First, tell us a little about yourself and your trip.
Kath: My name's Katherine Danaher and I travelled to Thailand from 1 Jan, 2012 to 15 Jan 2012. I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and although there's no GVI office in this country, I was well-served by the Australian office.
Why did you decide to volunteer with GVI in Thailand?
Kath: I decided to volunteer abroad with GVI because I'd been looking online for a volunteer organization and GVI had good reviews and was said to be ethical and professional. I wanted to travel in my summer holiday break, January, so I was looking for something that would suit the season. And I've always been interested in animals - it seemed a good opportunity to do something worthwhile, as well as being an experience to remember!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Kath: Life as a volunteer in the small (60 family) village of Huay Pakoot in northern Thailand was busy. Breakfast was at 7am at Base Hut, with the other volunteers, and I walked there from my little sleeping hut via my homestay family's house to pick up my lunch, packed in a banana leaf. After breakfast there were a variety of activities, all with the small herd of elephants we were supporting. Some days we followed the herd into the forest, collecting data on their eating habits, socializing, and behaviour. Some days we did health checks, following the herd back from the forest to the 'Spirit Forest', near the village, where they were tied up so we could check them over for injuries, parasites, etc. Some days we went off in the ute to cut elephant grass for the times when the eles were tied up and needed feeding. Lunch was generally a picnic beside the river, and after lunch we had time to ourselves, or to help out teaching English, entering data, or working in the garden. Dinner was at our homestay, and then after dinner there was training, or entertainment from the staff.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Kath: This was an amazing experience, and I felt privileged to experience life in an elephant-keeping village. I tried to make every interaction with the villagers a positive one, and will remember their friendly smiling faces forever. I loved the elephants, especially 'my' elephant, Boon Jan, and feel so happy that I have contributed in some small way to their welfare. I'm definitely planning to do some more volunteer work with GVI, and would recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure.