January 5, 2013

2012 Top Blogs: Volunteer Adventure in the Amazon!

Photo by Alexandra Schroth
Dr. Sean Pampreen:  This Trip Was an Absolute Adventure.  from Oct. 2012

I traveled to the Amazon with Amazon CARES for several reasons.  I love to travel, love adventure, and enjoy volunteering.  This trip definitely satisfied all of these for me.

I was definitely bitten by the travel bug early on.  My dad loved to travel.  As a family growing up, we traveled to most of the United States, parts of Canada and Mexico.  Always traveled by car and always camped so that we could see everything.  Since then I have been able to travel the world with various veterinary groups, still trying to see everything.

As a Scout I had the opportunity to explore and take part in other types of adventure and learned the value of community service.  Since then I have continued to explore the world and volunteer for my community.  Now, as a Scout leader I try to teach my Scouts by example the Venturing oath, “to help others, and to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in our world.

Thank you to Embrace Pet Insurance for many
pharmaceutical donations.  Photo by dancingdogblog.com
This trip was an absolute adventure.  It was not a leisurely vacation, but a trip of a lifetime.  You had to adapt to “Peruvian time” and adjust to different people, different foods and different types of accommodations.  But, you also were able to see and learn a different culture.  These things are not always met on a tourist vacation.  On those trips, you are typically taken to see the “local villages” to buy their goods and then back to your fancy hotel.
In the Amazon, the work was hard.  The days were long, hot and humid.  Supplies were limited.  The surgical area conditions were no where close to ideal.  The food on the road was often times  ok at best.  The travel conditions between villages or sites was often “snug” and uncomfortable.  Most of the villagers live in exteme poverty.  There is little or usually no contact to the outside world.  But with all this, the trip to the Amazon was an awesome experience.  

The volunteers from around the world melded quickly into a fun, efficient team.  We adapted to our working environment and even used a little Scouting ingenuity at times.  We all came from different backgrounds, but with similar veterinary standards.  Though the “pharmacy” was not as stocked as ours at home, it had everything we needed.  Sterile surgical suites were traded in for the open air, usually under a tent.  We were able to make due and adjust to what we had throughout all of the surgeries and treatments performed.  It was also pretty neat to see all the locals come to watch, and often times help.

The food was likely more plentiful  than what most of the people around us had to eat and tasted much better than a lot of the camp foods I have eaten.  Food back at the shelter, though, was delicious.   Travel was by mototaxi, bus, boat, and on foot.  Its amazing how many people and how much gear can fit into some of these modes of transportation.  Seemed like we often doubled the intended capacity.

The people from the various towns were so appreciative for the work we performed.  As a “gringo” we stuck out a little.  While we were walking down the street they would run in to grab their dog. They wanted to show us the incision on the belly from that day’s surgery or the tattoo in the ear from surgery performed 2 years prior.  The appreciation shown is not always shown back home.  These people have very little, but they appeared genuinely happy and were thankful of our services.

For me, one of the hardest parts  was not having contact with my family.  Family has always been very important.  In all my travels around the world, my family has either been with me or at least been only a phone call or video call away.  Despite assurances from Verizon, this was the longest time away from my wife and kids with very little contact.  I missed their 4H fairs, my son’s birthday (with his permission), and their first day back to school.  Fortunately, I found an internet cafe (that only took 30 minutes) to send a Happy Birthday note to my son on his birthday.

I am proud of the work we did in the villages.  I question how much of an impact it may have on the overall stray dog population, but think that every little bit helps.   I am glad to have met and worked  with such wonderful people.   Again, this was not a luxury vacation, it was mentally and physically draining at times.  It was however extremely rewarding for me.  I hope I made as much of impact on the people I helped as they did on me.  If asked, I would absolutely do it again.  Just need a time to recover and when kids are older.

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