Anna Bishop is a native of Mississippi, USA and loves to travel as well as volunteer. She is a nurse by profession and has volunteered in different projects in USA itself. Anna volunteered in the Elephant Camp Volunteer Project outside Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand in October 2012.In her interview Anna tells us why she chose to volunteer with Volunteering Solutions, her day to day activities as a volunteer and her advise for future volunteers.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Volunteering Solutions in Thailand ?
I remember sitting on my bed searching for trips to take. I was itching to get away, help something or someone, and have a great time while I was doing it. One click led to another, and before I knew it I had found Elephant Camp in Thailand through Volunteering Solutions. I was completely enthralled with the idea and was determined to volunteer there. Working with big, strong, healthy elephants was so appealing to me because it is completely different than what I do day in and day out as a pediatric intensive care nurse. This trip for me was a retreat to be refreshed and rejuvenated - and that it was.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Everyday we would wake up at 5:45, walk to our elephant's stall, sweep it, then ride him to the river for his morning bath. There is no cooler way to start your day! After the bathe we would eat breakfast then start our daily chores, which include any of the following: making/packing the elephants vitamins, helping out with the Elephant shows, selling the Elephants' paintings to the tourists, or helping out the ladies in the kitchen. After lunch we would have some down time to hang out with other volunteers or our own elephants and bond with them. In the evening we would bathe our elephants in the river again and take one last right before the day was over. Dinner followed the evening bath, and sleeping hard every night was never an issue! On the weekends we were back in the city to stay at the volunteer house where you can meet even more amazing people who are volunteering in other projects. You are free to travel/explore the city before you go back to the camp Monday morning.
What made this volunteer experience unique and special?
This volunteer experience is unlike any you will ever have because I can't think of another place you can actually bond with such an amazing, huge animal! I did not choose this project because I am obsessed with elephants or anything, but after I got back I have the greatest appreciation for them and their caregivers. These animals are so loving and smart. One of my favorite parts about this experience was getting to do it with people I didn't know beforehand. There were 7 of us. All from different countries, different backgrounds, different beliefs - but we had/have one common thread - we shared this trip of a lifetime together, and we will always be connected in that way.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
As I said before, I loved experiencing this with people I didn't know beforehand. A huge reason I loved that is because of how much I learned about myself through them. Taking yourself completely out of your comfort zone and surrounding yourself with complete strangers will really force you to look in the mirror! I saw things I was proud of, and I also saw things I didn't like and need to improve on. It was more than a growing experience - everyone should develop independence - it's a healthy thing.
Any advice for the volunteers looking to come to Thailand.
I would advise you to sign up ASAP! Don't wait any longer. Thailand is extremely safe, the people are very happy and friendly, the food is amazing, the scenery is beautiful, and the cost is low. You will be taught what you need to know of their language - that was never an issue for me. I would advise you also to pack lighter than you think you should. I brought way too much with me. Be flexible, laid back, and ready to meet awesome people. You will return to your country different than when you left.