Kole Kuenstler '21 Receives Bronze President's Volunteer Service Award

Kole Kuenstler '21 received the Bronze President's Volunteer Service Award for his work with rescued elephants in Thailand this summer. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too. 

"One of our Nation's greatest strengths remains the compassion of our everyday citizens, who give so willingly of themselves and their lives for the benefit of others."

This summer, Kole spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it's like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Kole 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.

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the U.S. and Thailand. For one week, Kole and his 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 elephants at the sanctuary 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. Kole helped to feed and care for the elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The sanctuary is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses, and cows, and is sustained in a huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Kole.

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

While he studied under the veterinarians leading his group, Kole and his team made a difference in the lives of these dogs. 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.
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