Rick Hayman has been a supporter of Mission Rabies since our very beginning back in 2013, both through commercial donations, volunteering his time, and fundraising!! Next Saturday, to mark this year's World Rabies Day, he'll be taking on a new kind of mission, leaping from a plane in our skydiving venture to raise money for Mission Rabies! This is his blog about his time volunteering in India and Malawi and how he's preparing for this new challenge.
I have been a director of a consumable infection control products company for over 20 years. During that time I have seen the animal welfare charity sector bloom and engagement and interest from the veterinary sector grow with equal vigour. My company has been supplying the welfare sector throughout that time and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to support many UK animal welfare charities over the years.
Through our work, I was introduced to the work of Luke Gamble, Worldwide Veterinary Service and the Mission Rabies project. Early in 2013 we engaged with WVS to offer some sponsorship and I was invited to an event to launch the mighty Mission Rabies truck! This marvel of portable veterinary care was destined to arrive in India later in the year to support the mission that was originally spread from Goa to Kolkata and culminated with a conference in Guwahati on World Rabies Day, the 28th September.
Many organisations and professionals attended the truck launch and it was there that I met Chris Payne who also works for the charity.
“Hi Chris, you’re not looking for any volunteers are you?” I asked, chuckling in a half serious tone and expecting to be told I had no experience!
“Yes, we’re always eager for support if you’re interested,” he replied.
That was it! Six months or so later, I’d signed up, raised plenty of sponsorship on my Justgiving page, paid for my multitude of vaccinations and booked my flight!
My company and I have participated in fundraising before and always regarded our support of the animal welfare industry as a corporate socially responsible act, but I wanted to do more and contribute my own time. We can all laudably support the efforts and unselfish actions of many people involved in the animal welfare industry, but how often does one really get to roll up one’s sleeves and stand shoulder to shoulder on the front lines?
Having experienced two weeks chasing and catching dogs, administering vaccinations, recording data and working with some amazing volunteers, vets, students and WVS members of staff, I knew I needed to do more. Mission Rabies is not a big charity, but it has a big heart, big aspirations, enthusiasm and determination. It has achieved so much since its inception in 2013 and I was fortunate enough to spend another fortnight involved in their work, but this time in Malawi, where the operation had evolved from its earlier beginnings.
The project had a greater focus on training, education of the community and a focused and continuous effort to eliminate rabies in an area that had the highest global recorded volume of child deaths from rabies bites. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre had the highest recorded child rabies deaths of any institution in the whole of Africa, making it a perfect place to begin the mission in Malawi. There again, I was able to experience the work of the volunteers and NGOs first hand.
It’s not always easy to juggle business, family and friends, let alone volunteer on occasion, but if I am able to use even my small network to help the cause, it’s time well spent. Sadly, I have been unable to find time to volunteer this year, so instead, some four years after getting involved with Mission Rabies, I have chosen to do something else to lend my support and now I’m contemplating jumping from a plane at 15,000 feet!
Hopefully next year I can once more dust off the boots, get my booster jabs and re-join the ranks!