Volunteer Work Abroad - Animal Welfare Center in Thailand
Volunteering on Koh Lanta in Thailand was one of the highlights of my travels. I had heard about the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare Center and knew that I had to be a part of their mission. Helping to rehabilitate homeless, hurt and neglected street animals like dogs and cats, the welfare center gives them a home and helps them get adopted by people from all over world.
Arriving on Koh Lanta felt quite normal as I had already been living in Thailand for seven months. However, I immediately took a liking to it as the island is quite unique. Unlike the other Thai islands, Koh Lanta is not a hub for tourism and parties. Instead, it is full of open beaches, a handful of quirky restaurants and cafes and more low key parties that occur on the beaches in the evenings. Between its laid back atmosphere, stunning natural scenery and rich culture, Koh Lanta was an easy place to call home for a while.
Joining the volunteer staff at the animal shelter wasn’t as intimidating as I thought either. The other staff members were extremely welcoming and open to us newcomers, making us feel comfortable right away. The first few days were spent shadowing others, watching how they handled the animals and carried out their daily duties. I learned how to keep the living spaces clean and set up to accommodate the different animals and also how to keep track of them as they were let loose for play time. I was shown how to handle visitors who came for the day to play with the animals, and how to pair those visitors with dogs to walk too. About a week into my training, I was also shown how the adoption process worked both domestically and to people who wanted to take the animals back to their home countries.
After the initial training, things went quite smoothly. I felt comfortable in all of my duties and took great pride in doing something nice for the animals. They were sweet and easy to fall in love with, making it hard not to want to adopt them all. I became close friends with the other volunteers and it felt great to learn and give back to the community with new and interesting people. When we weren’t volunteering, groups of us would hang out in our free time; usually going to the beach, shopping in the markets and hanging out at the beach bars during some of the evenings. It was such a rewarding community to be involved in and friendships were made easily since we already had something in common.
The most difficult part of volunteering was seeing the abused or sick animals. Even though we were helping them, it was difficult for me to see such innocent and defenceless creatures in pain at the hands of local people who didn’t want them around. However, I stayed strong, did my best to help and found that once the experience was over, I was a more resilient person because of it.
Shannon is an American travel blogger and writer who has backpacked around Europe, lived out of a van in New Zealand, taught English in Asia, lived in a Balinese bungalow and road tripped all around the United States. You can follow her adventures at Lives Abroad or visit her on Facebook for updates and inspiration.