Volunteer stories: Natalie Knight

Natalie Knight, a veterinary nurse at Warkworth Vets north of Auckland, completed her diploma in veterinary nursing at Auckland Unitec in 2010. She had long aspired to join a SPAW team and seized the opportunity in 2023 when a position opened at the Vava’u clinic. After a rewarding experience, she was eager to apply again in 2024.

Natalie says: “Meeting all the new team members was exhilarating. Although I had worked with one of the vets in New Zealand, the rest of the team were new acquaintances. Our shared passion for helping animals enabled us to bond quickly during our week in Tonga.

“The intense heat posed a challenge, with working conditions more severe than we were accustomed to. On some days, poor lighting in the surgical rooms complicated delicate tasks like inserting IV catheters, but head torches proved invaluable. The roads, riddled with potholes, and the lack of familiar comforts from New Zealand were noticeable, yet the kindness and gratitude of the local people were overwhelming. Their appreciation for our assistance with their animals left me feeling immensely proud of our team’s accomplishments.

“A severe storm on Thursday brought heavy rain for 24 hours, causing floods and power outages. Nevertheless, we persevered. The locals braved the storm, waiting with their animals, and we relied on our head torches once more.

“The team’s collaborative spirit shone through these tough conditions. The profound impact of my initial trip inspired me to return. The joy of volunteering and the difference it makes is unparalleled, and I eagerly anticipated another opportunity to contribute.”

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