Veterinary Blogs

2017 Canadian Veterinary Blogs

Learning The Language – Ren Chamberlain

Mambo Rafiki!

With the start of the fourth week, the entirety of the summer crew in the house together and enough Kimeru (local mothertongue) to get by….things are settling in. For any keen readers, let me introduce myself. Mimi ni Ren (I am Ren), a 3rd year student at AVC and the house busker. I brought the essentials to Kenya; my guitar, my poi (glowing spinning balls) and my SPF 60. That being said, it seems as though it is too late to stop my very noticeable farmer’s tan.

Although a day by day playback would indeed be exciting to read, I will stick to some of the highlights. Highlight number one: Samburu Safari. Enough said with the smile on our faces in this video blog!

Next, I invite you to see it and believe it.

Our day spent with the nutrition team brought us across the street from our house to Muruguma Primary School where we spent our time observing the cooking process and then spoke to each class, exchanging answers to shyly asked questions about Canada for a sneak peek into their school lesson that day. The most memorable moment was when a small but uber confident girl, Sharon, stood up and marched to the board to lead her equally small classmates in a call and answer for the numbers 1- 10. ONE. One. TWO. Two…and so on.

While we are talking about learning and language, I would be remiss to not mention my developing Kimeru (the mother tongue in Naari). It is amazing what the smallest amount of effort can do. Merely saying “muuga” (how are you) gets me responses of laughter, clapping and mainly gigantic smiles. This works to make me even more keen to continue expanding my Kimeru and Swahili vocabulary. A vicious cycle in the best way.

Nibwega, asante sana and squashed banana.


July 6 – Julia Kenny

The time continues to pass swiftly here in the quiet town of Naari Kenya. We have completed yet another week of farm visits and have begun working on the second half of our project which entails implementing the recommendations that we have made at each individual farm. Throughout the past month and a half, we have made several visits to each farm involved in the project and, consequently, have had the privilege of becoming good friends with many of the farmers. There is one lady in particular, Deborah, who has been exceedingly kind to us. She always greets us with a bright and beautiful smile and a laugh. When we have finished our work, she stops whatever she has been doing and sits with us on the grass in the warm sunshine after ensuring that each of us has a steaming hot cup of Cadbury drinking chocolate. We usually spend fifteen or twenty minutes chatting with her until our chocolate is gone. Last time we visited Deborah, she invited us to come to dinner one night whenever we were free. That night that we were free ended up being this past Tuesday.

We arrived at dinner around 6:30 on Tuesday night. There was quite a large group of us that had decided to go. There was the vet team which included Emily, Joan, Ren and I along with the Naari Dairy vet technician, Bernard as well as Sarah, our nutrition masters student and Kithenji, our driver here in Naari. We were greeted with a warm welcome and shown into the living room. It was a spacious room with pale pink walls and two beige couches that were heavily adorned with lace covers. The coffee tables had glass tops and displayed a varied assortment of vividly colored fake flowers. The light from the chandelier burned brightly but with a dark yellow hue which lent a cozy and homelike atmosphere to the room. We all took our seats on the couches and Deborah began to bring in one steaming pot after another filled to the brim with the delicious feast that was to be our dinner.

How should I describe the dinner we ate that night? Incredibly delicious? Unbelievably scrumptious? I think the simplest of terms might describe the meal better. Let me say that the feast that Deborah served us was good in the fullest and most profound sense of the word. The dinner included chicken stew, mukimo (a local dish of mashed potatoes mixed with corn, beans and stinging nettles), chicken legs and wings, flavored rice and chapattis followed by watermelon with chai, coffee and hot chocolate for dessert. We were so full afterwards that we were unable to get off of the couch for a while. However, that did not stop us from having a good time. We exchanged stories and jokes for the next hour or two. Sometimes we were laughing so much that breathing became a significant challenge. This was only the beginning of the fun. Ren and I gave a live performance of the“CupSong” and the others joined us in singing too the songs that we all knew. We finished off the evening by dancing to some African themed songs that were playing on the radio.

It was then approaching 10:00pm and we sadly realized that it was time to go home. We helped our hostess clear the table and clean the dishes before thanking her for a lovely evening and delicious dinner and taking our leave. As we were driving home down the bumpy, dusty roads of Naari, I could not help but reflect once again on the kindness of the people here and the wonderful memories I now possess which I owe to them. I continue to look forward to the weeks to come and anticipate many more good times and new adventures.

Emily, Ben & Joan at supper
Emily, Ben & Joan at supper


Stories from Kenya – Ren Chamberlain

Please enjoy a few small stories from my time here in Kenya!

Jul 15: Today we finally hiked the ever present looming mountain of Mei Tei. In this case the word looming is to indicate a mountain that is simply much taller than any in PEI. The 40 min or so trek of a steep face was worth the sweat and tears. Reaching the summit presented us with a flat surface with trees spaced out in a perfect arrangement. A trail led us even further to reach the open face on the top of Mei Tei, rewarding us with the view of the summer! Meru town off to the left in the distance and our little Naari village directly in front of us but at quite a distance below. After some time playing “Where’s Waldo?”, we even spotted our house and Muruguma Primary School across the street!!!

Ren at the top of Mei Tei
Ren at the top of Mei Tei

Jul 9: The American soldiers (friends we made at the Samburu Safari) have started a project to build a new orphanage for Mama Wachiras. The current place hosts about 50 kids with 7 kids to a room. They bought sheep, goats and chickens for the place, and we have offered to go and deworm the sheep/goats. We were able to deworm around 50 of their animals and boy it was a lively event. One by one, each animal was wrangled, then released from the little shed and caught in mid-leap by one of the Kenyan boys. Then Julia and I would rotate between filling our syringe and prying their little jaws in order to dose them with Twigazole dewormer! It was intense, amusing, and all around fulfilling.

The best patients are cows
The best patients are cows

June 29: I am currently in Mukurwe-ini visiting the Vet’s Without Borders project. We went to a school today that seemed like a Kenyan version of a Dr. Seuss learning center! The place had stone paths to each classroom lined by brightly coloured rocks and motivational sayings amongst the shrubs and flowers. While trying to take in all of the magic, you would get distracted by the children launching themselves from the classroom to sprint to their next class! The first antelope child took me by surprise but eventually the lines of jogging school children became very enjoyable to see while also making me realize that this rule would never be put in place at a school back home. What a great way to keep students awake throughout the day, it certainly provides them with constant periodic exercise!

We have a very short time remaining here in Kenya. See you soon Maritimes!


June 3, 2017 – Julia Kenny

I think I am becoming accustomed to life here in Kenya. This is the first full week we have spent here in Naari without our professors and with our full complement of students. We have settled into a dynamic domestic bliss here in our house and have already begun to create some wonderful memories together.

Today was another typical day for the vet team. We left the house early and visited ten farms in the Naari area throughout the day. One farm visit today was particularly special because of the people we spent time with there. It was a relatively small farm set at the foot of a green hill with a large field of corn stretching below it. The house was made of dark wooden boards with small windows lined by lace curtains. There was a pen behind the house for the two cows that was also made of unfinished wood as are most pens. The cows were chewing contently as we approached. The first cow was amenable but the second cow seemed quite annoyed at having
her peace disturbed and expressed her indignation with several swift kicks. The farmer thankfully offered to help us milk her. He promptly soothed the cow’s wounded feelings and coaxed several liters of fresh milk from her. He gave the milk to his young wife who had just appeared in the doorway with her four month old daughter wrapped in a bright red blanket that was much too big for her. She smiled at us and asked us to come inside for a glass of fresh warm milk and cream. We thanked her and gladly accepted.

We finished examining the cows, washed up and proceeded into the house. We were shown into the living room and seated on two faded green couches that were carefully covered with lovely white lace tapestry. The wife came in with a large tray of white bread and a thermos of milk and cream. She filled each of our glasses and encouraged us to help ourselves to as much bread as we would like. The milk was warm, sweet and creamy and almost seemed to thicken in the mouth. It filled one’s stomach as well as a full meal. The bread was also delicious and complemented the richness of the milk. The wife smiled at our obvious satisfaction with the fare she had served and then hastened into the other room. She returned shortly with her husband and their child.

The baby girl looked about the room until her large brown eyes rested upon the strangers in her home. She stared curiously at us and seemed unable to decide whether our presence was a good thing or not. She was a very quiet child and seemed to take in her surroundings with an openness that was beautiful to behold. She captured our hearts immediately. For the next half an hour or so, the vet team took turns holding and playing with the little girl. Despite the language barrier between us and this Kenyan family, we all laughed together and it did not seem to matter if one did not understand exactly what the other was saying. We were all enjoying our simple meal of bread and milk and were unanimous in our admiration for the little girl we held that gazed silently at the strange creatures that had descended upon her living room.

We would have liked to remain in that cozy little room for the rest of the afternoon but still had a few more farms to visit. We said goodbye and climbed back into our jeep. As we drove away, I could not help but reflect on the joy and generosity of the family that we had just left. We carried the warmth of their kindness with us for the rest of the day and I do not think that I shall ever forget this particular farm visit.



May 8, 2017 – Julia Kenny

Hello! My name is Julia and I am a third year veterinary student at the Atlantic Veterinary College. This summer I am participating in an internship with the Queen Elizabeth Scholars that is focused on working with Kenyan dairy farmers in order to help improve animal welfare and production. It is hoped these improvements will translate into better food and economic security in these communities. In the upcoming weeks, I will be blogging about my experiences here in Kenya. This reflection is the first of many recounting my adventures this summer.

We arrived in Kenya a few days ago. We have been at the house in Naari for two full days now. I do not know where to begin. We have seen so many things in the past week that have opened my eyes to an entirely new world. It took almost six hours to drive from Nairobi to the house in Naari. The countryside is breathtaking. The trees and the grass are a vivid green and the flowers are abundant. The sky is a rich blue draped in majestic white and grey clouds whi ch carry brief but heavy bursts of rain after which the sun emerges from the mist. The mountains are always looming in the background, often shrouded in the warm haze. The roads are red-black and bumpy due the volcanic rocks, and driving on them is like riding a rickety old roller-coaster. The country side is hilly and serene but it is alive with the chattering of wild birds and the soft swaying of the gentle breeze. As we turned off of the highway onto a red dirt road, some trick of the mind reminded me of Prince Edward Island. I smiled and knew I was heading home.

On our first day in Naari, we spent a great deal of time with the members and administrators of the Naari dairy cooperation. I was immediately impressed by their love for their families and community and their passion for trying to do whatever they could to create a better future for themselves and their children. We discussed our summer projects with them for a few hours and then shared a delicious cup of tea with chapati(a delicious Kenyan flatbread). After our meeting at the dairy, we went for a walk around the town of Naari. The town is quite small and filled with brightly colored shops centered around the town square. The towns people seemed very relaxed and unhurried. People were lounging on chairs and on the grass. Most were dressed quite nicely. Women were wearing colourful skirts and dresses while some of the men were wearing suits. They were all very kind and curious about us. We were asked where we were from, how long we would be staying and where we were going. Naariisalsodifferentfromhomeinthatanimalswanderfreelywherevertheychoseinthe village, with their care-takers somewhere nearby. Goats, sheep, cows, and donkeys grazing around the shops and the town center is a common sight. Like the people, the animals seemed in tune with the unhurried pace of life. We wandered around the town for about a half an hour before we left to go home.

The second day of our stay in Naari began with some delicious Kenyan pancakes and fresh fruit. We planned on visiting the Naari Dairy in order to pick up our guide early that morning. I am learning quickly that planning schedules in Kenya is tricky business as things can come up. Our guide had to make an emergency milk pick-up run. A while later, we were rattling along the rocky dirt roads up the mountain to visit our first Kenyan dairy farm. Kenyan dairy farms are, of course, quite different than Canadian farms but there are still many similarities. The farmers were warm and kind and welcomed us with the most beautiful smiles. They were eager to help with our project and quick to offer us a chair and a cup of Kenyan chai tea. Their farms were situated on a hillside over looking lush farmland that was keeping the encroaching jungle at bay. The houses were modest but neat and well-kept and they possessed a quiet serenity that seemed to emanate from the land but also from the people themselves. I admired the quiet courage and warmth of these people and it is this that I think im pressed me most.

Overall, it has been a very exciting first few days in Kenya. I am looking forward to many new adventures in the days to come, and I cannot wait to see what Kenya has yet to teach me.

One our first farm visits – a typical Naari farm
One our first farm visits – a typical Naari farm


May 12, 2017 – Julia Kenny

The days have passed swiftly and already almost another week has gone by. This week was our first full week here in Naari working with the dairy farmers. We have been to many farm s and have met many new people. Our days begin early in the cool freshness of the morning when the world is beginning to wake. Eggs, chapati, and fresh fruit are often on the menu for breakfast. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on our front step with my breakfast and a cup of tea and listen to the sounds of the morning. The trees and sky are filled with birds, some of which are singing, others are chattering, and still others are making some indescribably strange sounds. Roosters are crowing at regular intervals, dogs are barking and sheep are calling to each other. Our neighbours are also beginning their day. There is often a chatter of people from behind the hedges or the sound of a radio or two rattling off the morning news. The soft breeze gently rustles the trees as the hot African sun climbs quickly higher in the sky and beckons us to begin our day’s work.

Our days consist of visiting various dairy farms in the Naari region. Our goals at each farm are similar, namely, to explain to the farmer the projects we will be doing and then to do an assessment of the cows, their management, and their environment. In doing this, I have learned a great deal over the past few days. I have been able to apply some of the many things that I had studied in school that I had never had the opportunity to practice. I have also begun to build my Kimeru vocabulary. Kimeru is the local dialect that is spoken in this region. It consists of combinations of vowels and consonants that do not exist in the English language. Consequently, I often struggle with the pronunciations. We have started greeting the dairy farmers and the people we meet in the Kimeru language which never fails to bring a smile and a laugh to their faces. I’m not sure if they are smiling because they are pleased that we know a little bit of their language or if they are amused by our (probably) horrible pronunciation of the words. I some how have a feeling that the latter is the case.

I am continuously amazed by the generosity of the people here, as they want to thank us for what we are doing to help them. The other day, we were given about fifty avocados, a large bag of carrots, several ears of corn, a large stalk of sugar cane, a bag of oranges and a bag of tree tomatoes. We were wondering what on earth we could do with so many avocados but the predicament was soon solved with a guacamole making contest. The results were quite delicious and made an excellent dinner.

With our first week of work completed, I am beginning to better understand our work here for the summer and really look forward to the weeks to come.

Julia doing a California Mastitis Test on a cow
Julia doing a California Mastitis Test on a cow
Julia playing with a child on a farm
Julia playing with a child on a farm

May 14, 2017 – Julia Kenny

Today, I joined the nutrition students in their visit to a primary school here in Naari in order to assessthenutritivevalueoftheschoollunches. Weweregreetedbytheprincipalandweregivenatour ofthecookhouse. Thecookhouseisasmallwoodenshedwiththecookwareatoneendandalargefire coveredinlargemetalpotsattheother. Itsmelledstronglyofsmokeanduji(aKenyandishthatis similar to cream of wheat) which was being prepared as a mid-morning snack for the younger school children. The nutrition students gathered their data by measuring and noting the ingredients and through conversing with the cook. It was interesting to observe firsthand the work that they are doing here in Naari. I think that I now have a little better insight into the effort and, to a certain extent, complexity that is involved in feeding hundreds of students every day.

After the data collection was done, we had the opportunity to visit the students in their classrooms. We visited the youngest class first which consisted of seven children of about five years of age. Eachworeamaroonuniformandwassittingattentivelyondarkwoodenbencheswithatablein front of them. They seemed rather shy when we first came in and were hesitant to say hello until their teacher said something to them in Kimeru. They smiled and then one of the students suddenly stood up and strutted to the front of the classroom. She picked up a long stick that had been lying on the floor. On the black board were written the numbers one through ten. She pointed at the number one with the stick and shouted in a surprisingly loud voice, “One!” “One!” her classmates shouted back. “Two!” she shouted and once again her classmates responded “Two!” and so on until they reached ten. We could not stop smiling and laughing for the little girl had led the class in reciting their numbers with such gusto and confidence which seemed rather at odds with her tiny stature. We gave her and her classmates a resounding applause when they finished.

We visited each of the classes in turn. We introduced ourselves and told them about what we were studying and about our work hereinKenya. We then offered to answer any questions about the students had about Canada. I was very impressed with the questions the students asked. We were asked about Canada’s system of government, cashcrops, agriculture and climate. All of the students seemed very bright and as eager to learn about our country as we were of theirs.

Thehighlightofourvisittothisschoolwasplayingwiththestudentsduringtheirrecess. We played a Kenyan version of “Duck, Duck, Goose,” a very exciting game called “Kill the Rats” and ran a race around the playground. Needless to say, we did not win the race. After this, we were shown how to do some traditional Kenyan dances and songs. Kenyan music and dancing is very lively and seems to capture the joyful spirit of the country. The children seemed very excited to have us participating in their dances and asked us to come back again soon. I sincerely hope that we will have the chance to do so because they were so kind and so much fun to be with.

School kids after their lunch program at Muruguma Primary School
School kids after their lunch program at Muruguma Primary School
A child teaching math at Muruguma Primary School
Child teaching math at Muruguma Primary School

May 10, 2017 – Ren Chamberlain


We made it across the pond, and then, hop skip and a jump further, to land in Nairobi, Kenya. With our eager Muzungu (traveller) smiles, off we went. First stop, the Elephant Sanctuary: 13 babies and 16 adult Tempos (elephants) that had been rescued from their various demons (poachers/falling into wells). They remain there for 3-5 years while they heal and are treated by the Veterinary staff, with the intention for reintroduction into the Kenyan wild.

We made some other friends too – we saw a family of Pumbas (warthogs) and we even saw a dung beetle….. rolling dung! I danced with a Masai tribe member (tourist trap) and even took the term “necking” to the next level with some lovely Twigas (giraffes).

Next stop, Kazuri beads. Kazuri actually means small and beautiful, which perfectly described both the beads and the business concept. The delicate nature of creating the beads provides jobs for 340 locals, as the process takes several steps and numerous hours.

As the daylight fell and the mosquitoes started buzzing, it was time to head back to the ACK Guesthouse. And in the words of cow wisdom, you just go home.