Natalie Flammia is an exam room technician supervisor at Allandale Veterinary Hospital in Barry, Ontario, Canada. She’s been coming down to Todos Santos for 5 years- ever since Dr. Patty Lechten initiated the work- and she loves the experience. “We had such a great success down here, we saw the difference we were making with the people and have kept returning year after year”, she says.

Natalie is an invaluable member of the Todos Santos team, taking care of everything from inventory management to animal restraint for surgeries and physical exams, to supporting the vaccinations. In her words, “I’m a go-to person! if anybody needs something I generally know where to find it… If somebody needs something they can ask me and I can produce it for them.” Many of the Todos Santos volunteers commented on how extremely helpful it is to have Natalie around, one veterinarian commenting, “I don’t know what I’d do without her!”

Natalie’s enthusiasm for the project bubbles out of her: “What I get out of the experience is really hard to define because there are so many things I enjoy. I love the people, I look forward to seeing the people every year. Now that we’ve been coming down here so many years they know us, we know them. I just love coming back to see friends I’ve made over the years. I love knowing that we’re making a difference in Todos Santos and I think everyone does enjoy seeing us return to help with the pets, and with the education of the children. I do love the children down here, they’re so grateful for every little thing, they look forward to the movie night, and we try to give them something to look forward to when we come. I love helping the pets because they don’t have access to veterinary care here, so the families know when they come that they have access to veterinary services at least one time out of the year.”

Over the last five years, Natalie has seen some significant changes in Todos Santos: “I have seen changes as far as the way the animals have been treated. It’s a different lifestyle here, so they may not treat the animals in the way that we think the animals should be treated but I have seen that people are more understanding of the animals and treating them more as part of their family. Before, the dogs tended to be just a guard animal or the animals had a sense of purpose, even the cats keep the mice population down. In the 5 years I’ve been here they’re starting to become more of the family, like we have in Canada.” Natalie added, “The kids are becoming more educated. Because we have this educational campaign they’re understanding how to present themselves to the animals in a safe manner. They’re also understanding how to treat animals in a positive way.”

As one of the Todos Santos volunteers who serves as the “glue” that ties everyone together, Natalie reflected on her love of the team environment: “It’s nice to have the experience of being here for 5 years now; we were the newbies 5 years ago! Every year we come we’re a little more familiar and there’s always another newbie. It’s nice to see the chaos on Monday turn into the smooth running machine on Friday. Everyone understands their roles, they’re more comfortable in it, we can move things along on efficient timelines. I love seeing that. And I love meeting people from all over the world. The communication whether they speak English or not, we work it through! Their little bit of English and my little bit of Spanish and we really do good. I really like the way that it progresses over the week, it’s really positive. I think everyone remembers that we’re all here for one purpose. Everyone keeps in mind the common goal.”