Volunteering to do something you enjoy is a great way to boost your self-esteem and wellbeing.
VetPartners colleagues are all given one annual volunteering day so they can support a charity or worthy cause of their choice, whether in their local community or further afield.
Quantock Vets clinical director Louise Ash used her day as part of a longer trip to volunteer with Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, our 2023 charity of the year.
Here, Louise shares her amazing volunteering adventure….
WHILE many people spend their summer relaxing on a beach or lounging around a swimming pool, Louise Ash spent her annual leave volunteering in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Louise, who is clinical director at Quantock Vets in Bridgwater in Somerset, spent the last two summers volunteering with Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, a charity that aims to reduce rural poverty in The Gambia through improving the health, welfare and productivity of all animals, but working animals in particular.
Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust was VetPartners’ chosen charity of the year for 2023, and colleagues across our family of practices and animal healthcare businesses raised £19,383 to help their work.
During her two volunteering spells in The Gambia, Louise experienced conditions that are a world away from what members of the veterinary profession see in the UK.
Her time in the tiny West African country was spent providing emergency care of animals and running neutering clinics for stray dogs in the most basic of conditions.
On one occasion, she performed her first femoral head and neck excision with a sterilised hacksaw bought from a nearby DIY shop.
She also saved the life of a dog named Gatekeeper, brought in with the worst road traffic accident injuries Louise has ever seen during her time as a vet.
Gatekeeper had multiple fractures, had eviscerated herself and there was sand in her abdomen. Operating throughout the night, she was able to save the stricken dog which is now a permanent resident at the charity.
Louise receives regular updates about her former patient’s progress and is set to keep her promise that if Gatekeeper survived, she would have her name tattooed on her in her honour.
Louise graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2011, and has experience with exotic animals like reptiles, birds and zoo animals.
Volunteering with Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust enabled her to indulge in her love of exotics. She helped with the rehabilitation of orphaned monkeys before they were released back into the wild. Seven months later, they have been spotted thriving in the bush.
As educating those who are involved in the care of animals is so important, Louise visited a local zoo to give advice on husbandry and enrichment for their animals, as well as teaching surgical skills to students or less experienced vets.
“My time volunteering with the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust was quite possibly one of the best things I have done with my veterinary degree,” said Louise.
“Helping animals in need is exactly why we wanted to be vets in the first place.
“They don’t have a lot out there in The Gambia but volunteers can do a lot with very little, just by using our basic veterinary and nursing skills.
“Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust is an incredible charity. Although the name suggests they help horses and donkeys, they do so much for lots of other species and community projects. I feel honoured to have taken part in their work.
“The Gambia is a beautiful part of the world. The people there do not have a lot and I wanted to throw myself into the culture. An experience like that makes you realise what is important in life and that we don’t need ‘stuff’ to make us happy.”
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