Looking back at 2019, we’re indebted to you.

Dear Friends of Elephant Havens,

Thank you for the most fulfilling year of my long life. Together we have changed many lives for the better, and we will continue to do even more in 2020. 
 
I think one of the most important projects we completed this year is the freshwater well for the local community. Water is everything and, because of you, we have been able to provide fresh drinking water to many, many people. They have never known the gift of turning on a tap and having precious clean water come out until now. 

With two wells available—one at the orphanage and another about 2 miles away—no one has to walk or travel on a donkey cart very far to get drinking water. It makes me so happy when I see men and women and children filling up their containers with clean water in this time of historic drought. I really don’t know what this community would have done this year, as the river is dry because of the drought.
 
Of course our irrepressible orphans have put smiles on many faces. Some of you have had the opportunity to visit and now know what it feels like to have an elephant kiss you—one of MmaMotse’s favorite things to do. Scott is pretty sure she is not so much earnestly affectionate as on the lookout for some special treat that she hasn’t found while grazing the EH compound. I completely believe she is just that affectionate. 

To watch these rescues go from scared, traumatized little lost orphans, to sweet, loving orange-eating baby elephants is overwhelming and even hard to explain. I try and I share photos with you, but there are no words or pictures that can fully show you the elephants’ gratitude. I promise, they seem to know we are saving them. 

Most of them will start taking food from your hands within a day or two of arriving. At first, their trunks are rather wild as they grab for the treats. Then they slow and become more gentle with their reach. This shows the beginnings of trust. When they decide to take a nap in your presence, it is such an honor because you have their complete trust. They know they are home with people who love and care for them. 
 
There have also been some devastating losses. The babies we rescue usually have underlying medical conditions. Sometimes we can correct these with medical interventions, but other times, sadly, we can’t. There are no words to express how helpless we feel when we know there is nothing more we can do to help an orphan survive. We have to move forward and not be discouraged, knowing we have not only done everything medically possible but that we also provided a safe, loving place for them to take their last breaths. 

People often ask us, “What is the hardest part of doing business in Africa?” Well, this is the hardest part. We all love these babies and it will never get easier to say goodbye. We will not be able to save them all, but we will save many. 

It is with mixed emotions that we anticipate the day that we can send these soon-to-be-giants back off into the Delta. There they can safely enjoy the reintroduction that you will have made possible. And while they are with us, these little ambassadors for all things wild will have made a difference for their species and for all who have shared in their journey. 
 
We are looking forward to a new year, a new decade and new commitment. We have many things in the works for next year that we are so excited about:

  • We hope to have a land expansion in 2020! (more about that later) 
  • The Dallas Zoo is assisting us in putting in the much-needed lab so we can run simple real-time tests to determine the health of our orphans when they first arrive. 
  • We are still trying to secure funds for a van, so the local children don’t have to walk miles through elephant corridors to get to school. I hope this year this dream will become reality. 

I hope all of our updates are not filling your inbox too much, but I love sharing all of our successes. It has been a year beyond our wildest expectations and I want you to take full responsibility for it. You are true life-changers. All of us at Elephant Havens are indebted to you!

Happy New Year—we can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.

Debra Stevens & Scott Jackson

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