In December 2022 Veterinary volunteers Ella Akins and Ana Lopes travelled to the Gambia for two weeks to work alongside the team a thet Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust. Ella and Ana tell us more about thier trip and life as a volunteer in the Gambia.
'First of all, we would like to say thank you to all at The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust as well as the BEVA Trust for kindly supporting the volunteering outreach project. We were absolutely blown away by the dedication of the staff and volunteers of the charity & fell in love with the country and all of the animals within it!
During our visit, we attended 4 outreach clinics where local people could bring their animal along to be treated. It was fantastic to see so many coming along purely for health checks- they were clearly well cared for and educated that a healthy donkey = a donkey that is able to work more efficiently! Sadly there were many wounds from poorly fitting tack/harnesses and ropes being used as bits or as a way to control the animal by wrapping it around the pastern. It was extremely rewarding to be able to give well-fitted head collars to all animals that needed them. Education was a key part of these clinics- explaining to owners the importance of constant access to water, regular food as well as rest days for their animal in order to retain as much strength as possible. Temperatures peaked to 38 degrees during our visit & that is classed as winter in The Gambia so summertime for us would be almost unbearable!
There was always lots to do back at the main hospital. We saw a huge variety of cases from tetanus, to horrific fractures (that would normally be considered catastrophic back at home) to blood borne diseases, particularly trypanosomiasis. The diagnostic aids available to us were understandably limited- we were able to perform a manual PCV, TP & blood smears. All of the staff at the hospital were very keen to learn, always asking questions and keen to learn new skills. We felt as though we learnt a lot from them too- especially how best to handle some of the feisty/stubborn donkeys!
We made a 3-day trip ‘up country’ to the Sambel site, which is a much more rural area & often described as the ‘true Gambia’. On our way we stopped off to visit a sick horse and a donkey with terrible fistulas over its withers that unfortunately the owners had been applying engine oil to in order to heal the wounds. Evidently in the blazing sun this had caused even further damage, however we were able to take this donkey back to the hospital with us for treatment and educate the owner on the importance of not applying engine oil to any wound on any animal. After a busy start to our trip we were very excited to find out we were going on a boat trip down the River Gambia & were lucky enough to see hippopotamus (twice!) as well as chimpanzees.
It wasn’t just horses & donkeys that we treated during our stay at GHDT- we also treated dogs, cats, goats, sheep & cows which as purely equine vets made us scratch our heads at times! The charity does amazing work for all animals within the country and you can tell how much all of the residents mean to the staff and local people.
We feel extremely lucky to have been given this opportunity by GHDT & BEVA Trust- it really was a once in a lifetime experience that we will never forget.’