Orphans vs. elephants: They are equal in many aspects. Used, miss-used, abandoned and treated less than? Many have been taken away from their natural habitat with no chance of survival! Some who come from their original home have no opportunity to improve their life.

When I initially started to write, the focus of this story was about the elephants. However, since our trip to the park, it has gone way beyond this. It all began when the “The International Humanity Foundation”, based out of California with six centers four in Indonesia one in Kenya and Thailand. IHF a non-religious orphanage in Thailand was invited to spend two days at the “Elephant Natural Park” (ENP) near Chiang Mia in Thailand as their guest.

                                                                                 WHO IS GIVING WHO…A BATH?

It was through many people and their sheer hard work that turned this trip into a successful adventure for the kids and the volunteers.

I am retired and from the US and volunteer with IHF. We had several challenges to make this happen. Our mission at IHF is to “LOVE” the kids and give them an education, so they will have a chance at what life throws at them. We run this orphanage on a very limited budget. So our first challenge was to get the kids to the park with no money available for transportation to Chiang Mia, which is approximately 120 miles from our center. Secondly, some of the children, at the center, have “never” been away from their home (other than to visit their village). Subsequently, this trip was a bit intimidating for them, especially being around people from different continents. This in itself was a learning experience for the kids.

This is where it gets interesting, with a hand full of people they said, “Let’s make this happen.” They all wanted to stay anonymous. They wanted to do something for the kids and expected no recognition for their help! This effort became contagious as the planning and the trip progressed.

                                                                                           I NOW…. HAVE A “BIG” BROTHER!

Someone offered to pay for the bus, to get the kids to the park, whereas another paid for the return trip. We even had one person who bought t-shirts for all of us. The pre-requisite from the owner, of the park, was to bring our toothbrushes. The accommodation and meals were free!

The park, ENP, is a story in itself. ENP’s purpose is to preserve, rescue and keep the elephants content for the remainder of their life. The founder Sangduen Chailert (Lek) has dealt with challenges throughout her whole life. Her struggles could be made as a Hollywood movie! Her lifelong mission is to protect the environment and the animals that live in it. I swear; I could see the elephants smiling! Elephants are her main focus and what keeps her thriving in dealing with the day-to-day challenges that many may have given up on. Needless to say the protection of all wildlife is in her character.

                                                                                LEK WITH ONE OF HER BEST FRIENDS!

At times, the park has had hundreds of visitors per day. Some of these tourists come to spend a day or more at the park. A weekly program is also available for those who wish to choose to volunteer for a week. It is a great way of not only mingling with the elephants, but also meeting people from around the world who share the same passion towards the elephants.

                                                   THE KIDS DISCOVERING “LIFE” HAS SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS!

Success of this project was because of the many volunteers. However, one of the fundamental reasons this project succeeded was because of two people, Lek and her husband Darrick, who work together in perfect harmony. Lek’s primary responsibility is to handle the external and internal functions, whereby she educates visitors and reveals the truth of the distinction of elephants to the world. She also works in collaboration with the Thai government along with animal-rights activists about the bleak future of the elephant. Equally, as important is her husband Darrick, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations, making sure that everything runs smoothly at the park.

                                                                                     DARRICK WITH HIS FAVORITE TOY!

When I spoke to Darrick, you could see and feel his dedication, to the undertaking of what many said was impossible. He said, “To educate the visitors is just a part of their objective. The Thai people also need to understand that the endangered species of elephants may soon be gone.”

At the park, they have no elephant rides nor do they make the elephants perform for the visitors. They are just in their natural habitat doing what nature intended them to do. On the other hand, Lek understands many elephant parks, offer rides and that performance, by the elephants, is a huge business in Thailand. These parks are a big part of the tourism revenue and employ many Thai people. As a result, ENP is not necessarily in direct competition with these other parks. As their goal is to make sure the elephants are not mistreated, and also their primary goal is to educate the Thai people.

They also help with many unrelated projects, such as assisting schools and other organizations around the community of Chiang Mai. Their passion is to make this earth a better place to live! This includes everyone and everything that shares this planet.

                                                                                                     A NEW FRIEND FOR LIFE!

Accompanying their property, they also have a dog and cat rescue center. I have been asked the question many times. “Do people really eat dogs in Thailand?” The answer is very seldom! There are many dogs in Thailand, and the problem is in some of the neighboring countries like Cambodia and Vietnam the demand for dogs for human consumption is huge. As a consequence this turns dog smuggling into a profitable business for some unscrupulous people in Thailand. Darrick’s answer to solve this problem is “spade and neuter, if there is no supply, there will be no demand!”

                                                                        JERRY, WHO HAS A HEART OF GOLD!

Jerry Nelson…it could not have happened without you…THANKS!

In conclusion, this has been a rewarding life experience for many, including the kids, volunteers and the elephants. You can choose to support a child or an elephant. You can do this with money or by volunteering. Take a stand if you want to make an impact in a child’s life or help to prevent the extinction of the elephants. Check out the web sites for more information, on how you can help.

Jim Kaszynski… volunteer with IHF… Video coming soon!



Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand where you can volunteer and visit to help. We have been involved in dozens of rescues to create our thriving elephant herd. The park provides a natural environment for elephants and other animals under our care. Volunteers and visitors contribute to the healing while learning about their lives past and present.



  1. rick baldwin

    How nice,you’re a blessed man,Jim.

  2. Richard

    Hopefully dear Jimmy, orphans like elephants never forget either…
    Miss ya mate,

  3. Ted Davis

    I have been to this park…Just amazing…Thanks for the story…

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