Katrina Picariello

Dublin vet student Katrina Picariello volunteered with a VetAid project in Tanzania

I keep wondering even after the trip what I did to deserve such an experience.

I will never forget the feeling I had as our car pulled up to the first boma (enclosed family camp) and I was greeted by a large group of Maasai women and children.  They opened the car door, took my hands and pulled me out of the car.  They were all smiles and laughter as they spoke to me in Swahili.  It was one of the warmest and greatest welcomes I have ever felt.  I was overwhelmed by their willingness to embrace a total stranger and foreigner into their circle for a brief meeting.  They were excited about the progress they had made in their community and education and grateful for all the help VETAID was giving them.  They showed me all the beadwork that they had made and how they could write their names.  I felt privileged to be part of their meeting.

Foot and mouth disease conjures up visions of mass hysteria in developed countries.  In Tanzania it is endemic and is just part of a herd’s life history.  The infection seems to be mild with only mouth ulcers.  Rarely do they find other wounds.  They do not isolate the animal unless it is severely affected.  There are no fancy diagnostics or treatments and it is treated until the infection resolves.  They simply wash the ulcers with salt water or urine and potassium permanganate. Ndanu, the vet, could not believe how much of a big deal FMD is in Ireland and the UK and he could not understand why we reacted the way we did.  Developed countries have to worry about the economic repercussions of exotic diseases as it relates to farm losses, trade restrictions and public health.  Tanzania does not.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave Tanzania and VetAid.  They have done so much for me.  You cannot address the problems facing African livestock without first addressing the people who are affected by their livestock and their relationship to them. I keep wondering even after the trip what I did to deserve such an experience.  I think fundraising was the very least I could do.  Vivianne in the Arusha office gave me a kanga (traditional East African cloth worn by women that can be fashioned in various ways as a skirt, top, etc.).  It has a saying along the bottom that translates as, “We have stayed with you in kindness. Go and live in peace.”