project.


PMGY’s family volunteer abroad programs are run by our dedicated and experienced in-country local teams. All staff have been fully vetted by our International Team. The committed local community network provides the structure for your stay with us. Our local team will arrange your accommodation, meals, airport pick-up, in-country orientation and 24/7 emergency support. Our team provides a great framework for your family to enjoy a unique volunteering experience with us.


When you arrive onto your specific program, you will receive an orientation from your in-country team. This day will usually be broken down into two components. The first portion will usually be dedicated to all the theoretical aspects, from ‘dos and don’ts’, to safety aspects, project information and team introductions. The remainder of the day is usually used to introduce you to the local area. The local team will teach you how to locate every essential you may need during your time. They will also be able to help you arrange your money and a local SIM-card. Please note that the exact itinerary of the orientation will vary from country-to-country.


If you have not travelled much before, it is really hard to know what to expect. When anticipating their time overseas, many international participants (and their loved ones) are often concerned about safety and security. Although we can never guarantee experiences to be 100% trouble-free, we have taken all necessary precautions to ensure our programs are as safe as possible. Every program that PMGY offers has been personally inspected and selected by a director of PMGY. We have lived in the accommodation, experienced the orientation and worked on the projects. Through our frequent visits and daily communications, we have built strong, trusting relationships with our local staff.


In the unlikely event that something was to happen, participants have various layers of support available to them:


• PMGY Local Team
• Project Staff
• PMGY International Team


Projects are monitored on an on-going basis to gauge volunteers’ experiences. With the help of participants feedback, we are able to continually improve our placements and opportunities. Security and safety are frequently assessed as part of this. We ask our participants to raise any concerns with our local or International Team. This ensures that these can be addressed and/or resolved as readily and appropriately as possible.


Through pre-departure and in-country guidance, we do our best to prepare our international participants for their time abroad. All participants are provided with a comprehensive safety briefing during their orientation period. Our local teams will go through everything from project introductions, to emergency procedures, how to use local transport and cultural differences. During this period, our team also provide participants with a full list of the important contact numbers.


Listed below are some general safety tips:


• Be modest with the amount of jewellery worn in public
• Do not drink tap water
• Be cautious of beggars or crowds. Incidents can occur when is confusion to distract you.
• Be cautious about removing money in public
• Always try to know where you are going before you attempt long journeys. Be especially careful at night
• Use reputable transport only. Our local staff will be able to recommend some during orientation
• Try to keep in groups at night and never walk alone along dark, empty streets
• The recognised tourist areas can be considered potentially high-risk areas for pickpockets and thieves
• Leave your valuables behind before a night out in the town
• For traffic safety, always keep looking to the left and right and walk slowly when crossing the road
• Do not accept drinks or food from strangers


🇱🇰 Ambalangoda – On the Sri Lanka volunteer program in Ambalangoda, the cost of your project transport is included in your Program Fee. Your family abroad project transport will usually be by tuk-tuk, but sometimes by private car. Journeys can usually take anywhere from 10–45 minutes each way. However, this will ultimately depend on which project you join.


🇱🇰 Wasgamuwa National Park – On the elephant Sri Lanka volunteer program the cost of your project transport is included in your Program Fee. The local team will collect you every day from the accommodation. You will then be transferred via a private jeep for the day’s activities on your family abroad project. The jeep will return to the accommodation at the end of the day.


🇹🇭 Thamairuak – On our wildlife Thailand volunteer programs, the cost of your project transport is included in your Program Fee. During your time as a family overseas, volunteers stay on-site at the wildlife centre, therefore external transport is not required. Any required transport for the needs of the project will be included.


PMGY welcome participants of all nationalities and backgrounds. For individuals, the minimum age to join the program is 5 and there is no upper age limit. All participants need to have a good level of English, although it does not need to be your first language. You do not need to speak the local language. However, you will find that learning a few words in your days with us will go a long way!


All participants must be able to provide a clean criminal background check in advance of joining us abroad on a family volunteering holiday. In general, no formal experience or qualifications are required for the projects, just lots of energy, enthusiasm and preparation!


In order to confirm your place on a PMGY program, you need to pay your Registration Fee of 249 USD. The remaining fee is then due no less than 45 days prior to your program start date. During this period if you need to make a change to your family trip (destination, program or date) then this can be facilitated free of charge.


Please check out our Application Process for more info on how to join on a family volunteer abroad program with PMGY.