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DelVal students work at elephant sanctuary in Thailand


Kaboo, an elephant at a sanctuary in Thailand, sustained many injuries, including a fractured leg, before she was rescued by Elephant Nature Park. She is one of many elephants who have been abused and exploited for human use and entertainment.

In June, a group of 32 students from Delaware Valley University traveled to Thailand, where they learned about helping rescued animals as part of their Tropical Shelter Medicine class. The students were accompanied by two DelVal faculty members, Dr. Jessica McCall and Dr. Jennifer Shelly. The travel experience was arranged through LoopAbroad.

McCall led discussions with the students on issues related to the treatment of animals and the environment. Shelly worked as a veterinarian for several years before she started teaching at the university. She teaches courses on topics such as pathology, animal nutrition, and animal-assisted activities and therapies.

After spending their first week volunteering at the elephant sanctuary, the students spent a week volunteering at an animal shelter that serves cats and dogs. The students also donated clothes and many supplies to a local school and orphanage. Students who participated earned a certificate for 80 hours of volunteer service. The group of students who participated included: Melanie Blanco, Jenna Como, Sofia D’Avanzo, Madison Dembinski, Kacey England, Aubrey Errickson, Caroline Ferreira, Rajonique Ford, Alyssa France, Samantha Froot, Mason Houriet, Kaitlyn Hummel, Hannah Kates, Susanna-Fei Koethe, Julie Le, Corynn Lewis, Rachel Loux, Kaitlin Magee, Joellica McKean, Amanda Moore, Talulla Palumbo, Monica Piatti, Alexis Prestridge, Shaye Roake, Kyra Schwarz, Kyrstin Schwarz, Saarah Shaikh, Victoria Smetana, Alexandra Vaccaro, Taylor Waldman, Kennedy Wilkinson and Morgan Wry.

Through the program, students shadowed veterinarians at both the elephant sanctuary and the small animal shelter. They were able to ask questions and see what veterinarians at shelters do on a day-to-day basis to help rescued animals. Students also had the opportunity to learn about the culture in Thailand.

“Traveling to Thailand taught me not only about a different culture but also about myself,” said Madison Dembinski, Class of 2022, a DelVal small animal science major. “I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience Thai culture and meet so many amazing people and animals. Thailand has taught me so much, and I know that my time spent there will be influential in helping me reach my future goals.”

Dembinksi wants to pursue a career working with animals after she graduates from DelVal. Working alongside veterinarians who are helping animals affirmed for her that she has found a career path she is passionate about.

“I know for certain that my passion is helping animals and learning as much as I can about them,” said Dembinski. “I had the chance to experience veterinary medicine in a different country, and it was truly eye-opening. Being able to meet so many people that share the same passion as I do was truly an experience I will never forget.”