Broadening horizons, forging links: working as a volunteer overseas

Working abroad as a volunteer vet

source: Jack Reece
In Practice vol 24 no 1, January 2002
starts p 35, 5 pages long

Vets can benefit from volunteering to work abroad for charities. They can travel, and gain more experience than is possible in a British practice, as well as help others. There is stronger demand for extension workers and technicians than for veterinary surgeons, so not many voluntary jobs are advertised for vets. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and other organisations can help with finding work, as can personal contacts. Jobs can last from a few weeks to two years, and longer is needed if volunteers are to work somewhere where it takes a while to adapt to the culture. VSO usually asks for a minimum two-year contract.

Vets may work in a range activities such as training, zoological research, disease control, and animal welfare. Vets can contribute supplies such as books, drugs and equipment, and may find that they have less equipment to work with than they are used to. Charities may help with learning the language, or the volunteer may have to learn alone.

Life as a volunteer can be rewarding in a number of ways, especially being able to help colleagues and clients, who may depend on a cow that is being treated. Volunteers often have more trouble getting used to Britain on their return than they do in adapting to the community where they volunteer, since concerns in Britain may appear more trivial in contrast. Working as a volunteer is still worthwhile, despite the drawbacks.