If you’ve ever been to Thailand (or other parts of Asia), you know it can be heartbreaking to see all the homeless stray dogs, many of which are sick and injured.
On my recent trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find very few strays compared to my first trip many years ago. The dogs I did see seemed healthy, well fed and happy.
Little did I know at the time that this was because I spent most of my time on the island of Koh Lanta (which is located on the southwest coast of Thailand).
Because when I left Koh Lanta, I once again saw the unfortunate reality of life for most dogs in Thailand.
Dozens of strays, roaming the streets, many looking thin, sickly and with mange.
Like many westerners who grew up with dogs, this can be really tough to witness. You feel totally powerless to help. Sure you can pet the friendlier ones and give them some food and water but you know fully well that that’s not going to solve the underlying problem.
And yet, some incredibly saintly people don’t feel powerless. They actually do something about it.
When I returned to Koh Lanta for my last week in Thailand I came to understand why there were so few stray animals there.
Lanta Animal Welfare is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to alleviating the suffering of animals on Koh Lanta.
They have sterilized 90% of the dogs and cats on Koh Lanta (which is not a small island) and given treatment and care to hundreds of sick and injured animals.
They’ve also set up an education program aimed at local school children to teach them to love and care for animals.
And they have an incredible international adoption program.
Here’s a nice video summarizing the great work of Lanta Animal Welfare:
On my second to last day before my flight home to the US, I visited Lanta Animal Welfare and volunteered for the day.
Upon arrival, you’re given a 30 minute tour of the complex by one of the full-time volunteers. They run tours all day as many westerners like to stop in for a visit and walk the dogs.
All the cats live here…
But they only sleep in their to keep them safe from nocturnal predators. They’re up and out early and are free to roam outside the facility during the day, after which they all eagerly return for their evening meal.
Unlike the cats, the dogs can’t be let out of the facility, of course. They’re kept in large pens where they have room to move about and are given walks by the volunteers and daily visitors.
On the tour you also learn about the history of the organization, the work they’re doing and what it takes to keep it all running via volunteers and financial support (which is a lot).
After the tour, those that want to stay on and help can do so. About 5 of us remained and the first thing we did was visit some of the pens to keep the dogs company. They love visitors!
I was surprised just how friendly they all were considering many had been abused and abandoned.
Here’s Deng, who took a liking to me and vice versa.
A few more of the sweet souls we got to hang out with…
One of our jobs as volunteers was to get some new puppies comfortable with their new pen mates (and vice versa).
Here’s one of ’em…
I know, such a cutie.
We then took them all for a walk to get them used to each other…
I was glad I was able to help out for a day. It was such a rewarding experience. I also bought a T-shirt (profits from all the merchandise go to the center) and gave a small donation. But I have to admit, I left wishing I could’ve done more.
A day of volunteering was great but the full-time volunteers, who give so selflessly of their time and energy, are the true heroes as far as I’m concerned. Such kind-hearted souls. And then of course, the founder, Junie Kovacs who started the whole thing. To me, she’s a true saint.
So when I left, I thought to myself, what more could I do?
Well if you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I have a passion for broths and soups, especially Asian ones. I’ve been thinking about writing an Asian-themed follow-up to my book, Fearless Broths and Soups.
I’d LOVE to write an epic book covering the soups of every country in southeast Asia. But I feel I’d really need to travel to those countries and experience their cuisines for myself.
A little overambitious? Probably. But I just may do it…in time.
For now, since I’ve already been to Thailand twice, I’m thinking of writing a short ebook on Thai soups. I’d gear it to westerners and show them how they can make authentic Thai soups relatively quickly and easily. It’s actually not hard!
So if I go forward with the project (and I’m pretty sure I will), I will donate a percentage of the profits to Lanta Animal Welfare.
So yes, you could learn to cook Thai food and help the dogs (and cats) of Thailand at the same time!
But to be perfectly honest, there are a lot better and more direct ways to help.
Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere tropical, somewhere completely different from your own country, somewhere you can meet new people AND do meaningful, heartfelt work at the same time?
Lanta Animal Welfare could be the perfect fit!
You can learn more about their volunteer program right here.
2. Take a Thai Cooking Class
OK, so maybe you don’t have a month or more to live in Thailand. But if you ever find yourself on the southern islands (millions of westerners travel there every year), I HIGHLY recommend the island of Koh Lanta. Here’s 7 reasons why.
As soon as I got there, I really didn’t want to go anywhere else. It’s a lot more laid back than some of the more well-traveled and well-known nearby islands like Ko Phi Phi and Phuket.
There’s so much to do on and around the island – hiking, diving, sea kayaking trips, snorkeling trips, motorbike trips and yes, you can take a Thai cooking class!
Time for Lime offers professional daily Thai cooking classes, right on the beach, and all the profits help fund Lanta Animal Welfare.
You can learn more about Time for Lime right here.
3. Adopt a Cat or Dog
The center has limited space and the animals that live there desperately need homes as more are constantly coming in.
They’ve set up an international adoption program and have taken care of many of the logistics such as vaccinations, blood tests and so forth. You can learn more about it here including pictures of dogs and cats that currently need adopting.
You can also see these heartwarming pictures and stories of all the lucky cats and dogs that found their forever homes.
Lanta Animal Welfare is doing some really beautiful work in this world. But they receive no funding. They are completely dependent on the profits from the Time for Lime cooking school and donations from individuals.
Seeing as you’re probably reading this somewhere very far from Thailand, donating is probably the most realistic means of helping. A little bit of money (especially the US dollar and Euro) goes a long way in Thailand. Even a small donation will help tremendously.
You can even sponsor a dog or cat for as little as 500 baht (about $15 US dollars), until a permanent home is found.
The dogs and cats would so appreciate if you could help them out!
Me and my buddy, Deng, would appreciate it too.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.