Alumni Spotlight: Elaine Clarke


Why did you choose this program?

I love animals, as well as traveling. I'm always keen to visit different parts of the world I have not been to before. I hadn't been to India, and the animal rescue program looked hands-on and very worthwhile.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

POD (Personal Overseas Development) took care of the booking of my accommodation, with all meals provided, as well as my transport while in India.

They also sent me a very thorough handbook of dos and don'ts, what to expect from the country, the program, etc. All I had to do was book my flights and sort out my visa.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Wear durable clothes and shoes, that you would be prepared to leave behind once you have finished volunteering at Animal Aid. Don't be afraid to get dirty!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

My average day at Animal Aid was to start the day by cleaning 'Handicapped Heaven, where many of the paralyzed dogs live. After this I would assist with feeding all the dogs in this section, and cleaning up again after they had finished eating.

After that, the first set of 5/6 dogs needed to be lifted and taken out of this enclosure to be placed in animal wheelchairs for a bit of exercise up and down the pathway. This needed to be supervised to encourage the dogs to walk and strengthen their legs.

After tea at 11:30, it was time to bottle feed calves, and after that either brush donkeys, or just spend time stroking and talking to blind/paralyzed dogs.

After lunch, it was time to get more paralyzed dogs out for their "walks", and another bottle-feeding session with the calves before going home.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I think I was most afraid of not being able to cope with what I was going to see/experience at Animal Aid. I wasn't sure that I would emotionally strong enough for the pain and possible sadness I would see in the animals.

Although it was tough going sometimes, getting to know and love some of the animals that succumbed in the end, I was strong enough to carry on, as the animals left behind were happy and needed to be loved and cared for.

The people who work at Animal Aid were also very positive and grateful for the help given by volunteers. I had to be strong for their sake too.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from your time abroad?

India is a poor country, and I witnessed many poor and destitute people and animals on the street. However, having said that, I also witnessed happy, giving people, who believe that all life is precious and will always try and help where they can.

The theme that came through clearly at Animal Aid was "let love guide you". This is something I can and will definitely use in my own life from now on.