Tuesday, August 09, 2016

TOP STORY >> Beebe student goes abroad

Shawna Smith of Beebe spent three weeks in Thailand this summer helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

Traveling with the Boston-based Loop Abroad, the 21-year-old, was part of a small team that volunteered at a dog shelter and then spent a week working at wan elephant sanctuary.

Smith is a senior at Lyon College majoring in biology.

“The knowledge and experience I have learned and gained have been life changing. The chance to spend time with elephants up close and personal has given me a deeper respect for these majestic beasts,” she said.

The veterinary-service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside a staff veterinarian. For one week, students volunteer at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The shelter is home to over 100 dogs that have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten or abused. Any dogs that aren’t adopted will be cared for by the shelter for their whole lives.

While they learned what it’s like to be a veterinarian, students made a difference in the lives of these dogs. By providing checkups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs.

The group also spent one week at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand to work hands-on with the animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale. The Elephant Nature Park is home to more than 40 elephants that have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced-breeding programs. Many of them have been abused and suffer from chronic injuries.

At the Elephant Nature Park, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Students were able to feed, bathe and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses, alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to more than 400 dogs and 100 cats, as well as rabbits and water buffalo, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Smith.

Loop Abroad has programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help to make their trips accessible to the greatest number of students.