Category Archives: Service Trips

Creating Sustainable Veterinary Care in Kenya

Nairobi Kenya Continuing Education Class

2018 Vet Treks Foundation Kenya Service Trip

In February 2018 Vet Treks returned to Kenya for our second service trip. Our crew provided a continuing education program to senior veterinary students and practicing veterinarians at the University of Nairobi College of Veterinary Sciences. The one day program offered updated techniques for spay-neuter surgeries and suturing techniques. Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to gift high quality surgical instruments to all participants. This underscores our commitment to creating sustainable veterinary care in the communities: Kenyan vets providing quality care to Kenyans and their pets year around.

Kenya Suture DemoIn another effort to support local veterinary development, most of the students, and many of the practicing veterinarians, then joined us in the second part of our service offering, a three-day rabies vaccination and sterilization campaign in Machakos County, about 50 miles from Nairobi. There our crew of 15 partnered once again with Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW). Machakos County is one of five identified in Kenya as endemic for rabies. Sadly, human deaths have recently occurred from bite wounds from infected cats and dogs. In an effort to eradicate rabies from domestic animals (and thus to avoid human exposures and deaths), ANAW and many other groups in Kenya have endeavored to provide mass rabies vaccination campaigns in the most affected areas. Several vaccine stations were set up in the town of Tala and over 2,200 dogs, cats and donkeys were vaccinated!

Kenya Veterinary StudentsAnother tool for decreasing rabies cases is to control the populations of dogs and cats, which in turn limits the number of negative interactions and bite wounds in people. In the past, the government has approached the overpopulation problem by staging community-wide strychnine poisoning of community animals. This is an inhumane, painful way to die. It was also very unpopular in the communities because frequently their owned and cared for rabies vaccinated pets would succumb to poisoning. Strychnine is also dangerous because it does not degrade quickly in the environment and the risk of exposure to wildlife and even humans is great. High volume spay-neuter campaigns, regularly offered, is a more humane way to curb the populations of unwanted dogs and cats, and this is an area of expertise for Vet Treks.

Kenya Veterinary Students 2Our plans for 2019 are to expand our offerings for continuing education for Kenyan veterinarians and students. The University of Nairobi Veterinary School is partnering with us to develop a regular curriculum of visiting Vet Treks lecturers who will augment the education of both practicing and future veterinarians. We are very excited about this new partnership and we are looking for veterinarians interested in offering their expertise to eager students in Kenya.

We will also expand our sterilization services in 2019, offering more days of surgery to local communities, and once again involving local vets and vet students. We will need veterinary surgeons, technicians and many other volunteers for support positions during our campaign.

After our hard work, our crew headed to the world famous Masai Mara Reserve and took in a magnificent four-day safari, something not to be missed while in Kenya!

Vet Treks Crew 2018

Please contact us if you would like to participate in our 2019 campaign…

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Kindness is the Universal Language

Kindness is the Universal Language

There are 42 unique ethnic tribes in Kenya, each with its own distinct language. Most Kenyans speak at least three languages: that of their native tribe, English (actually, British) and Kiswahili (also called Swahili). Kenyans who are from mixed-tribe families are able to converse in all of the tribal languages of their parents and grandparents. Swahili originated several centuries ago as an amalgam of the tribal languages and Arabic, as a means of facilitating communications between the disparate tribes and the Arab colonists on the east coast. When in Kenya it’s not unusual to hear one individual flawlessly shift between a tribal dialect, Swahili and English all in one conversation, not to mention that many Kenyans in the tourist industry also speak many of the European and Asian languages in order to serve the many tourists that visit. The power of that multilingualism is impressed upon this monolingual American every time I visit this fascinating country.

Simon teaches children kindness in Kenyan | Vet Treks FoundationKenya will surprise you in other ways. In 2016 when Vet Treks volunteers worked with African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) to provide a mass rabies vaccination campaign across many communities, I noticed that people seemed to be more partial to cats than to dogs. Many people in Kenya keep cats indoors and dote on them as beloved pets. These cats are often so docile that people will bring them to a rabies vaccination station in their arms (no kitty crates are ever seen) and I never witnessed any of these cats freaking out with the commotion around them. Dogs on the other hand are either feral or kept outdoors on tethers only for the purpose of guarding families’ compounds. They seem to be more feared and disregarded. I regularly saw dogs dragged into the clinic against their will, at the ends of twisted wire tethers, or pulled awkwardly by one of their legs. I’m told that one reason for this is fear of bites and rabies, historically owing to a 15th century rabies epidemic that killed thousands of animals and people, and of course rabies remains a concern today.

Teaching kindness to dogs in Kenya | Vet Treks FoundationWhile manning a vaccine station in Rukanga, I watched as Simon (an ANAW employee) approached a group of school children who had dragged in a young puppy, a tight rope around its neck. Simon is a big, imposing man with a commanding, deep voice. I wondered if he would reprimand them or take the puppy away. But as he quietly spoke to them in their own language he was smiling, and at one point gently reached out stroked the head of a boy in front. Then he leaned over and stroked the puppy in the same loving manner. Even though I understood not a word he spoke, I knew that he was speaking to them about kindness and empathy. When the kids left with the puppy one of them was carrying the pup in his arms. This was a beautiful reminder to me that, in a world fraught with cruelty and division, kindness is a choice and it can be shown in any language, with or without words, and kindness ultimately is what changes attitudes and behaviors.

Experience this yourself. Join Vet Treks Foundation in Kenya in February 2018!

2018 Kenya Service Trip | Vet Treks Foundation

Whole Crew from Kenya 2016 | Vet Treks Foundation

We are excited to announce that Vet Treks Foundation will return to Kenya In February 2018!

We will be working with our wonderful partners at African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Machakos County, near Nairobi. Our one week project will provide continuing education to local veterinarians covering current spay/neuter techniques and anesthetic updates, followed by a three-day spay/neuter campaign offered free to the local community. Rabies vaccination will be provided to all animals as well.