Written in Oct 2016
It has been nearly six months now since myself and my hill-tribe partner Sombat set-up our very own elephant project and non-profit foundation “Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary” and it has defiantly been a bumpy and busy journey.
From announcing our plans, to fundraising for the set-up, walking our elephants through the forest for three days to bring them home and marketing our project to bring in visitors and volunteers (something I had no previous experience of), my life, as well as the elephant’s lives of course, has been turned around in a very short time.
One of the biggest hard-ships for us is getting our name out there to be able to find enough visitors and volunteers to both help us out with our projects as well as to cover the costs of keeping our elephants. There are now many elephant camps in the Chiang Mai area who are able to gain a lot of customers a day as they are close to the city and claim to be ethical but in reality are not being very truthful with their visitors and do not take the safety of their staff and mahouts seriously – making it difficult for a project such as ours who educate on the true reality to survive. However, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing our bookings slowly increase as the want from tourists changes and the shift towards a more ethical experience becomes more dominant.
The set-up and running our project would not have been possible without the support from our staff, friends, family and members of the public – something we will be forever thankful for. What did surprise me most during our journey over the last few months was some scepticism from members of the public as well as a few people we know working in the industry who unfortunately see us as competition and not as another organisation working towards the same goal by giving elephants a better life – taking the highs with the lows is something we learnt very quickly that we will have to deal with on a regular basis.
Despite the hard-ships, the downs and the sleepless nights, spending time in the forest with our elephants and watching them free roaming through our huge jungle, playing, socialising and rolling in the mud together as well as bringing people out to learn more about our project and elephants makes all the hard work behind the pretty pictures completely worth
it. Myself, Sombat, our mahouts, our staff, our community and our elephants have all had our lives changed for the better and we can’t wait to continue our roller coaster ride.
If you are interested in volunteering, doing an internship with a difference or spending a couple of days appreciating the wild side of an elephants life then check out Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary