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Two weeks in Mozambique with the SPAY SISTERS

I still find it hard to put into words how much I enjoyed my last trip to Mozambique. I will try my best. (8 min read)

As some of you might know, besides being a travel blogger, I am a vet, so this trip was not the typical tourist escape…

In the last two weeks, I joined the UK charity SPAY SISTERS, founded by three incredible vets including my dear friend Ella Stekly, who I met in Madeira 10 years ago.

How do SPAY SISTERS work?

Spay Sisters started in June 2006.
The aim of this charity is to sterilise as many animals as possible throughout the world.
They intend to save a few dog, and cat lives leading them to a healthier existence by the control of reproduction. Post operation the animals become calmer, fight less, get fewer diseases and naturally don’t produce vast quantities of kittens and puppies each year. A single cat or dog can be responsible for 20,000 descendants in five years – just a reminder.
SPAY SISTERS original trustees are vets and veterinary nurses, so access to materials and medicines is easily done and time is given for free. That means that the money donated is going to only the anaesthetics, drugs and equipment needed for the job. There are no administration costs, with the people on the trip paying for their flights and the country inviting Spay Sisters paying for food and accommodation.

Ever since I met them, I hoped I could join them on one of these trips.
Ten years later, it finally happened – Mozambique was the destination of choice.

How do they choose the destination, you might wonder? Usually, the local associations get in contact with the charity, and all arrangements are made.
My thoughts on this trip?

The fear of the unknown was something that haunted me for a few days before the journey. I mean, this was Africa, a continent which I had never visited. The uncertainty of what was going to happen, how would I get in contact with my kids back home, and how would I work with this group of people (since I only knew one of them) kept my mind busy for a while.

But the decision was made, this was something I’ve been willing to experience for a long time so,
I just had to go and make it happen.

You see I’m a believer, that arrogance hasn’t died in me, yet…
I believe that there are good people in the world and that if they get together, their actions can have a huge impact on others, however small it may seem, at first glance.
I also believe in the principles of this charity and felt I could fit in, in so many ways…
I felt very lucky to be invited to join them, plus timing was perfect.
My family was also incredibly supportive including my two sons.

How did we get there?

So 6 of us met at Heathrow Airport and repacked our bags to make sure we could take all equipment needed for the clinic without paying extra costs.
We were all excited and happy to be together on this mission.

We flew to Dubai where we met the other four colleagues of the group and then we all flew together to Durban.
At the airport, we met a member of the local association Protect Ponta, Caron, who took care of us during that night. On the second week of the trip, she met us again and arranged all transportation, accommodation and food along that week.

On the next day, we were driven (5 hours drive) to the border Kosi Bay (South Africa) / Ponta do Ouro (Mozambique).
We had two drivers, and one of them was such a funny character! He made us laugh with his engagement story and his fears of getting married to the wrong woman.
Also in Mozambique, there’s a favourite radio station called LM where you can listen to old hits like “Blame it on the Boogie” from the Jacksons, so we had an excellent soundtrack along the road to get our party started.

At some point Ella asked the group:
So what’s your personal goal on this trip?

From getting better skills in neutering procedures, beautiful sun tans or making sure everyone’s safety was guaranteed, answers were multiple and curiously diverse.

My personal goal was to experience a spay sisters trip while interacting with locals and learning about their lifestyle.

During the first week, we’ve stayed at Ponta do Ouro, at Lois house. Lois and her husband looked after us as if we were part of their family. I will never forget them both.

On the second week, we moved to Ponta Malongane where Sharon was kind enough to let us all stay at her Beach House – we loved it. Caron, Vanessa and Daniel took such good care of us during the whole week, not only helping us with catching the animals but also making sure we reached the right locations and were well fed. The roads have no signs or numbers, they’re just sand roads in the middle of nowhere, so it can be quite challenging to go from A to B.


Work, focus, fatigue, friendship, hugs, love, laughter, rain showers, heat waves, warm sea, beautiful sand beaches, birds singing, lush jungle, surfing crabs…

 

Moz and Skinny – 2 of the dogs we met, brail (barbeque), Cristopher, Elias, “Smiley” (the most inquisitive local men we’ve met) morning tea, bumpy roads, off roads, Capulana’s ladies, morning dolphins…

SPAY SISTERS

“Vânia and Dito” (two children that we met in the first week), the sense of accomplishment and a few tears… are just some of the words that come to my mind when I look back on this trip.

I could go on forever talking about the emotions, surprises and the human gestures, I saw during our stay.

About Mozambique, no words can make justice to the beauty of this place – I can show you the pictures, but to understand the magic of this country, you have to go there and feel it under your skin.

Listen to the sound of the jungle, the noises of the night, the sea, the sunsets and thunderstorms. Sit by the fire and look at those bright stars.
Also don’t forget to taste the beer of Mozambique 2M and the huge, tasty prawns.

I felt safe and welcomed, and I often found myself wondering how much better could it get.
We’ve just been in the south of Mozambique – Ponta do Ouro, Ponta Malongane, Mamoli and Zitundo but when the locals talked about the beauty of Bazaruto and Ilha de Moçambique, they had sparkles in their eyes.

Yes, there’s poverty, there’s not enough food, there are children selling goods on the streets while they should be at school. There’s also a high rate of HIV and many kids, unfortunately, become orphans – it’s all too sad, and they need help. However, I was impressed by people’s smiles and how they manage to carry on with their lives, fighting for better days.

Some of them walked for 2 hours to go to work. Others walked for 2 hours to have their dog neutered at our clinic, which we quickly found out by saying: – Please, come back later to pick up your dog after surgery. The answer was, I’d better sit and wait. And so they sited and waited and watched us work and laughed while the dog’s anaesthetics started to kick in, and talked with each other, sharing thoughts and sharing food with us by lunch time.

Around lunch time, children left school and came to our clinic spot. They jumped in the water puddles, climbed on trees and most were brave enough to approach the tables and look into the eyes of the animals, intrigued by the blood in our gloves. Some of them also showed us their school books with pride. I was happy to see that most locals loved their animals, the bonding was there, they just didn’t know or could do better when it came to looking after them. They were pleased with the rabies vaccination, and especially the pet food received. Women were also relieved that their dogs were now neutered and some of the local men made a joke asking us if we could neuter them as well…

As for the SPAY SISTERS experience, it couldn’t have been better, since each person in the group tried their best to make it work. As for the interaction with locals, we’ve had the pleasure to share the experience with four wonderful vet students from Maputo, Mércia, Orlando, Bilério and João as well as a local vet, the BEAUTIFUL Sara. One of the schools in Ponta do Ouro took their classroom to see what we were doing and to explain to the children what’s the veterinary profession. We’ve also met many locals, kids and grown-ups, restaurant owners, the church choir, the shop vendors and of course, the hard working people behind the local association Protect Ponta.
They did an incredible job; I must say we were totally spoiled…

I’m also proud to say that we’ve managed to treat and neuter 300 animals during these two weeks.

This trip brought me so much more than I could give back but most of all it brought me hope in the human kind – Thank you all.

 

 

A particular word to Ella who invited me to this trip – Thanks for leading us to helping others through your charity and example. Thanks for all the chats, laps, support and morning teas… To all my colleagues on this trip a big OBRIGADA, for looking after each other and making sure everyone was ok. I would also like to thank the two professional photographers, Alan and Greg, who accompanied us during this trip and for taking such incredible pictures, which I’m thrilled to share in this post.

Not  forgetting the wonderful ladies from Protect Ponta, Caron, Shannon, Debbie, Sandra, Lois, Vanessa and Heike, as well as Neil, Rob, Justin and Gareth – OBRIGADA!
Thank you to all the people who welcomed us in their homes, shops, restaurants and lives during these two weeks.

 

Note:
To visit Mozambique, you have to get in contact with the embassy to get a visa.
In Portugal, it cost me 80 €, and you must go there in person, no other choice.
I also took the Rabies vaccination and the malaria prevention pills.
I’ve stayed in private homes but check this place and this one. I’ve had good references about them.

Whatever you do, do visit Mozambique!

P.S. – If you’d like to know more about this charity visit the website www.spaysisters.org.

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you all so much for your hard work – much appreciated by the community here and the animals of course! I’m also impressed to read about the local owners travelling far to do the right thing for their pets.

    Glad you had fun on the trip – hope you come back someday 🙂

  2. Hi Spay Sisters! We are an association for the protection of animals with a spaying/neutering project in Sao Vicente Cape Verde! We had your contact from a volunteer of the association you worked with in Mozambique! I can’t find your contact in your site, so let’s try this way! In short: we need your help! Please send a mail to [email protected] so that we can get in touch! Thank you so much in advance! Silvia

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