This Fourth of July, Eli Block wasn’t at the beach or watching fireworks. He was half a world away, in the Hoi Ya tribal village in the jungle an hour outside of Pai, Thailand. He’d arrived in Thailand only days earlier, and would spend his first week living and working in the jungle among the tribes of Hoi Ya.
Teaching English, building a dam, and painting a school were just some of the ways that Eli was able to help the village. In return, he learned to plant rice and had plenty of time to get to know the children of Hoi Ya and share stories with them.
Eli 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. This July, three teachers and seventeen high school students headed to Thailand for Loop’s “Plight of the Thai Elephant” program. 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, Eli 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.
Each student on Loop’s program created a conservation project during the trip. Eli created a project called “Big Things Have Small Beginnings”, a document of tips and advice for minimizing negative environmental impact while traveling. Big Things Have Small Beginnings can currently be downloaded here. Eli will be working to have his work published via some online travel information sites this year.
Eli recently graduated from York School. This year, he will be a freshman at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Loop Abroad Summer Programs