By Gitte Bornak – 1 week volunteer
After a lot of research online looking for a legit volunteer project, we found this very special place in the jungle in the North of Thailand, Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary. The rescue sanctuary is placed in the small village called Naklang, where the founder Kerri and her husband Sombat live in a small and big hearted community.
My husband, my two kids (11 and 13 years old) and I stayed with one of the village families for 6 days as part of a volunteer program. That included observation of the elephants in their natural habitat. (To find them we had a 5-10 km hike every morning, although this changes throughout the year.) We also took part in the school project, garden project and other activities which the sanctuary does for the village.
To see the elephants enjoying their freedom in the jungle was absolutely amazing but in a way also heartbreaking knowing that so many other elephants are earning their food in tourist camps. It is a very complicated situation as all the elephants has been passed down through families for many generations, so in order to help the elephants you need to support the low income elephant families whose lives are dependent on the income from their elephant.
The Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary has so far managed to release 5 elephants back in to the nature which means they now support 5 families for not earning money on an elephant anymore.
It is a struggle for the sanctuary to get enough money in to support those families and the crisis we are facing now is making it almost impossible as no volunteers are traveling now. Furthermore they had to close the small village to protect the society as the virus would be a disaster for them.
When we are all allowed to travel again I hope that I can encourage people to visit this place and take part of the volunteer program, either alone or with your family. If you have older kids (from 18 years old) they can join the intern program and stay and have an experience of their life for 2 to 3 month. Two of the girls we met stayed 3 years because they loved the work and the people in Naklang.
Meanwhile I hope that some of you will support the sanctuary. This is a real and very special place and they live for this project and their dream to return more elephants to the jungle in Thailand.
Besides taking part of the daily routines, we did a cooking class with the locals and my daughter took a weaving course and she also spend a day at the local School assisting with english classes. It was a beautiful and learning experience and a true eye opener for all of us. Especially our kids, who had a different kind of holiday, but they both said it was one of the best experiences ever and we will definitely go back one day.