One of the best parts of Hero Holiday trips with Live Different is the ‘building project’. This project will vary depending what trip
you happen to be attending. In Mexico and Dominican Republic you will build a house for a
family, in Haiti you help build a school. The building project in tThailand is a little different. Our volunteers only travel once a year to the children’s home which also receives sustainable funding from other
organizations. This makes a ‘year after year’ project a little more difficult. So, this
year, we built a greenhouse.
A greenhouse, you ask? Your first thought is probably
‘cool’. Then you really think about it and question why, in a place so hot year round,
we would build a greenhouse. Well, this particular greenhouse is almost the
opposite of what we are used to in Canada. Our Canadian greenhouses are
designed to keep heat in, allow in sunlight, etc. The greenhouse we built in
Thailand was thoughtfully composed to keep the sun out. Keeping the sun out
means the plants have an opportunity to grow without being burnt by the hot
rays of sunshine.
A few things make this particular project amazing:
Putting up the netting for the greenhouse!
  1. As volunteers, we were able to see the previous attempts the home took to grow vegetables in the space where the greenhouse was going to be built. It was
    obvious this was a need—a need that was only discovered after their basic needs
    were met. This home has dormitory spaces for the children, a library and
    meditation area, washroom facilities, common areas and a massive
    basketball/random sport court. Once the basic needs were met, the home was able
    to dream about ways to make themselves sustainable and also turn a profit from
    markets. Enter, the greenhouse.
  2. This project required everyone. Teamwork is
    always the best—especially when working on such a beneficial project. The older
    boys helped dig holes and mix cement, the younger kids jumped in on the bucket
    line to transfer said cement to said holes to hold the posts in place, the
    older girls helped stitch the netting/fabric for the top of the
    greenhouse—there was a job for everyone who wanted one! Even the really young
    kids helped plant some seeds so they could begin to sprout! It was only
    with this teamwork the goal was accomplished.
  3. On the last day the home throws an awesome
    Goodbye Party! As part of the farewell they extended an invitation for us to
    return next year and eat the vegetables they will be growing!
It’s amazing how a big vision, paired with driven teamwork, can create something so outstanding!
That same concept is true where we had the surreal
opportunity to ride elephants! Anantara is a super fancy hotel that also has an
elephant and Mahout rescue program. Commonly elephants are kept as street-begging
elephants, are abused and are not kept properly to sustain their long lives. Anantara
rescues not only the elephant, but the mahout as well. An elephants Mahout is
their owner, the individual who has trained them and has done life with
them. This person is valuable to the survival of the elephant. Since elephants
live so long, the mahout is often with the elephant from the beginning! Rescuing both the Mahout and elephant means
the elephant is safe and properly cared for and the mahout and their family
receives a wage, shelter, and education! Anantara even rents the elephants from
the Mahouts for the use at the hotel! It’s such an amazing model that does incredible things to both protect the elephants and the owners families.
Riding elephants is quite the experience! The elephant I
rode is named Lana. She is 28 years old and was a hungry lady! Let me tell you, the last
thing I wanted was a ‘hangry’ elephant so we let her eat! When learning to ride
an elephant you are taught how to mount, commands to move the elephant forward,
backwards, left, right and how to stop. You learn to dismount and then mount
again another way.
Lana and I chilling in the water…. before I became
completely drenched!
After our Elephant 101 crash course it was our turn to mount
the elephants! It was a little scary at first—I mean, these are elephants! They
are massive animals— It is kind of intimidating. However, you get up, do a
little test course having your elephant go around pylons, start and stop, and then we were on our way! We rode the elephants around the amazing property
and even had a little water time with them which resulted in a lot of laughter,
awesome pictures and some extremely soaked volunteers—myself included.
I took this opportunity to chat with the Mahout who owns Lana. He was a lovely gentleman of 35 years old who has owned Lana for over 15
years. He is from Thailand and, while a few other sentiments were
exchanged about how he enjoys being at Anantara, he didn’t know enough English
to understand the other questions I was asking. It was wonderful to know that
our fun was contributing to the sustainability of such an amazing program.
The team of volunteers and their elephants!
It is through experiencing moments, like seeing a greenhouse take shape and riding elephants, we are tangibly shown the good that can come from expanding on potential which exists only once needs are met. To often, after a need is met, the deliverers leave expecting those who have received to easily grow without any further attention. Love, guidance, and encouragement are all needed to continue growth and to reach levels of potential which could have previously been unfathomable.