I decided to volunteer with Starfish after searching the internet for volunteer experiences that involve animals. After finding a few projects in Thailand that work with elephants, I read reviews on a couple of websites and found that previous volunteers that have worked on the elephant project in Surin with Starfish volunteers had a great experience. It was that easy!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Volunteering with elephants was an incredible experience. We were driven to a village, about an hour away from Surin City, in which we slept in a Thai house from Monday to Thursday. The Thai family were incredibly welcoming. As well as making us feel at home, they were excited to teach us a few Thai words. In the mornings, we would head to the sugar cane fields, and either help cut the sugar cane to feed to the elephants, or prepare the soil for planting. After a delicious Thai lunch, cooked by the Starfish volunteer coordinators, it was time to ride the elephants to the river for a bath. This was my favourite activity, as these animals are so gentle and smart. It is a great time to bond with your elephant and mahout (elephant trainer). Sitting on the neck of such a large creature, while looking out over the abundant rice fields and chilli plantations, is something that has to be experienced to be appreciated. Night times were spent playing games with the village children, who loved coming over to the homestay and interacting with the volunteers.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
This experience surpassed any expectation I had when heading into this volunteering project. To be able to be immersed in a culture where all of the little things in life are appreciated, has definitely impacted on my future. It has made me realize the important things in life, and to not take things for granted. I have now added more volunteer projects to my life plan, as it was such a rewarding and eye opening experience. As a university student in a health profession, I feel that my acquired skills would be beneficial in places such as Thailand, and would consider working in said areas in the future. Volunteering is definitely a life changing experience and I urge anybody who wants to work with elephants, to apply through Star fish Volunteers, as the staff go beyond their job description to ensure your stay in Thailand is safe, and enjoyable.