Paige, a registered veterinary nurse, travelled all the way from England to Tanzania to take part in a two-week mission to treat and care for animals in need, and stop the spread of rabies in rural communities. Working alongside local charity Mbwa Wa Africa as well as our sister charity Mission Rabies, Paige really did make a difference.
Read on to hear all about her volunteering experience in Tanzania.
"Whilst I was in Tanzania, my weekends were spent running mass vaccination campaigns. Working with the Mission Rabies team, we would set up pop-up vaccination clinics at local primary schools to administer free rabies vaccinations to pets. The dogs would be brought in by the owners, which were mainly children, and they would wait in line for their dog to be vaccinated and, if needed, neutered. It was so lovely to get to meet all the locals and see how much they adored their dogs."
"During the week, I spent my time at the clinic near the MWBA Africa dog shelter. Here, dogs would stay overnight and be operated on the next day. Sometimes it would feel like the line was never-ending because we would be nearly finished and the ‘Dala Dala’ bus would turn up with another 12 dogs. I enjoyed working in the clinic because it was easier to be set up and have all the equipment there, but I preferred the vaccination campaigns because I loved working outside and meeting the locals."
"Our record was 30 dogs in one day, which we were very proud of. It took a lot of hard work and preparation, but it felt so good when we hit 30."
"I fell in love with Tanzania on the first day. The locals are so friendly and the sun is always shining. I arrived in January and the weather was a hot 30 degrees Celsius every day. I loved sitting outside on my dinner and enjoying the sun, much better than rainy Manchester weather!"
"Arusha town centre is like a different world, so busy and so many people. Definitely a different experience, but one to remember."
"The transport in Arusha is certainly different to Manchester, if you want a taxi this is called a ‘Picky Picky’ which is a motorbike and a bus is called a ‘Dala Dala,’ which is a small bus that is packed with around 50 people."
6:30am: Rise and shine, try and get the first shower to hopefully have hot water! 7:00am: Breakfast, pancakes, and a cup of tea for me every day 7:30am: Briefing with the entire team 8:00am: Arrive at the clinic and unpack equipment from the vans 8:30am: Set up equipment, sterilise equipment, walk, feed and medicate the in-patients, and prepare for surgeries. 10:00am: Operate, operate, and more operating! 3:00pm: Lunchtime! I spent my lunch cuddling the puppies whilst I sat in the sun. PERFECT! 3:30pm: More operating! 7:00pm: Tidy the clinic, make sure all the in-patients have food and water 8:30pm: Dinner time and catch up with everyone 9:00pm: Quick shower (and I mean quick because the water would be freezing at this point!) 10:00pm: Sleep and repeat the next morning
"Aside from spaying and neutering dogs, we also treated a number of cases during my two-week placement, including pyometras, pregnancies, a leg amputation, dog bite wounds, petechia clotting disorders, collapsed puppies, many transmissible venereal tumors (TVTs) cases, and a ruptured splenic tumour."
"Seeing all these different cases was obviously hard as we weren’t prepared for these, nor did we have the correct equipment to deal with this, but did our best and I think we did amazing under the circumstances."
"Dealing with these cases in Africa made me feel a lot more comfortable about dealing with them at home."
"The highlight had got to be meeting all the incredible people that I did. From the moment I got off the plane, I knew that I had made friends for life. I met people that I would never have got a chance to meet if it wasn’t for this trip. My roommate Kristen, who turned out to be the American version of me, kept me up crying with laughter each night. My workmate Ben, we are total opposite people but clicked straight away, the laughs that we had whilst operating will never be forgotten."
"I loved listening to everyone’s stories, everyone had one thing in common… their love of animals, so of course we always had something to talk about, but hearing people’s daily stories on how they work and live at home was just amazing. I will never forget the people I met on the trip."
"My favourite patient has got to be a dog that got admitted after being hit by a car, two months prior. He'd been walking with a badly injured forelimb ever since the accident. When he was first admitted to the clinic, he was obviously scared and nervous, so we couldn’t really get near him. The vets made the difficult but necessary decision to amputate the injured leg, which involved a two-hour surgery. Once the dog was awake, we let him recover in the clinic overnight."
"The next morning, we were all so excited and nervous to see how he was. As soon as we walked into the clinic, the dog was bouncing around, barking, and jumping. Such an amazing transformation."
"A few days later, he was able to return home. Watching his recovery was so rewarding, and I got very emotional when we said our goodbyes. It’s upsetting to think what would have happened if we weren't there to help this dog, so if this isn’t a good enough reason to help with these types of clinics, then I don’t know what is!"
"I was surprised by how well looked after the animals were. Yes, they were full of fleas and ticks, but the dogs weren’t fazed by this at all. They had healthy coats, remarkable teeth, and a constant wagging tail."
"I also surprised myself at how well I coped on the trip because it was emotionally and physically draining, especially living on a small amount of food compared to what I normally eat at home, which is a lot. But seeing the happy locals and working with such an amazing team got me through the tiring days of working 12 hours. Now that I’m home, I eat so much healthier and never waste food, all thanks to this trip."
"It sounds cliché, but I learnt not to take life for granted. I am so lucky to live the life that I do and after seeing how happy the people of Africa are when they have so little, was just amazing for me. I also learnt that even in Africa, dogs are a man's best friend. Seeing the bond that people have with their dogs was wonderful. The dogs worshipped their owners, if the little girls that would walk the streets the dogs would be right by their side and that was touching to see."
"I am already planning my next trip to Tanzania!! I loved everything about this trip. The culture, the people and of course the animals."
"I would definitely recommend this trip to any vet or veterinary nurse who is thinking about doing something like this. I wish I could have stayed for a further two weeks, which I would have done if I didn’t have my own dogs to go home to."
If you’ve been inspired by Paige's experience and feel ready to get hands-on with treating and caring for animals in need, take a look at our volunteer placements in Tanzania or browse our other programmes for vets, nurses, students, and non-vets around the world.