By James Lee (3 week volunteer)
Since arriving at Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary I’ve met incredibly generous Karen village people and staff who are very welcoming and making my stay stress-free. The local Karen hosts really treat you like an honoured guest, and although for me I was worried about the language barrier you quickly pick up phrases, the Karen people also know some English and if all else fails staff are always there to help you so nothing’s lost in translation.
The location itself is worth the drive out here, a river when I’m too hot (although it’s hot season so I’m yet to get too cold), an elephant hike sometimes less than an hour to see the majestic Asian elephant, and a few shops for snacks in-between lunch and dinner in the unlikely chance lunch hasn’t filled you up.
I have taught English in my first, second and now third week here each time teaching the adults. The adults pick English up so quick, some I have taught are not far from fluent English and those who are not quite there enjoy learning and really immersing themselves into the language. During the lessons you don’t feel out of your depth, translating words from numerous specific vocabulary categories these range from nature and animals to clothing and general phrases encompassing a wide field, going over usually 3 or 4 categories a lesson focusing on the understanding and pronunciation.
The lesson is laid back enough so there’s no pressure on either side whilst both sides feel like they’re educating and being educated. For someone who perhaps doesn’t pick up language too quickly this lesson helped me remember key Pakinyaw phrases, and help me communicate with my homestay and the many smiling Karen people around the village.
In each of the 3 lessons the effort to teach is always present, but almost always laughter will emerge from a teacher not exactly pronouncing the Pakinyaw word correctly, sometimes meaning they’ve said a phrase that makes no sense at all or has nothing to do with the topic being taught. Other times an accent has been copied almost exactly, so an Australian, American or English accent spoken from a Karen person usually brings laughter to the room.
All in all, I would some up Kindred Spirit as an out of this world experience. When you have the right people in a place striving for the care of Elephants, a species that need help more than ever in this rapidly changing world, it makes you happy that places like this exist, and it makes me happy I’ve visited such a place.