Vet, Louise Soutar describes her experience of volunteering on the Caribbean island of Carriacou at an animal hospital where the help of vets and veterinary nurses is always appreciated.
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After two years in mixed practice, I was keen to combine two of my favourite things: travelling and being a vet. While searching for voluntary veterinary placements abroad on the website of the Worldwide Veterinary Service (wvs.org.uk), I came across the Carriacou Animal Hospital, which is on a small island in the Caribbean. It offered a new adventure so I volunteered.
The journey from the UK involves several planes and a boat ride. However, when you arrive, you will see that Carriacou looks like an Instagram picture of paradise – white sand beaches and bright blue sea. It was a welcome sight and, as much as I was pleased to see the island, a warm welcome awaited me too.
What does volunteering involve?
Placements are two weeks or longer. The hospital receives no public funding, so it relies on volunteers who provide a service and donate medicines and supplies.
The daily routine involves tackling the surgical list – normally neutering – but you could be faced with anything.
It’s a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of tropical diseases before you go as many diseases are unfamiliar. Consultations can include cases of tickborne fever and heartworm, as well as conditions that are more familiar to UK vets, such as parvovirus.
Making a difference
As the island’s only veterinary facility, it was heartwarming to be able to make a difference (that goes for the animals and the people). Without us, they would have to travel two hours on a ferry to Grenada to see a vet (or go without). The local people were friendly and made us very welcome.
The ups of down time
Quiet afternoons can be spent on the beach (just across the road) enjoying the sun, swimming and paddleboarding!
Friday is reserved for house visits (pictured above – Louise is on the right), which offers a chance to get to know the island and, once work is done, lunch and cocktails are popular.
How much does it cost?
Flights are the main cost. Once in Grenada, you can take a boat or a plane to Carriacou (it’s a two-four ferry journey compared to a 20-minute flight).
Other costs include food and free-time activities. Personally, I recommend a trip to the Tobago Cays (where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed), a day trip to Sandy Island and paddleboarding. Accommodation is provided by the clinic.
Without vets and nurses volunteering their time and making supply donations, the clinic would not be able to function. It truly is a rewarding and wonderful experience – and you meet some great people along the way.
Find it on Facebook (Carriacou Animal Hospital), to see the great work it does and how get in touch.
The first WellVet Weekend is being held at Girton College, Cambridge, from the 24 to 26 August, organised by Vetsnet and Vetled.
It’s a sport and wellbeing event that’s designed to provide vets and vet nurses with an opportunity to ‘recharge, refresh and re-energise’. The gala dinner on the Saturday evening will feature a talk by Rob Pope – the real-life Forrest Gump – who is an emergency vet by night and a marathon runner by day.
Liz Barton, founder of Vetsnet said: ‘I love sport and I love this profession, so it’s fantastic to be able to organise a weekend dedicated to the physical and mental wellbeing of vets and vet nurses’. For more information and to purchase a ticket visit: www.wellvet.co.uk
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