Tristan Reid 2013

Tristan Reid –Melbourne, Australia

What stood out for me about my placement in 2013 was the authenticity of the experience. This is truly a taste of the real Kenya.

As an Australian veterinary student with a keen interest in agricultural development (and an insatiable appetite for adventure), I had spent some time searching for an opportunity that would allow me to explore the role that veterinarians can play in improving outcomes for livestock producers and communities in developing countries. Thankfully, I found VetAid.

During my time in southern Kenya, I was lucky enough to work alongside Dr. Ezra Saitoti and his team as they worked with local farmers in isolated rural Maasai pastoralist communities. Ninety percent of this work focused on preventative health programs including vaccinations against Foot and Mouth Disease, East Coast Fever, Rabies, Lumpy Skin Disease, and sheep and goat pox – all of which are exotic in Australia! I was also lucky enough to see clinical cases of East Coast Fever and FMD.

I cannot recommend this placement highly enough to veterinary students looking for another perspective on their western education. Travelling and living with Dr. Saitoti and his family for 3 weeks was a unique experience I will never forget. Dr. Saitoti is one of the finest veterinarians I have ever meet, with a wealth of knowledge and experience, an excellent sense of humor and a great passion and aptitude for teaching. He and his family were extremely generous and hospitable and I could not have asked for more excellent hosts.

What stood out for me about the placement was the authenticity of the experience. This is truly a taste of the real Kenya – I was able to be a guest in the traditional mud huts of the Maasai people, drink tea with them, play with the smiling children in the villages, watch Manchester United vs Chelsea with the soccer-crazed locals at the only tin shed in town that had a tv, admire the stockmanship of the Maasai pastoralists, go on safari, share ugali and even have my own (poor) attempts at making chapati.

As expected, an authentic African experience also comes with some challenges. Simply travelling between farms often involved river crossings, getting bogged in eroded roads, flat tires and police checks. Living without electricity and flushing toilets was all part of the fun. As Dr. Saitoti would often say, “This is Africa”. However whilst these and other, more serious challenges facing the continent are well documented, during my trip I sensed far more optimism and happiness than despair.

I came back from Kenya with a much broader perspective of veterinary science. I was really encouraged by the positive influence that vets can make to agricultural development, and I hope that throughout my career I can make some contribution to improving outcomes for livestock producers in the developing world. My time at VetAid was the perfect introduction.