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ACE in Place: Thailand

Virtual Program
Dates June 25 to July 13, 2023
Program Focus

Supporting Shark Guardian’s mission to advance the conservation of sharks and the natural environment through conservation and education in Thailand and around the world.

This program is organized by GVI Programs.

Note: Travel is not required or permitted in connection with participation in this program.


Program Leaders
  • In order to participate, student must have access to a computer and broad-band internet capabilities. The ACE Program will not cover or reimburse participants for expenses associated with computers or internet access.

Program Overview | Service Opportunities | Program Requirements | Program Details

Program Overview

​During your three weeks participating in ACE in Place Thailand, participants will virtually work with Shark Guardian on a predefined service project. Shark Guardian is a UK-based NGO that focuses on shark and marine conservation projects worldwide. Founded by experienced scuba diving instructors with a great passion for sharks, Shark Guardian has been focusing on shark and marine conservation activities, education, supporting and promoting shark conservation efforts and leading scuba dives for shark encounters since 1998. They are excited to share their knowledge and expertise with you. ACE participants will have the unique opportunity to work together as a small team (4 – 6 per team) with fellow Duke and Stanford student-athletes and also work closely with senior members/founders from Shark Guardian on a real-world project. The ACE team will be guided by an experienced GVI Supervisor and supported by an in-country contact who will share their insight and passion for their country.

The ACE in Place Thailand program will be run on a part-time basis (roughly 20 hours per week) over the 3-weeks and include 2 hours of scheduled meetings every day with two hours of unscheduled time for project work. The scheduled meetings build on our highly successful virtual internship programs that have been running since June 2020 and have been structured to provide a balance of different virtual sessions throughout the week including supervisor check-ins, reflection sessions, meetings with the organisation, masterclasses, and cultural immersion activities. The scheduled meetings also aim to balance working with the community partner with learning about Thailand. As this is a virtual program you will have the opportunity to virtually experience the richly diverse and ancient cultures of Thailand. Stir up some delicious home-made Thai food, learn about Thai festivals and practise key phrases and the different kinds of bows, learn about one of the world’s largest populations of stateless people in Chiang Mai and take part in a virtual Muay Thai class, also known as the “art of eight limbs,” and learn about this ancient martial art that is steeped in age-old traditions and an important part of Thai culture.

Shark Guardian is working to protect and promote the shark species through advocacy, education and outreach. Sharks are apex predators and a natural barometer for the health of our oceans. They play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem by maintaining a balance in the food chain and directly affecting all other species. This keeps our oceans healthy and full of life, ultimately helping to support all life on earth. Between 70 and 100 million sharks are killed each year from over-fishing and targeted shark finning. The demand for shark fin soup and other related products is responsible for the decline of many shark species around the world. Many sharks have already disappeared and face serious threats of extinction in our lifetime.​


Students will be expected to devote roughly 20 hours per week (that is 60 hours in total over the 3-week period) to the program activities and project work:

  • 10 hrs/wk of scheduled activities such as project orientation, group meetings, supervisor check-ins, cultural enrichment activities, and facilitated project workshopping. Group activities will be scheduled Sunday – Thursday evening for approximately two hours per day. Most activities and sessions will be scheduled approx. between 5-7 pm PDT / 8-10 pm EDT to accommodate for differences between Thai and US time zones.
  • 10 hrs/wk of independent/group service project work (day-to-day allocation of time is flexible).

Students’ availability will be requested after they are selected for the program and the group schedule will be adapted as much as possible to fit availability. To get an idea of what to expect on a day-to-day basis, view a draft schedule.

Service Opportunities

​GVI is a leader in experiential education abroad and has been providing impact-driven programs in sustainable development for more than twenty years. We are rated for our commitment to ethical and sustainable practices on the ground. In June 2020 GVI launched virtual internships to continue supporting our community partners and in December 2020 ran our first virtual service prototype with ACE. Our virtual programs provide a unique opportunity to develop soft skills, intercultural competencies, understanding of global issues, local contexts and best practice in sustainable development.

For ACE in Place Thailand 2023 GVI is partnering with Shark Guardian.

About Shark Guardian

Shark Guardian was our partner for ACE in Place Thailand 2021 and 2022. Although a UK-based organization, the founders Brendon Sing and Elizabeth Ward-Sing, are located in Thailand. Shark Guardian’s goal is to ensure that sharks will be around for future generations to enjoy and also to recognise the importance of sharks for humans and other species alike.

Shark Guardian’s campaigns and activities take place worldwide including in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Their objective is to advance the conservation of sharks and the natural environment through conservation, education, research projects and expeditions. These campaigns are often in collaboration with other conservation organizations to help save our sharks and our oceans. The Shark Guardian conservation department is responsible for conducting global shark and marine conservation campaigns, leading or supporting shark and marine conservation petitions, enforcing conservation through educational programs, and scientific research. Shark conservation starts with an increased knowledge of sharks and the vital role they play for all life on Earth. One of the ways Shark Guardian delivers this essential information for everyone who is interested to learn about sharks is through their social media and website.

Last year’s service project focused on driving a social media campaign for Shark Guardian’s Fly Without Fins campaign: to end the transportation of shark fins within the airline sector. Shark Guardian has already helped achieve a shark fin ban in the UK, and, more recently, partnered with other international organizations to successfully gather over 1.2 million votes to start the process of ending the shark fin trade in Europe.

Potential service projects might include:

  • Supporting another social media campaign for Shark Guardian. This would look like creating social media content around 5 topic questions or storyboards. These questions would be related to the campaign and would be similar to:
    • Does the EU export shark fins?
    • How many countries in the EU export fins?
    • Which are the top 5 countries in the EU that export fins?
    • Are there any countries in the EU that do not export shark fins?
    • What can you do to get the EU to stop the trade of shark fins?
  • Creating a 1 minute video explaining the campaign and how to support it.
  • Creating a blog that links to one of your social media posts.

Virtual Service Program
When applying for the ACE in Place Thailand program, students will be able to indicate any specific interests or skills that they bring to the program. Service groups will consist of 4-6 ACE students who will work together as a team on a service project, although some project work may be completed independently depending on the project. Final group placements will be assigned after acceptance into the ACE in Place Thailand and will be selected based on interest, past experience as described in resumes, availability, and group capacity.

A project brief (or choice of project briefs) will be shared with the team one month before the program starts so that they are aware of the service project and what to expect before starting. This brief includes information about Shark Guardian, your service project, what success will look like, and additional resources. The final service deliverable will be collaboratively developed with Shark Guardian throughout the program and will end with a final project presentation where the team will present their work to Shark Guardian. This is one of the highlights of the program as it is a culmination of your time on the project and will include final thank you’s and a final reflection session before we say our tearful goodbyes! ​

Program Requirements


Virtual Volunteer Environment

In order to complete the virtual service program, students will need a current email account and access to a computer and broad-band internet. It is assumed that participants are familiar with using a computer and accessing the internet.

Zoom will be the main platform used for the scheduled meetings. Students will also have access to their own ACE website that will provide information on various components of the program and include the schedules for each service project.

Students can use whichever tools they are most comfortable with for the project work such as MS Office or Google Drive. This will be up to their discretion although GVI uses Google Drive and so some resources and information will be shared through that platform. Students may wish to use Google Docs to effectively collaborate and communicate ideas on their service project with their group.

Language Suggestions

None required. Partners are all either native speakers or fluent in English. However, learning local languages provides additional opportunities for cultural exchange. If possible, it is recommended that participants learn some basic Thai phrases before the program begins.

Other Skills

​Shark Guardian is excited to be working with ACE student-athletes who are encouraged to discuss their interests or skills in marine conservation, public policy, video editing or social media experience in their application. These will be shared with Shark Guardian and the service project may be adapted to the interests and experience of the team.

Participants who come to this project with an open mind, interest in marine conservation, Shark Guardian’s work, long-term objectives and passion to support these will gain the most out of this experience.

Previous coursework in Thai history, culture, music, marine conservation, media, and literature is not required but is strongly encouraged

Personal Competencies

Ideal participants will be flexible, enthusiastic team players with the following competencies:

  • Commitment to honest and ethical behaviors – Actively seeks to understand and adhere to the values, policies, procedures, and protocols of ACE and their host organization/community; lives up to commitments and promises they make to others
  • Self-reliance and self-confidence – Understands and meets their own physical and emotional needs in virtual environments with an age-appropriate mixture of optimism and realism
  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity – Effectively and respectfully communicates and interacts with people of different ages, races, religions, and cultures; demonstrates curiosity about the lives of others without judgment
  • Ability to work productively on a supervised team – The ability to respond to feedback and critique from ACE teammates and supervisors with maturity and openness to improvement, ability to listen actively and communicate courteously, ability to respond with patience and perseverance to new or unanticipated situations and obstacles, accepts responsibility for their actions, balances personal expectations of the volunteer experience with the realities of working on short-term projects in virtual cultural settings that are new to them
  • Problem-solving and goal orientations – Possesses strong analytical skills and an interest in producing deliverable end-projects for a community partner organization, e.g., report or social media strategy, etc.

Program Details

Thailand is in the heart of Southeast Asia. About 90 percent of the population is Buddhist, but about three million Muslims live in the south near the border with Malaysia. Food in Thailand is influenced by Chinese and Indian cultures. Most Thai dishes are spicy and many common dishes include hot chilies, lemongrass, basil, ginger, and coconut milk.

The country’s tropical climate ensures that verdant jungle rainforests thrive in Thailand’s hilly northern region, while sunny beaches and clear blue waters line its coastal peninsula. As a result, Thailand supports a high level of biodiversity both above and below water. The country supports endangered species such as the Javan Rhinoceros and the Asian elephant, as well as threatened and vulnerable species, including the Hawksbill sea turtle, and Asiatic Black Bear. This provides an array of volunteering opportunities for those interested in conservation.

The environmental issues Thailand is facing are many and varied. These include poor water, air and soil quality as well as biodiversity loss. Poaching, kidnapping of wild animals, deforestation, and unsustainable tourism threaten Thailand’s land and marine habitats and wildlife. The Thai government is constantly updating and improving environmental legislation and practices, and local and international non-governmental organisations and community groups can assist with achieving these conservation outcomes.

GVI uses email as our official means of communication. This includes program welcome emails, service information and correspondence from our internship supervisors and support teams. Students are responsible for reading the content of our communications sent to your email account.

As mentioned above, students will have access to a dedicated ACE website that will include their program and daily schedules for reference.

In order to ensure you are supported throughout ACE in Place and equipped with the tools you need to make the most out of your time you will receive a comprehensive orientation and introduction as part of the program. This will include:

  • Two Pre-program Webinars: To introduce the team to each other, the service brief and the program partner.
  • Welcome Presentation: Run through the program in detail and introduce the various components & GVI staff who will be working with and supporting students.
  • Location Presentation: Discuss key cultural aspects such as cultural norms, country information, language, religion, & socio-economic conditions.
  • Community Partner & Service Project Brief: Detailed introduction of community partner and service project as well as time for the team to plan out project work for the week.
  • Regular Community Partner Meetings: Meet with service/project partners to better understand the organization, importance of the project and ask them questions.

Throughout all of these sessions, we encourage communication and so students are recommended to ask questions where needed.

GVI believes that it is extremely important for participants to take part in facilitated reflection sessions throughout their service program. Throughout ACE in Place you will participate in a range of activities and discussions which will allow you to reflect on your time. This is an important part of developing your understanding as well as gaining as much as you can from the experience and to foster global citizenship and intercultural understanding. Experienced GVI staff will guide you through the learning process, including presentations, discussions, and dedicated reflection time.

Reflection topics may include:

  • Team Building Sessions
  • Cultural Sensitivity and Community Work
  • Marine and shark conservation
  • Culture Shock
  • Stereotypes & Perceptions
  • Sustainability
  • Global Health
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Regular check-ins will be scheduled throughout the program, where successes or challenges will be discussed.

​Virtual cultural immersion activities have been included throughout the program as these activities are an integral component in promoting intercultural understanding and appreciation and providing a different perspective on the service project you are working on.

The following activities were included in last year’s program and may be included again this year:

  • Learn how to make some delicious home-made Thai food with Courageous Kitchen who provide food supplies to families in need in Bangkok.
  • Learn about Thai festivals and practise key phrases and the different kinds of bows
  • Hear from a Thai national’s experience working in one of the world’s largest populations of stateless people in Chiang Mai
  • Practise your Thai boxing skills by joining a virtual Muay Thai class, also known as the “art of eight limbs,” and learn about this ancient martial art that is steeped in age-old traditions and an important part of Thai culture. ​

During the program students will learn:

  • To overcome personal and work related challenges.
  • To work as part of a virtual team and resolve conflict.
  • About local issues and how they relate to global issues and their communities at home.
  • New skills and gain practical experience relevant to their chosen project.
  • How international NGOs and organizations are structured and the challenges they may face.

Students will also have a unique opportunity to work directly with senior level members and founders of social enterprises/ NGOs on service projects and to make a direct impact for their organization partners.