Camille Glazer, a veterinary student from the University of Edinburgh recently joined us in Kasese, Uganda for our pilot vaccination drive! Here’s her story…
This was my first time volunteering with Mission Rabies as well as my first trip to Africa, and I could not be more delighted with the experience!
Our project site was approximately an 8-hour drive from the airport, so we spent our first day of the trip travelling across Uganda; this allowed us to see Uganda’s diverse landscapes as we drove through temperate areas, tea and coffee plantations, banana farms, mountains, and savannahs.
As we drove through Kasese, we stopped at the equator and realized that the lodge where we would be staying was in the southern hemisphere, so we would be crossing the equator on our daily commute to the project! Not only that, but our lodge was also buried in the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park, which meant we got a mini game drive every time we commuted into Kasese and drove back home – we saw tree-climbing lions, elephants, hippos, warthogs, antelope, and buffalo on the commute alone!
We spent the first two days of the project running various static points across the city, where we would set up a small station under a shady tree and wait for owners to bring their dogs to us. These days were less busy than the rest of the project and served as a good opportunity for us to get to know our local team members and familiarise ourselves with vaccination and data collection procedures.
I had a great time observing the village life happening around us and it was very heart-warming to see the effort people would go to in order to ensure their dogs were vaccinated – we had one man walk for 40 minutes from his home to get his dogs vaccinated at our static point. The local kids that gathered around us became great advocates for Mission Rabies, often instructing the older adults on how to properly restrain their dogs and rounding up other dogs from the village in exchange for Mission Rabies wristbands.
After the static points were finished, we spent the rest of the project going door-to-door in Kasese looking for dogs. Each team was assigned a different area of the city each day and our job was to find and vaccinate every dog we possibly could. This was my favourite part of the trip because I got to see the intimate parts of the city: where people lived, the markets they went to, how communities were organised, the ways dogs were kept, and how village life went on as a whole.
Our local volunteer was fabulous at explaining to me things I had never seen, such as the various crops and foods people ate, how building bricks were made, how soap was produced by a local church, and she also taught me some of the local language so I could interact with the people of Kasese. It was hugely satisfying to see dogs that had been brought to our static points clearly marked with the paint on their head and find new dogs to vaccinate. Every so often an owner would come out of their house carrying a handful of puppies or a box full of tiny kittens – is there anything better?
One of my favourite moments was when we entered a compound to find a dog that had been badly injured in a dog fight the night before. His owner, a little boy, was very worried about his dog and travelled with us to our static clinic, where he waited four hours for the dog to get cleaned up, have painkillers, and be vaccinated against rabies. His dog ‘Police’ was very grateful for the help and companionship, and the little boy shone with love for his dog through his kindness and patience. As we were driving the pair home at the end of the day, it really hit me that the people of this community were so eager and grateful to have help for their dogs and it really surprised me how committed they were to getting that help when it was available.
This Mission Rabies trip was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me – yes, I got to practice my skills by vaccinating A LOT of dogs but more importantly, I learned about the very real need for rabies vaccines in these areas and discovered how passionately dedicated I now feel to making sure the wonderful people I met in Uganda are protected against rabies.
I would highly recommend this organisation to anyone with a love for dogs and a hunger to change the world - not only did I make a difference in the health of a city’s dog population and its people, but I also got to visit an area of the world I’ve always wanted to see. I’m very keen to volunteer with Mission Rabies in the future - I have already applied to take part in the mega vaccination drive in Goa later this year, and I’d love to return to Uganda to see the evolution of rabies prevention in the communities where I worked. Eliminating rabies is an attainable goal, and I’m very proud to be one of the many people putting my boots on the ground to make sure it happens sooner rather than later!
If, like Camille, you are passionate about animal and human health and want to make a real difference in the fight against rabies, why not join us on one of other vaccination campaigns! Click here for all the current opportunities!