By Laurent Léger-gagné – 1 week volunteer
It all started with a dream when I was a kid that as soon as I was old enough I really wanted to see the elephants in the wild. That dream really came true with my one week stay at Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary, and I still have goose bumps just thinking about how fulfilling this experience has been. Four hours drive from the loud city of Chiang Mai, you arrive in the beautiful village of the Karen Hill tribe, from which you can really feel the true and original side of Thailand.
Kerri and Sombat, the founders of the foundation, warmly welcomed us with her amazing staff and interns, Talia, Adam, Aoife and Ellie on our arrival. Each of the interns showed us our home stays and the houses we would live in for the duration of our stays. The home stays are the most incredible people I’ve met, they are from the Packinyaw/Karen Hill-Tribe, and as soon as I arrived they were already taking care of me by planning a tasty dinner which I would cook with them on a little bonfire. It was the best meal of my life- hands down! Every morning, they would put a tasty, freshly prepared lunch in a lunchbox hanging up by my door, and I couldn’t wait to eat it.
There are so many things you can do in the volunteering programs, which is amazing because your day is never the same. From trekking for about an hour or two every morning to get to the elephants then feeding them bananas and taking data for the research for around two hours. While we were taking the data, which you can do as well, you observe the elephants foraging, how they react with one another, see what they eat, as Kerri and the team explain some extraordinary facts about their behaviour or the elephants’ complex minds.
After the beautiful treks, as I said, there are many things that you can do, from hanging out with your home stays, trying to teach English and learn the Packinyaw/Karen language that differs a lot from the Thai language, going to the school in the village to teach English to the kids, getting a Thai massage from a blind guy- best massage in Thailand just saying, for the cheapest price of 100 baht (I gave him 150 just because I had many before and that one was truly the best one I’ve had in my life), going to the village nursery to help the kids, playing with the dogs and cats in the village, well, you will definitely never get bored here!
Overall, in only one week, this is truly a game changer in terms of enjoying all the small moments in life, which back home you would maybe not even notice. I highly recommend staying at least one week, just because for me one was not enough (I’ve already planned my next stay for next year), and every day here is so amazing as you can truly experience the village culture, the life of the elephants, and hanging out with very nice people. All I’ve got to say, is thank you Kerri for making this dream come true, I can’t wait to be back!