Honduras – Sephra Zinsmeister

Hondurans kid holding a catTired, dusty, sweaty, humbled, but filled with a fresh appreciation for the gift of my veterinary education at Texas A&M University summarizes how I felt each dayriding back to Rancho El Paraiso after a workday in the Agalta Valley in Honduras. This past spring break, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Honduras with a team of Christian veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary students gathered from all walks of life and from all over the country to provide basic, but incredibly needed, veterinary services to the people of Honduras. Our trip was a unique partnership with Christian Veterinary Mission and Honduras Outreach International (HOI), an organization dedicated to strengthening Honduras by encouraging local enterprise and economy, to provide veterinary services to villages in the Agalta Valley of Honduras that do not have access to any sort of veterinary care.

Each day on the ranch, our team would rise early to an incredible breakfast prepared by the locals employed by HOI before loading all our gear into our two rickety all-terrain vehicles and setting off into the valley. We would typically reach our villages mid-morning and immediately begin setup of canopies, surgery tables, deworming stations, and large animal supplies. As we set up, the villagers would begin to appear carrying, dragging, riding, or leading all manner of four-footed animals for us to tend to that day. Typically, our team would divide into multiple groups to tackle the cases for the day: a surgical team, large animal team, deworming team, and usually an individual or two that played with and entertained the village children. One day after returning to the ranch after work, our team even had the opportunity to rescue an unfortunate dog that had lost a battle with a porcupine. Our team coming to the villages was a huge source of excitement and entertainment for the local villagers everywhere we went. The school children would frequently leave school to come observe our surgeries or other procedures and the older villagers would come to enjoy the shade under our canopies while watching us and visiting with each other.

Working in the field under less-than-ideal circumstances, having to think on your feet and make do with limited supplies and help was an incredible experience for me, especially since I desire to pursue rural, mixed animal practice upon graduation. I feel as though my time in Honduras has better prepared me for some of the challenges I may face in practice one day. However, my time in Honduras was not only beneficial for advancing my veterinary experience, but also for the incredible friendships that developed while there. Each evening under the stars on the ranch, our team would gather for a time of devotion and fellowship during which we shared life experiences and words of support and wisdom. I am extremely grateful for my experience in Honduras and feel as though it has better equipped me mentally and emotionally totackle the remainder of my time in vet school.