Giving Back to the Elephants in Thailand

Daphne Siriopoulos, Senior School Student
Over the March break, 15 students, accompanied by Ms Popp and Mr. Csinos, were fortunate enough to be able to take part in the annual service trip with World Challenge which, this year, went to Thailand. To say it was an amazing experience would be an understatement. We were able to bond through new experiences, learn about the world away from home, and we learned a lot about ourselves. From managing our own money to figuring out where we would be eating and sleeping, we quickly learned all the responsibilities we would have to take on.

We landed in Bangkok and after a day there we headed up to Chiang Mai where we would start our 2-day trek – 13km uphill one day and 12km down the next day. That experience was very difficult and probably one of the hardest things we had ever done in our lives. After our trek, we went to Elephant Nature Park where we were able to start our service. We learned all of the horrible truths that go on behind the scenes of many tourist attractions focused around elephants, and how they were abused. Fortunately, there are people like Lek, the park’s founder, who are caring and who have dedicated their lives to save elephants from these tourist attractions. Lek and the volunteers at the park managed to save about 70 elephants. Over the course of a few days, we provided service by bathing elephants, preparing food and cleaning up the elephant dung.

After spending several days at the park, we went to another reserve called Journey to Freedom which is a small village home to 7 elephants. There, we were able to get close to the elephants and also have some time to reflect on our trip thus far. The following days were our rest days where we spent time sightseeing the cities of Chiang Mai and Bangkok, exploring the nightlife as well as visiting the beautiful temples that are unique to Thailand.

This trip was an incredible opportunity that I would recommend to anyone looking for the challenge. The experience strengthened us as individuals and as young adults. We now have a memory that will last us a lifetime. Being able to see how other people around the world live their lives is an eye-opening experience, especially since we were completely immersed in the true culture of Thailand.