Senior Veterinarian, Shelley Wiltshire BVSc (Hons)

Shelley, Lydia and Bec

Shelley, Lydia and Bec

My Esther Honey Experience

I spent two weeks at the Esther Honey Foundation, alongside two close friends, Lydia and Bec.

From the moment we arrived at Rarotonga airport, we knew we would be in for something different. The laid-back and friendly nature of the people was evident from the moment we landed, and as soon as customs found out we were “Esther Honey’s” we received an even warmer welcome.

This pleasant attitude was noticable everywhere we went. The bus drivers would sing, crack jokes and even stop and pick island fruit and share it amongst the passengers. Islanders would stop and offer us a lift into town as we were walking along, and we felt very safe.

Arriving at the EHF clinic, we were amazed by how many animals there were, and just how close they were to the residence. We soon became used to having dogs, goats, cats, and roosters calling out outside our bedroom window as well as several “house animals” coming to visit us in the night!

Carl and Michelle were there to show us the ropes, and we shared the experience with other volunteers Martina, Ann, Adrian and Rachel. Each work day started with rounds before 8am, then “feed and clean” which took a long time given that we were almost at maximum capacity. Consultations, house calls and surgery followed. Each day the patients would be checked and would be given some TLC; either time on the grass in the sun, hydrotherapy at the beach, or they would be walked or groomed. We we surprised by how friendly the animals were, and they genuinely seemed to enjoy being at the clinic.

Some examples of cases that we treated included: fish poisoning, road traffic accidents, vomiting and diarrhoea, skin disease and parasitic conditions. We took numerous x-rays and performed many surgeries. We treated lots of goats and pigs during our stay, and the little clinic car did a great job of carting injured goats back to the clinic for treatment!

We received some “island style” donations from owners of animals we treated, including papayas, bananas and even a chestnut tree! Tourists and residents of Rarotonga would often swing by to drop off donated goods, money or volunteer their time to help us out. Kids would also pop in to visit or help out on their way home from school, and Cook Islands News came to report a story on the influx of Aussie volunteers!

Socially, there was lots happening. We joined the Hash House Harriers for a run and a drink, had an Island Dancing lesson, drank mojitos at Trader Jacks, went to the movies and experienced the “jetblast” near the Rarotonga airport. We had several goodbye dinners as volunteers finished up their stint in the Cooks. The Waffle Shack will be missed, and ofcourse Carl’s famous lasagne night on Thursdays! We won’t forget the amazing beach just opposite the clinic, and ducking down there after work for a dip and a spot of whale-watching!

On our last night we had the pleasure of looking after Mr Tumnus, a newborn goat, who required intravenous fluids and regular bottle feeds. We hope Adrian doesn’t lose too much sleep looking after this guy in our absence and hope Mr Tumnus goes on to do well.

Overall, our time at the Esther Honey Foundation was a fantastic experience; very inspirational and refreshing. I would highly recommended volunteering at EHF and hope to come back again soon.

Shelley Wiltshire BVSc (Hons)
Veterinarian from Australia