In August 2016, Olivia Soan travelled to Northern Thailand to undertake a two-week volunteer placement. She was supported by a £220 Individual Grant for Volunteering from the Jack Petchey Foundation, which helped to cover the individual costs of her volunteer work. She raised the rest of the £3000 herself, with 50% of the money going to the Future Sense Foundation, who she volunteered with.
The first week of her volunteer work took her to northern Thailand, in a hill tribe village school called Hak Mai Tai. Olivia and her team spent each morning renovating two of the big classrooms for the children in the upper school, which gave the students a welcoming learning space that they could feel proud of. In the afternoons, she taught English to two classes of children aged 7-8 and 9-10. Olivia recalled how enthusiastic and happy the children were to learn and how heart-warming the positivity of everyone in the village was. She said “I think the teaching, along with having a happy and colourful learning environment, encourages the children to go to school and build on their dreams for when they finish school.”
The second week of the trip was spent at an Elephant Nature Park. The 69 elephants currently being cared for there had been rescued from trades such as street begging, the circus, logging and riding, which had left many of the elephants there orphaned, blinded or disabled. Olivia helped with the general running of the sanctuary; cleaning the elephant’s paddocks, feeding them and bathing them. Olivia said that although it was hard work, “each day here was inspiring” and that “being nuzzled by the trunk of an inquisitor whilst you are [working] makes it all worthwhile.”
The work that Olivia carried out at the elephant nature park was vital, as the volunteer programme is what keeps the rehabilitation centre running through thanks to their funding and volunteer work.
Olivia said of her volunteer placement; “This project was an absolutely incredible experience. One of the biggest things that I learnt from this trip was to not take anything for granted, and appreciate everything I’ve got because there are many people in the world who are less fortunate than I am, but still with a great smile on their faces.”
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