Lauren Penlington - Combined Veterinary Medicine & Animal Care in Fiji
I chose the Veterinary Medicine and Animal Care placement because I currently study Bioveterinary Science at university and hope to study veterinary medicine in the future. I have a passion for animals and wanted to help care for the animals in the clinic and also learn more about the field overseas.
I selected Fiji as it was one of the furthest away destinations and I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I had also heard great things about Fiji and was drawn to the friendly people and laid back culture there.
A member of the Projects Abroad staff met me at Nadi airport on my arrival and I felt immediately welcomed in Fiji. It was made immediately clear how friendly the people in Fiji are and I felt safe almost instantly even though I was so far away from England. My host family were also welcoming and kind.
My host family were based in Nadionly, a few minutes’ walk from the Animals Fiji clinic. My host mum and dad were so friendly and cooked really nice food. They taught me about Fiji’s history and they also enjoyed learning about England. Two of their grandchildren regularly visited and I enjoyed spending time watching TV with them.
Animals Fiji consists of a group of hard working individuals who truly care for the animals treated and taken in by the clinic. The staff were great to work with and are an inspiration! The vet, Angus was really helpful talking me through operations and pointing out reading material to help me follow the surgery. Sue, the vet nurse is lovely and truly cares for the animals, and Eddie is so hard working.
I learnt a lot with Animals Fiji, and was trusted to get involved with treatments as well as with the day to day cleaning and feeding of the animals. It’s a long day working at the clinic as there is always something to do which almost always involves getting your hands dirty.
As I hope to become a vet, the practical experience I gained there was invaluable. I am now confident with administering sub-cutaneous and intramuscular vaccine and antibiotic injections and had the opportunity to administer fluid drips, do a skin scrape for the diagnosis of epidermal parasites, worming, fill out medical forms and take clinical history from clients amongst other opportunities.
It was also interesting to see the differences between veterinary in the UK and Fiji, and learn about alternative methods of treatment and diagnosis as well as observe cases which are less abundant in the UK such as with parvovirus.
I was lucky enough to meet the father of Bondi Vet, who works as a parasitologist and lecturer in Sydney University and regularly donates to the clinic. He talked me through symptoms of parvovirus via a post mortem examination, which was invaluable. There are also opportunities to independently educate children in Fiji with basic animal needs if you are interested in animal welfare. Paraquat (a herbicide) poisoning is also a huge problem in Fiji and there is no cure, so it can be difficult to see these cases.
At the weekend the other volunteers and I spent lots of time together. We visited many of the Mamanuca islands, which are so beautiful! My favorite trip was the sea spray trip to Monuriki, which is where Castaway, the Tom Hanks film was filmed.
The island is inhabited and we were able to snorkel and sunbathe on the island before lunch on our beautiful sailing boat. All the food and drinks were included including a glass of champagne on our journey. The trip also involved a visit to an inhabited island where we had a tour of the village and a kava ceremony - trying this is a must!
We also spent a lot of time at local resorts and went on a river safari trip including a hike to a water fall which was amazing. Natadola beach on the coral coast is also a beautiful day trip and on a rainy evening we visited the Lautoka cinema. Every Thursday all the volunteers also meet for a meal and a night out, which always involved lots of fun and dancing!
The Overall Experience
Working with Animals Fiji was a unique experience and I couldn’t have asked for better staff to work with, or nicer people to meet, including other volunteers and the Projects Abroad staff.
I am so grateful to all I met in Fiji who made my trip an amazing experience. I am still in contact with the friends I made there and will be meeting up with them again. The experience is also great for those who aren’t interested in veterinary but are passionate about animals and those willing to work hard at the clinic in order to help the animals and staff at Animals Fiji.
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