Friday, May 26, 2017

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Senior Tori Parker stands next to an elephant in Thailand. (Photo: Tori Parker) Senior Tori Parker stands next to an elephant in Thailand. (Photo: Tori Parker)
 


An Aztec Living Among Elephants

Biology senior Tori Parker spent her summer in a unique way, learning a new culture and befriending elephants.
By Cami Buckman, The Daily Aztec
 

Volunteers in Thailand wake up at 6 a.m. with the aroma of spicy food already filling the room. Fast- forward to noon, and an aroma of other sorts surrounds the volunteers: elephant dung.

The next day, the air is engulfed with the fresh scent of running water in one of Thailand’s finest spots for whitewater rafting.

Experiences of a lifetime, which were all made possible for one student after she clicked on a simple Facebook ad.

San Diego State biology senior Tori Parker traveled to Thailand for four weeks this past summer to learn about Thai culture and experience what it’s like to participate in real veterinarian work.

“The trip was about becoming a more worldly person and figuring out what kind of career you wanted,” Parker said.

Parker was part of a small group of volunteers with Loop Abroad, an organization that provides medical services to stray cats and dogs and also works with rescue elephants living at an elephant sanctuary.

For the first week, Parker worked with stray cats and dogs at the Animal Rescue Kingdom, a dog shelter in Chiang Mai, providing shelter and medical treatment.

She spent the following two weeks working hands-on with the animals in northern Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park.

Along with elephants, this wildlife park is home to over 400 dogs, 100 cats, as well as water buffalo and monkeys.

As a volunteer, Parker was able to feed, bathe and care for the rescued elephants. These elephants were rescued from the brutal trekking, logging or forced breeding programs that persist in areas of Thailand.

“Animals don’t have a voice to explain when they’re not feeling well or when they’re sick,” Parker said. “I just want to be that person who could help something that doesn’t have a voice.”

In the past, Parker thought she wanted to become a medical coroner. However, she realized that her love for animals was too powerful not pursue as a career.

“I have always fought for animal rights for as long as I can remember, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not do something that I already really love?’” Parker said.

Volunteers like Parker travel from around the world to work in these wildlife facilities and impact the animals in positive ways.

Sophomore Jubilee Garcia of Pierce College in Los Angeles was one of the other volunteers on the program.

“Having met people from all over the states and a different country made my trip better because we all shared our knowledge and helped each other expand in the veterinary mindset, but also in the social outcome of it,” Garcia said.

Junior Miranda Blehm from the University of West Florida also volunteered in Thailand this summer. She said meeting diverse people from around the world was incredible.

“Everyone had different things to offer the group through different school and work experiences,” Blehm said.

Parker said the trip helped her to remember that the process of helping animals also involves human connection.

“It takes connections with others around you in your work environment,” Parker said.

Whether it was experiencing one of Thailand’s well-known monsoons or feeding lunch to an elephant, Parker’s volunteer trip to Thailand was unforgettable.

“I feel like everyone who has the opportunity to leave the country needs to do it because it’s an amazing experience, and it gives you such a new insight,” Parker said.

Parker said she wishes all Aztecs could experience a summer in Thailand, befriending elephants, making connections and learning about a different culture.

This article originally appeared in The Daily Aztec.