Kids in Conservation
The children of Sayaboury get up close and personal with the endangered Asian elephant.
Reading is not common practise amongst the local people of Laos. Illiteracy is high among rural communities, whilst resources remain scarce and when available are often uninspiring. Working in partnership with several non-governmental organisations (Community Learning International, Eco-Sys Action…), the Elephant Conservation Center promotes literacy within schools in rural Sayaboury province in northern Laos. We take an innovative approach to encourage literacy within schoolchildren by distributing Lao language resources and bringing students up close with the endangered Asian Elephant.
It was the great American comedian W.C. Fields that said “Never work with children or animals”. However the ECC team have risen to the challenge and plough ahead with their new “Kids in Conservation” programme located at the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury which indeed works with both animals and children.
Awareness & Education
Outreach environmental education for children and Awareness raising campaigns
Travelling by boat across the tranquil Nam Tien lake, participants of the programme excitedly arrive ready to get up close and personal with the inhabitants of the Elephant Conservation Center.
During every “Green Season” (monsoon in Laos ranges from June to October), 4 groups of twenty children are chosen from primary schools in Sayaboury town to attend the Center under the ‘Kids in Conservation’ programme, an initiative designed to promote literacy in rural schools and increase awareness of the endangered species, the Asian elephant (elephas maximus).
Over four consecutive days, each group spends an entire afternoon at the Center enjoying a whole host of environmental based, fun activities. Activities include a visit to the elephant museum, which contains 27 tri-lingual information boards; books; DVDs and puzzles on the subject of the Asian elephant. The visit to the museum, set in a traditional Tai Lue stilted house, is completed with the children competing in a game of “Spot the difference” between the African and Asian elephant.
Tours of the elephant hospital conducted by the Center’s biologist and vet with the youngsters enthusiastically asking many questions relating to the training and treatment of elephants under the care of the Center.
A short walk into the 106 hectares of natural forest surrounding the ECC is rewarded with a visit to the elephant nursery to view the mothers and baby elephants residing there. However the highlight of the children’s visit is most definitely the elephant bathing observed by the children after enjoying light refreshments served at the Center’s restaurant.
As a memento of their day with the elephants, each child receives a Lao language storybook and posters for their school to promote reading as an enjoyable activity in and out of the classroom.
Owing to the success of this pilot programme, ECC plan to implement further half day elephant adventures for the children of Sayaboury. This surely puts pay to Mr Fields’ comic advice!
Working in partnership with non-governmental organisation Community Learning International, The Elephant Conservation Center promotes literacy within schools in rural Sayaboury and Oudomxay provinces in northern Laos. Amidst a sea of small awe-filled faces, an extended trunk presents each child with a storybook. The gift of knowledge is reciprocated by tiny hands offering the elephant pieces of sugarcane, bananas and bamboo leaves, followed swiftly by a gracious Buddhist ‘nop’, the traditional greeting and way of giving thanks here as hands are clasped together in front of body accompanied with a slight bowing of the head.
On receipt of their books, many of the children attentively read each page in the location they stand, whilst others simply clutch the book to their chest as a prized possession, which in most cases it is, the book being the first item the child has ever owned. Welcome to our Elephant Mobile Libraries project!
ECC ‘Kids in Conservation’ programme is organised in collaboration with the District Education Department of Sayaboury. Activities are sponsored by ECC and Eco-Sys Action whilst resources for the children are donated by or purchased from Publishing companies and NGOs based in Laos. We need your help to organise more “Kids in Conservation” actions. Typically, an afternoon for 20 students costs around $350 transportation, snacks & beverages and printed resources included.