Meet our Volunteers - Gemma

Post by
Frederic Lohr
September 29th 2014

Our mission to eliminate rabies in the State of Goa could not be accomplished without the help and dedication of our Volunteers and Staff who donate their time and skills to Mission Rabies. Therefore we would like to share with you who they are and how they experience being part of Mission Rabies.

We begin with Gemma Annetts, our long-term volunteer from the UK, who is with us since the very beginning. Read her inspiring story and see what it's like to be a Volunteer for Mission Rabies.

I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the mass vaccination drive last September with Mission Rabies, and I loved every minute of it! I had never been to India before, but the project gave me a great way to explore and experience all the different cultures as well as working on a project for dog protection - something through my working life and personal passion I loved being here to volunteer on.

So, after a great first trip out with the team in September, when Mission Rabies announced the Goa project, I signed up straight away. Since May I have been here in Goa now, having an amazing time and meeting some truly amazing people.

Most of the time I have been working with one of the catching teams in the Mission Rabies base in Margao. We have a great rapport and I enjoy going out with the guys catching dogs to bring back to the hubs, our Mission Rabies animal hospitals, for vaccination and sterilisation, speaking to the local people and educating them as to what we are doing. As responding to suspect rabies cases is a crucial part of the job, I was part of a team that headed to an emergency case of a rabid dog up near Vasco which had bitten 43 people just recently. Being part of this response team got me in touch with a lot of the people who were bitten by the dog. Their utterly heart-breaking stories are a strong reminder for me as to why it is so important to carry out this amazing work, and hopefully eliminate this totally preventable disease from the world.

One particular rabies case stands out to me, though. We were called out to a house where I met a lovely man and his family. He was concerned as his dog Sandy had been salivating the past 2 days, even though he was sure she hadn't been bitten by another dog, but had recently been in heat and a street dogs had been recently hanging around outside the house. After speaking to him, we took Sandy back to our clinic to observe her behaviour for a few days and soon she became quite erratic and noise sensitive – signs that rabies may be present.

In the end a hard decision was made to put her to sleep and test for rabies. Before Dr Shashi, one of the Indian veterinarians working for Mission Rabies, euthanized her, I went back to the owner’s house and spoke to him and told him we have reason to believe she has rabies based upon her behaviour. He was ok for us to carry on and inform him of the results as he has a 4 year old daughter. Sadly all the tests run came back positive - Sandy did in fact have rabies. I then went to the owner again and spoke with him. He was so grateful we were there and responded to his call so quickly. He was extremely concerned about his daughter, thankfully she hadn't been bitten however he still took her to the hospital and she had the course of post exposure vaccines to be certain.

These are just a few cases that really got to me and showcase just how easily this awful disease can spread. Harrowingly it is totally preventable.

I have often been asked by the locals, when I am out with the team, why I came all the way to India to work with Mission Rabies and why I don't carry out the same work at home in the UK. People are always surprised to hear that the UK is rabies free. It is wonderful to think this could be the future for Goa, too!

I am extremely proud to have been a part of this amazing team carrying out this incredible work and working towards a rabies free world. Everyone has done a fantastic job, and I look forward to volunteering again in the future with one of the upcoming projects of Mission Rabies.

If you would like to be a part of Mission Rabies, check out our Volunteer page for our amazing Mission Rabies trips and like our Facebook page , where we always post the latest news about our project.