While many 11-year-olds spend their free time playing digital games, Alec Campbell is caring for newborn kittens at home as part of a foster program with the Animal Welfare League NSW. In fact, the Kingswood Year 5 student was there for the birth, helping feline mum Ellie through one of nature’s most remarkable moments.
Alec – an aspiring veterinarian who loves snakes – learned about kitten birthing, how to help and when there might be a problem when attending the Future Vet Kids Camp in Sydney during the summer holidays in January.
‘Kittens communicate with their mum by scent, smell and meowing, and they don’t open their eyes until they are few weeks old. The mummy cat picks up her kittens in her mouth if she moves them,’ Alec says, excitedly.
Fortunately, Alec hasn’t had to put his pet first aid knowledge to use, but he’s ready to act when necessary, says his mum Kathryn Campbell.
‘Alec is continuously asking questions about animals and loves TV programs like Deadly 60 and Bondi Vet. He loves taking our cat to the vet and asks what they are doing and why. I believe the Future Vet Kids Camp has been very beneficial to Alec. Learning how to treat and care for animals teaches children empathy and respect for nature and other humans,’ she says.
‘Alec’s grandparents enrolled him at the camp as a Christmas present and at the end of the camp, he rang them and thanked them for such a great present! It truly was a great idea.’
The Future Vet Kids Camp teaches nine to 16-year-olds about working with animals in a fun, educational and up-close-and-personal setting, inspiring them to make a difference in the world from a young age. The camp is run by Canadian veterinarian Dr Scott Bainbridge, popular for his regular appearance on the TV show Animal House Calls on Animal Planet. He loves to share his passion for ‘the greatest job in the world’ and seeing kids get excited about pursuing their dream to work with animals.
‘It is important that children learn to respect and have compassion for animals. We need to teach them especially now in this age of climate change and dwindling habitats,’ says Dr Bainbridge. ‘Children who are kind to animals and appreciate their diversity also learn to value one another as adults.’
Operating out of the Waverley College Junior Campus in Waverley, Future Vet Kids Camp runs every January for two weeks and is split into three separate programs running simultaneously each week: Wombats (9 – 11-year-olds), Kookaburras (12 – 14-year-olds) and the Junior Vet program (14 – 16-year-olds).
The 2015 schedule is packed with fun and educational talks by veterinarians, behaviourists and staff from animal rescue, reptile, small animal and canine sports groups – from prominent animal behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti to a demonstration by Assistance Dogs Australia – as well as guided tours at facilities, such as the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (home of Bondi Vet), Camden Teaching Hospital, Cat Protection Society, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Animal Welfare League and much more. Kids will even learn how to bake dog friendly treats!
Fourteen-year-old Roisin Sullivan attended the camp four times and every year is equally excited about learning more and seeing more of the things that are involved in being a veterinarian.
‘I really enjoyed the anatomy lesson and the case studies where you work through an actual case that a vet would deal with in an ordinary day,’ says Roisin. ‘I learned heaps of things, such as about the benefits of desexing pets or how many dogs and cats need homes; it’s incredible how much you can learn in just one week!’
Year 8 student Calum Danger’s favourite part of the Camp was suturing a banana and taking blood from a model dog’s vein.
‘The highlight for me was when we went on a guided tour of SASH and witnessed eye surgery on a cat!’ says Calum.
Calum’s father Michael Danger said the kids who attended Future Vet Kids Camp may not all go onto becoming vets, but their knowledge of animals and variety of careers with animals has grown, and wonderful new friendships are formed.
For more information about Future Vet Kids Camp for January 2015 click here.