Involvement with a charity that has sustainability at its heart
As a charity, our ethos is simple: ‘to stop waste [in the UK] and stop shortage [overseas]’.
While expiry dates and stringent usage policies lead to waste in UK vet practices, charities in other countries are desperate for supplies, which may be prohibitively expensive and/or difficult to source. And the constant flow of new technology and equipment often results in perfectly usable kit ending up in the bin.
VetMedAid addresses this problem by collecting consumables and equipment (for example, gauze, bandages, outdated surgical tools, drapes, personal protective equipment, and so on) from donor vet practices and delivering them to clinics and charities overseas. This helps clinics in need and reduces waste, as well as reducing the carbon costs associated with disposal.
VetMedAid is a sister branch of the charity Student MedAid, which has a similar purpose, but is focused on human healthcare and is supported by a number of UK universities.
So far, we’ve worked with several charities, most recently AnimalCare in Egypt, which provides free veterinary care for working animals. Normally, by sending our supplies directly with vet students attending extramural studies placements, we can avoid postage costs and reduce the carbon emissions associated with transport to the recipient clinics.
However, this means that the choice of charities we help has often been dictated by where vet students are able to go.
Currently, as few students have been able to travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have extended our distribution by including delivery. To avoid increasing our carbon footprint though, we chose to use a sustainable shipping solution. We Care collects donations for countries and sends full containers by ship. This service reduces in the amount of waste entering landfill at donor level, as well as limiting the pollution caused by the production and transport of new plastic packaging for our recipient clinics (not to mention the life-saving work enabled by the donation itself).
Helping UK practices attract clients and save money
Certain surgical equipment and veterinary waste (for example, that containing heavy metals or with specialist parts) has to be disposed of in a specific way, at a cost. By bypassing the need for disposal, clinics can reduce their spending.
It’s not only veterinary practices that are focused on sustainability. Many pet owners are concerned about their own impact on the environment. According to research from YouGov and the Greg Secker Foundation, 85 per cent of consumers have a more positive image of businesses that support charities, and 80 per cent claimed they would switch brands to one that supports charitable causes.
Practising social and environmental responsibility is perceived as being attractive to clients and employees alike. Supporting a clinic that has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by reducing unnecessary waste through VetMedAid is a simple and obvious action to take. We believe we offer a win-win solution for practices, clients, animals and the environment. You can find us @vetmedaid on Facebook.
'We collect items and equipment from donor vet practices and deliver them to clinics and charities overseas'
It’s not only UK clinics and recipient charities that have benefited. Since getting involved in the charity, our team members have gained invaluable skills, resilience and adaptability.
Our treasurer Kiersten handles everything financial and coordinates funds with MedAid. She has learnt about budgeting and how to set up a business bank account.
Nina, our distributions manager, has become expert at navigating the Collect+ website and getting the best deals for deliveries, while Devangi, who has now left us, motivated and organised us, and handled the bureaucratic side of running a student society.
As for me, having signed up to be ‘publicity manager’, I got into the business side of things, and ended up running the charity while the rest of the team was juggling their many other commitments in the chaos of the pandemic. By improving our following and establishing relationships with several donors, we soon were able to recruit more team members, and in the coming year I’ll be able to do less of the administration and focus on my original role.
Our team now stands at a robust 11 committee members. Together with our wonderful volunteers – vet students, vets and vet nurses – we have big plans for 2022. Our volunteers provide equipment donations and deliver equipment to clinics. Vets and vet nurses who are travelling overseas to work at clinics often offer to carry donations with them.
VetMedAid has been a passion project. Since getting involved, we have rebranded, created social media profiles and amassed many more followers.
'Together with our wonderful volunteers, we have big plans for 2022'
Despite being unable to travel, we have coordinated donations of items – from unwanted medications to radiograph viewers – and discussed partnerships with independent practices, small businesses and the corporate group CVS. We have worked in tandem with MedAid all through a global pandemic. It is the beginning of something exciting.
How you can get involved
We would like to hear from donor practices or recipient charities. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or find us by searching @vetmedaid on Facebook or Instagram, or visit www.studentmedaid.org/vet-branch
- Tell your local practices and your vet school about us.
- Fundraise for us. Delivering goods overseas is costly so any financial help is welcome.
- Collect donations from a local clinic and deliver (or send via Collect+) to our store room in Edinburgh.
- Share news of our work on social media.
- Consider starting a branch of VetMedAid at your university (we can help you).
- When travel restrictions allow it, become a courier: collect small packages of donations (from our store or from our donors) to deliver to clinics abroad when you attend extramural studies placements (to check if your overseas placement would be a suitable recipient clinic, get in touch via our social media channels).
Vets/vet nurses/practice staff
- Become a donor clinic and get in touch to arrange for unwanted supplies to be delivered to our Edinburgh store room (see our social media for more information).
- Planning to travel? If you’ll be working at or perhaps passing nearby a worthy recipient clinic, get in touch to arrange to collect a donation from our store and deliver it to where it’s needed.