I have just returned from a life changing experience. Two weeks of volunteering in Thailand and Cambodia with an amazing company, Bamboo.
Our first stop was Thailand where we met our group of 20 people, comprising 18 women and 2 men. From all over the world, we quickly realised that we were all likeminded, wanting to try to make a difference - give back something. The group were for the "Young @ Heart" - only for the over 50's.
After a couple of days of getting to know each other in Bangkok, we headed for the Surin province, located approximately 450 kms from Bangkok. Home to over 1.1 million people and over 500 elephants, Surin is often referred to as 'The Elephant Province'. Elephants here have co-existed with humans for hundreds of years. Originally used like tanks for the numerous wars with neighbouring Cambodia, then used as heavy farm machinery, particularly with logging, these elephants now find themselves redundant.
In Surin we worked in a community located approximately 1 hour north of the main provincial city. This community has kept and cared for elephants for generations, with them being treated very much like a domesticated pet or even as one of the family.
Elephants are extremely expensive creatures to care for. Full grown males eat upwards of 300kgs of food daily – something that a traditional farming family cannot afford to purchase on their meagre income. Because of this huge additional expense many of the elephants owners (known as Mahouts) were forced to put their elephants in to tourism-related activities, in to poorly maintained zoo's, or to take them out to walk the street selling photo opportunities to tourists.
Bamboo have agreements with three local village communities whereby they will financially support the communities if they agree not to put their elephants in to any form of tourism that would harm the elephants in any way. This agreement has worked fantastically well for many years; the elephants are living a comfortable lifestyle, receiving professional healthcare, regular exercise and more love than they could have expected!
As a volunteer on this project I had daily interaction with the elephants. We learnt the history of elephants in the region and the benefits of working towards a better future for these majestic animals. We lived in a traditional rural Thai homestay and were involved in heaps of daily activities revolving around the elephants and general day to day care of the community.
We cut bamboo for the elephants - a huge undertaking in the near 40 degree heat, and walked the elephants the nearly 2kms to the river for their daily swim. We replanted bamboo to try and keep up with the elephants daily consumption. We also were involved in a small building project with the local school.
This is a fantastic project which I am grateful to have been part of. I know it has nothing to do with Essential Oils, Balms or the like, but it is who I am as well as my products. (Although I used and shared my Healing Balm and Bug Off Balm with my group). My next blog will be about the second half of my brilliant journey to Cambodia.
Baby Bonju 6 months old
Tevi and Bonju.