Story by: Thitirat Benedyk, Learning & Development Manager
As proponents of offsetting the tourism industry’s negative impact on the environment, we at Diethelm Travel Group work hard to leave a minimal footprint on our natural surroundings. We have a deep respect for our incredibly diverse natural world and earth’s abundant resources and, with this respect, there comes an obligation to replenish the nature that nourishes the soul.
The sprawling and lush Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers several provinces, is vital to the survival of many types of wildlife, particularly during rainy season when flash floods are all too common. Thanks to the sanctuary, which absorbs much of the season’s excess rainwater, many neighbouring areas are protected and lives are saved. In order to support the sanctuary’s important role as protector, planting trees to counter deforestation and its negative effects is essential. Not only have we made great strides in doing so, but we have also built sturdy weirs as further barriers to devastation.
Until November 2016, many of our staff members were not familiar with the words Sap-lanka or weirs, which are barriers used across rivers to help manage the flow of the river. That all changed when the Diethelm Joy Team, those who are responsible for staff retreats and activities, decided to approach the upcoming annual staff party differently than previous years. It wouldn’t just be about celebrating our achievements for the year but, more importantly, somehow giving back to the world that has thanklessly nurtured our success.
After the Diethelm Joy Team asked the staff how they wanted to embark on the exciting path of Corporate Social Responsibility, nearly 70% voted to go on a two-day / one-night weir building retreat in the Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary. Just like that, we were ready, willing and able to join forces and take action on a Journey of a Lifetime during the weekend of January 21-22.
The much anticipated weir-building weekend finally came! When we arrived at the Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary late-morning, its resident officers and their partners graciously welcomed us with a lovely and delicious lunch. After the hearty meal, ten impressive E-tak trucks brought all 120 Diethelm staff deep inside the forest to build the weirs. En route and quite unexpectedly, one of the officers stopped our caravan to allow for a herd of elephants to pass by. Once the beautiful animals passed, we continued on our path into the forest.
After 30 minutes, we finally reached our destination and split into two groups, each with the responsibility to build a weir. And, what better way to get the job done quickly than to make it a race! Completely focused to complete the weirs, we had to put rocks into the empty spaces between bamboo sticks. In just about 45 minutes, one of the groups began to cheer as they had completed their task. But, this marked just one stepping stone to overall success as Chief Praphan urged us to work together with a shared goal. Thus, teamwork became priority as we lined up to pass much-needed and quite heavy stones to the unfinished weir at the bamboo bridge.
At the end of the day, not only did we build two weirs, which will surely help combat the devastation of flash flooding, but we did so as one team with a shared goal for the common good. A round of applause goes out to the officers and soldiers who helped prepare the materials and the entire staff for working so hard!
After a fun-filled day building weirs, we finally made it back to the main hall for a lesson from experienced paratroopers on surviving in the forest. Beyond enlightening, it included tips on dealing with snakes, finding water from plants, making fires and cooking using only natural resources. And, that just scratched the surface of the skills needed to survive! Before heading off to dinner, our bond grew deeper as we lit candles and sang songs to pay our respect on the 100-day anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s passing.
Energised by our accomplishments yet humbled by our songs, we got ourselves refreshed and made our way to the hall for a scrumptious feast. Besides amazing food, we participated in a costume contest and talent contest aptly called, Diethelm’s Got Talent, in which winners got special prizes. Almost everyone got swept up in the festivities, dancing and singing, and having a blast. From the moment we arrived to the Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary to the celebratory end, we’ve surely been left with so many good memories. And, it is for this and for how proud we feel of our accomplishments, that we thank management for making it all happen.