Jamie is a Canadian veterinarian who graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in May 2013. He is currently working in Ontario, Canada, and helping GAAP with their social media exposure. In March 2015, Jamie came to Guatemala to help with the sterilization and vaccination campaign. This is his testimonial.
I started the trip early in Toronto where I met the team from Allandale veterinary clinic, with their large totes of supplies I could tell they were seasoned veterans with this expedition. Two planes and one stop over later we touched down in Guatemala City late evening. Arriving in Guatemala City I am greeted by a gated community in an unknown country. It was a jarring experience, especially for me on my first international veterinary mission. I was nervous and excited when I was able to finally meet Guillermo and the rest of our GAAP team.
Our drive up to Todos Santos began in the morning, packing our cube van inside and out. The 11 of us packed ourselves into the spaces between supplies and luggage and started the 8-9 hour trip. Through the windy roads we went surrounded by transport trucks, buses and pick-up trucks which carried everything; potatoes, chicken, refrigerators AND children. The long cramped car ride was a great way to meet the members of your team!
Upon arrival to Todos Santos the first thing that struck me was the community and how they were dressed. One the few communities left in Guatemala to continue their traditional dress code. The men and young boys along the sides of the road in their striped pants and inquisitive eyes as this van of foreigners entered their town. Being in Todos Santos helped me appreciate all that we/I have in Canada. The kids playing in the streets with their sticks and yo-yos were a far cry from the iPads and cell phones of our North American youth.
The first day of the campaign for me was community day in the town square. We hung our banners and prepared the activities for the children and community to educate them in dog ownership and safety. Face painting, drawing and coloring what they learned from the education day at the school, soccer and paper crowns were a few of the activities that awaited the eager children as they slowly and steadily filtered into the square.
The exciting time mingling with the community was short, fast and a brief introduction to the whirlwind surgery and vaccination portion of the campaign. As we prepared the large municipal gymnasium for the rest of our week in became apparent the scale and importance of the GAAP’s work here in Todos Santos. Our five surgery tables were prepped, supplies ready on the stage, we opened the doors Monday and our patients entered. The gym was full of nervous barking dogs and kittens and cats hidden away in bags. Slowly as the day went on the line ups disappeared and while during the campaign it was stressful, there was a great sense of accomplishment from us and our team. We completed 179 surgeries and over 600 vaccinations by the end of the week! An incredible accomplishment for a team recently assembled from all over Canada, USA and Latin America.
My only regret was not planning my trip accordingly. My flight back to the great white north left early Friday forcing me to leave my new friends and team mates 2 days early to make the long trip back to Guatemala City airport. An incredibly rewarding experience, it was surreal to be a part of this campaign in Todos Santos where everyone was so giving and generous for their time for the cause and everyone in the community was so appreciative and understanding. I look forward to being a part of this and many other GAAP campaigns in the future.