‘The trip was a once in a lifetime experience’

Tara Clements enjoyed her stay at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Sayaboury.
Tara Clements enjoyed her stay at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Sayaboury.

A Banbridge student who spent time in Laos this summer doing voluntary work has described her trip to Southeast Asia as “a once in a lifetime experience”.

Tara Clements travelled to Laos with Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA).

Tara up to her knees in mud at a rice farm in Luang Prabang.

Tara up to her knees in mud at a rice farm in Luang Prabang.

The 22-year-old former Banbridge Academy pupil heard about the organisation when they visited the University of Dundee, where she is studying for a Law degree.

“VESA do trips to different countries but my friend and I chose the Southeast Asia programme as part of the volunteer work was at an elephant sanctuary,” she explained.

“We were away from July 1 - 16, with the first week being the volunteer week and the second was a chance to see the country and learn more about its culture.

“For the first week we stayed at the Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) which was in the jungle in Sayaboury where we spent half of the week travelling into a local village to the school where we worked in the classroom with the children, helping to teach them English, as well as doing work on the school buildings like clearing them out and painting them.

Tara and one of the local schoolchildren having fun with the Snapchat filter.

Tara and one of the local schoolchildren having fun with the Snapchat filter.

“The second half of the week we worked at the ECC spending time observing the elephants and feeding them and also doing construction work like digging a trench for a water system for a disabled elephant and clearing areas of plants in the jungle for new structures like a crush where the elephants can be held to receive medical treatment.”

Tara, who is going into her final year at university, continued: “The second week we travelled to Luang Prabang for the first half of the week where we visited temples, a rice farm, a silk factory and a museum about the effects of the Vietnam War on Laos. For the last few days we went to Vang Vieng where we got to do more adventure activities like hot air ballooning, zip lining and kayaking.

“The whole trip was just an amazing once in a lifetime experience and being able to help with the conservation and protection of the elephants in Laos as well as provide the children in the local village with more opportunities in their future by helping them to learn English was incredible.”

Anyone who would like more information about the volunteering opportunities available with Volunteer Eco Students Abroad should log on to www.vesabroad.org