Intro to Community Service in Thailand

Intro to Community Service in Thailand

Join an exciting week of service and enriching cultural activities at the Northern Thailand Service Base. With several meaningful service projects running each week, this program has something for every student. Throughout the week, choose between construction, creating English language exchange activities for local children, or helping local elders. Over the weekend, work with new friends on a larger service project and explore nearby sites. In your downtime, cool off with a swim in the pool, play a game of soccer, or join cultural activities organized by the staff. You’ll quickly see the impact of your service firsthand and begin to feel like a part of this special community.

Students love our programs in Thailand!
Departure Dates

No-Stress Travel Guarantee!

With our No-Stress Travel Guarantee, you may cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.
Program Profile

No-Stress Travel Guarantee!

With our No-Stress Travel Guarantee, you may cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.
Program Profile

A Place that Changes Lives

Welcome to the Ricefields Service Base! Located in the heart of a rural farming village in northeast Thailand, the Ricefields Base is a modern oasis amidst traditional Thai life. Surrounded by expansive rice fields with the village temple only steps outside of our gates, students have the opportunity to witness life the way it has been for generations. Because of our long-standing relationship with our host family, the Sanboons, and the local community, we are able to offer our guests a truly immersive experience! You will feel a strong sense of community here and become a part of our very special family that began in 1999.including Introduction to Community Service and Community Health and Wilderness First Aid, it provides a comfortable setting to ease visitors into international travel. Our programs here offer nine community service initiatives that serve as the perfect introduction to Thai life, customs, and language. Each project aims to tackle a need or issue in the village and surrounding communities. Many students choose to start their adventure at the Ricefields Base before connecting to other programs in Southeast Asia.

Live at the Ricefields Service Base in Rural Thailand

Eight Service Projects at the Ricefields Base

Welcome Homes

  • Work alongside local carpenters to build a home for a disadvantaged family in one of the rural villages that surround The Ricefields Base.
  • Build friendships and a sense of community as you create a new home for a family in need.

Bobbing and Floating

  • Provide basic swimming instruction and teach water safety to local children in a fun and cheerful setting.
  • Help to prevent drowning fatalities that occur in this region when children fall into ponds and flooded rice fields without the skills to save themselves.

Meals on Flip-Flops

  • Create fishponds and livestock enclosures that will provide sustainable food sources for local families.
  • Gain unique insight into the hearts and histories of these inspiring Thai villagers as you visit various families and elderly couples.

Swing Sets & Coloring Books

  • Build and maintain school facilities and play areas at local schools to enhance educational opportunities for children now and for years to come.
  • Help improve basic hygiene and sanitation at early education centers and elementary schools.

Language Exchange

  • Empower teenage Thai students aspiring for university acceptance and coveted jobs by sharpening their conversational English skills.
  • Share your culture and language with students while learning some local lingo and experiencing life as a teenager in rural Thailand.

Hands in the Dirt

  • Plant and tend to native Thai herbs, organic vegetables, and fruit trees on local farms and household or community gardens.
  • Dig in and get your hands dirty alongside local Thai people to cultivate a sustainable food source and learn about their lives and fresh Thai ingredients.

Teaching and Tutoring

  • Teach English to Thai students at a partner elementary school in a nearby village.
  • Develop a love of learning English in your students through activities, races and games that are fun and engaging.

Youth Leadership Exchange

  • Design and share in games and activities that develop teamwork and leadership skills with a group of young Thai students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Build and improve facilities at the center that cares for this group of talented kids.

Here is a detailed packing list for your time in Southeast Asia this summer. Packing the right gear (and not too much of it) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Remember that you’ll be responsible for carrying your belongings everywhere you go, so PACK LIGHT! If your bag weighs more than 35 pounds, you’ve overpacked!

Weather in Southeast Asia

Summer in Southeast Asia is known as the “rainy season” or the “green season”—days are generally hot and humid, with brief and refreshing showers that keep the land very lush and green. Temperatures sometimes cool off once the sun goes down, making for more pleasant evenings. Because of the heat, you’ll need to drink a lot more water than you’re used to drinking to stay hydrated! Your clothes should be able to get wet, dirty, and / or destroyed during service work and program activities.

Important Notes About Your Luggage

Airlines in Southeast Asia have weight restrictions for checked and carry-on luggage. Please limit your checked luggage to no more than 33lbs (15kg) and your carry-on luggage to 15lbs (7kg). For your one checked bag, a backpacking backpack or a duffel bag that is easy to carry are perfect. Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on bag complies with the carry-on regulations of the TSA. Lastly, remember to leave your valuables or prized possessions at home. It’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged while traveling.

Our Dress Code Expectations in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asian cultures are very conservative. Despite the hot climate, people in these parts of the world show less skin than in many Western cultures, and you’ll rarely see low-cut shirts or short shorts in rural communities. As we seek to respect and preserve the culture of the communities we work with, we ask that our students dress conservatively while in country. If you’re not wearing proper attire, we’ll ask you to change your clothes or abstain from the service project of the day.

To dress respectfully in Southeast Asia, please bring loose-fitting pants or shorts that cover just above the knees (think basketball length). Bring basic t-shirts that cover your shoulders, and please leave all tank tops, cut off shirts, low-cut, see-through, or crop tops at home. As mentioned in our packing lists, yoga pants and leggings are not appropriate because they are too form-fitting. The key is to show less skin and to stay cool by wearing loose-fitted clothing. Check out these tips about how to pack for culturally-immersive travel and why Rustic cares about preserving a conservative dress code on our programs.

Temple Visits

Personal hygiene is important in Southeast Asia, so when visiting temples we want to clean up more than while doing service. Wearing modest, clean clothes that cover the knees and shoulders is a must, as per usual. Being respectful is the name of the game!


Access to laundry can vary, but most programs find access once a week, though not guaranteed. If you’re getting laundry done in a village or rural town, expect to pay $1-2 per kg. If you’re at a hotel, it can be up to $20 per load.


A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips. Include the following:

• Passport!
• Photocopy of passport
• Visa documentation
• Consent to Travel form
• Rustic Pathways emergency contacts list
• Additional community service forms if needed
• Wallet / money
• Pens and journal
• Book
• Phone
• Chargers
• Outlet power converter (for transit only! Thailand uses the same plugs as the USA–just make sure all electronics are compatible with 220v)
• Camera
• Earbuds / Ear plugs
• Reusable water bottle
• Sunglasses
• Medication
• One change of clothing

Checked Luggage

A 50- to 70-liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.


• 2-3 pairs of lightweight pants, jeans (too hot to wear often) or capris; leggings are not culturally appropriate as they are too form-fitting
• 4-5 pairs of shorts/skirts, which must go to the knees or longer like these service shorts
• 7-10 tops (t-shirts and sports shirts) – they can be cotton, or quick-dry shirts like capilene or polypropylene; tank tops are generally not acceptable unless for time at the pool or beach; keep in mind you’ll find cool t-shirts and other clothing at markets you’ll visit throughout the summer, which can supplement the tops you bring over
• 1-2 light, long sleeve t-shirts – breathable is best for the sun and certain areas of the region can get buggy or chilly (if you’re lucky!) at night
• 1 lightweight hoodie – most likely needed on flights, in movie theaters, or in airports. Most people will be fine without one
• 7-10 pairs of underwear – quick-dry material is best
• 4-7 pairs of socks – lightweight cotton or quick dry athletic socks are best
• 1 swimsuit – two piece suits are fine but need to be very modest
• 1 sarong / shawl / lightweight towel (not white!) – many accommodations will have towels for you to use, but it is handy to have something of your own for sitting poolside or visiting a waterfall

Important Items

• Flashlight or headlamp – rechargeable batteries are preferable
• Ultra-lightweight rainproof jacket – fear not if you don’t have one; ponchos are widely available and do a better job!
• Hat – for the sun
• Strappy sandals – like Tevas or Chacos
• Comfortable flip-flops or crocs – footwear that is easy to clean and easy to take on and off (you’ll be amazed at how often you’ll be taking your shoes off and on!); cheap flip-flops and crocs are widely available in Asia for a fraction of the cost
• Closed-toed athletic shoes – shoes that dry quickly, that you can hike short distances in and that protect your feet are best; shoes will get muddy and dirty, so don’t bring your favorite pair.
• A color photocopy of your passport


Most general toiletries are available throughout the region at a fraction of the cost. We suggest packing all items that could leak in a plastic or ziploc bag.

• Deodorant
• Shampoo and soap – you may want to bring biodegradable or natural soap and shampoo, but they’re not required
• Toothpaste and toothbrush
• Lip balm
• Insect repellent – we suggest a natural option or something with DEET
• Hydrocortisone/anti-itch cream or after bite
• Hand sanitizer – 1 small bottle; we don’t want you getting sick this summer!
• Contact lenses and solution
• Oxybenzone-free sunscreen (reef-safe) and aloe vera – good quality sunscreen is not readily available in Southeast Asia and is expensive!
• Feminine hygiene supplies – tampons aren’t widely available in Southeast Asia; past staff have suggested trying a diva cup; we recommend you bring what you think you will need for the duration of the program

Additional and Optional Items

• Local language phrasebook
• Deck of cards, portable games
• Lip balm
• Digital camera – waterproof style shock resistant cameras are great for our programs; again, do not depend on your phone –  we encourage our students to disconnect from their phones while on program.

Rustic Gear

Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.


Important Reminders

• Please cover your shoulders and knees while in Southeast Asia.

• Dressing respectfully is very important. Southeast Asian culture is conservative, with ancient customs based mostly on Buddhism. Regardless of gender, Rustic students should be wearing loose Bermuda or basketball length shorts or pants. Please leave short-shorts at home, as well as leggings, which are too form-fitting. T-shirts should cover the chest and shoulders, nothing low cut, and no undergarments should ever be showing.