As this decade draws to a close, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect. So much has changed in ten years. Ten years ago, GSE wasn’t even a pipe dream; it wasn’t even a blip on the radar.
Ten years ago, we were living in rural Tennessee, and spending our days with a different elephant herd. If you told any of our team (from caregivers to supporters) ten years ago that this is where we would ring in 2020, they would’ve laughed. We all would’ve laughed. We didn’t see this path coming ten years ago; we couldn’t have. It was ElephantVoices and Miss Ramba who first put us on this path – even when we first started brainstorming how to help give Ramba the life she needed, it wasn’t with us, and it wasn’t here in Mato Grosso, Brazil.
The path that led us to today took ten years of serendipity, chance meetings, and strange coincidences. In the beginning, this sanctuary was a far-fetched dream at best. There were times our loved ones thought of gentle ways to break it to us that building a sanctuary in South America wasn’t going to happen. There were times we didn’t believe it would happen ourselves and wondered if everyone was right, if we were crazy for trying. There were times that things fell apart; there were times that we fell apart. Each time, though, something put us back on this path, many times it was Ramba.
Reflecting on the past ten years, we have had some unbelievable wins. We will never forget our first sunset on this property, welding the first stalls for the Asian barn (that our neighbor’s cows slept in), or getting on the plane to rescue Maia and Guida, unable to believe it was really, truly happening. And some significant backsteps along the way. We look back now and can laugh, but the journey started rough, with the original donated land and financing falling through within days of our arrival in Brazil. We remember moving from place to place (including the ‘House of Fish’) as our housing options disappeared. We remember someone delivering two fungi and flea riddled kittens to our door because they knew we missed our dogs (we still have and love Bodhi and Saffron.) We remember how hard it was to finally leave the region where the journey started, but knowing we were never going to find sanctuary there and we were running out of time.
We laugh about the property we first saw online that kept calling Scott back, and finally giving in to see if it could work (it did 😉 ). We recall meeting Cassia in a hotel to help with land negotiations after our original translator fell through. Her desire to help was as clear as everyone’s uncertainty about the ability to make the land purchase work, but in her, we found a forever ally. We remember nervously laughing when we moved onto the property and saw there were 100 chickens, 12 ducks, 2 dogs, 1 horse, and 2 humans who were all still living here. We look fondly back the walks Scott and I took, hand and hand, discovering nooks on the property that we could envision elephants exploring as we repeated to one another, ‘This property is beyond spectacular for elephants.’ We remember being nervous that we could pull this off and almost crying with relief as person after person began to step up to support this dream for elephants, making it all possible.
We will always remember Maia and Guida’s first night, where two elephants that had a terrible and aggressive relationship with each other put it all aside, chatting away overnight, ending up holding each other through the bars in the morning. Our marvel at seeing Guida, an elephant who swayed 99% of her day, engage with the world around her, and reconnect to life. Watching them grow, heal, and become the definition of a loving and supportive herd member. The mini-miracle of the hotel/zoo signing over Rana and her exuberance at having new friends. Then watching her emotional growth as she had to learn to accept that her desires weren’t always shared. We will never forget when we heard Ramba’s permits were finally approved (we asked to see them before we celebrated) and being able to share the news with Ecopolis and Caro and Consu. And then the joy of watching her embrace every inch of the sanctuary, act as if she had been here forever, become a best friend to Rana, and astound everyone involved in her rescue with how much she changed within mere days. Then we found out that years of work had paid off, and Lady would be calling Elephant Sanctuary Brazil home as well. There was a mix of joy and ‘holy cow’ as we realized how much the sanctuary was going to grow in the next two years. We are still now just getting to know our sweet little insecure girl but have already seen she is learning to trust, although she finds it difficult to open her heart. All in time. ❤️
We’ve also had some devastating losses – losing sweet Guida, losing grandma Ramba, losing our original sanctuary dogs, Maggie (16), and Goomba (14), losing Pelusa and Merry before they even made it to Sanctuary. We also had some losses that felt devastating at the time, but in retrospect weren’t. So many “perfect” properties that we almost bought to have the sales fall through at the last moment, having to replace one of Ramba’s caregivers (which brought us the blessing of Consu), and needing to rebuild the team here in Brazil, which gave us the fantastic folks whose hearts are all in and have made so much happen this past year.
We have gotten to know some of the most incredible people – the tireless activists of South America who have dedicated their lives to laying the groundwork that allows us to rescue each elephant we rescue, our incredible supporters (many of whom we know so well but have never met), and, of course, our team of employees and volunteers that make everything happen, keep us mostly stable, and bring laughter to our days.
As we look towards the next ten years, we know it too will have its ups and downs – we know we will shed tears of joy, tears of laughter, and tears of sorrow. We know we will get to meet many more of you in real life, and give you the hugs we’ve virtually sent for years.
We will always look back at our past with gratitude for its infinite blessings and sometimes with bewilderment for the crazy road it has been. But, it’s time to look forward to 2020. We already have four rescues in the works for 2020 – Mara, Pocha, Guillermina, and Kenya should all be coming home this year. Hopefully, we can all come together to bring Tamy home as well. We are excited to watch Lady become more comfortable with other elephants and get to know herself. We know Maia and Rana are both still on their paths of grief over their respective losses of 2019, but we know 2020 will bring them further healing and turning to other elephants for comfort, support, and new friendships. We are excited to see how Mara, Pocha, and Guillermina will fit into the existing herd. We are excited for our steel for the African habitat to arrive next week, and we are excited to have Kenya inaugurate the African habitat with star-struck eyes and joyous wonder.
It’s a bittersweet new year, and a bittersweet new decade dawning, but we wouldn’t trade anything we have. We hold in our hearts the understanding that everything happens for a reason, although not always easy to see at the moment, and we look to the future with open hearts and the smallest of smiles.
To close out this transformative decade we want to express our infinite gratitude to our sweet grandma for repeatedly pushing us forward and inspiring us to never turn back. Ramba, you have changed the hearts of many, you have opened a new world for elephants and trust that we will forever carry on in your honor.
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Juan Camilo saysDecember 31, 2019 at 7:14 pm
This is nothing short of amazing.
Julia Eden saysDecember 31, 2019 at 7:25 pm
Beautifully written and deeply touching , also inspiring for a positive future for elephants ? at Global Sanctuary Brazil with the arrival of four more elephants ? in this new year and the addition of African elephants ? to the herds. All under the expert compassionate guidance of Scott and Kat Blais and in loving memory of our Ramba Bug ❤️
Carol saysDecember 31, 2019 at 7:30 pm
Wowwwww! Thank you for catching us up on what had come before, as many of us are newcomers to the sanctuary and all the players as well as the rescued souls. This is a microcosm of life and all the lessons and experiences, both good and miserable, teach us and empower us with knowledge and compassion.
HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU…BOTH ELEPHANT AND HUMAN!????????????????
Melutina saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 3:01 am
Thank you, Carol, for your heartfelt comment! There’s a lot of heartfelt comments and I picked yours to reply.
HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU…BOTH ELEPHANT AND HUMAN!???????????????? I just copied and pasted a part of your comment.
I’m just a supporter of Global Sanctuary for Elephants and glad to be one.
alana saysDecember 31, 2019 at 7:50 pm
Scott, Kat & crew, Thank You for your dream. Thank You for letting me come along, it’s truly been an amazing experience to watch, learn & fall in Love with the girls & GSB. I so look forward to the next 10 years.
Happy, Happy New Year!
Guille saysDecember 31, 2019 at 7:52 pm
Gracias infinitas por la valentia y el compromiso para cambiar la vida de esos seres maravillosos ? y al mismo tiempo cambiar nuestras vidas. Que Dios siempre les acompañe y les de fuerzas para seguir. Siempre te amaré Ramba.
JC Tryon saysDecember 31, 2019 at 7:56 pm
Oh, so well said Kat and Scott. May GSE continue to blossom under your diligent care. I wish all of •US• [the on-site GSE team and all the donors] a wonderful New Year.
Melutina saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 3:03 am
Thank you and HAPPY NEW YEAR to you too!
Gramma Tammy saysDecember 31, 2019 at 8:06 pm
Beautifully said, thank you for the wonderful memories and to the new ones right around the corner. I am so blessed to have found GSE right when Ramba needed airfare for her final journey home which was and has been quite emotional. I fell in love with her and her sisters right away and have been a supporter since and will never leave them or you all. Here’s to many new Elephant rescues and many new friendships. Happy New Year to all the Elephants with you and to all those waiting for their chance at a new life hang in there you will never be forgotten, much love…,,,,,,God Bless
Jim Driscoll saysDecember 31, 2019 at 8:25 pm
All of you at sanctuary are awesome. Your love and passion for the girls shines through. Ramba brought me to you. Her legacy will live on and because of her and all of you there, I will continue to support your work. Thank you for giving elephants the freedom they deserve. I look forward to the next ten years.
Barb Wilson saysDecember 31, 2019 at 8:26 pm
Thank you for sharing this beautiful and inspiring message of love, life, and loss.
Renee' Killian-Zeiger saysDecember 31, 2019 at 9:17 pm
God Bless you and your team…AND for the beautiful videos and posts about these amazing animals known as Elephants. I hope to visit you and volunteer. These stories are beyond heart touching and gut wrenching. I’ve really been following you when your funding raising began to get Ramba to sanctuary. The email I received las week was heart breaking. She was in her happy place at sanctuary and even though it was way to short, that counts for something. Again, God bless you richly in your efforts and works to take care of the girls already at sanctuary and the other Eles to follow.
Happy New Year from South Carolina!
June saysDecember 31, 2019 at 9:28 pm
YOU, atSanctuary..ALL of you are totally amazing! Bless each of you.
Jean saysDecember 31, 2019 at 9:58 pm
Beautifully said. God bless you! May he continue to shine his light on you.
Happy New Year. May you continue on your beautiful payh
Kathy saysDecember 31, 2019 at 11:00 pm
What a beautiful tribute. Bless all of you for the love and caring of Maia,Guida,Rana,Ramba and Lady. I cried and smiled through it all and can’t wait for all the new arrivals for 2020. Thank you and have a happy, productive and healthy New Year.
Annette Whillier saysDecember 31, 2019 at 11:34 pm
Happy Happy New Year and Decade to you Scott & Kat. And to all who help provide care to the beautiful Ellie’s in Sanctuary Brazil.
2020 will bring peace, love, and more Ellie’s to Sanctuary.
Patricia saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 3:47 am
All my love, as usual, to all you humans and big elephant love to the precious sweethearts you have saved, living and passed. 2020 sounds wonderful!!!
Mandy Hackett saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 3:48 am
We love you Scott and Kat
Oksana Brodie saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 5:06 am
Love, respect and blessings for 2020!
Sherry saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 7:42 am
Congratulations and thank you for all of the hard work through the years. It just goes to show how much you love and care for
those amazing elephants!
Dreams do come true and this is your purpose in life.
Happy and healthy New Year to you all and elephants too.
Irene and Dean Olson saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 8:15 am
Thank you for sharing your amazing tribute with us! Dreams do come true! And to think Ramba brought you to this paradise. We can’t wait to see what this new decade will bring, ??❤️❤️
Barbara saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 8:44 am
What a beautiful post and a heartfelt insight into the wonderful work you all do for these beautiful elephants.
Here’s to a wonderful 2020 and the health and happiness of everyone in your sanctuary ❤️
Nancy Shaw saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 1:32 pm
OK you made me cry !!! I knew about you and Scott while in Tn. and recently involved my wonderful Daughter and Son-in-Law who gave me the fabulous gift of a year-long adoption of Lady !! I loved Lady’s spunk and how she can let caregivers know they’re enchroaching or not doing the right thing –like hitting the bars with her head !! It is an amazing story watching them live as fully as possible ! Choices Choices : ) : ) !! Happy New Year, Scott, Kat and All at Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Sheila saysJanuary 1, 2020 at 1:35 pm
THANK U SO MUCH FOR SHARING UR DECADE OF BRAZIL ELEPHANT SANCTUARY PERSONAL HISTORY! TRULY ENJOYED AND AMAZING WRITINGS FROM THE HEART! YES KAT ANS SCOTT HAVE ENDURED ALOT IF HEARTBREAK AND CHANGE DURING THIS DECADE OF DEVELOPMENT! CONGRATULATIONS FOR UR CONTINUED WORK HOWEVER SO HARD AT TIMES BECAUSE OF UR DEEP COMPASSION AND COMMITTMENT TO ELEPHANTS‼️AND OTHER ANIMALS! I PRAY YOU AND UR TEAM. CONTINUE TO DEVELOP “ THIS SANCTUARY AS THE PRIDE OF SOUTH AMERICA” AND ONE DAY U WILL ALLOW TOURS OCCASIONALLY FOR FOLKS WHO LOVE. ELEPHANTS GOD BLESS U KAT AND SCOTT! MAIA!RANA AND LADY. CAN WAIT TO SEE THE OTHER LADIES KENYA! MARA! POCHA! GMINNA! AND TAMY! PLUS MANY MORE ELEPHANTS SO DESERVING OF RESCUE FROM ABUSIVE CIRCUSES AND JAIL ZOOS. SCOTT AND KAT AND TEAM! UR VISION IS MANY OF OUR VISIONS. TO END THE TERRIBLE ABUSE OF SUCH WONDERFUL CREATURES GOD? CREATED FOR US TO LEARN SO MUCH ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT ELEPHANTS ARE TO ENVIRONMENT AND HOW WE AS HUMANS CAN LEARN FROM THEIR GRACEFUL COMMUNITY ❤️LOVE FOR EACH OTHER?. THANK YOU KINDLY
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Reflecting On the Past. Looking Forward to the Future.