Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with VIDA in Nicaragua?
Kristyn: As a pre-vet student in a college town with a vet school it can be very difficult to find opportunities to get experience in the veterinary field locally.
I love to travel so I figured this trip would be the perfect marriage of things I love to do. I also had never had the opportunity to visit a third world country and going on this trip was a way to have a very new unique experience.
I also really wanted to go on this trip to help people in need and the animals we saw certainly need our help. It is a great feeling to give back and I love volunteering so this trip was just a perfect fit for me.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Kristyn: On a VIDA trip there are clinic days and days off.
Clinic days start early with the clinics being open from 8am-4pm on average. As a part of the vet team we had two types of cases we saw. We did a lot of what we called consultations where we did a basic physical exam, de-wormed, and gave flea medication. We also saw spay and neuter cases and they got both the basic exam and the surgery.
As a volunteer I got to help with every aspect of the treatment of the animals. The things I got to learn how to do included taking vital signs, doing the physical exam, giving injections, placing catheters, intubating, assisting with surgery, doing skin sutures, filling prescriptions, and anesthesia monitoring.
By the end of the trip my group was so good at all the surgery prep, we hardly needed any help from our vet assistant. This is what was great about this experience is we got to do things on our own but we always had someone to help nearby so we had the confidence to get in there and try things.
On the days off we got to explore some of the tourist attractions Nicaragua had to offer including a dormant volcano that had been filled in with water to be a lagoon, and going to the ocean!
Tell me about one person you met.
Kristyn: One of the other unique things about a VIDA trip is that during part of the trip you stay with a local family in their house. This was an amazing experience.
I stayed with a lady and her son's family. Her son had an adorable little girl who was fascinated by me and the other girl from my group. Even though I did not speak hardly any Spanish I was still able to feel the welcoming nature of our homestay mom. She cooked both breakfast and dinner for us everyday we were at her house and her cooking was amazing!
Even though I was quiet and couldn't understand much she always tried to talk to me and include me in the conversation when she talked with the other girl who spoke Spanish much better than me.
I will never forget how wonderful and kind she was. It was something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do but it is really one of the most invaluable parts of the trip.
What's the moment you will remember most 10 years from now?
Kristyn: The moments I will remember most include saying good-bye to our homestay mom.
Although I had not known her long and couldn't communicate with her much it was still sad to leave because she had made me feel so welcome and at home even without words. I only wished I could have thanked her as much as I wanted to.
I will also never forget those moments in the clinic where I did something like placing a catheter, throwing some sutures and intubating for the first time. These moments allowed me to prove to myself that I do have what it takes to be a veterinarian and gave me a renewed drive to keep working hard to achieve my goal of becoming one.
Any tips for someone considering this program?
Kristyn: Don't worry so much about the little things when considering whether or not you'd want to go. VIDA is a fantastic group and takes care of its volunteers so well making it so easy to travel there.
Also don't worry about not knowing everyone that goes on the trip. Being together as much time as you will be its really hard not to get to know the other people on your trip. You will all become friends really fast.
Ultimately if you like to travel, volunteer and have fun a VIDA trip is a really good option for you. It is worth every penny and so much more! The things you learn and the experiences you gain are invaluable!