A friend of mine just returned from six weeks in Haiti. She went in association with her MBA program as part of a project focused on helping Haitians develop sustainable work to support themselves and their communities. She came home with some great stories and is determined to continue to find ways to help the people of Haiti recover from years of crushing poverty and the massive earthquake that struck in January of 2010.

My friend is also an animal-lover, and was thrilled to learn that her family’s "horse doctor" has also spent time in Haiti helping to train local veterinarians in equine medicine.

According to an article that appeared in the Washington Post on February 15, 2012:

There are an estimated 40 veterinarians in Haiti, said Javier Donatelli of Poolesville, a former professional polo player from Argentina turned equine veterinarian. Without a veterinary school in Haiti, aspiring vets are forced to receive their schooling 90 miles away in nearby Cuba, where the curriculum does not delve into equine medicine. The result of the lack of training can be seen in underdeveloped and malnourished horses, who do not grow bigger than the size of a pony, which can be classified as 58 inches or shorter in height, Donatelli said.

Donatelli and the team had five days to give the Haitian veterinarians a crash course in the specialty, which included field and classroom training in major procedures such as how to give a horse an intravenous treatment and routine issues such as cleaning hooves and tending to wounds. He estimated they treated about 200 horses and donkeys at the Haiti Animal Care and Welfare Center in Croix-des-Bouquets, about eight miles northeast of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

'They’re 100 percent working animals, and a lot are dying of hunger and difficult conditions, like rabies and tetanus,' Donatelli said. 'Our goal is to educate [the vets] so they can educate the owners.'

You don’t have to be a veterinarian to help animals in developing countries. For example, World Vets "…develops, implements and manages international veterinary and disaster relief programs to help animals, educate people, and have a positive impact on communities."

Of course the organization welcomes financial contributions, but they also offer volunteer opportunities for veterinarians, technicians, and students (veterinary, pre-veterinary and technician students) in addition to assistants with no prior veterinary experience. World Vets is currently working in 34 countries on six continents. As they say on their website:

Whether you are a student seeking surgical experience, a veterinarian with a desire to provide your services abroad, or simply an individual looking to travel with a purpose, you will have the time of your life on one of our trips!

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Ali Ender Birer / via Shutterstock