This past quarter has seen its share of unique experiences. Two of our GVI volunteers spent seven days studying Buddhism as novice monks, while another spent his time creating a database of new insects, spiders and snakes brought to the area due to the approaching rainy season. The team celebrated World Environment Day with a village-wide litter pick and a pledge to ‘change one thing’ to improve our environment.
Recent donations from the GVI Trust have helped three majestic elephants - Khum Suk, Lulu and Sadja - to stay in their natural habitat during the first half of 2018. Last month saw us meeting with the mahouts to renew elephant contracts, meaning we have all of our elephants (five from the volunteer project and three from the Trust fundraising) in the forest for another two years! Our good relationship with the mahouts and villagers here - based on effective communications and working together - means that our elephant owners are happy to renew their contracts with GVI, giving their elephant a consistently free life in the forest.
A new season allows us to explore new areas on hikes, as the elephants are moving into deeper forest and away from the roads and fields. The times of year and amount of food available dictates where the elephants choose to roam, and it’s very interesting to see the variation in their habitats. Being allowed to roam freely in the forest means they get a varied diet; the data we take on our elephants shows the large variety of food they eat, from banana trees to bamboo to tree bark. Having a huge territory in which to explore means these animals can head to the areas of the forest which have the food they are craving that day!
With a few memorable days recently, most notably World Environment Day, we have tried to become a more eco-friendly hub. To acknowledge the day - the theme being Beat Plastic Pollution - volunteers took part in a village litter pick where we filled a total of 27 bags! The same day, all volunteers made a pledge to ‘change one thing’ to improve their environment. Since then, we have introduced litter picks during our elephant hikes, to provide them and other forest-dwellers with a healthier and safer environment.
After Khum Suk was injured by a falling branch, the villagers turned to our base for medical assistance. No to worry, the elephant is healing up quite nicely. Maybe them seeking us out was due to our Mahout First Aid lessons that started merely weeks before, or from the evolving relationship growing from our evening Mahout English lessons. Our National Scholars-turned-Community Liaisons, Dee and Don, play a huge part in organising and helping out with both of these classes. They are integral to our GVI team, and it is thanks to the Trust’s supporters that we have them both with us.
Two volunteers, being inspired by the local Monks, decided to partake in a seven-day novice Monk-hood study at the Huay Pakoot temple. Our associated fundraiser - raising $290 - inspired other volunteers to learn more about the religion in this area. Proceeds from the Trust, as well as supporting our three elephants in the forest, go towards community efforts such as temple donations; religion is a big part of life here and it’s great that we can also be involved in celebrating and supporting this unique part of their culture.
Our elephants here are pretty special and leave their mark on many of our volunteers. It’s great to see volunteers returning home and continuing to help our elephants through fundraisers for the GVI Trust. A huge thanks has to go to Michelle Bickford who has initiated some very successful fundraisers since returning home earlier this year. In total she has raised well over $2000 for our three Trust elephants! We are always more than happy to assist fundraising efforts in any way we can, and are eternally grateful for people’s support.
The staff team have been coming up with some ideas to raise a little more cash for our elephants. This includes volunteers making some Karen-inspired jewellery using local beads, as well as purchasing t-shirts, postcards and stickers! Our Trust donation box is a big hit as well; with volunteers unleashing their spare change into it before their return home.
The next Trust fundraiser is set to happen in July; we plan to retrace the path of the elephants from Mae Chaem (a town 57km away) back to our village Huay Pakoot. Before motor transportation was readily available, elephants were used to transport supplies and people back and forth from Huay Pakoot and Mae Chaem. For volunteers and staff, it is a 57-kilometre walk, which will take two full days! The goal is to spread awareness and increase appreciation for these gentle giants.
In short, in the last few months we’ve seen a volunteer inspired fundraiser, an increase of biodiversity sighting and projects, an increased relationship between us and the villagers, and continued support from former volunteers and the outside world. The goal for the next quarter is to promote more SDG related projects, host one large fundraiser and continue growth within the community.
With Love and Gratitude,
GVI Chiang Mai