Spotlight on Dr Eileen Wronski
Friday, 1 October, 2010
ABV volunteer, Eileen Wronski recently the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) where she provided veterinarian training to local staff. The following interview was conducted by BAWA and first published at http://www.bawabali.com/us/bawa-heroes.html.
BAWA would like to say a big thank you and farewell to Australian veterinarian, Dr Eileen Wronski, who spent three eventful months volunteering at our 24 hour Animal Clinic in Ubud, Bali.
Why did you come to Bali to work with BAWA?
I came to BAWA through an organization called Australian Business Volunteers. ABV's focus on skills exchange appealed to me as I do enjoy education (both teaching and learning). Also, when I researched BAWA, it seemed to me that the emphasis on education indicated a real commitment for the long and short term to animal welfare - as education is the most constructive long-term way to truly improve animal welfare.
What made you want to leave your own vet practice back home in Tasmania to volunteer in a developing country?
I was looking for an opportunity to explore things that I might do more of in the future. Also, travelling to a different country enabled me to have an "adventure" experience while doing something positive with my skills. I also have young children and believe that the more exposure the next generation can have to broadening experiences then the better off our next generation will be.
Tell us about a normal day at the BAWA Clinic.
Normal? (laughs) Well, most days I would arrive at the clinic, review any cases with the staff that they were concerned about, discuss any issues that had arisen over the last few days or night, and develop strategies with the staff to manage these issues. Sometimes I would write and review protocols.
It sounds like hard work!
Yes, but absolutely worth it.
What was your best experience working at the BAWA clinic?
Meeting the people and seeing the impact they are having on improving animal care. Every little bit of care helps.
Were there any particularly sad stories that really tested you?
Yes. I remember going to one very poor family, and they really loved and cared for their dog. When I saw the dog, he was very sick, and not likely to live. As always it is hard to tell people this, and it was the quiet grief of this family that really just upset me. This is not particulary unique, but for some reason, this family and their soft quiet expressions of affection for the dog, were very moving.
Did you have a favourite dog?
Yes, his name was Brun. I got to know this dog slowly and over the three months we became friends... but he was always top dog in his area, ruled the roost... but eventually allowed me to stroke him... of course the pay off was food!
The thing about volunteering is that often you learn from the people you teach. Did you find that was true, and if so, what did you learn, and from who?
My goodness the list is endless here. Balinese calmness... I think the best introduction and lessons that stood strong and true were introduced to me on the very first few days I was there.
Someone (who will remain nameless) said to survive in Bali, you should:
1. Get used to "Bali time"
2. Be flexible
3. No problem is too big a problem
4. Be happy
Again, if you can live life with this attitude...life is better!
How did working at BAWA vary from work at your own practice in Tasmania?
I run a private practice in Tasmania, so it is very different to working in a shelter and dealing with the management issues faced with large numbers of transient, unowned animals.
The BAWA clinic is the only rabies quarantine centre on the whole of Bali, and you were working right in the middle of it. Is there anything you would like to share about your experiences with this deadly virus?
Rabies is most definitely a confronting disease. For me, I was most confronted by the dedication and skill of the staff who work with rabies, and yet have kept themselves safe.
Do you have any special advice for pet owners living in Bali?
Be careful, handle your dog well and know your dogs normal behavior. Seek advise if your dog shows any unusual signs.
What was the hardest part of the job?
As always, the hardest part is euthanasia animals. It is not so difficult if you know that the animal is suffering and you euthanase it on animal welfare grounds. But it is also hard seeing staff grieve over animals they have cared for and now have to euthanase.
And what was the most rewarding part?
When we were truly able to share ideas, and discussion resulted in better outcomes for the dogs.
Would you recommend other vets to volunteer their time at BAWA, and why?
If you want to do work that really changes people's lives both on a community and individual level, then BAWA is the place to do it! If you believe in education and the future then this is a good place to start.
What about people who don't have veterinary qualifications, but still want to volunteer at the BAWA Clinic - what else can they do to help?
Non-technical people can always help walking the dogs, socialising the puppies and cleaning. Even just getting in and scrubbing walls, assisting the staff, collecting food bowls and toys etc. There is always something to do!
Thank you so much Eileen for your passion, expertise and valuable time. We are forever grateful for your contribution!