This Fourth of July, Isabelle Knezevic wasn’t at the beach or watching fireworks. She was half a world away, in the Hoi Ya tribal village in the jungle an hour outside of Pai, Thailand. She’d arrived in Thailand only days earlier, and would spend her first week living and working in the jungle among the tribes of Hoi Ya.
Teaching English, planting trees, and painting a school were just some of the ways that Isabelle was able to help the village. In return, she learned to plant rice and had plenty of time to get to know the children of Hoi Ya and share stories with them.
Isabelle traveled to Thailand with Loop Abroad, a summer and spring break program based in Boston that arranges trips for American high school students to visit and volunteer in Southeast Asia. Students lived in the jungle for one week of cultural exchange with the village while they studied some of the many challenges conservation efforts in Thailand face today.
For the next two weeks, Isabelle and the rest of the students lived in the city of Chiang Mai and filled their days with cultural and environmental experiences, including an overnight trek and a visit to a tiger sanctuary to interact with tiger cubs and discuss the pros and cons of different models of conservation.
The students, from high schools all over the country, spent the final week of their trip living as volunteers at the Elephant Nature Park (“ENP”), a world-renowned conversation effort in Northern Thailand home to approximately 40 rescued elephants. The elephants there have been saved from abuse in the trekking or logging industries and now are allowed to form their own herds and live safely and naturally. The ENP depends on volunteers to care for these animals. Weekly volunteers feed and bathe the elephants, provide medical care, perform other necessary chores, and fund the elephants’ care and feeding through their donations.
Isabelle will be a senior at Dobbs
Ferry High School this year. Loop Abroad is currently accepting students for summer 2014. Financial aid is available.