World Vets volunteers were hard at work this past week on the Samoan islands of Upolu and Sevai’i doing everything from spay and neuter clinics, educational lectures, and even having some fun with kids at two Special Olympic health fairs. While they were there, they witnessed a culture very different from their own, where community and sharing are very much the way of life. Along with the U.S. service members and other partner nations participating in the Pacific Partnership 2013 mission (PP 2013), they integrated into the different villages of Samoa working to better their communities and the health of both the people and the animals in them.
Spay and neuter clinics were held on both Upolu and Sevai’i, where World Vet volunteers and U.S. Army veterinarians and vet techs set up free clinics at local churches and various other sites. Countless families came with their furry friends to get them spayed and neutered to better their communities. In Samoa, dogs have begun to create a problem due to overpopulation, lack of regulation and proper confinement. Many homes in Samoa are called “fallahs,” which is a home without walls. The homes are a part of communities where everything is shared among them. Naturally, these communities have no fences and many dogs run freely, contributing to the dog over population problem. Spay and neuter clinics provided by Pacific Partnership gave these communities the opportunity to bring their dogs and cats in and prevent their own pets from contributing to the problem.
An overpopulation of dogs also means dog bites are a common occurrence. World Vet volunteers and U.S. Army veterinarians visited several schools educating young children about dog bites, how to prevent them, and what to do in case they get one. The children in these schools were so eager to learn and quickly caught on to the signs of what a mean, scared, or unthreatening dog looks like. US Army vets also spoke about the importance of washing ones hands after petting animals and even gave the kids a great way to remember how long hands should be washed for by singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with them. With these tools given to the children Vets are hope that not only will the information be passed on to their families at home, but that dog bites will be prevented in the future.
World Vet volunteers and U.S. Army Veterinarians also held educational lectures for the members of the Animal Protection Society in Upolu and those who work in the meat industry. Lectures covered everything from body scoring of horses, learning about new drugs available for neutering dogs, proper physical examinations of both large and small animals and properly preparing animals for slaughtering and the process that follows. These lectures brought the local veterinarians and “para-vets” up to date on the latest information and also ways to complete procedures and examinations with what the local community has, making the procedures and examinations available to them in the future.
On both Sevai’i and Upolu, World Vet volunteers and U.S. Army vets joined other U.S. service members Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and other partner nation service members of PP 2013 for Special Olympic eligibility health fairs. While children were checked-out by various members of the PP 2013 medical team they were given the opportunity to learn about preventing dog bites and color in books featuring their unique furry friends. With more than 100 kids in attendance, many children got to meet with veterinarians for some fun and learning. Some vets even got to throw around a rugby ball with the kids participating in the events.
Samoa is just the beginning of the Pacific Partnership 2013 mission and World Vets has already accomplished so much. After departing Samoa, World Vets, other NGO’s, partner nations, and U.S. service members will be heading towards Tonga, where more exciting and community based projects are waiting.
*This article was written by Amanda Saavedra, World Vets photojournalist on board the 2013 Pacific Partnership mission