t: +61 (0)458204086 e: email@example.com
Spending time doing voluntary work overseas has been some of the most important time to me, both personally and professionally. I embarked on two trips, at very different times in my career and gained some invaluable experiences...
Please take a minute to reflect on these experiences. Remember for a minute that there are animals and people worldwide that undergo great hardships and suffering, and have little or no treatment available. There are also people doing incredible work to help. Consider how fortunate we are, and what we can do to help.
Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad:
After university I went straight into a hospital based race-horse orientated internship and then on to a surgery internship in the heart of Australia’s stud farms. Then in 2005, I went to Morocco for 6 weeks! From wonderful veterinary facilities, specialist guidance, well-cared for and valuable thoroughbreds to the hard-working and gruelling existence that is working African equines...
All day injured and sick horses and donkeys would queue up, out of the door and down the street. Desperate owners, that needed their animal to provide for their family, would wait for hours for our help. We were the only place they could turn to and without these charities, these horses and donkeys are either left untreated to their fate, or worse still, forced to work.
So I was introduced to the Moroccan technicians employed full-time by the charity who would translate Arabic to French for us – and I would learn to communicate with what I remembered from the French classroom at school, a range of suspect veterinary explanations and instructions! Fortunately there was a newly graduated vet from France starting with me who had better English that my French, so between us we all developed veterinary Ara-fren-glish!
At this point in my career I felt that I had a pretty sound education and I was happy to tackle most things. That was until I realised that there was no longer anyone to guide me, to double check the finer points of each procedure and discuss how I could improve my treatments. Even so, I was definitely the best chance any of these animals had. So day after day, in 50 degree heat, we worked away on the most amazing range of cases I will ever see. We had a hospital full of donkeys with deep infected wounds, colicking horses, foaling problems, sick foals, eye disease, neurological disease – the list was endless. We would perform surgeries daily – from caesarean-sections, joint lavages, wound repairs, eye removals, and try to nurse the animals back to health and the families that owned them.
The suffering was hard to handle, but it was terrible to imagine how they would end up if we weren’t there. As a vet, I wouldn’t have done many of these procedures for years back home. Every day I would walk up and down the hospitalised cases, thinking hard about what we had done, how they were going, what we could have done better and why they were progressing the way they were. The pressure of this case responsibility stays with me every day and I still go through these thought processes every time I treat an animal.
And personally, seeing life in Northern Africa and keeping those memories to the forefront of my mind helps me appreciate how fortunate I am for what I have and how I can work as a veterinarian. The people there are an inspiration – our efforts were rewarded with endless gratitude and humour. Without being able to appreciate clever use of each other’s language we could still laugh at each other and make up our own jokes, each of us appreciating the other’s good spirits and common goals. And most of all, I learnt very early in my career what can be achieved and enjoyed from hard work and teamwork.
It was three years later, after 3 breeding seasons in Australia, one in Newmarket and two in Kentucky, that I decided that I needed another reality check!
The position I took was at a new hospital that had just been developed by a small charity, achieving big things, in Egypt. This time I had a lot more experience and the position was aimed at training the Egyptian vets working there permanently and educating the people about looking after their horses and donkeys.
The charity started 10 years ago when 2 British tourists that had visited Luxor regularly started a washing facility to try to help reduce the tack sores and wound infections that were commonly seen in the area. With the animals came more and more need for treatment, which they’ve strived to provide, and developed a fully operating veterinary hospital.
This was a wonderful opportunity for me to pass on what I had been lucky enough to learn in my career. The Egyptian vets hadn’t had the same education and hospital training, but they were desperate to learn.
At the end of the three months, they were performing thorough clinical examinations of the animals, discussing differential diagnosis in depth, developing treatment plans, looking at blood samples and performing surgeries. It was such a wonderful feeling, to stand back and watch them approach cases in a logical and confident manner, and know that as a result of this extra bit of training, more animals would continue to receive good treatment long after I left.
Both of these charities struggle with ongoing medicine, equipment and staff costs and are constantly fundraising. Both websites provide information and ideas about how you can help. Take a minute, have a look!
Assma, Egyptian Vet
Egyptian Transport 2