Veterinary student’s passion will take her to Africa

Second year veterinary student Cassia Michel discusses taking the veterinary career path with Manitoulin students and community members at the Jansen farm during her presentation on Veterinarians Without Borders. photo by Michael Erskine

HONORA BAY—Cassia Michel has known her goal for most of her life and for the past several years she has laid the paving stones in her path to becoming a veterinarian by working at the Honora Bay Riding Stables, volunteering with animal rescue centres, working on volunteer projects overseas and carefully selecting her courses at high school and university with an eye to that endgame. Ms. Michel grew up in Sudbury, but has spent nearly all of her summers on Manitoulin Island. The family cottages lies just behind the Jansen farm.

This summer, Ms. Michel will be working at a Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities project in Uganda with Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB). Ms. Michel’s presentation focussed on the VWB project and the types of work she will be engaged in there before segueing into the mechanics of following her career path.

Ms. Michel noted that the African nation of Uganda has a population of around 38 million people. “So about the same population as Canada, but all living in a country about a quarter the size of Ontario,” she said, noting that although about 1.5 million people live in the city of Kampala, “75.3 percent of the people make their living from agriculture and animal husbandry.”

A big difference between Canada and Uganda lies in their rankings in the Human Development Scale. “Uganda ranks at 163 on the list, while Canada ranks around ninth.” Life expectancy in the African country is 58.5 years.

Uganda is still suffering heavily from the HIV and AIDS pandemic that has swept that continent and there are about 1.5 million orphans, many of whom are now living in grandparent-led homes.

One of the programs Ms. Michel will be working on is the Goat Pass On, where a goat is supplied to a family, usually a woman, and as the goats are bred and the herd grows, the family gives a goat back to the program to be passed on to another family.

“We will be checking the goats for parasites, and doing bloodwork,” she said.

As part of her contribution to her trip with Veterans Without Borders Ms. Michel is expected to fundraise $2,000, basically a nominal amount, considering the cost of flights and accommodations. The volunteers will be living in a student-style residence in Kampala, three to four to an apartment, and travelling out to the rural communities.