Free The Bears Wildlife Rescue Centre - travel journal

Every time a customer books one of our vacations and opts in to our Trip for a Trip scheme, we organise a day trip for a disadvantaged young person somewhere around the world to see their local tourist sites, often for the first time.

Uneasy no settle has partnered with a Friends International program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia called Mith Samlanh, to support a trip to the Free The Bears Wildlife Rescue Centre. Young people from vulnerable backgrounds don’t usually have the opportunity to visit wildlife centres, so this trip gave them a chance to learn about their country’s wildlife and understand its habitat.

Group at the wildlife centre
Our latest trip to Free The Bears Wildlife Rescue Centre - 26th January 2018:
In all, 20 young people visited the centre. They were aged between 15 and 24 years old and from different slum communities. They are often marginalized due to lack of education and skills, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, sex work, trafficking and drug use. They attend vocational training courses and remedial education, to aid them in reintegrating into school or finding stable employment, and ultimately to becoming productive members of society. The best part of the trip for the young people was seeing the bears, because they can stand on two feet and seemed more interesting than some of the other animals. They also appreciated the environment and the fresh air which you don’t really find in the city, where very limited parks and green spaces exist.
Free The Bears is non profit rescue centre that focuses on the protection and rehabilitation of moon bears (Ursus thibetanus), sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) across Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. To protect the species the centre employs a wide range of strategies that include improving environmental education, providing sustainable livelihoods, helping to increase law enforcement and researching the protection of wild bear populations.

Children meeting the bearsEducational games
SAMPLE ITINERARY OF A VISIT TO THE FREE THE BEARS WILDLIFE CENTRE:

What the children do:
Before heading to the Wildlife Centre all the young people have their breakfast at Mith Samlanh. At around 8:30am they are picked up and driven to Tamao Mountain where the centre is located. On the bus, the children usually have a sing-a-long session and tell jokes with the social workers.

10:40 - 11:10 am: The group are welcomed by the Free The Bears staff and given a presentation. They complete questionnaires about the history of the bear and the importance of them. They then enjoy a guided tour around the wildlife centre to see different species of wild bears (sun bears and moon bears) as well as monkeys, crocodiles, herons, marabou, large deer, porcupines, polecats, big cats and many types of birds.

After lunch the young people continue looking round the centre. They also listen to talks and play educational games about the environment and conservation before returning home. The young people all receive presents for being active and engaging in the games, such as pens, reading books, pencils, notebooks.

Impact:
Most of these young people had never been to the centre before or had the opportunity to see wild animals. For many of them it is the first ever trip outside Phnom Penh. Therefore this trip is very meaningful for all of them. They are always very happy to see and learn about animals and be immersed in nature. They also appreciate the environment and the fresh air which you don’t really find in the city, as there are very limited parks and green spaces.

Guide explaining about the bears
Happy group
Quotes from the day
"This is the first time that I come to Tamao Mountain. I think that this visit is very informative for us. I think we should all work together to protect the forest and animals in our country.”

"I learned so much about bears and other animals, how they catch food and how important they are for our planet."

“I feel very happy to see the bears and other animals. I've never seen a bear before; they are so beautiful and intelligent.”

"I noticed that the students were very surprised when they arrived at the centre, not just because of seeing so many different animals, but also because of all the nature. They live in the city most of the time and are rarely in contact with nature. Phnom Penh doesn’t have many parks or trees, so going to the wildlife was a huge experience for them. They seem to forget everything. When they arrived at the centre, they just wanted to jump out of the bus and go and see the animals. Thank you Uneasy no settle for this opportunity."
Mith Samlanh Social Worker

"It’s very impressive to see some children change their attitude towards animals after visiting the centre. I think they learned a lot."
Mith Samlanh Social Worker

"I was really impressed with the children and youth who visited us today. They were all very interested in the work we do. They asked so many questions about the animals and our work.”
- Wildlife centre staff

Other trips that we have run to the Free The Bears Wildlife Rescue Centre:

Watching the bears
21st December 2017:
On this occasion, 23 young people aged 10-24 visited the centre. On the bus, they had sing-a-long session and told jokes with the social workers. Here is a quote from one of the social workers from the group about the impact the trip had on the young people - "We were feeling happy to bring the children and young people to a new environment and to see the wildlife, and to increase understanding about natural resources."
Watching the bears
24th November 2017:
On this trip, 18 children and young people aged 10-24 visited the centre. The children and young people were guided around the wildlife centre to see different species of wild sun bear and moon bear, as well as other animals. One of the social workers said this about their day: "I am feeling happy to see the children and youth having the chance to see the wildlife and learn about different animals."
Group
27th October 2017:
This group consisted of 20 children aged 10-24 who visited the centre. The group was welcomed by the Free The Bears staff and given a short presentation. The children and young people were then asked to fill in a questionnaire about the history of the bears and their importance in the wild. One of the social workers said this about their day: "I was impressed with the importance the trees have in the bears' life. I wasn't aware that the trees are their home and shelter."
Children walking to see the bears
28th September 2017:
On this trip, 20 children and young people aged 10-24 visited the centre. Before heading to the centre all the young people and children had breakfast at Mith Samlanh. At 8:30am the children and young people were picked up at Mith Samlanh and taken to Tamao mountain. One of the social workers said this about their day: “I feel very happy when I see the children are engaged and learning about wildlife. This program is very good and the children have learned about conservation and how to protect our natural environment. This trip has also helped me develop relationships with the children."
Group at centre
25th August 2017:
A total of 20 children and young people aged 15-18 visited the centre. They received a guided tour around the centre to see different species of bears (sun bears and moon bears), as well as other rescued animals, such as monkeys, crocodiles, heron, marabou, large deer, metallic green pigeon, elephant, lion, tiger, wild buffalo, wolf, turtle and fallow deer.
Happy group at the centre
28th July 2017:
On this trip, 20 children and young people aged 12-24 visited the centre. Besides the famous sun and moon bears, the children and young people had the chance to see other animals including: monkeys, crocodiles, heron, marabou, large deer, elephants, lions, tigers and wild buffalo, among other animals. It was the first time that many of these children had seen these animals, so they really enjoyed it and were amazed. One of the children said this about their day: "The elephants were very big. I’ve never seen any in my life."
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23rd June 2017:
In total, 20 children and young people aged 10-24 visited the centre. With a sparkle in their eyes, they ran to see and admire the bears. They were extremely excited and happy. The staff were also very helpful and responded to all the inquiries from the children, as well as explaining clearly the way of life of the bears and other wild animals. One of the children said this about their day: "This is the first time that I come to Tamao Mountain. I think that this visit is very informative for us. I think we should all work together to protect the forest and animals in our country."
Group outside the centre
26th May 2017:
On this occasion, 20 children and you people aged 10-24 visited the centre. The journey to the centre was really fun and full of happy moments and excitement. The children and youth people sang different songs, made jokes and engaged with each other. You could see the excitement in their eyes. They were very interested in the mission of the centre and had a lot of questions to ask. For many of these young people this was the first time they had seen wild animals and it was obviously a very interesting experience for them. One of the children said this about their day: “The trip was very fun. I liked that we had the chance to get out of Phnom Penh.”
Meeting the bears!
5th May 2017:
In total, 20 children and young people aged 10-24 from Mith Samlanh's educational centre visited the bears. The children were invited to help the bear care team in preparing food and treats for the bears such as bamboo logs, grass baskets and Aussie dog balls, and helped feed the bears. The children were extremely impressed by the bears' ability to get their food from the balls, and with their intelligence. One of the children said this about their day: "I learnt a lot about how to take care of the animals and why we should protect them from being trafficked."
About our partner organisation: Friends International is an award winning social enterprise founded in 1994 that saves lives and builds futures of the most marginalized children, youth, families and communities in Southeast Asia and around the world. It works to create a future where all children are safe from all forms of abuse, and become functional, productive citizens who contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world. Friends works in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Thailand, and with 45 partners around the world, to provide comprehensive services to marginalized urban children, youth and their families. Since its inception, Friends has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable reintegration of more than 300,000 vulnerable children, youth and their families.

Mith Samlanh was established in 1994 as Friends' first program based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since its inception, the program has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable social reintegration of more than 200,000 marginalized children, youth and their caregivers. It does this through a holistic range of inclusive programming that impacts about 15,000 beneficiaries each year.

Children engaging in educational talksFun on the busGirls on a tiger statueGroup giving peace signs
 


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