VOLUNTEER’S BLOG – February 2020


by Volunteer Jess Payne  

When applying to be a Volunteer at Phang Nga Elephant Park, the advertisement states ‘you need to be prepared to work as a team. You also need to be able to multi-task and be very flexible.’ Having worked in Primary Care in the UK as a Healthcare Assistant for the past 5 years I was certain I had relevant experience and the ability to work as part of a team during busy times and under pressure. However, the past three months volunteering at the Park has taught me the true meaning of teamwork. Teamwork triggers creativity and leads to learning, it creates a sense of accomplishment.

I love the authenticity of the Park as family run business. The co-owners Lek and Jake (right) are cousins who were both born and raised in Southern Thailand. Lek’s main priority is the health, husbandry and welfare of the elephants at the Park; he works tirelessly with the kwan-changs (elephant keepers) daily to establish a trusting relationship with each elephant and so provides them with a stable and hugely knowledgeable figure to rely on and have around.

Jake ensures the smooth running of the business on a day to day basis such as caring for the guests, bookings, transfers, promotion, finances, etc.

The kwan-changs regularly retrieve pineapple leaves from a local farm to feed their elephants, they all go together in a big truck and always return with big smiles on their faces. I also recently witnessed them all joining in to lift a shrine at the Park to enable a builder to lay cement underneath.

The team stretches greater than this however, and there are many staff working behind the scenes who should not be forgotten. P’Ban is employed to provide refreshments for guests, to help with cooking, cleaning and she picks the butterfly pea flower from the jungle every morning then uses it to make the traditional welcome drink called ‘Anchan’ that we provide for guests. Always smiling, P’Ban has become a motherly figure for many Volunteers as she goes above and beyond for everybody, for example, she clips my finger and toe nails regularly, washes and irons my clothes, buys us surprise snacks and she even took myself and a fellow Volunteer Alex for a manicure at a local salon.

Work pace improves with teamwork.’ When we receive a banana delivery at the Park, everybody jumps in to help, as you can see pictured here. At PNEP I have discovered that no task is ever too much effort for anybody and that is why Phang Nga Elephant Park runs so efficiently. To be a team is one thing, but for every employee to put in a joint effort with high spirits is the true meaning of teamwork.

It has been an incredibly humbling experience, a joy to witness and a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with these amazing people.