Being a veterinarian requires all sorts of skills that are taught at vet schools all around the world. But nothing can really prepare you for the madness of "real life" other than going out and do stuff. Kaz, studying at the University of Cambridge in the UK, took on the Mission Rabies challenge and volunteered at our project in Goa this summer. Working with all different kinds of people and advancing their clinical and cultural knowledge are just some reasons vet students love to volunteer with us, but let Kaz speak for himself and read his volunteer story:
I first came across Mission Rabies when I was charged with finding a veterinary speaker for a medical society dinner at university. Traditionally the medical students sneak a sly snooze during the vet slot, but I happily stumbled across the perfect fit in MR, and International DIrector Kate Shervell generously offered to come and speak. Not only did she fully succeed in keeping the entire audience engaged (and awake) but I found myself quickly realising I had a gaping hole in my summer and that I might have found the perfect way to fill it.
Fast forward six months, several jabs and about five thousand miles later, I stepped out from Dabolim airport and after the inevitable sensory overload passed, I met up with two vets : Jess and Edric (a daughter and father combo from the Isle of Man). I also met Phil, a van driver from Guildford who was seeking something different to the Greater London rat race. We were whizzed down to the MR HQ in Margao, where the four of us met Nicola and Anna, a vet and vet nurse respectively, who were both seasoned in the overseas vet malarkey. After a ride out with Gemma and the Margao boys that afternoon we got a decent night’s sleep before our posse set out for Canacona, the southernmost base within Goa where we would set up the new hub.
Emerging from a sedate academic year of natural sciences, I was thrust immediately into the insane world of charity neuter clinics. The hub in Canacona was an outdoor covered corridor of the local municipality building; this long corridor led to an atrium of sorts at one end and that was designated as our theatre area. Pristine it was not, but attention to detail in prep, during surgery and in recovery ensured a decent level of asepsis.
On a typical day, I would set out in the morning with the catcher boys and Phil to bring back a canine haul that would occupy the surgical team. Phil dutifully collected data on EpiCollect while I was chief vaccine-walla, jabbing any dogs we caught that had already been sterilised in previous years. From mid-morning, being by far the most junior of the veterinary team, I helped out where I was needed and was very patiently taught the art of intravenous anaesthesia in the field by Jess and Anna. Surgeries were broken up with chai and (very excellent) lunches, both of which slipped down very easily with all the frantic activity. As it got dark or the surgeons finished the day’s quota, we would feed the hounds and tidy up. From there we retreated to our digs in Palolem, a beach resort no less, and in the evening enjoyed dinner with a very moderate amount of Kingfisher or G&T to wash it down...
An increasing number of students at home are starting to realise that many “voluntourism” schemes might be more meretricious than righteous, more mouth than trouser. I reasoned that if I could find a project that could utilise some of my skills as a vet student (such as administering vaccines or handling difficult animals) that I might make a more concrete difference, even if it put a very modest dent in a formidable challenge. In the process I learned an immense amount - not just about the practicalities of running a neuter clinic in deepest Goa, but about a whole raft of other things like the madness of Indian roads, that Goan port is definitely not port and the beauty of Ganesh Chaturthi.. As a cherry on top, I was able to regale my confrères at vet school and at home with my escapades, as well as shock and awe with pictures of scrotal worms (true story).
Truthfully, when I heard the name “Mission Rabies” I was skeptical. I thought it was a smidge melodramatic. On reflection I could not have been more wrong - “mission” is an apt description, and Tom Cruise would have been sent running. Rabies is preventable but the process of containment and eradication continues be a Herculean, volatile and wholly baffling affair. I highly recommend you get involved.
Thanks to everyone I met in India, especially Anna, Edric, Jess, Nicola, Phil and Gemma, as well as every single person at MR who helps runs the show. I had a bloody good time.
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 or follow us on Twitter, where we always post the latest news about our project.