Maya Elia: Photo by Rasy Ran

Maya Elia: Photo by Rasy Ran

Fifteen-year-old Maya Elia, who attends Ursuline Academy of Dallas, has loved elephants for as long as she can remember, so she jumped at the opportunity to visit them in Thailand last summer.

Through the organization Rustic Pathways, which offers service opportunities all over the world for high school students, she volunteered at a conservation center in Lampang, Thailand, that houses more than 50 elephants. There was an elephant hospital attached to the conservation center that tends to elephants anywhere in Thailand free of charge.

For a week, Maya took care of the elephants — riding them, feeding them, taking them to the lake to swim — and somewhere along the way she fell in love with them. The hurt elephants she saw at the hospital especially inspired her.

When she returned home, she brought back several pairs of Thai harem pants decorated with various elephant patterns. Her friends saw them and begged her for a pair, but she didn’t have enough for everyone. She researched how to buy more and realized it was cheaper to buy them in bulk.

“I thought, ‘Well, this might be a cool business since cool pants are kind of a trend right now,’ ” Maya explains. “I’d been wanting to start a non-profit, so I thought I might as well donate the money to the elephants I just met.”

So she launched (wait for it) Elepants, a nonprofit that raises money for food, medical supplies and healthcare for the elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center.

Not only does Maya sell the super comfortable harem pants for a very reasonable $20, she also sells elephants paintings, which are actually painted by elephants.

After launching Elepants in October, she already has received orders from all over the United States. In February, she made her very first donation of $7,500.

Learn more  at

Photo by Rasy Ran

Photo by Rasy Ran

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