British veterinary nurse Helena Coaley has volunteered her time and veterinary skills around the world with one goal in mind – to promote the welfare of animals.
Two years ago, she travelled to Sikkim, India, to volunteer in the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) program. A collaboration between VBB, the Government of Sikkim and Fondation Brigitte Bardot, the SARAH program’s activities involve canine rabies vaccination, humane dog population control, community education and treatment of sick and injured animals.
“It was the most fabulous experience!” Helena said about her 2016 trip. “My goal was to try to contribute to making a change to animal welfare, and after three months working on the SARAH project, I realised the dedication of the staff and the difference they are making for the whole of the community of Sikkim.”
Helena returned to Sikkim in April for seven weeks to assist the para-vets and once again had a most rewarding experience!
“I was assisting the SARAH team as a vet nurse, but it is a lot different to what I am used to. I have a monitoring role, moving the dogs (after desexing operation) to the post op area and trying to keep the steady flow of dogs on the table for the vets,” she said.
“I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Dr Alan Sherlock who is a dedicated and well-respected (VBB) volunteer for the past 12 years on the SARAH project. The program is very successful due to the dedication of the local staff and the reduction of rabies cases in and around Sikkim.”
Helena said it’s hard to put into words how wonderful and diverse Sikkim is.
“Clean air, some type of serenity mixed with old traditions,” she said. “Every day is different especially at desexing camps. Arriving not knowing how many dogs will appear from the surrounding hills and more exciting how they arrive! Sacks seem to be the most popular way of transporting dogs and cats. All you see is a squirming back tied with twine – could be one or a litter of pups!”
Helena is proud of the work of Vets Beyond Borders and hopes to continue volunteering to improve knowledge and animal welfare issues.
“I would highly recommend volunteering for Vets Beyond Borders and advise anyone thinking of going to Sikkim to stay at least a month to really benefit from the experience and to be able to contribute to the hundreds of dogs desexed per year. The SARAH team work so hard to make this happen and I am proud to have been involved. The hospitality of the people in a wonderful part of the world always seems to fulfill my expectations.”
Seems Helena already has plans to return next year! Thanks Helena for all your hard work. We look forward to organising your next trip!