Students raise money for Thai elephant hospital

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(Host) First it was pigs in Brandon. Now in Manchester, it’s elephants, 20 of them, made and exotically decorated by students at Manchester Middle Elementary School. The elephants stand about a foot high and can be seen in Businesses and stores around Manchester.

They’re being raffled off for a good cause, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) Where does an Asian elephant go when it’s been in a traffic accident? This isn’t a joke; it’s a real problem. Ask Manchester middle schooler Charlotte Hogan.

(Hogan) “There’s only one Asian elephant hospital in the world and it’s in Thailand. And this project is to help fund the hospital because it’s very , very expensive to fix an elephant.”

(Keese) The project involves 20 colorful plaster elephants Charlotte and her classmates have made and placed in local stores. For a 25-cent raffle ticket shoppers can take a chance on bringing one of them home. The money will support the world’s only elephant hospital in Lampang Province, Thailand.

Art teacher Rebecca Raymond launched the project. Raymond visited Thailand last summer. She actually got to meet several elephants and even rode on one. Raymond was amazed by the enormous creatures.

(Raymond) “They’re very intelligent. They have their own communication system. They’ve discovered that it’s so low some of the sounds we can’t even hear as humans.”

(Keese) Raymond did some research. She learned that elephants have traditionally been used in Thailand for logging. Recent efforts to save the rainforests have left many elephants, and their handlers, unemployed.

(Raymond) “And they’ve been bringing the elephants into Bangkok to panhandle. And a lot of times they get in traffic situations and get hurt by trucks. And also they’ve been drugged to force them to do certain things.”

(Keese) The situation was so bad that elephants were banned from the city streets. But the accidents haven’t stopped, and there are many drug addicted elephants in need of treatment.
Raymond says the hurt and drug addicted elephants have to be lifted by crane to be transported to the hospital.

The middle schoolers were fascinated by the elephant’s plight and eager to learn more. They designed the raffle project themselves. It’s part of the school’s service learning program in which kids learn by getting involved in issues in their community and around the world. Charlotte Hogan says that’s a good thing.

(Hogan) “There are a lot of really good opinions that adults- they don’t think of the same things that kids would think of. And I think it’s worth hearing what we have to say.”

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.

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