Volunteer stories: Wendy Richardson

“This marks my fourth volunteer journey with SPAW, having visited Tonga and Samoa twice each. My dedication to this cause stems from more than just the allure of an island destination; it’s not solely about enjoyment. Indeed, the experience is rewarding but also comes with its share of overwhelming moments, heartache, and strenuous effort. However, the connections forged, the camaraderie felt, the animals assisted, the community support received, and the shared commitment to animal welfare all surpass the challenges faced during these missions.

“I’ve learned to embark on these trips without any preconceived notions or expectations. Adopting a proactive and adaptable approach is crucial, as island time and logistics are ever-changing and require constant adjustment. Our team’s goal was to maximise our impact within our limited timeframe – completing 130 desexing surgeries in five days, coupled with providing parasite control, vaccinations, and pain relief, was immensely satisfying for both us and the animals. Personally, my aim was to contribute to a community in need, recognising the privileges we enjoy in a country that supports and cares for pets, unlike some island communities hindered by limited veterinary resources. Additionally, I sought to reconnect with the fundamental reasons for choosing my career and to reaffirm my love for my work.

“Familiar faces from past trips and new acquaintances made this expedition unique. Working and living alongside seven others in an unfamiliar setting can be intimidating, but our shared goals and passions, coupled with their remarkable qualities, made it an extraordinary experience. It was an honour to collaborate with these exceptional individuals. The local team from the Animal Protection Society (APS), with whom SPAW partnered to run the clinic, were outstanding in their efforts to promote the clinic and facilitate local attendance. Tino, the local veterinary technician, was particularly diligent in his efforts to catch dogs and serve as their transporter.

“I highly recommend volunteering. Approach it with practicality and respect for the local culture. Remember, your view of the world is just one perspective; there’s always a broader context. Be ready to work diligently and enjoy your downtime fully. There are opportunities for swimming, snorkelling, cultural events, and photography. While the living and working conditions may be basic, the camaraderie and the experience are transformative.”

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