Veterinary student and AMRRIC member, Xenia Newland, recently volunteered on a remote dog health program in the Punmu and Warralong communities in the Pilbara, WA. Xenia shares her first time experience below.
How did you participate in the program?
As a vet student on the trip I was happy to help with whatever was needed to be done. This included preparing dogs for surgery, providing assistance to the vets during surgery and looking after the dogs in recovery. I was also lucky enough to be able to do a few surgeries myself under the guidance of Dr Stephen Cutter and the other vets on the trip.
What did you enjoy most?
It’s hard to pinpoint the most enjoyable part of a trip so full of fun and adventure! I definitely learned a lot about the challenges being faced in such remote Indigenous communities in regards to animal population control and care. Being able to help with and take part in surgeries in settings so different to an average veterinary clinic was an experience in itself! It was also rewarding to share our knowledge with the community, in particular the children, about what AMRRIC does and how they can help make sure their pets remain as healthy as possible.
What did you find most challenging?
Possibly the most challenging aspect of the trip was being able to create a ‘veterinary clinic’ with limited equipment and supplies. It is amazing what can be constructed with some old chairs, doors and a few screws! Keeping everything sterile is also a bit harder, especially when working in dusty, outdoor areas but with litres of disinfectant and constant scrubbing, we managed to make it work.
Predicting numbers at the communities to be visited is also a bit difficult. However, by remaining flexible and with multiple back-up plans, we were kept busy for the whole week.
What’s the main thing you got out of this experience?
Being a part of this AMRRIC trip has emphasised to me the need for such programs to ensure that all animals have access to appropriate care. While having the opportunity to perform surgery in such a unique environment was unforgettable, it was the team spirit of the volunteers that impacted me the most. We were all there to work but what made it special was the stories and experiences that were shared and the friends that were made.
What advice would you give to others wanting to do this?
If you love animals and adventure then volunteering for AMRRIC ticks all the boxes. At the risk of sounding cliché, being part of an AMRRIC program really is life changing. While there may be some long flights and drives to reach your final destination, they are worth it. You will meet wonderful people, work with some amazing animals and take away with you so many experiences that are unique to programs such as these.
Thank you Xenia and all our incredible volunteers who help us ensure that remote Indigenous communities have access to essential animal health services!