Our Silver hero Leesa volunteers her spare time all across regional Australia to help both humans and animals. Here, she tells us about her volunteering adventures.
On Thursday Island, we did our first pilot program and that was with Vets Beyond Borders and AWLQ, and the Thursday Island Animal Support Group. I volunteered as a vert nurse, helping with health checks, doing an animal management program, desexing dogs, treating dogs for parasite treatment, and also talking to their owners regarding tick treatments, and unwanted pregnancies or unwanted litters.
I absolutely love volunteer trips, I have been volunteering as a vet nurse with AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) for 11 years now. Plus, I volunteer in remote communities, Aboriginal communities, everywhere from Western Australia through to the Northern Territory and regional Queensland.
A lot of this is helping in the indigenous communities to do a desexing program. We want to desex more dogs. I know in some of the indigenous communities, they can have 10-15 dogs in a household. So cutting that down is an aim. There are often quite a lot of stray dogs in communities, and they can cause problems as well as having lots of litters, and if there are a lot of male or un-desexed dogs, there can be issues between male dogs having fights over female dogs. There’s a lot of noise, a lot of wounded animals, and a lot of puppies to look after.
There’s also a problem with parasites – some are zoonotic. So that means that the parasites can transfer from humans to animals, or animals to humans. And so we help treat the dogs. We also do an educational program through schools, and with the community, and elders, just explaining what we do. We explain simple things from washing hands after the kids are playing with the animals, and how to hold your dog properly. What’s good food for cats and dogs, things like that.
SILVER HERO – VET NURSING
As a vet nurse, I help set up our surgery area, also help with vet students and vets, making sure that we have all the proper instruments and attire, so that they can do their surgical work. I help the flow-through of patients.
One of the places we visit is Yuendumu, in the NT. AMRRIC is based in Darwin. We meet in Darwin, and then it’s about an 11- or 12-hour trip in the car to go there. There’s a team of us, usually, two vets, a two nurses, if we are lucky! We meet with the rangers or community members, and they help us work out where we’re going to be situated and where we’re going to stay.
I am a general practice vet nurse. So, I have my normal job and I have to either take unpaid leave or holiday leave. But I love the volunteering and I will do is as long as I’m still mobile and I can still get around. I always laugh with the ladies or whoever I’m out on the trips, and I’ll say, I’ll be out with my walking stick. And I love the interaction between people and their animals. I love to be able to help with animal welfare and make life better for animals and for their owners as well. I get to see lots of parts of Australia that you would not necessarily be able to go to because you would need special passes or permits to get into some of these communities. The day I have to stop, I’ll be really, really upset.
The funding for these trips comes from different sources. There are charities like AWLQ who help with the funding for Thursday Island. In other places, the councils fund the trips. We also try to get donations from drug companies for tick and flea treatments, for example. And a lot of the nurses and vets as well will donate some of the stock from their own practices as well.
AWLQ do a great job, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. Due to being involved with the Thursday Island program, I’ve got to know Sylvana from AWLQ, and she’s just wonderful. And the work that she’s done as well in her time is amazing. I would love to do more work for AWLQ. I’m actually leaving tomorrow to go back for another week on Thursday Island, in conjunction with AWLQ! There is a lot of work to be done there. We’re always very, very busy once on the island. We have got an extra couple of team members this time! But we will still be working 13 to 14 hour days.
The AWLQ and the Thursday Island Support Animal Support are taking in unwanted or stray dogs. They are getting them back to health and adopting them out. Not just to the people on Thursday Island or the surrounding islands, but they do often go off to New South Wales and Queensland to loving homes.
SILVER HERO – VOLUNTEERS WANTED
We are always looking for volunteers. We need admin people, to help people fill out forms. There are also some statistic duties, where often we will do counts in certain communities just to get an idea of how many houses, how many people, and then how dogs or cats or pigs or horses that are owned as well.
With this type of volunteering, you’re forever learning. There’s always courses. There’s always something new to learn. It definitely brushes the cobwebs off!
Through organisations like AWLQ, Vets Without Borders and others, you’ll find amazing vets, vet nurses and then other volunteers that give up their time for the animals and people who need them. Everyone’s likeminded. They are wonderful people that come and volunteer. Even small things make a difference, like helping to clean some of the cages, to grooming animals, to watching them wake up from their surgeries.
There’s always going to be dogs and cats that need help and love. So as long as I’m around, I will be involved.
Be a silver hero and donate to AWLQ, or to leave a bequest, click here.
To volunteer, click here.
Or pick up the phone and call (07) 5509 9000
Editor for Silver Magazine Gold Coast