Saturday, March 12, 2011

We made it to Tonga! An amazing experience.

We made it to Tonga!

I cannot believe how quickly 2011 is flying by. Next week, its my birthday. The very same day, our first ever clinic to Niue island will end - what an occasion to celebrate.

I am still coming down from the high of our Tonga visit in February, over 120 animals de-sexed, 40+ more were provided with much needed veterinary care for various ailments, two beautiful dogs lives were humanely ended after being hit on the roads, hundreds of flea and worm treatments were distributed and at least 100 families now look forward to spending time with their pet without the concern of pregnancy or unwanted puppies or kittens - overpopulation is a very real concern for the community of Tonga and due to the level of need we experienced during February, I have no doubt our future on Tonga is long term. We were welcomed officially by Lord Vaea who heads the Ministry and is also a nobleman, it was a great honor for our organisation to be invited to meet with Lord Vaea. It seems we made a good impression during our first meeting, as he followed by an official dinner invitation which was enjoyed by all the team.

One of the most outstanding memories of my time on Tongatapu was the incredibly large number of local people who visited to make use of our free veterinary services. We were never really sure how things would pan out, but thanks to our partnership with the Ministry and some good relationships established on island with expats and locals alike, word spread and we were kept very busy. On the first day, our waiting room was full, and the animals (and people) didnt stop coming, one day, our volunteers Dr. Roz Holland, Dr. Bethan Cosgrave and vet nurse Stephanie Davidson managed to desex 17 animals on their own - this is dedication and I am always amazed at the levels to which volunteers will work, their willingness to help unwavering and they were all a credit to their profession and to our organisation. Quality care is at the forefront of everything SPAW does, and they did us proud.

Our first clinic saw 3 veterinarians, 3 vet nurses, a photographer, a clinic assistant and vet student (plus myself) pass through Tongatapu. We also had the pleasure of the company of two kiwi animal lovers who were accompanying our volunteer Vet Student on her first ever volunteer stint as a vet student - mum and dad so proudly supporting their daughter in her endeavours. This was a very heart-felt gesture and I loved seeing this family supporting each other through the volunteer experience.

Pfizer and Shoof, our official sponsorship partners outdid themselves. We really cannot do this without them and are building long term relationships with these organisations - they are standing by SPAW and their neighbouring Pacific Island communities.

There is no doubt spay/neuter and veterinary expertise is needed in the pacific. It is our organisations goal to create a legacy that ensures the long term development of veterinary care on island communities. The only way this can be done well and with integrity is to make sure our knowledge and skills are being passed on to local people and that they have the training and provisions relevant to their work. They are the ones that rightfully can and should influence their people and therefore must be given the opportunity to own as much of the process themselves. To my good friends Nau, Mote and Mika, we are so inspired by you and cannot wait to spend more time at your side on Tonga.

As our world faces difficult times - my own country of New Zealand rocked by the death and destruction of the Christchurch earthquakes, Japan now going through heartbreaking devistation and likely more to come, my heart goes out to all of the people who have lost loved ones and to all the animals who are effected during these tragic situations, they do matter too.

Which leads me to my closing point: One of the most important things we can do as good human beings is to share; share our knowledge, our financial resources, and our good will - to help where needed. I know this is the view of millions of people on our planet and any person who volunteers or helps SPAW will likely take this stance in life. We welcome you all and cannot wait to share more amazing stories on our development as an organisation and the future of animal welfare, veterinary care and training and development in the pacific.

Take care out there everyone,

Email from Tonga in Support of our Work

Thought I would share this great letter from Sue Gardiner who has lived on Tonga for years, is a Kiwi and helped us set up on Tonga.

March 2011

Dear Karen and the team at SPAW
I would like to express my sincere thanks to SPAW and your generous sponsors Pfizer and Shoof for the vet clinic recently held in Tonga.

I have resided in Tonga for ten years and during this time I have been deeply troubled to see the state of many of the animals here. Unfortunately, with the cost of living being far higher than the average salary, the care of animals is usually way down the list for most Tongan families priorities. They simply can not afford the cost of taking an animal to the vets . Our local vet clinic is in appalling shape. Often they have no drugs to assist sick and dying animals and at times they operate purely on the generosity of overseas donations which are few and far between.

The clinic has had many positive outcomes. Firstly you have managed to spay well over 100 animals and treat many more. These are animals that would not have otherwise been seen by a vet. Secondly, the visiting vets have passed on valuable skills and knowledge to our local vets . The local vets would not have been exposed to this training had your team not visited Tonga. There is no resources to send our local vets overseas for further training. In addition the clinic was able to further educate the public on caring and valuing their pets.

To Pfizer and Shoof I would like to extend my sincere gratitude. Without the generous sponsorship from you this clinic would not have been possible. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your extremely kind donations.

To the lovely Vets that visited us...thank you for caring enough to come to Tonga to help us and our animals. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us .

It is very important to us that the SPAW continues the clinics in Tonga. Education regarding the proper care of animals is very important . I urge SPAW and your wonderful sponsors to keep up the good work and please come visit us again in May.

Kind Regards

Sue Gardiner

General Manager

Forum Travel

GSA for Tonga