VOLUNTEER REQUIREMENTS AND EXPECTATIONS
Being a HSVMA-RAVS volunteer is all about dependability and initiative. To be an effective volunteer and to get the most out of your experience, you must be well prepared.
The following information details what will be expected of you as a volunteer.
These guidelines are important for successful functioning of the clinics,
optimal learning experiences, and, most importantly, patient and volunteer
safety. We take them VERY seriously. Be sure you are able to meet all requirements
before applying to participate.
Field clinics can be a physically and mentally challenging experience. The work is hard and the hours are long. You should expect to rise early in the morning (5 AM) and work for as many hours as are required to complete the clinic, often until 9 or 10 PM with extremely limited breaks.
All volunteers are expected to be team players and remain with the group throughout the trip. You should be prepared to live and work under a variety of conditions. The facilities that we stay in are safe, but often pretty basic. They include classroom floors, gyms, and tents. Often bathrooms, showers, and air conditioning are non-functional or non-existent. We try to make it as comfortable as possible, but we expect all volunteers to adapt to whatever conditions we are met with.
There are lots of other opportunities for travel and learning that are more comfortable and fun than expeditions with HSVMA-RAVS. We are all about delivering the maximum amount of good veterinary care to animals in difficult situations. Our volunteers' primary concern is the welfare of their patients. Our teams work together as a unit regardless of the circumstances. Failure to bring an adequate sense of humor can lead to considerable discomfort!
What to Bring
You must bring the equipment listed here. While there are usually places to buy sundries on most trips, such facilities may not be available every day and may not be particularly well stocked.
- Sleeping bag and pillow
- Camping mattress
- Comfortable shoes
- Scrubs (one pair/clinic day)
- Jeans or shorts
- Sweatshirt and/or jacket or other warm layer +/- rain jacket
- Personal items for the duration of the trip
- Mess kit with a plate, cup, and utensils (mandatory if you plan to eat)
- Refillable water bottle (save the planet and save our hosts $$, drink tap water)
- Calculator (small)
- Pens, Permanent marker (Sharpie)
- Small notepad (pocket-sized)
- Watch that counts seconds (buckle type can be attached to your belt for surgery)
- Sterile surgeon's gloves (5-10 pair) in your size (vet students only)
- A lab coat or smock to wear over scrubs while in receiving
- Small bandage scissors
- Head lamp or small flashlight
- Snacks or other ready to eat personal food / beverage items as needed
- Coffee, personal coffee press (if you are particular about such things)
- Ear plugs and/or sleeping mask (sleeping space is usually shared)
- Insect repellent and sun block
Do not bring fancy clothes, large cameras or other valuables.
Trip Support Sponsorship: All veterinary student volunteers are required to meet a minimum fundraising commitment for each clinic they will be participating in. Minimum contributions range from $100-$500 depending on length of trip. See Trip Details on the schedule page for each clinic for specific trip requirements.
Veterinarians, veterinary technicians/assistants, tech students and non-veterinary volunteers are not required to participate in the volunteer sponsorship campaign but are welcome to participate and help support their team.
For additional information, see the Student Fundraising page.
Surgical Gloves: All veterinary students are required to bring 5-10 pair of sterile surgeon's gloves in their size for each week of clinics. Veterinarians are not required to supply surgical gloves. One source of reasonably priced gloves online is MooreMedical.com.
Travel: Volunteers are responsible for transportation to and
from the designated meeting site, and all ground transportation during the trip. On some trips the team will move daily to a new site and you will need reliable transportation to each site.
We highly encourage you to arrange ride-shares with others on your clinic team both to conserve resources and to reduce the number of vehicles travelling with the caravan. It is very possible to participate with a limited budget if you are willing to economize and network with other team members.
For additional information, see the Travel Information page.
Food and Lodging: Once the team has assembled at the meeting location, food and lodging will be provided for the duration of the trip. Volunteers are responsible for hotel accommodations, meals or any other expenses before the stated meeting time and after the team returns to the meeting site. (Please see the note regarding food under Accommodations below)
Misc: Your only other expense will be incidentals, such as snacks or souvenirs "on the road".
ALL HSVMA-RAVS volunteers will be required to participate in an online training program prior to attending any field clinics. All volunteers will be required to submit a score of 80% or higher on the online evaluation at least 30 days before your scheduled trip. New scores must be submitted anually regardless of prior HSVMA-RAVS participation.
A practical skills assessment will be administered to all veterinary students at the start of each clinic. The assessment will include basic knot tying and suture patterns, medical records, patient evaluation and anesthesia machine setup. Details on specific requirements will be provided in the volunteer training materials. Students MUST pass this assessment in order to participate in surgery during the clinic.
For additional information, see the Volunteer Training section.
Travel details for each trip are listed on the Schedule page, via the ‘VIEW DETAILS’ link under the your particular trip. All volunteers are required to submit their travel information, including flight or vehicle information no later than 30 days prior to their scheduled trip. Providing this information as early as possible is extremely helpful as it allows us to plan transportation and logistics details.
To submit travel information, see the Travel Information page.
Sleeping arrangements will generally involve "camping" in vacant houses, community centers, or auditoriums. You should be prepared to sleep on the floor, regardless of how far you have been traveling or how long you worked that day. We make every effort to make sure you are reasonably comfortable, but you should be prepared for whatever accommodations are available.
Food and amenities are variable. Our hosts are generally good about
providing both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. However, vegan food is
usually "a bridge too far" and you should plan to bring your own
food if you plan to adhere to your diet. On the other side, in some communities excellent vegetarian food is served and those who feel they must have animal protein in their diet should be prepared to bring some back-up supplies as well. In other words, if you have any particular dietary requirements,
you should bring some packaged food along.
Occasionally, signals get crossed, and food does not show up. If these communities were well organized and wealthy, they wouldn't need our services! Having some snacks like granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, etc., especially if you need to eat on a regular basis, is a good idea. Peanut butter in a plastic container is easy to transport and meets all basic nutritional needs. (Okay, you do have to have coffee, too. . .)
Most communities will have showers. However, you have to realize that a team of volunteers can put significant strain on local resources and plumbing and or hot water does not always work. You do not have a constitutional right to a shower!
Our volunteers are courteous to hosts and are grateful for what is provided. Questions about food or accommodations should be directed to the team leader, who will handle all problems. Complaining to community residents or hosts is grounds for dismissal.
Students who have prepared fully in advance, can generally expect to rotate through each area of the clinic. On a five day clinic most students who elect to participate in all clinic areas and have passed the practical skills test will spend one day in surgery and two days each in anesthesia and receiving/intake. However, the scheduling of some trips may not allow for equal distribution of tasks and you will be expected to work wherever you are most needed. If your primary goal is to participate in surgery, this may not be the program for you.
You will be expected to work as a team and share in all duties. This includes
clean up, packing, paper work, instrument prep, and occasionally cooking.
Be ready to pitch in and lift boxes, scrub, and sweep. We make an effort
to share work equitably, but if you do an extra sterilization or laundry
detail, you should see it as a character-building experience. If you don’t
want to get your hands dirty, this is not the group for you.
Every effort is made to maintain volunteer safety. All volunteers must read, and agree to comply with the HSVMA-RAVS Safety Policy, which includes rabies prophylaxis and health insurance requirements. Additionally, if you have any health problems, it is essential that the trip leader know about them, as emergency medical care is sometimes unavailable.
By participating in a HSVMA-RAVS clinic, you are agreeing to release The HSVMA, The Humane Society of the United States, its staff, and the supervising veterinarians from liability for injuries that may occur during the trip or while traveling to the site .
INTERNATIONAL TRIP INFORMATION
In addition to the information above, the following pertains to all travel outside the United States:
Currently all HSVMA-RAVS International trips are conducted in Spanish speaking countries. Preference is given to Spanish speaking applicants although occasional non-Spanish speaking applicants are accepted based on other factors. Please review the Trip Details page for any trips you are interested in applying to for details about specific volunteer requirements for each clinic.
International clinic participants are required to cover all costs of the trip which typically include the following:
- In-country transportation
- Miscellaneous tips
- Medical Evacuation insurance policy (see below)
Participants in RAVS international clinics are not required to take the online training evaluation. This training is specific to RAVS domestic clinic protocols.
Passports in date at least six months prior to expiration are required for all international trips. Some countries do require visas in addition to a current passport. Please check with your physician on required vaccinations.
All volunteers traveling outside the United States are required to have some sort of evacuation insurance policy. Although we have been fortunate not to have to use them in the past, you will be working in a remote area with minimal health care available.
Evacuation policies are inexpensive, and the benefits far outweigh the cost. A good policy can be obtained through International SOS or Medexassist. You are welcome to check out other companies as well, or an evac policy may be available through your health care plan. However, this is not a suggestion; it is a requirement.
Recommended Providers of Evacuation Insurance:
Phone: (USA) 800-523-6586
(Outside USA) 215-245-4707