A Tauranga woman is heading to a remote part of Asia to help care for endangered elephants.

Angela-Mary Fearnley, from Whakamarama, plans to go to Laos in late November to spend two weeks at the Sayaboury Elephant Conservation Center as part of the Volunteer Eco Student Abroad VESA programme.

Miss Fearnley's role will see her working closely with many elephants at the purpose-built rehabilitation, research and breeding facility.

All the animals were rescued from endangerment by the logging trade.


Miss Fearnley, 20, is in her third year of a bachelor of mechanical engineering at the University of Auckland.

"I've always loved elephants and when some VESA volunteers visited the university in my first year to talk about their unique experiences, I was hooked," she said.

One of the perks of her eco-tour would be the chance to ride elephants to and from her jungle bedroom, and help care for the calves in the elephant nursery.

"This is something I have always wanted to do, and I'm so excited," she said.

"Wherever you turn, you can always find someone who needs your help, and this is one way I believe I can make a difference both to the elephants and the local community."

While in Laos Miss Fearnley would also help build bathrooms and classrooms at local schools and teach English to children.

"If I can raise sufficient funds I would love to stay on longer than two weeks," she said.

Each student has to raise sponsorship funds to cover the costs of taking part in the programme, including paying for building materials, food, accommodation and flights.

As well as initial fundraising with the help of family, friends and university colleagues, Miss Fearnley had launched a Givealittle page aiming to raise $5745.

VESA director Shona Luciani said the eco-tourism programme had been designed to help indigenous communities.

Fellow director Tom McDowell said learning English would improve the lives of the youngsters.

To donate funds visit https//givealittle.co.nz/sayabouryelephantconservationcentre

Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA)

- Was founded in 2009 to promote direct action support

- Is aimed at regions where traditional aid groups do not operate

- Aims to solve social and environmental problems

- To learn more visit www.vesabroad.com