OG & Sargent College present…

Health(care) in Thailand

Tensions & Transformations


Program Description

Not surprisingly, Thailand has long been a popular tourist destination. Known as the “land of smiles”, visitors revel in the country’s incomparable pad thai, idyllic beaches, full moon parties, and sacred spaces. More surprisingly however, Thailand has developed a reputation for its “long and successful history of health development”. Medical tourists flock to Thailand every year and the introduction of a universal insurance scheme in 2002 has significantly increased life expectancy and improved access to services across the country.

So, Operation Groundswell’s healthcare program will travel to Thailand and explore first-hand how age-old traditions and modern transformations have helped shaped healthcare for the country’s diverse population. Journeying from the bustling capital of Bangkok to the cultural mecca of Chiang Mai and tiny “hill-tribe” villages in the country’s north, we’ll interact with health practitioners, NGO workers and people of all walks of life. We’ll explore big cities and quiet sanctuaries, enjoy delicious food and examine healthcare in Thailand.



Program Fee + Community Contribution with Carbon Offset

$2,385 USD*

$2,265 USD

*Includes $90-$125 Community Contribution

Program Dates

May 23-June 3, 2020

Program Highlights

  • Explore first-hand the complexities of Thailand’s Healthcare system. From the hustle and bustle of Bangkok to the rolling green hills of Chiang Rai, see how the country provides health services to its diverse population.
  • Meet with local activists, aid workers, and healthcare practitioners while learning about the potential and pitfalls of Thailand’s universal healthcare system.
  • Get your hands dirty and learn alongside the Mirror Foundation, an NGO that strives to improve livelihoods for ethnic minorities in the mountainous reaches of Northern Thailand.
  • From the streetfood mecca of Bangkok to the delicate cuisine of Chiang Mai, eat your way through the countryside and connect the dots between diet and health.
  • Explore ethical animal tourism and spend a day with Elephant Valley Thailand, a progressive sanctuary that offers old elephants a natural habitat and quiet place to retire.
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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation in the Big Mango – Bangkok

After being picked up from Survhanabhumi International Airport, we’ll settle into our temporary home downtown in Bangkok’s historic Rattanakosin district. Over the next three days, we’ll explore the diversity of Thailand’s big, bustling capital and acclimatize to the sights, sounds, smells, flavours, and smiles of the country.

Once we get our cultural bearings, we’ll visit one of Thailand’s largest private hospitals and get a firsthand look at how an international medical facility, receiving patients from all over the world, operates. The following day will offer a completely different take on the realities of healthcare as we visit the Sikha Asia Foundation, an NGO that prioritizes creating a safe and healthy educational space for children in Bangkok’s biggest slum. There we will begin to see how, despite substantial growth, Thailand’s healthcare system is still struggling with accessibility, especially for certain segments of the population.

Into the Hills with the Mirror Foundation – Chiang Rai

Next, we’ll take an overnight ride north to the small city of Chiang Rai, where we’ll be welcomed by our friends at the Mirror Foundation. Mirror has been an OG partner for more than five years and is one of Thailand’s most well-respected NGOs working towards improving livelihoods for some of the country’s ethnic minorities. Here, amidst rolling hills and rural villages, we’ll get a firsthand look at how Thailand’s minority groups live in the more remote parts of Chiang Rai.

For the next few days the group will separate and settle into homestays in two distinct villages. Staying with local families will provide each group with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the unique culture and day-to-day life of these communities. Furthermore, each group will have the chance to contribute to ongoing projects and activities being carried out by Mirror and their host community (e.g. road paving or tree planting). We’ll also be challenged to wear our critical thinking hats and examine the different factors influencing healthcare for Thailand’s diverse population.

Elephant Conservation in Chiang Rai

After a busy week of working with the Mirror Foundation, we’ll take some time to unwind and hang out in Chiang Rai. The highlight will certainly be a visit to the Elephant Valley Thailand project! The aim of this sanctuary is to transform the ways in which elephants are treated within Thailand’s tourism industry – there’s no riding or bathing here. Elephants just get to be elephants in an environment as close to their natural one as possible. Talking with the founder and staff at EVT, we’ll learn about some of the issues with elephant tourism and discuss the common repercussions of this industry for the animals’ health and wellness.

Disorientation in Chiang Mai

The last leg of the journey will take us to Chiang Mai, a distinctively Northern Thai city with a modern, hip, and bohemian flair. There, we’ll take full advantage of of Chiang Mai’s culinary reputation and learn to cook a few of our favourite dishes. And what a perfect opportunity to discuss the links between food, nutrition, and health in Thailand! The group will also get a chance to visit one of the city’s monasteries and talk to Buddhist monks about the role of spirituality and religion.

Finally, Chiang Mai will serve as the site for “disorientation”. A staple of every OG program, we’ll take a little time to reflect on our experiences, impacts, and learning. Then it’s a fond farewell at Chiang Mai International Airport as you begin your journey back home to the U.S. of A.!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


With OG, you live like the locals.
Traveling as much as we do on the Southeast Asia program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. In cities, we’ll be sleeping at fun and friendly hostels and guesthouses. When we’re out in rural communities we’ll be hosted by local families and we might just sleep under the stars for a few nights (with mosquito nets of course). Being welcomed by local families is an incredible way for the team to become integrated with the communities we visit. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Though Western comforts should not be assumed, you’ll have the opportunity to really immerse yourself and better connect with locals and their culture.

Meet Our Regional Director

After hearing about OG while sweating in a sauna in northern Ontario in 2010, and subsequently going on a Southeast Asia program, Sidney quickly got hooked on backpacktivism. Since then he has led four years of programs in Southeast Asia. His favourite part of the job (if he had to choose) is getting people to fall in love with this part of the world and understanding it through a critical and educational lens. Sid lives in Bangkok where, besides operating as Regional Director for OG, he is pursuing a Masters in Tourism Management. Previously, Sid was an archaeologist, a passion he continues to cultivate when time permits. Eating is another big hobby, which is easy to maintain in a place like Thailand.

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