Volunteers experiences

Antoine, 25 yo, studying business in a master course at EM/Central Lyon, France

Goal
Do a volunteer project in a foreign country, propose business improvement in the local environment by using the design thinking methodology.

In Phana

  • Propose solutions to the big issues in the forest (protect the monkey population, educate the visitor to behave well, promote the Phana Monkey Project)
  • Support the local schools (primary/secondary) by assisting the English lessons.
  • Support the municipality in their involvement over the village : organize cultural events, supervise the ICT Centre, assist the NHA organization in the housing project.

Feelings
Phana is a very welcoming community with a deeply rooted culture. There is much to learn from this Asian culture and many experiences to share. There are exciting projects to develop with the Phana Monkey Project and with the entire community. I feel very comfortable in this quiet environment, and I took my mark very quickly.

Enjoy Phana, be monkey !!

 

2013-07-11-11.11.062Amy, 22 yo, completing an MSc in Animal Behaviour with the University of Exeter, UK

Goal
To conduct field research, for my Master’s thesis, on macaque emotional awareness.

In Phana
As planned, I spent my two months doing research in Don Chao Poo – but I was continually amazed by the number of other opportunities in Phana.
In the forest I helped feed and monitor the monkeys, helped with forest surveys, and charted wildlife. Moreover, in Phana I taught English to local children, which was an immense joy! I also practiced some entomology and learnt much about snakes, lizards, and the biodiversity of Isan.
I got the chance to spend much time with locals, exchanging cultures and learning lots about everyday Isan life, even spending one afternoon working on a rice field with them.

Feelings
The forest is a beautiful place to be. It never ceased to amaze me; there was always a new species of insect or lizard, or some new primate behaviour to experience. I got to know the monkeys and came to understand their behaviours and interactions, which feels very special.
Throughout, I felt Phana welcomed me with open arms. This is a very special place – a kind, pure, caring community, who are always ready to offer friendship.

 

2013-07-11-11.10.572Jennifer or “Jeff”, 23 yo postgraduate student currently studying MSc Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter, UK

Goal
I have already completed a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Manchester. I identify primarily as a behavioural ecologist, based on my past research experience during my academic career to date.
Half of the credits for my Masters course arise from the ‘research apprenticeship’ module, whereby students must design and implement their own scientific animal behaviour experiment. We were made aware the Don Chao Poo research centre and Phana Macaque Project by one of the postgraduate supervisors, and I instantly decided that this was the place for me to conduct my research.

In Phana
My experiment was looking to investigate the effects of food size and spatial distribution on the relative investment, made by both sexes, in affiliative relationships between males and females. This involved both experimental (different provisioning conditions) and observational (focal sampling of identified males) elements, and I am currently working at analyzing the data I have collected and writing it up into a thesis that I hope will be suitable for publication.

However despite being a fairly remote farming village, life in Phana is varied and often surprising! Depending on the ensemble of volunteers and researchers present, you may find yourself helping to teach Thai children English and science, learn how to salsa and cha-cha in the weekly dance classes set up by a previous volunteer, or add to the impressive entomological collection. Of course, all of these activities are entirely optional, but they do enrich your experience and enable you to make personal connections with the local people, who are all incredibly friendly, hospitable and welcoming, and definitely worth getting to know.

Feelings
The proprietors of the research centre, Lawrence and Pensri Whiting, made sure that I got all the assistance I needed, were a wealth of knowledge of the macaque troop, and endeavoured to accommodate my requirements for my research, which facilitated my extensive data collection. Having people around who know the forest as intimately they do is invaluable – it can help you decide the best times to collect data, and what is feasible to collect. Thus I believe that the Phana Macaques show great potential for research subjects for a variety of research areas, and despite being wild, it is possible to conduct experiments that require identification of certain individuals to uphold independence of data in statistical analysis.

For me, leaving Phana was heartbreaking – you cannot help but be absorbed into local life and making many friends. There is a real sense of community and the residents will be more than happy to welcome you into their homes, to be part of their local events, and more than likely even to do a spot of karaoke with them ! Therefore, it transforms the research experience from a daunting period of isolation and obsessing over data collection to a more varied and organic experience, whereby you can collect substantial amounts of data by day (with 800+ subjects, you can get a lot done !) and relax with a bottle of Leo and good company at night, and in the meantime get a very authentic experience of what it means to be Thai.

 

 

Lauriane and Joy with their hostmum Kalyanee

Lauriane and Joy with their hostmum Kalyanee

Joy and Lauriane, 18 yo, in a preparatory class for business school Lyon, France

Goal
First, improve our English speaking for our studies but also discover a new country, new cultures and a different life style. In short, expanding our openness.

In Phana
We stayed for a month in Phana. At the beginning we had no accurate aim other than improve our English speaking and help the project. Gradually we were more and more involved in the missions and we really wanted to help the community. For example, we created this website to promote the project, we made a map of the forest, etc.

Feelings
Very good experience, really enriching in every aspect !