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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Volunteers' Stories

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DEBORAH WELLAM
British

The Elephant Experience Voluntary Project at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka
         

Wow! Where do I start? Everything about this particular placement is amazing. I can honestly say I enjoyed every bit of my elephant adventure, from cleaning the sheds in the morning to watching the elephants bathe at the river in the afternoons to the fun and laughter enjoyed by the volunteers in the evenings.

I feel I have gained confidence in myself just by deciding to take on this adventure alone! I had never travelled alone before let alone to a country as far away as Sri-Lanka.

I also now have a greater knowledge and appreciation of elephants. Watching them bathe every afternoon is like watching mischievous children in the playground and a sight I will never forget.

I would recommend this placement to anyone of any age. Any person with a love of elephants would find this project amazing (Over 30’s – don’t think this is just for students, anyone from 18 – 80 would enjoy this project.

Can you describe a typical day?

A typical day starts with all the volunteers meeting round the table to a breakfast of either pancakes or rotti’s and toast all provided by the live-in cook Chandanna (not sure how to spell his name!). The mini-bus arrives at 8.30, you all pick up your rubber-gloves and put your trainers on, these are left outside for reasons that will become apparent if you choose to volunteer for this project!

The journey to the orphanage takes about 20 minutes and the walk to the Philadelphia Sheds is different every day, sometimes there is 100’s of school children waving and saying hello to you, often there are some tourists who stop and ask what being a volunteer involves, sometimes you have a quick chat with the mahoots or just gaze in wonder at the site of over 70 elephants just roaming around without a care in the world!

There’s no point in saying the cleaning of the sheds is not hard work. It is. But it is all worth it, the shed cleaners are all funny and friendly and if your lucky they might even find you a hair from an elephants tail which is supposed to be lucky!

Back to the house at Kegalle for a well needed shower and lunch, before heading back to the orphanage to watch the elephants take their walk to the river to bathe. This is a sight you will never tire of. The sight of 70 elephants making their way down the road to the river is just awesome.

The Chief Mahoot is an extremely interesting and knowledgeable man and sometimes you can sit with the mahoots and they will let you wash the elephants. He taught us all the elephant commands! Not that the ellies took any notice of us, apparently it takes 15 years or more for an elephant to learn all the commands.

The option is always there for you to go down to another part of the river and wash Raja the blind elephant. For me he was the most majestic of all the elephants at the orphanage. He is gorgeous! He goes down to a different part of the river with his friend Pondula. When the elephants return to the orphanage you may get the opportunity to feed the babies at feeding time.

Dinner time at the house is a lively time with all the volunteers regaling stories of their day. I was initially worried about living on rice and curry for 3 weeks but I needn’t, the food is fantastic. It’s all healthy and Chandanna is always open to suggestions.

Evening times at the house are usually quiet but enjoyable affairs, with volunteers chatting over a glass of wine and eating sweets and crisps bought from the local supermarket ‘Cargills’ before tucking their mozzy net under their mattress and drifting off to sleep wondering what adventure the next day will bring......

More Information about your Trip with Travellers

List of ALL PROJECTS in Sri Lanka
PINAWALA ELEPHANT EXPERIENCE Project
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The wonderful house boys who will cook your delicious meals!