48 hour Survival Sleep-out!
Last weekend, GVI staff and volunteers slept out in the forest for 2 days to raise money for the Song Kran fund. The Song Kran fund hopes to gain money to put mahouts through ethical elephant training and raise money to build a clinic for elephants in the village in case there’s any emergency. GVI staff and volunteers asked friends and family to donate to the cause via social media.
A major point of the sleep out was learning to take care of ourselves at our makeshift base in the forest; cooking surviving at our home in the forest. However, the mahouts don’t seem to think we, as volunteers, can do anything right and they ended up doing a lot of the things we wanted to try to do ourselves! However, each opportunity the volunteers observed what the mahouts were doing. We watched Jordoh make bamboo cups and bamboo spoons and then all the volunteers took turns trying to make a bamboo spoon. For a while, the mahouts left and when Jordoh came back, he threw all the spoons the volunteers made away and made a new set; so at least we can say we tried even though they were not mahout approved spoons. Boon Chew and Suhwit loaned us their machetes to make bamboo cups. And Dee laid out a tarp for us to sleep on.
Volunteers had a little more success cooking. A few volunteers were actually able to keep a fire going and Friday, when we arrived in the forest, we managed to make a lunch of mashed potatoes and noodles for ourselves and Dee and Jordoh; they seemed a little wary of the mashed potatoes. However, with the exception of making fried rice on Saturday, the mahouts cooked all our meals; not that anyone was complaining because we got to eat Dee’s pumpkin and the mahouts made us chicken. After cooking each time, the mahouts tried to take the dishes down to the river to wash but all volunteers managed to hold them off in the task.
One of the unforeseen highlights of the sleep out was how much time we got to spend with the mahouts; even though from their standpoint they probably thought they were babysitting us. Friday night, all, if not most, of the mahouts were with us in the forest for dinner; a few left a few hours later after hiking to go to bed in the village. So at least we can say we slept out in the forest when some of the mahouts will not. The mahouts who did sleep in the forest with us slept around the campfire. We all had fun drinking hot chocolate with the mahouts and having them teach us how to properly use a slingshot.
All in all, the sleep out was a success. No one got hurt and we got to, at least, observe some survival skills the mahouts displayed on our sleep out. It wasn’t quite what we planned for but what in life is ever what we think it will be?
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