My Experience Interning in Thailand with GVI
Victoria Ireland joined a 3 month elephant reintroduction program in Thailand with Global Vision International (GVI). Here she shares her experience of working as a conservation intern...
My Internship Placement
There is nothing more rewarding than hiking through the conservation forest with the mahouts (elephant keepers) in search of the elephants, and having them in clear vision and simply being able to sit and observe these majestic animals as you take data and watch them forage and interact within the herd.
I got to observe the mesmerizing connection between the elephants and their mahouts, and witness how a relationship should be with these semi wild creatures. This means I can now inform and encourage other people about elephants natural behavior and how misleading and unsettling Thailand's tourist industry can be with regards to Asian elephants.
Due to what I have learnt on the volunteer project, I can now confidently educate people about the 'better' tourist camps but ultimately advise people towards participating in projects such as this one, where both the community and elephants get to lead a higher quality of life.
Impact of the Work
One of the most prominent aspects of this GVI project, is the positive impact it is having on the little village of 'Huay Pakoot'. By having westerners such as myself come to live in the village, it means that women like my home stay mum 'Suemon' can earn their own wage and not just rely on elephants or crops as their main source of income. I personally, developed a heartwarming relationship with Suemon, as I learnt the local language and she too, attempted to speak English. It is over whelming how accepting and welcoming the villagers are to us westerners, inviting us to geeju's (religious ceremonies) and allowing us to integrate so deeply into their way of life/culture.
Despite having never taught or been interested in children's education, I participated in teaching English in Thailand up at the school twice a week. This was something I thoroughly enjoyed and could visually see the benefits each week as the children picked up on the language. By learning English, it increases their job opportunities and means that they could then go on to study at university level outside of Huay Pakoot, pursuing a preferred career and thus steering away from the use of elephants as income; GVI's ultimate goal.
What I Learned
During my time as a 3 month intern on project, I learnt and experienced more than I could have anticipated. I feel as though I really contributed to the great efforts of the program and helped towards making the project achieve the ultimate goal of; helping Asian elephants live a natural life as feasible.
Hope for the Future
If GVI can sustain the relationship the project has on the village, the future looks very bright! It means, hopefully, villagers will be encouraged to sign their elephants over to GVI and keep them in the conservation forest as opposed to in tourist camps or within the logging industry. Ultimately, this means the outlook of the villagers will change, they can see that westerners would be more than happy and willing to see elephants behaving naturally in the forest, rather than shackled and abused within camps. This presents a much easier life for the villagers, meaning they get to stay at home with their families and still earn a decent, if not better wage than having to live in the city where the tourists stopover.
I got to experience firsthand the slow but steady progression of changing Thailand's views and exploitation of their wildlife. I met some incredible people throughout my time on project, all of whom share the same vision and passion for animal welfare. Above all else, my time in Thailand has taught me that education is our greatest tool within the battle against conservation and it has inspired me to come home and share what I have learnt and encourage other people to participate in the many different projects that GVI host. Not just for the rewarding impact you having on the world, but simply for the amazing experience you won't get anywhere else!
By Victoria Ireland
If this experience appeals to contact GVI today.