I traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a few Veterinarians and Veterinary students from OSU who were going to Ethiopia to participate in the annual Rabies Mass Vaccination. My role was different than the others because I did not have a Veterinary background so my contribution to the campaign was mainly through my proficiency in Amharic. I translated many poster materials, survey questions and documents that needed to be translated into either English or Amharic. During the campaign, we walked door-to-door in two large sub-cities in Addis and vaccinated domestic and street dogs. I was also responsible for asking the prepared survey questions to gauge the effectiveness of the poster messages and images and to make the necessary changes.
When I initially began the process of applying for this internship, I was both excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited because I would be going to my country of birth and nervous because I am a Political Science student and this would be like nothing I have ever done before. I also had a fear of dogs that has developed in my childhood so I did not know how helpful I would be when it comes to vaccinating dogs. However, once we began the campaign I began to see that even though my background differed from everyone else, I was still able to contribute. We were using the materials that I translated and I was also responsible for interpreting during our daily work. I also realized that my Political Science experience was actually related to the work that we were doing. We faced some challenges in retrieving vaccinations and getting governmental support, which made me realize that different fields of work like Veterinary and Political Science worked together. In addition, my fear of dogs eventually faded as I began to understand the behaviors of dogs and the proper ways of handling them.
Another valuable revelation that I had was how much change a small group of people could bring. Ethiopia is one of the countries that struggles with eradicating rabies and part of the problem is because there aren’t programs in place that specifically target this problem. Nevertheless, with less than 10 sent from OSU and the Global One Health Initiative along with a few veterinarians in Addis Ababa, we were able to vaccinate thousands of dogs and free two large subsidies of rabies. All this work was done by a small group of people that dedicated less than one month to the campaign. If this much change could happen in such a short amount of time, then I can only imagine what we can accomplish when different forces join and dedicate time to other causes.
My experience in this internship also helped me internalize the value of some key traits such as patience, dedication, and flexibility. The rabies campaign faced many unanticipated challenges from not having enough vaccinations to poor road conditions and weather conditions. However, it required patience from all of us to be able to accept the challenge and fin different ways of approaching the job. It also required dedication because we could have easily given up working when it rained but instead we changed our schedule times and worked around the rainy weather. I understood that being able to be flexible in situations like this is important. Otherwise, our goals would not have been accomplished if we remained strict to our original plans. We had to be open to adjusting a few things in order to still achieve our main goal of vaccinating dogs.
I can truly say that my experience working on the Rabies Campaign in Addis Ababa was transformational. I developed as an individual, as a student and as a professional. I am grateful for the exposure to a different field than my own and the chance to make a difference in my country of birth. I have also been changed by the dedication I saw in the Veterinarians I worked with and shaped by their personal experiences and advice. I have never traveled abroad for an academic purpose so this experience was definitely eye-opening and raised my interest in finding other study-abroad and internship programs both domestically and abroad. I am very glad I enjoyed STEP and got the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia and make a difference.