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Category: Volunteer Vacations in Thailand
Volunteer Vacations: Be Part of the Solution
Kimberly Haley-Coleman

Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman

Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman was offered the opportunity to explain the attraction of volunteer vacations with Globe Aware to Perrault magazine readers. Kimberly uses her not-for-profit company’s Thailand destination to illustrate her points.

READ THE ARTICLE – perreault_magazine_March_2015

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Volunteer travelers battle Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade

Every year tens of thousands of dogs are inhumanely transported from Thailand to neighbouring countries where they are butchered for their meat. The Soi Dog Foundation and the Thai government are actively working to end this brutal and cruel practice. This story by by correspondent Tibor Krausz in The Christian Science Monitor relates the work of a retired British couple to put an end to the practice. The author also acknowledges the work done by Globe Aware volunteers and volunteer travelers to help Thai elephants.

John and Gill Dalley battle Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade

The British couple moved to Thailand to retire. But when they learned of the illegal capture and torture of dogs, their plans changed.

Buriram Province, Thailand — You hear them before you see them. From inside seven well-equipped enclosures at an animal sanctuary within a remote forest in rural Buriram Province comes a canine cacophony of barks, woofs, and yelps. The spacious runs are home to some 1,500 dogs – young and old; big and small; white, tan, brown, spotted, blotched, dappled, and black. They loll in the shade, bicker over chew toys, or leap about, tails wagging, as visitors approach.

John Dalley (second from r.) relaxes with Soi Dog Foundation staffers and dogs rescued from Thailand's illegal dog meat trade.

John Dalley (second from r.) relaxes with Soi Dog Foundation staffers and dogs rescued from Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade.

Until recently a terrible fate awaited all these dogs: They were destined for dinner tables. In Thailand’s clandestine dog meat trade countless dogs – pets and strays alike – have been seized from streets and outside homes by criminal gangs that cater to vendors and restaurants selling canine meat from Thailand to Vietnam.

John Dalley will have none of that. The retired chemical engineer from Leeds, England, and his wife, Gill, a former bank employee, set up the Soi Dog Foundation in 2003 on the tropical island of Phuket in southern Thailand, where the couple had just relocated for their retirement.
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“We had a dog back home, but I wasn’t particularly involved with animal rights,” recalls Mr. Dalley, a lanky, cordial man. “But you see these dogs [in Thailand] suffer, and you want to do something to help them.”
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So they do. The animals here owe their lives to the Dalleys. Their charity has built a canine shelter with treatment and adoption areas. It pays for its operating costs through donations from Soi Dog’s global network of supporters.

The nonprofit has helped rescue thousands of dogs from being slaughtered. In the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon, a hot spot for the underground dog meat trade, Soi Dog pays rewards to locals for tips on dog thieves and works with local police in arresting them.

The charity also has its own task force, which has intercepted dozens of trucks with cargoes of stolen dogs bound for Vietnam’s booming canine meat markets. The unit has also uncovered illegal butchers, tanneries, and holding centers, shutting them down and freeing scores of dogs.

According to the Thai Veterinary Medical Association, half a million Thai dogs were smuggled to Vietnam and China in 2011. Today the number is no more than one-third of that.

“The numbers are down. We’re winning,” Dalley says. “But we have a long way to go yet.”

To evade capture, the criminal gangs have changed their tactics. They used to transport dogs on torturous journeys across borders in cramped poultry cages without food or water, or hidden in sacks under their trucks’ false floors. Not anymore.

“With the last two trucks we’ve caught, all the dogs had already been butchered with their meat placed in iceboxes,” laments Varaporn Jittanonta, a nurse who works as Soi Dog’s relief coordinator. She’s standing beside kennels of young rescuees earmarked for adoption. Recently, four dogs from Buriram – easygoing Malt, bouncy Midnight, mischievous Sam, and affectionate Paige – were taken for adoption in the United States by the Virginia-based A Forever Home Rescue Foundation.

Yet successes in some areas come with setbacks in others. The drive spearheaded by Soi Dog to curb the cross-border dog meat trade has driven up demand for live dogs in Vietnam where thieves, often armed, scour villages and towns for unguarded pets.

“Dog thieves like to target pets because, unlike strays, they’re friendly and approachable,” Dalley notes. “Pets also command better prices [at meat markets] because they’re healthy and well fed.”

In areas where dog meat is considered a delicacy, such as Thailand’s Sakon Nakhon Province and Hanoi, Vietnam, curbside food stalls sell roasted dogs and entire eateries specialize in dog meat dishes. The animals’ skins often end up being used in leather goods, including golf gloves exported to the West.

“There are a lot of weird beliefs about dog meat,” Dalley observes. “In Vietnam people like to eat it in winter because they consider it a warming dish. In [South] Korea they eat it in summer because they see it as a cooling dish. In Cambodia some men believe they gain virility from eating black dogs.”

In Sakon Nakhon, a kilo (2.2 pounds) of dog meat jerky costs about 300 baht ($9) – the daily wages of a laborer. “It’s a luxury food,” the Englishman notes.

“I abhor this trade because of the shocking cruelty involved in it,” he says. No effort is made to ensure humane treatment of dogs before slaughter. In fact, the killing methods used can be intentionally brutal – still-conscious animals are often beaten or burned. Some in the trade believe the release of adrenalin in a frightened animal enhances the flavor of dog meat.

Recently, comedian Ricky Gervais, actress Judi Dench, and other British celebrities joined Soi Dog’s petition against Thailand’s “dark secret,” endorsing the animal charity’s campaign in an online viral video. The move helped to put pressure on Thai lawmakers, whom Dalley has long been lobbying for more stringent animal welfare laws – or rather, for any meaningful legislation at all. Until recently, people who abused or maltreated animals faced only a small fine (the equivalent of $30).

Then last December, after consultation with him and other animal rights advocates, Thailand’s parliament finally passed the country’s first Animal Welfare Bill, which has increased penalties to a maximum of two years in prison and 40,000 baht (around $1,200) in fines.

Yet for Dalley the new law has been a Pyrrhic victory: Despite his advice, Thai lawmakers failed to ban the slaughter of non-livestock animals for their meat and skin. “The only way to measure a law’s effectiveness is to see how it affects the level of crime it’s meant to stop,” he says diplomatically. “We’ll see.”

But it isn’t just dogs threatened by meat traders that need the Dalleys’ help; many others do, too. Soi Dog provides emergency and veterinary care for abandoned pets and feeds hundreds of strays on the streets and at Buddhist temples.

The Dalleys also run a shelter and adoption center for some 400 dogs on their tourist island. Most arrive malnourished and diseased. Thanks to round-the-clock care from several veterinarians, dozens of other paid staff, and volunteers, hundreds of neglected and discarded dogs have made remarkable recoveries.

The couple also has had to overcome pain and sorrow. In October 2004, a stray dog, groggy from being tranquilized for a neutering procedure, fled into a boggy water buffalo field. To save him from drowning, Ms. Dalley waded in after him. Within days, however, she developed a serious bacterial infection. Eventually both her legs were amputated below the knee.

Then on Dec. 26 that same year a devastating Indian Ocean tsunami ravaged much of Phuket, claiming the life, among thousands of others, of a close friend of Gill’s who had been helping her save dogs.

“I went into shock for 24 hours,” she recalls. A day later, though, using a wheelchair, she was out and about in the island’s worst-affected area helping counsel relatives of victims and tending to displaced dogs languishing without food and shelter.

She now uses prostheses to get around.

“As I was learning to walk again, I thought of the dogs that still needed my help,” Gill says. “Pure joy for me is changing an animal’s life.”

Her husband isn’t slowing down, either.

“I was going to spend my retirement in Thailand playing golf and diving,” John says. “Instead, in all my time here I’ve gone diving once and never swung a club. But one thing I want to do before I die is to end the dog meat trade.”

How to take action

  • Universal Giving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations around the world. All the projects are vetted by Universal Giving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause. Below are links to the Soi Dog Foundation and Globe Aware, two organizations that protect animals in Thailand:
  • The mission of the Soi Dog Foundation is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Thailand, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities. Take action: Here are three Soi Dog Foundation programs seeking help. Support efforts to rescue dogs from the dog meat trade. Volunteer to help street dogs and cats. Donate $30 to give a stray animal medical treatment.
  • Globe Aware promotes sustainability, helping communities prosper without relying on outside aid. Take action: Volunteer to help elephants in Thailand.
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Globe Aware: A season for Asian travel

Globe Aware was featured in a June, 2011 spotlight in the International Herald Tribune:

For students longing to take time off before starting college or university or working people who would like a complete change from their daily occupation, taking a ‘‘gap year’’ can be a rewarding, lifechanging experience, especially if the time is spent volunteering.

Teaching English, for example, is a huge help in poor communities in Asia and requires little training. Other projects may include sports coaching, community building projects and working with handicapped children.

According to studies by such leading universities as Harvard, students who take a year off before college are more focused and motivated when they begin their studies than those who don’t.

Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization based in Texas, organizes volunteer programs around the world.

‘‘Gap-year volunteering broadens horizons, strengthens résumés and brings the kind of perspective that can change lives,’’ says Catherine Greenberg, its vice president of volunteer communications. ‘‘Kids who volunteer internationally realize how fortunate they are and gain insight into what’s truly important in life — not money or greed or luxury items, but community, compassion and hard work.’’ Each project aims to promote cultural awareness and/or sustainability. Cultural awareness, explain the organizers, means learning to appreciate a culture but not changing it.

‘‘By promoting volunteerism,’’ says Greenberg, ‘‘we’re promoting active civic engagement in disadvantaged communities in an exciting and different way.’’ Combining travel with volunteering has become popular enough that a conference on ‘‘voluntourism’’ will be held June 28 in Denver, Colorado.

‘‘This is the first time there has been a conference held that focuses solely on voluntourism,’’ says its organizer, Alexia Nestora.

Subject matter for the conference will include the economic impact of voluntourism, how it has evolved and how to create sustainable projects, as well as industry sessions on subjects such as the marketing of volunteer travel.

Nestora is a consultant on the industry Though the company is American, Asian students participate, too.

WLS International is a London-based organizer of volunteer-abroad projects that focuses on Asia, specifically Cambodia, China, Nepal, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Volunteering abroad, says the company, is a way to make travel meaningful and have a simple, affordable vacation. Many of its projects attract those taking a gap year.

Ben Mattress, a young volunteer from Australia, says his weeklong project teaching English to young children in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was a life-changing experience.

The children are ‘‘so happy and eager to learn, and very smart,’’ says Mattress, adding that he is eager to volunteer there again. An added benefit of this project is its location at the gateway to the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Young people may spend several weeks or months abroad, but will certainly return with experiences that will last a lifetime.

Says Greenberg of Global Aware: ‘‘If our local young people can benefit from this experience, it’s one vital step toward reshaping our culture to be more green, more responsible and more caring.’’ and writes the blog Voluntourism Gal. She says that the industry has been very competitive and that conference participants ‘‘are showing their willingness to move into an era of cooperation that can only better serve the sometimes-at-risk and always needy populations where our collective projects are concentrated.’’ In Globe Aware’s Laos program, volunteers have the opportunity to work with orphans and schoolchildren in Luang Prabang.

In a weeklong program, participants work with local monks and perform such tasks as teaching English, assembling wheelchairs from recycled parts and distributing them to the needy, distributing books and helping to repair schools. There is also free time to visit the temples, Buddhist caves and waterfalls of this charming Unesco World Heritage site.

Adventures Cross-Country, a Californiabased youth-travel company, has been leading volunteer programs for gap-year students for nearly 30 years. Its Asia Gap Semester, for example, takes students to China, Thailand and Tibet, and includes such activities as helping mahouts and biologists rehabilitate elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, and teaching English to Chinese and Thai students, some of whom have never met Westerners.

 

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CNN wants your Globe Aware volunteer vacation story & pictures

volunteer-vacations-peruA great opportunity to share your  volunteer vacation of a lifetime with CNN.

A May 25, 2010 CNN.com feature titled “Trips of a Lifetime” asked readers whether they have ever volunteered on holiday:

(CNN) — If you’re the kind of person who’s happiest spending your two weeks off helping to look after elephants in Thailand or working for free on an organic farm in New Zealand, then perhaps you’ve been on a volunteer vacation.

More people than ever before are going on volunteer vacations, also known as “voluntourism,” and if you’ve had an inspiring experience helping others while on holiday we’d like you to upload images and video of your experience to CNN iReport.

We’ll use the best images and video on CNN.com and those of you with particularly compelling stories could be featured in an article.

Globe Aware encourages all past volunteer travelers to share their Globe Aware volunteer vacation stories with CNN’s readers. Simply log on to CNN‘s Trips of a Lifetime and then visit  iReport and share your volunteer vacation story, pictures and video with the world.

The  great work and projects by Globe Aware‘s many volunteer vacationers have made a world of difference for people and communities around the world. By sharing your story on as significant a stage as CNN.com, you can help educate and encourage others to join in this worthwhile, world-wide endeavor.

Also, don’t forget to share your stories with the thousands of volunteer vacation travelers who read Volunteer Vacations Blog – simply add a comment and be sure to subscribe to Volunteer Vacations Blog’s RSS feed – add your email and click on the subscribe button in the right hand column under Volunteer Vacations RSS Feed banner.

Globe Aware

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Volunteer on vacation! What a concept!

What did you like the most on the program? Living with and spending time with so many Thai people. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my luxury stay at the hotel after I left Suan Kaew – but without getting to know the Thai people, it’s like coming to American and only going to Disneyland. That’s nice, but it’s not a true experience of the country and the people. This program gave me a chance to teach and touch the Thai people directly.

Pat Edwards

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