The car pulls up and out pops a young bright-eyed, red-haired girl. The girl, 12-year-old Millie from Australia, is accompanied by her parents Belinda and Matt and today is a very special day for her.
The day is the culmination of a whirlwind series of events that were put into motion when Millie’s mum Belinda posted a message on the Facebook page of the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary three weeks ago.
“I have been a follower of your page for a while now and I love to follow the progress of your elephants. I just wanted to share with you a little story that brought tears to my eyes tonight. My youngest daughter is 12 and when grabbing my phone always goes on FB and looks up your page,” wrote Belinda.
“Just now she came out to me and said with tears in her eyes ‘mummy they can't fix the elephants eyes’. At first I wasn't sure what she was talking about. Then she showed me the post and read it out loud to us all.
"After that moment she looked at me and said ‘thank goodness she is loved and cared for though mum, because elephants have feelings just like us, and even if she can't see, she feels loved’,” continued the message.
“I wanted to share this with you, so you know that your posts and updates touch many people throughout the world. Even a little girl from a small place in Australia,” the message ended.
The post that sparked Millie’s heartfelt reaction was about a blind elephant named Gaew Ta, who now lives in safety and peace thanks to the efforts of the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary’s staff and donors.
When Louise Rogerson, Project Director for the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, saw Belinda’s post she was quick to respond and reassure Millie:
“It is truly wonderful to know that we are reaching so many corners of the world, even a small place in Australia! Millie, thank you for following us everyday here on Facebook," wrote Louise.
"Yes, you are right, our blind elephant Gaew Ta (also known around the sanctuary as Darling) and all of our beautiful elephants are loved very much. Thank you for your love and understanding of elephants too, we hope to meet you one day.”
This hope might have remained unrealised, but for a happy coincidence. As luck would have it Peter Jones, General Manager of The Chava Resort in Surin, saw the heartwarming post and knew immediately what he had to do.
He promptly reached out to Millie and her parents through Facebook with a generous offer that would help make young Millie’s dreams come true – “If you can get yourselves to Phuket, all three of you stay can with us free of charge and visit the Elephant Sanctuary to meet Gaew Ta,” said Peter in his message.
Inspired by Peter’s generosity, Baan Rim Pa restaurant also decided to give the family a dinner voucher worth B5000.
Now, just three weeks after Belinda posted her initial message on Facebook, Millie and her parents are standing out the front of Monkeypod Coffeehouse ready to go to the Elephant Sanctuary.
Before long, a pickup truck pulls up and everyone jumps aboard it for the rather bumpy ride to the sanctuary. As the the vehicle crests a short hill, the family spot their first elephants.
“I should not have worn make up today” says Belinda fighting back tears of joy from behind her sunglasses. Millie, of course, takes it all in her stride.
For the next few hours Millie and her family explore the Elephant Sanctuary, and of course, are introduced to Gaew Ta by Louise.
Was it all that Millie expected? “No. It was far better and more overwhelming than I ever could have thought” replies Millie on the slow ride back to the main road.