Freja, one of our Veterinary Assistance and Animal Care alumni in Cape Town tells us about her experience volunteering on this program during a period of transition into a new animal shelter. 

I have spent almost 8 weeks in South Africa at the Veterinary Assistance & Abused Animal Shelter volunteer program with African Impact. During my stay I worked in an animal clinic in Mandela park, Khayelitsha. The clinic is called Mdzananda Animal Clinic.

Mdzananda started with a local man in town who wanted to help the pets in the neighborhood. He started by going around the town with a trolley full of water which he used to give pets to drink as well as bath them. He soon attracted more volunteers and which helped Mdzananda secure funding from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

After the funding started they setup a veterinary clinic where the people of Khayelitsha could bring their pets and receive veterinary care at affordable rates. This was in 1996! Now, 22 years later it is still the same clinic. An affordable way for people to treat their pets.

The First African Impact Volunteer

I arrived as the first ever volunteer from African Impact to Mdzananda Animal Clinic. Which meant a new experience for me, but also a new experience for Mdzananda. Once they got to know me, I had the best time of my life!

I really wanted to become a vet myself which made it a great experience. Mdzananda had a great atmosphere! There was always a staff member to talk to (or joke with). You really got an insight into their Xhosa culture. The people were always happy and wanted to talk to you. I could ask all the questions I wanted, so that I could gather as much knowledge as possible which I was able to use later on.

If they needed help in the hospital I was able to help out. Even if I had never done it before or if I was in doubt. They would always guide me as to how I could help.

A Day in the Life of a Vet at Mdzananda Animal Clinic

In the hospital, I got to help with taking the temperatures of the animals, drawing up the medicine and even injecting it. I was able to be part of the team in the surgical theater. But not only that, I got to assist with surgeries. From holding animals when it needed to be put under anesthesia, monitoring them, to holding the clamps during the surgery.

You really got right into business and they were more than happy to explain why they did what they did. They are a non-profit clinic with fewer resources than other animal clinics, so they improvise where needed. But, they are practice responsibly and safely for their employees and animals.

There was never nothing to do. Consultations were availableto the public where people could bring in their pets for the more mundane things. These included vaccinations, deworming and expotting (ointment against ticks and fleas). They would trust you to do it yourself, which was a really great experience as you felt more like a real vet.

But it doesn’t stop there. Mdzananda Animal Clinic also run a small shelter. Here, you can bring in stray dogs and cats which then get put up for adoption. If you need some love and cuddles during the day this is the place to go. You could go over and spend time with a lovely pack of stray dogs, or pet the very tame cats.

So if you have a passion for being a vet or veterinary work you should definitely come down to Mdzananda Animal Clinic. It’s an experience that lasts a lifetime!