Alumni Spotlight: Simon Rowland

Why did you decide to volunteer with GVI in Thailand?

Simon It was decision that started after my girlfriend and I finished university. We wanted to go abroad before starting a career. We thought volunteering would offer a better experience for us both and so we looked at several volunteering companies and schemes. As big animal lovers, and elephants being my favorite animals, the GVI project looked very good as we learned more about it and found out how hands on it was.

Elephant rescue project in Thailand

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Simon: Mondays, Wednesday and Friday as a group we would meet the mahouts at base hut and then follow the elephants into the forest. During the hike we recorded data from social behavior, feeding patterns and ecological survey. We would follow the elephants for a maximum of 200 minutes or when we couldn't follow them anymore. In the afternoon we had the opportunity to volunteer our time. This could be teaching English at the local school or gardening. The staff and volunteers have started a garden to grow our own vegetables and herbs. Every other Monday we would feed the elephants with the new intake of volunteers.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we would hike into the forest and walk the elephants back into the village. Once there we did the health checks which was very hands on and amazing. The morning was spent how you want, could be in the garden or teaching again. Two or three people would go off with the mahouts and a member of staff and cut some elephant grass, which means using a machete, very cool.

The evenings were varied. There were quiz nights, bamboo cup making with the mahouts, buying locally made woven goods, watching a film. In the first week there were also various presentations about the elephants and Karen people.

We ate breakfast at base hut, lunch was prepared my our home stays that we ate either in the village or the forest. Dinner was prepared and eaten at our home, except on Fridays were everyone pools there food together and we eat a potluck dinner at base hut.