A student group from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine has organized a fundraiser where students can get a holiday picture taken with their pets to help fund veterinary-student volunteer trips overseas.
Global Vets is a student-run initiative and club that has been well-established in the WCVM since 2002. Every summer, they send second-year veterinary students to countries in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania to volunteer with various animal-health-care organizations abroad. This summer, 18 students will go on volunteer trips, and they will be holding their pet-photo fundraiser on Dec. 2.
Claudia Schlueter, a second-year veterinary student, is one of the 18 volunteers who will participate in a volunteer trip next summer. Schlueter explains that Global Vets tries to avoid “voluntourism,” which is when people do local volunteer work while on vacation, a practice that can often have negative consequences on the host country.
“[Global Vets has] been around for a long time, and we’re a group of students that are really passionate about international travel, and learning about new cultures and communities, but also using this experience to give back to the communities. [We’re] really against voluntourism and more [about] giving back and also learning while we’re there,” Schlueter said.
Global Vets is college-endorsed program that fundraises throughout the year to help support their trips financially. In one summer, students can volunteer in several different countries and organizations, Schlueter explains.
“My group is going to an organization in South Africa called Champion Wildlife. They’re a wildlife clinic, and they use the clinic to promote conservation,” Schlueter said. “The next place we’re going to is called Zanzibar Animals Affection Society, and they do a lot of shelter medicine and sterilization programs to minimize the feral dog and cat populations on the island.”
Students volunteer for established organizations at whichever locations they travel to, and students must take the initiative themselves by contacting organizations and planning the trips. Schlueter believes that it is important to make sure that students will contribute something of value by volunteering.
“We decide where in the world we want to go, and within each group, we have subgroups. There’s lots of places that have been established already and have been really great to go to, and then [there are] some people paving new pathways,” Schlueter said. “The students contact the organizations and ask if they would like volunteer students and talk about what they would let students do and how it would be helpful for them.”
Global Vets hosts a number of fundraisers throughout the year to subsidize the costs of their international trips. For example, they organized a Halloween pub crawl, and they will be hosting a flip-cup tournament in January. The holiday themed pet photo shoot, taking place for the second year in a row, will be held on Dec. 2 at the WCVM. Schlueter explains how the fundraiser came about.
“The president of our group has an amazing friend who is a professional photographer and she’s volunteered to spend the day doing this for us,” Schlueter said. “We have 10-minute slots. We’re going to get people to come in and bring their pets. We’ll get photos taken of them, [and] we’ll have a little set-up with a Christmas tree and decorations and stuff.”
Photos will cost $15 but only $10 if you bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Saskatoon Food Bank. To book a photo session, email the Global Vets president, Caitlin Shaw, at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be a table with refreshments for sale.
Although the majority of pets will be cats and dogs, Schlueter encourages everyone, including those with different kinds of pets, to schedule a photo session.
“We have one girl in our class who has a parrot, so she’s bringing that. No horses or cows, but anything reasonable you can bring.”
Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer
Photo: Gabbie Torres