By Kerri – Manager and Co-Founder
A few months ago, we approached a beautiful Karen village with the request to setup an elephant sanctuary on their grounds and in their forest. Although this village is not too far from Sombat’s home village and is home to a few members of his family, I had never visited it before. From spending quite abit of time living in hill-tribes, I was very intrigued and excited to see what beauty and wonders this particular village holds. The first thing that struck me was the view driving along the dirt track – amazing rolling hills surrounded by rice paddy fields! That view never gets old.
When we first arrived, I was greeted with looks of recognition from Sombat’s family (some of whom I had never met before!), and looks of astonishment and amusement from the other villagers who where very surprised when they realised I could speak their local Karen language. After a few greetings and introductions, some of the locals took us a tour around the village where we ran into a few furry and feathery friends; chickens, pigs, cows, buffalo, cats, dogs – all part of the community here!
We finished off the tour at one of our future homestay houses with a wonderful view overlooking the corn fields with more rolling hills in the background. Such beauty is breathtaking. We where welcomed with tea, coffee, hot chocolate and even pancakes (if you have ever spent any time in the hill-tribes you will know this is a big luxuary!). After a few discussions I began to realise that the village were just as excited to work with us as we are to work with them. Our sanctuary has the potential to provide extra income for them to feed their families as well as create a very special home for their elephants. They couldn’t wait for us to get started!
After agreements where made and everyone had gotten to know each other abit better, we left them with the promise we would come back soon to visit and start setting everything up. Driving back along the dirt track, I began to reflect on the visit and how welcoming and friendly the Karen people always seem to be. With a school, church and temple on the grounds and all the cats, dogs, buffalo and cattle, not only does this village show potential as a haven for the elephants, but also for many other community and animal related projects in the future. I can’t wait to begin!