During our link-up project with our sister charity Mission Rabies and local Tanzanian animal welfare group Mbwa Wa Africa, we welcomed some vets and vet nurses to help us treat as many animals as possible. Paige was one of our awesome vet nurses and this is her story...
Overview of the project…
The weekend we would be on a ‘static point’ which would be based at a Primary School and we would be teamed up with the mission rabies team at these points, which made the day very busy but so much fun at the same time. The dogs would be brought in by the owners, mainly the children, and they would wait in-line, sometimes waiting all day, until their dog had been neutered. They would wait until they had recovered then walk them home a few hours later. It was so lovely to get to meet all the locals and see how much they adored their dogs.
The week days would be spent at the clinic near the ‘MWBA Africa dog shelter’, dogs would stay here over night 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 static points 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.
Working in Tanzania …
I fell in love with Tanzania on the first day. The locals are so friendly and the sun is always shining! My project was in January and the weather was around 30c every day. I loved siting 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 defiantly 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. I didn’t try the public transport but it would be an experience.
An average day on the project …
6:30am: Rise and shine, try and get the first shower to hopefully have hot water!
7am: Breakfast, pancakes and cup of tea for me every day
7:30am: Briefing with the whole team and Mission Rabies team
8am: Arrive at the clinic and unpack equipment from the vans
8:30am – 9:30am: Set up equipment, sterilise equipment, walk, feed and medicate the in-patients, prepare for surgeries
10am – 2/3pm: Operate, operate and more operating!
3pm – 3:30pm: Lunch time. I spent my lunch cuddling the puppies whilst sat in the sun. PERFECT!
3:30pm – 7pm: More operating
7pm-8pm: Tidy the clinic, make sure all the in-patients have food and water
8:30pm: Dinner time and catch up with everyone
9pm: Quick shower, and I mean quick because the water would be freezing at this point
10pm: Sleep and repeat the next morning
The sort of work we took part in…
We took part in the obvious spay and neutering of dogs, but during my two weeks in Africa we saw: Pyometras, Pregnancies, A leg amputation, Dog attack wounds, Petechia clotting disorders, Collapsed puppies, Lots of TVT cases and a Ruptured splenic tumour.
Seeing all these different cases was obviously hard because 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 because I realised if we can work under those conditions, we are able to cope at home.
My highlight of the trip …
The highlight has got to be meeting all the amazing 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 who 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.
The animal that stood out for me…
My favourite patient has got to be a dog that got admitted after being hit by a car, two months ago! The dog has been walking with a badly injured fore limb for this whole time. When he got admitted he was obviously scared and nervous so we couldn’t really get near him. Susan and Ben decided to amputate his leg, this operation took around 2 hours which we started at 7pm, so by 9pm when we were recovering the dog, we were all very tired. Once the dog was awake we let him recover in the clinic overnight. The next morning, we were all so excited/nervous to see how he was. As we walking into the clinic the dog was bouncing around, barking and jumping up. Such an amazing transformation. A few days later the dog went home. Watching his recovery was so rewarding and I got very emotional when we watching him go home. It’s upsetting to think what would have happened if we wasn’t here 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!
What surprised me the most…
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, amazing teeth and a constant wagging tail.
I surprised myself at how well I coped on the trip because it was emotionally and physically draining, especially living of 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 anymore, all thank to this trip.
What I learnt…
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 mans best friend! Seeing the bond that people have with their dogs was wonderful. The dogs worshiped their owners, if the little girls that would walk the streets the dogs would be right by their side and that was amazing to see.
Would I go again…
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/nurse who is thinking about doing something like this. I wish I could have stayed for a further two weeks, I would have loved to extend my trip and if I didn’t have my own dogs to go home to, I think I would have done.
Summary of my experience…
‘One of the best things about volunteering and travel, is you get to find out how many good, kind people there are in the world.’