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NHS student gets hands-on training in Thailand

Zoe Greszler • Oct 24, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Norwalk High School senior Lindsay Rinner earned the opportunity of a lifetime, traveling to Thailand to gain hands-on experience caring for abused elephants and dogs.

This summer, Rinner, 16, of Norwalk, spent two weeks helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Rinner was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter and spent a week working directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.

Loop Abroad, according to its website, “is a student travel organization that began with a singular mission: provide the best hands-on study abroad for students pursuing careers working with animals.”

The veterinary service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the U.S. and Thailand. For one week, Rinner and her team volunteered at an elephant sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand to work with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.

The program gave the daughter of Steve Rinner and Helene Ellis-Rinner a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I got to do hands-on veterinary medicine — stuff vet students don’t get to do until a year in — on dogs, cats and elephants,” Lindsay Rinner said. “I also got experience a culture completely different from my own.”

Admission to veterinary programs is selective and she was chosen based on her transcript, admissions essay and professional references. Rinner plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in animal science, pre-veterinary from the University of Wyoming.

The elephants at the sanctuary where she helped have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness. At the elephant sanctuary, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world.

Rinner helped to feed and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The sanctuary is also home to more than 1,000 other animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and cows and is sustained in large part by the work of weekly volunteers such as Rinner.

For the second week, Rinner volunteered at a dog rescue clinic, also in Chiang Mai. The shelter is home to dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten or abused.

While Rinner studied under the veterinarians leading her group, she and her team made a difference in the canines’ lives. By providing check-ups 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.

“Our students are some of the most amazing people I have ever met,” said Jane Stine, the program’s managing director. 

“They are kind, compassionate, dedicated, hard-working individuals who have big goals and want to make a big impact,” Stine said. “It’s amazing to see how eager they are to learn and challenge themselves. Over the last nine years, we’ve seen them go on to do some wonderful things.”

By following a study-abroad model instead of a volunteerism model, Loop Abroad focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally-run animal welfare organizations so students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs in Thailand, South Africa, Australia and the Amazon and Galapagos, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.

Loop Abroad has animal science, marine biology, and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Programs range from two weeks in summer to a full semester abroad, and college credit is available. Interested participants can inquire or apply at www.LoopAbroad.com.

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