Why did you decide to volunteer with Friends for Asia in Thailand?
Jamie: I should preface by saying that the recent project I just completed was the second time I had been to Thailand and worked with Friends for Asia. The first was in July of 2011, through a program called Experiential Learning International. All of ELI's programs in Chiang Mai were through FFA, so I did not choose FFA directly. However, I'm very glad that FFA was the organization that ELI sent its participants to, because the projects offered by FFA, specifically the one I participated in, are extremely unique.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer in Thailand.
Jamie: Both of my visits I volunteered at Maetaman Elephant Camp, which offers day long rafting and elephant trekking experiences to tourists. During the day, the volunteers' duties consisted of helping kitchen and restaurant staff prepare for tourist groups by making food and setting and clearing tables. Additionally, we helped the medical staff make vitamin balls for the elephants and sweep the animals' stalls. We helped to feed these vitamins to the elephants as well. We took trips outside the camp to help cut the grass that gets fed to the elephants. There are also multiple elephant shows a day (where the elephants paint and pose and things) where we helped sell elephant paintings. On top of these duties, the volunteers were assigned one mahout (elephant trainer, each elephant has its own), to work with in the mornings and in the evenings when we would go into the river nearby and help bathe the elephants.
What made this experience unique and special?
Jamie: The time spent with the animals directly was particularly amazing, and I cannot think of (or find) another program that offers something similar.