Missions trip! (not a debate)

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daniellevmt's picture
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Missions trip! (not a debate)

The last few days have been a whirlwind! I'll try to make this as short as possible.

An amazing opportunity to volunteer my time has fallen into my lap last minute. I've been asked by Animal Balance, a non-profit, to volunteer my sevices as an RVT in an upcoming missions campaign on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Animal Balance mission is to offer high volume, human sterilization campaigns and rabies vaccinations to underpriviliged and often remote areas of the world to combat the stray population. In these areas, the cat and dog stray burden often compromises human health and the local ecosystem. They are a small, grassroots org and operate by setting up MASH-style clinics, often working in rough coniditions (no running water, unreliable or no electricity). They also work to educate the local residents on humanity towards the animals, as they often know no different.

I will be working with a group of 10-15 volunteer veterinarians, technicians, and translators in the small villages of Cabrera and La Entrada, DR. If you've ever vacationed in the DR, I'm sure you've seen the "beach dogs" and stray dogs and cats in the streets. You can only imagine how many more there are in the remote areas. We will be using every second of daylight available as we can't rely on the sporadic electrical supply. Our goal is to sterililize and/or treat and vaccinate every animal that is brought to us or that we can catch and release. Animal Balance operates under 100% humane practices, even supplying a wonderful pain management protocol to all patients. In addition, we hope to educate the local residents, especially the children, as it's commonplace for the children there to throw rocks at and hit the stray animals with sticks. Unfortunately they know no different, so this is an important goal of ours. Last year, the DR had a rabies outbreak, and the government's response to minimize transmission of the disease was to distribute quantities of poisoned food to kill any stray animal that would eat it. Obviously, this is a long, painful death for them. Animal Balance hopes to decrease the stray population over time as a long-term solution to such problems.

Animal Balance operates on donations and by the service of volunteers, so I am responsible for raising the money to fund my trip. Graciously, since they needed an experienced tech on such short notice, Emma Clifford, the founder and director of Animal Balance (and overall amazing human being), is offering 1/2 the money to cover my airfare. I need to raise money to help cover the remaining portion and to cover my accomodation/travel expenses (vaccines I still need to get, food, etc). We are staying in very basic accomodations (there is no other choice, LOL!).

If you would be able to give even a small donation ($5 adds up very quickly...for example, my hotel is only $22/night), I would so greatly appreciate it. I wouldn't be asking here but I have less than 2 weeks (I'm going from April 9-17) to raise the money, and that doesn't leave me with the option for traditional fundraising. What I don't raise to cover the trip I will happily fund myself, but I'm hoping to take down as many supplies (for the clinics and the children) as I can afford as well. Animal Balance is a super organization. Emma operates efficiently, keeping the org's overhead costs extremely low, leaving the majority of donations to supporting their missions. Volunteers work from sun up to sun down, spending only one day setting up/tearing down clinics, the rest dedicated to patient care. This is by no means a "voluntourism" trip. It took me a long time to find such a group that I felt comfortable donating my time to.

If you can donate, my paypal address is [EMAIL=daniellevmt@comcast.net]daniellevmt@comcast.net[/EMAIL] Be sure to mark it as "donation" or "gift" when prompted. If you'd rather mail a donation, PM me and I'll be happy to share an address where it can be mailed. I urge you to visit www.animalbalance.net for more information on AB. There you will find detailed reports on each trip and exactly what the groups accomplish on these trips. There is also a short video hosted by Emma detailing their efforts on the Galapagos Islands here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZpVRNxjMPs&feature=player_embedded#at=24

Thank you so much for reading! Also, I need some good packing tips! I want to be able to pack as many supplies for the clinic and the children as I can, so I won't have much room to pack clothing and supplies for myself. Any tips on packing efficiently, or good ideas for high protein, heat resistance snacks to keep me going are appreciated!!

This has been approved by MissyJ (thank you Missy!)

b525's picture
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Sounds great!

For packing, use Space Bags. There are ones specifically for packing suitcases and you can roll almost all the air out of a stack of clothing and it will fill half the space. Some tech gear (like poly workout stuff) is good because it's very light, thin, cool, and can be washed out each night and air dry by morning. Then you can take less clothing.

How about some prepackaged dried fruits and/or nut mixes?

daniellevmt's picture
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Awesome tips! Thank you!

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I would ask what you can legally bring regarding food. For me Cliff Bars worked great.
I ditto the thin stuff.. Extra SHOES! and socks. Bring the comfiest shoes. If you are not going to wear it 3 times do not pack it. Wipes are handy as are extra plastic bags, and pantiliners for long flight etc.
Consider packing how you would pack if camping, not everything you use daily, leave room to bring home items. One way to do this is pack without the space saver bags on on the way there, and use them on the way pack.
Other recommendations I have read say bring disposable clothing.. so you don't have to pack it back... just an idea.
A windbreaker that is waterproof is probably all you would need for a jacket type, and can get really compactable ones. Keep Passport, or id on you... wear a pouch inside your clothing.

Congrats have a wonderful time, it will be life changing I am sure.

You might want to consider bringing items to give the children there, since you are going anyway?

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Is mailing a box of supplies to your hotel an option? If so, then you only need to take what you need for the first few days if you'll have a package waiting. Ditto checking what food you can legally take along. You might be able to mail things you couldn't bring in yourself. I love Luna Bars, they taste much better than Clif Bars, and you can usually buy raw nuts & peanut butter almost anywhere, maybe check on what you can get locally.

Space Bags are great, but you can also do the same thing with regular zipper baggies. Get the super-size (3 gallon?) bags with the sliding zipper, pack it full, zip it most of the way, then slowly roll it up (put your body weight on it!) and finish zipping. My SIL traveled to Africa on a two-week medical mission, and she took only two sets of clothing. She wore them both for the trip, saving room in her bags for extra supplies.

Good luck to you, I hope you have a great trip!

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Sounds like a great cause, I hope that you have a great trip.

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I have no experience packing for something like that, so no help there. I just wanted to offer some suggestions of things to take the kids. Our church collects McD's toys for foreign mission trips. You could set up a bin at work for people to drop off the toys and you may even have some around your house as well. A good friend went on a trip to China and took the kids Silly Bands and she said they were a big hit. I'm sure you could even find some animal ones.

Have fun and take lots of pictures!

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The silly bands are a great idea! I just want to take something to kind of open the door to talking with them. I would LOVE to take down things they *need*, but I just don't have the space. I'm not sure that mailing things at this point is possible for many reasons...I'd have to look into it.

I've already ordered some Clif bars...love them! Will get packets of Gatorade or other electolyte-replacement drinks as well. Plan on packing some almonds too.

AWESOME packing tips, thank you guys!

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Do you have a Tourist Card? I think you need one to go to the DR.

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"Claire'sMommy" wrote:

Do you have a Tourist Card? I think you need one to go to the DR.

Do you mean a passport? Yes, I have a passport.

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"daniellevmt" wrote:

Do you mean a passport? Yes, I have a passport.

It's like a tourist visa. I found this and it seems like you just buy one when you get to the DR, if you're American. Here in Canada they can be bought in advance. Sorry, didn't mean to freak you out! Here's some info:

For Canadian citizens, a valid passport, or a birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship, along with photo identification, are required for both entry and exit. U.S. citizens must have a valid passport for travel to the Dominican Republic. This also extends to Canadians or other nationalities that will be flying to the Dominican Republic via the United States. All tourists must purchase a visa/tourist card at a cost of $10.00 U.S. to enter the Dominican Republic. Canadian travellers are provided with this visa/tourist card before leaving Canada. Visitors who do not obtain a visa/tourist card prior to entry must purchase one at the airport when they arrive in the Dominican Republic.

As long as you've got cash on you when you arrive you're fine.:D

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You don't want ANY packing advice from me, lol. I overly pack really really badly. Anyway, I wish I could donate even a dollar right now, but I honestly can't. I will keep this good cause and trip in my prayers though, and please take a lot of pictures!!

I second the silly bandz thing, they are on sale usually because they're not as popular anymore!

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Lisa, you didn't freak me out, LOL! I vacationed on the south coast of DR a few summers ago and yes, you pay when you present your passport after you land there. I guess I just didn't know what it was called. Thank you!

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I went to Haiti when I was in HS for a service project. Since we wanted to dress like them (basically just skirts and t-shirts) we bought clothes at Goodwill that we could just leave there for the older girls to wear. We packed everything for us in our carryons and used the suitcases for all the things we were bringing for them. We brought maybe 2 skirts each and a few more t-shirts, then washed clothes every day or two. We also brought old underwear and just threw it away so we wouldn't have to bring anything back with us.

I know that doesn't really help with space saving, but I thought it might give you an idea as to how you could give more to the people. The kids aren't really going to care what you bring them; they'll love anything. The silly bandz are a great idea!

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Sounds like a great mission. I can't wait to hear (and see) all about it when you get back. The above poster had a really good idea about buying Goodwill clothes and leaving them.

We were down in DR 2 years ago for vaca and you're right, the stray dogs are all over. Obviously we didn't see too many at the resort, but one day when we went for a walk pretty far down the beach away from the resorts we did see several. They looked just terrible.

I cannot provide packing help as I tend to bring 3x more with me than I could ever possibly need! I do love the silly bandz suggestion too.

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I don't know how the DR is, but when I hear about deployments, people like to bring those tiny rubber balls. Kids love them and if you get overwhelmed (which happens when children see another one getting toys) you can roll them to the kids on the outside of the crowd and they'll give you more breathing room with the ones you are talking to. Which sounds kind of awful, but it's just something I learned about countries where resources are limited and luxuries are rare.

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We are going to teleconference again tomorrow afternoon before Emma leaves to go somewhere else before she meets us in the DR. I've got paper work and lists and all kinds of things running through my head!

Also, if any of you would know someone who would be interested in donation (if you work at a large corporation and they give to non-profits, or any business), I can fax a copy of AB's 501c non-profit form so they can see that it's completely legit.

To those of you who have given already, your kindness just warms my heart. I'm going to make a difference down there, period. I am pumped and ready to go!!