by Jane Stine
This summer, Brittany Diaz, 19, of Flower Mound spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian.
Traveling with the Boston-based group Loop Abroad, Diaz was part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter and then spent a week working directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.
The veterinary service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside a staff veterinarian. For one week, students volunteer at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The shelter is home to over 100 dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten or abused. While the dogs can be adopted, any who aren’t will be cared for by the shelter for their whole lives.
While they learned what it’s like to be a veterinarian, students made a difference in the lives of these dogs. By providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs.
The group also spent one week at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand to work hands-on with the animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.
The park is home to over 40 elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced breeding programs. Many of them have been abused and suffer from chronic injuries.
At the Elephant Nature Park, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Students were able to feed, bathe and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet.
The park is also home to over 400 dogs and 100 cats, as well as rabbits and water buffalo, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Diaz
“This was truly a once in a lifetime experience!” Diaz said. “The opportunity to work with elephants to learn about new cultures and to help the people and animals of Thailand is something I will always cherish.”
Loop Abroad has programs for students and young adults ages 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help to make their trips accessible to the greatest number of students.
Diaz is a student at Texas A&M University majoring in Biomedical Science.
Jane Stine is managing editor for Loop Abroad.