Amelia, a veterinarian from Scotland, embarked on a two-week adventure of a lifetime to Botswana to assist Maun Animal Welfare Society (MAWS) in providing expert veterinary care to animals of low-income households in and around the town of Maun. Here she is to tell you all about her experience volunteering abroad.
"I began my trip with a few days of exploring: a visit to Victoria Falls, just over the border in Zambia, and a safari in Chobe National Park - my first chance to see elephants, hippos, and crocodiles! I also made a short visit to the capital, Gabarone, to swear an oath to the Botswana Veterinary Society before landing in Maun for my two-week placement."
"Arriving in the town of Maun, I was excited to get started. On my first day, I had a chance to assess all the inpatients at the clinic and get their care plans sorted. Kenny and Vasco, the permanent staff, were very welcoming and showed me the ropes."
"Then the neutering started. Most dogs have ehrlichia (a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks) and therefore, bleed like crazy. Despite my reservations and anxieties about this, they recover very well from their surgeries. All patients are then vaccinated to further promote a healthy population."
"In this part of the world, injectable general anaesthetic is the norm, and I was initially very wary about using them, especially as I didn’t have a Veterinary Nurse on hand, but Kenny was amazing and helped me monitor and prepare all the surgeries despite no formal training."
"The anaesthetic protocol developed by the charity and local vets works really well. I was very impressed with how resourceful and efficient the team was. They really care about the animals and make sure the owner's needs can be met as best as possible. We aimed to finish surgery by early afternoon, so the dogs have enough time to recover from their anaesthetic to go home with Nation, a team member whose job it was to collect and drop off all the dogs to their homes."
"The first few days were really hot, and getting used to all the bugs was a challenge! Our number of inpatients seemed to rise exponentially as more patients were brought in by owners along with routine neuters – so lots of sick doggies! At one point we had 20 dogs at the clinic! Sadly, the number of parvo and distemper cases highlights the need for vaccination and education here. But even though there were some dogs we couldn’t save, we were able to prevent any further suffering for these individuals."
"After a few days of the busy clinic, I was invited round to Mervyn’s (founder of MAWS) house for a drink and swim with amazing views of the river (so not all hard graft!). After the first week, I was getting my head around all the tropical diseases and how things roll here. It really felt like I was making a difference in these animals’ lives, and helping communities much less fortunate than back home."
"Vicky, a registered veterinary nurse (RVN) who had been appointed MAW's first permanent RVN arrived in the second week. She was great, getting stuck in straight away, and we got on well. John and Helen (MAWS Veterans) from the UK arrived the following day allowing us to increase the number of dogs sterilised and patients tended to. Both were fountains of knowledge and enlightened us with their moth, bird, and bat identification. We had lots of fun catching moths and bird watching down by the river. We went to a local yoga class on the Tuesday, which was a very relaxing way to finish the day and also meet the locals."
"Walking the 200 metres from the accommodation to the clinic each morning is something I will always remember fondly. Seeing red and yellow hornbills, hoopoe, fly catchers, and francolin was a wonderful way to begin each day. Not to mention returning to the cottage each day to be greeted by Marley and Rafikie, the resident dogs."
"I finished my time in Botswana with a trip to the Okavango Delta, with thanks to a link built up between the safari providers and MAWS, involved close encounters with elephants, leopards, and hippos, and memorable moments aplenty."
If you’ve been inspired by Amelia’s experience and feel ready to get hands-on with helping animals in need in rural Botswana, take a look at our volunteer placements at MAWS or our other programmes for vets, nurses, students, and non-vets around the world.