Animal Rescue Volunteer Meets Koh Tao

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Soi Dog’s PR officer, Toon Pawena, shares with us her joy in helping stray animals and enjoying her time on the island.

by Coco Lavender

If you ever see a woman up to her waist in water on a flooded road trying to save dogs and cats from drowning, it might be Toon Pawena.
Born and raised in Bangkok, the Soi Dog Foundation’s (SDF) public relations officer took a month off from her real estate work three years ago and bought an outboard engine, got a fiberglass boat donated by a friend, and sailed out daily to save neglected dogs in flooded areas of Bangkok.
“It was during the flood in Bangkok, in 2011, when I decided to join the animal rescue volunteer groups to help rescue stranded dogs; most of the cats could get away from the flood somehow, leaving only the poor helpless dogs! I first started as a joining member where I just went with swimming gear such as my protected diving shoes, rash-guard surf shirt, long wetsuit pants … and that was it. I then realized that walking in flood waters of about semi-chest-height isn’t that fun, and that too much time is wasted in the aqua-aerobic walks (a distance of five kilometers can take up to four or five hours walking in a flood),” she explains.
Since then, she has been to many areas saving animals, almost every day, to the point that she became a popular face on TV; that’s when the volunteer-based SDF found her and offered her some help.
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“I ended up working for SDF because I love dogs very much and I wanted to make some changes for the better living of the poor lives on the street of Thailand,” she says. “My job is to raise people’s awareness to understand what our foundation is, [how they can help] to improve the quality of the life of these stray animals in Thailand, and why these poor animals need our help. My main role is to raise funds in order to be able to help these poor creatures in the long term.”
But when Pawena is not saving animals, she enjoys spending time in Koh Tao: “It’s my favorite place in Thailand because it has just all I need: I can escape from the hectic city life to relax and enjoy the sun in marvelous beaches, yet I am still able to live a little bit of nightlife and beach parties.”
She remembers when, during a New Year’s party in 2007, she tried to make jumping a fire rope her next area of expertise: “I decided to join the jumping team of about three drunk farangs and four Thai fire rope experts on the very New Year’s Eve. The result was having my whole left arm burnt but, as the fiesta continued throughout the night, I didn’t realize my arm was that bad until the next morning, when my hair was also a little bit frizzier from the fire too!” She laughs.

What are you passionate about in your life?
I’m passionate about helping others, improving things for the better. And I am not saying this because I want to be Miss Universe, but one day I want to look back and tell people that “I am a part of a change in this matter, and I really did it OK” while collecting some good karma points for a better next life!

Bring there: A happy soul and a good friend. At the end of the trip, you will come back with a happier soul and a closer friend.
Must-do: Go to Koh Nang Yuan (an island just 15 minutes from Koh Tao by longtail boat) snorkeling to see thousands of nosy fish that will swim with you just to check you out.
Don’t do: Fire rope-jumping! And throwing trash into the sea or on the beaches when you are drunk. As a Thai, I hate to see visitors and just about anybody who is a guest destroying the place they are visiting. Respect the locals and the place.
Must-see: Shark bay snorkeling in the morning can give you a marvelous start of the day.
Eat at: Any beach restaurant; they always have good and fresh seafood.
Drink at: I don’t really drink, but a few sips of bucket drinks can’t kill you!
Sleep at: Every time I’m there I change my place to a new one just to explore the area, but I always stick to a beachfront place because life it too short to live too far from the beach and the sunrise!
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