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Testimonial from

In 2014 I made the decision to leave home and have my first big solo adventure. It has always been a dream of mine to travel around the world and work with wildlife, so I felt GVI was a good place to start. Before my month long volunteer trip I’d never been out of my own country (the U.S) alone. I knew this would be a big commitment and I would be completely out of my comfort zone. I didn’t feel nervous until I was dropped off at the airport and all alone for the very first time. The panic set in and I wanted to jump back in my boyfriends jeep and go home. Surprisingly, this feeling lasted about 20 minutes and after that I was ready and confident. (It’s okay to feel nervous, you’ve never done this!) I landed in Thailand after many, many hours of flying and I was so excited. Fast forward through the baggage claim, paperwork and taxi ride, I found myself at the hotel where all the volunteers are told to meet with each other. I spent my day hanging out at the pool and later that day all of the volunteers got to meet for the first time! If I’m being honest, I’m usually a shy person, but everyone (staff & volunteers) were so friendly. It only took a couple days to feel like I knew these people forever which made my trip that much better! Now that we were all acquainted we made our way to the village we’d be staying in, about 4-5 hours away in a village called Huay Pakoot. Each volunteer stays with a homestay family, and they were all so inviting and friendly. The woman I lived with was Ploy and her family, and we spent time together talking about our lives and trying to teach each other our own language. This alone was such an amazing experience and I miss them to this day! The program I volunteered for was an elephant rehabilitation program. The elephants lived in the village we were staying in and everyday except for weekends we spent our time hiking down to spend hours with them. We were always accompanied by GVI staff and mahouts on hikes. As volunteers we learned how to do medical checks on the elephants. I learned that elephants are gentle giants and extremely intelligent animals who LOVE bananas. Aside from the elephant hikes we also had the choice to spend the day with the kids at school or daycare. I spent a lot of time with the younger kids in daycare and we had a blast playing outside, making crafts and learning letters. We also had time to play volleyball and play games with them after school hours. Also, every other weekend you travel out of the village to Chiang Mai which is a big city about 5 hours away. You have the weekend with the other volunteers and staff to see the city and explore. The weekends were also a time to buy any souvenirs you want or snacks to bring back to the village. It’s hard to put into words how this adventure changed me as a person. I met beautiful wildlife and great people. Because of the mahouts, staff and volunteers with GVI, the elephants are given a second chance at the life they deserve. I’m thankful that I was able to be apart of something that is making a difference in these animals lives everyday, and it is an experience I will never forget. I made friends I will never forget, and I have kept in constant contact with a good friend from Canada! This program is a great way to help wildlife, see new places and meet amazing people from all over the world! If you are planning on going on your own adventure with GVI in the future, I hope you have an unforgettable experience! I hope this journal has helped someone understand this group a bit more!