High school student helping elephants in Thailand

Barbara Hootman

Anna Evans, a rising junior at Owen High School, is planning to spend two weeks in Thailand working with rescued elephants in late June. The 16-year-old is passionate about elephants and plans to become a veterinarian.

Anna is participating in a high school veterinary service program called Loop Abroad which will take her to northern Thailand to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. The program is for students 14 to 18 years old students. Groups are limited to 12 students. Each participant has to want to become a veterinarian or work professionally with animals.

“I was in the eighth grade when I knew for sure that I wanted to be a veterinarian,” Anna said.

“Even when she was a small child her dolls were left unnoticed, but her stuffed toys were always in her stroller,” Anna’s mother Susan Evans said.

The tuition for the program is $3,850 and doesn’t include the $1,895 roundtrip airfare. To help raise money for the trip, Anna has crafted small clay animals to sell. She sells them from a table outside Artisan Gourmet Market at 2 E. Market St. in Black Mountain. Each animal required at least an hour to make. So far, they have brought Anna $790.

Her mother said the benefits of the trip outweigh the risks.

“I worry about Anna’s safety, and about the trip requiring international travel with so much danger,” she said. “I also worry about her safety with food and water while abroad. She still has to take a typhoid vaccine. There will be lots of prayers going with her.”

Anna has never traveled abroad before and is excited about experiencing another culture.

“I am taking classes now to learn to speak the Thai language,” she said. “I am excited about learning about Thai culture and foods.”

Although she loves elephants, she does not want to limit her helping animals to just one species. She plans to study veterinarian medicine so she can help all animals.

“I am passionate about elephants, but I want to be able to help dogs, cats, and exotics as well,” she said. “I want to do pro bono work for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue.”

The high school veterinarian program consists of working for two weeks with on-site veterinarians to take care of rescued dogs and elephants. The first week will be spent working to provide care for rescued dogs at the ARK (Animal Rescue Kingdom) Dog Shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The students will get hands-on experience in providing health care for rescued dogs.

The second week will be spent at Elephant Nature Park with a herd of elephants. The park provides a natural environment for elephants, dogs, cats, buffaloes and numerous other animals. The students will live close to the animals and help provide medical and personal care for them. They will work with veterinarians to provide check-ups, perform skin tests, take blood samples and observe medical procedures.

The students will be able to help prepare medicines and food and clean out where the elephants live.

“We will also get to help wash the elephants,” Anna said. “I’ve never been close to an elephant. More than 65 elephants have been rescued from circuses, from being held illegally as pets, and abused. They can never be returned to the wild.”

The Elephant Nature Park works only with female elephants, and each elephant is accompanied by at least one trained caretaker at all times.

The students will have classroom lessons each day reviewing what they need to know to carry out each day’s assignments.

There will be market trips and outings into the city of Chiang Mai, whose history dates back to the 1200s.

Anna needs the community’s help in raising the money to participate. She has a Go Fund Me account - gofundme.com/244y4tg. You may make a donation directly to Loop Abroad and it will go toward Anna’s costs if her name is listed on the payment. Mail to Loop Abroad, 207 Franklin Street, Wrentham, MA 02093.

“Anna has achieved a 4.75 GPA (grade point average),” Susan Evans said. “I’m very proud of her.”

“I do work hard and try to never do anything halfway,” Anna said.