2022 – Kenya


So finally, we set off again, though it was with a fair amount of angst on my behalf. Communication, had been so fraught and last minute with the KWVA (Kenyan Women’s Veterinary Association). I couldn’t understand they were requesting ‘Letters of Goodstanding’ amongst other paperwork, proof of employment, yet our emails weren’t being replied to and then when I attempted communicating by Whatsapp, agreements made on the phone were then later ignored on email. All this took time, which led to the trip being very expensive for the girls as the flights were bought less than a month before the trip. The other stress was the fact that Kenya remained on the red list up until 3 weeks before our start date, so I was personally wondering how we were going to manage. Suzy, our amazing head nurse, trustee and anesthetic expert was possibly not going to be able to make it, and neither was Ali, her number 2. We were also missing our head vet Jill Mullen, who has promised to come next year even if she needs to bring a folding chair. Then Covid, as we all know has frightened everyone, even if only subconsciously.

Another change which was for the positive, was that the ketamine rules seem to have calmed down, so though we bought most of our Ketamine from Desmond Tutu the head vet from TNR, we still took some in our SS suitcases.

This year, we were 2 main groups, the English, the French with Suzy, from Kuwait, Ali and Liv from Dubai. The thing we had in common was lots of suitcases!! So all arriving within 24hours and with the Brits arriving last on Sunday morning at 5am or thereabouts…. remembering we were going to just do a few operations on the Sunday!! we were all delighted to see one another, and even the people that knew barely anyone were happy.

It is always so exciting, we get told a few days before were we are staying, so it immediately gets ‘trip advised’ then we wonder how customs will occur. Despite, laughing between us whilst pushing the trolley of suitcases, you realise that getting through customs can be difficult. I mean what normal people carry 1,000’s of needles and syringes and that was just in one suitcase. Anyway, coming in from France, via Franckfort, we did get stopped and the customs officials asked what we had in our bags….. We produced our letter explaining we were a charity organisation and that we were here to sterilise animals. Then I added that I really didn’t mind opening all the suitcases, however, we would need a hand shutting them again, as we had had to sit on them. Finally we rang Dr Karani, who chatted to them and sorted the problem, we were through.

The hotel was fine, we got ourselves organised into our two’s or three’s and I happily found myself sharing with Amita, whom I also shared most of my Uni life with all those years ago.

Due to restrictions on ‘work on Sunday’s’ because of religious reasons…. we were taken to the KSPCA. We met Desmond (Dr Tutu who works for the TNR) and Hannah ( a wonderful Finnish vet, who now does mainly raptors) and Barbara, arrived to welcome us. Barbara, had in fact met us in the Seychelles and it was due to her, Spay Sisters now found itself in Nairobi. She had moved house and decided it would be a good idea to get all the parties together and invite us!

The parties involved in our trip were the KWVA run by Dr Karani, the TNR trust run by Amy Rapp and the KSPCA. Without whom the trip wouldn’t have happened, so thank you.

Anyway we all started work, it is always nerve wracking the first day, finding your fingers. The music is turned on and nobody speaks, at least at the beginning and definitely when things are going wrong. Which as nature is nature and we are but human beings, this does occur occasionally.

Day 1 done, and we were returned to the Nairobi Hill Park hotel. The hotel was fine and the staff were lovely, allowing us ‘friends around’ on a couple of occasions. Though Amita and Ali, did find their frustration levels tried, as try as they may to get a deal on washing, they failed!

It had been well organised so in fact we only worked Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we had off. The Monday and Tuesday we worked in Ruai, Then 24,25 and 26 we worked in Kayoie. Sunday again a half day at the KSPCA before our final 3 days at Kibera.

Day 2 and day 3 were slightly disappointing as we didn’t have the numbers, the locals were not turning up with their pets and so we only did 55 and 48 respectively, however the good news was we found we were working on World Spay Day 22 February 2022, which lead to tasty cake!

So rather than hang around we changed direction and started teaching, this is where Lizzie shines and the rest of us loose hair!! The vet students really did start taking part, obviously under supervising eyes. By the end of the trip, the keener or simply most insistent vet students, not to mention Casmir!!! could castrate dogs.

Within our group, we also had a few beginners…. Veryan, a recent graduate, who charmed her way into most hearts, male, female and animal and who left the trip being able to confidently spay. Livia, our Brazilian vet, who arrived from an all cat practice, leaving with more canine skills, whilst Marie, our baby vet nurse can now confidently castrate cats. Whilst the rest of us ploughed on improving our existing skills. Yes, even I can now knot my cat ovarian stumps rather then ligate them. It really is one wonderful feature of the trip, is that we all share, our ideas, our techniques and so you feel (after the first day) relaxed enough to try out new ways.

Another team building feature of our trip this year, was that we had Danae, whom I had met 5 years ago in France and who at that point was doing horses. Now she is doing acroyoga, so every morning before we started operating she had us stretching up and jumping down, waving our arms and swinging our legs…. it was a fun start to the day and even Desmond joined in. Various evenings, she got us, actually doing some acroyoga, which was surprisingly doable …. I miss feeling Ali’s belly beneath my toes!

The last 3 working days, we allowed Amy to take the lead on numbers, whilst Emma and Audrey came in 2nd and 3rd! On those days, we were next to the biggest slum of Nairobi, with over a million inhabitants so like in the Seychelles we found ourselves turning people away at the end of the day. Next time we will work there the whole time! Finishing having sterilised 669 animals we had only used half or our supplies so we are already nearly ready for next year!

So our work was basically summarised by the german tv company, ARD https://youtu.be/ BXc0w7HahsY

Obviously we didn’t just work but were lucky enough to do a 3 day safari at the end, wonderfully organised by https://trekkrafrica.co.ke/ who I would definitely advise if you wish to visit a safari in Kenya. After which we stopped off at www.theolmalaikatrust.org to kindly learn about her orphanage.

Basically thanks for all the help buying the anesthetics and equipment, Toni Cobbett and obviously her boss, Chris Gardner at St Clement Veterinary Clinic. Also thanks to the Cabinet Veterinaire de St Pons, Monica and Koen Goovaerts for both letting me buy the Spay Sisters equipment at cost price.