ELIZABETHTOWN — While many are getting out the bathing suits, heading to the tanning beds, or trying to shed those last stubborn pounds to prepare for the summer, a couple of Bladen County residents will be investigating malaria and getting rabies shots.
Tavonda and Fredrianna McElveen will, at the end of May, be travelling to Granada, Nicaragua, with the World Vets International Veterinary Medicine program. The IVM program is geared to students that are enrolled in veterinary-related studies, and it allows students to experience veterinary medicine in a foreign country. In clinical environments, students perform duties related to sterilization surgery, health clinics, and preventative care. In addition, the program encourages students to give back to the international community once they have completed their studies.
Fredrianna graduated from N.C. A&T University in 2014 with a degree in animal science and currently attends Tuskeegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama. Tavonda is currently studying animal science at N.C A&T University. The sisters are natives of Elizabethtown.
“They’ve always loved animals,” said Ilka McElveen, the girls’ mother. “Fredrianna used to know that something was wrong with our pets before we would. She would say, ‘Something’s wrong with the dog. He needs to go to the vet,’ and we would take him, and they would tell us that his electrolytes were down or something else was wrong with him. We also had a rabbit, and Fredrianna told me something was wrong with it one day. I thought, ‘There’s nothing wrong with that animal,’ but it ended up dying the next day.”
She added, “Tavonda’s always loved big animals, like horses and elephants. She’s never been scared of them.”
When Fredrianna learned of the trip through some of the program’s ambassadors on campus and heard from a friend who had been on the trip before, she was hooked, and enlisted her sister to go along with her. For 10 days, the girls will be utilizing in Nicaragua the skills and information they are learning during their studies here, but with a clientele and culture that will be markedly different.
“The program goes into underdeveloped countries, so the families have little or no income,” said Fredrianna.
Tavonda added, “There is a great need there. The area is poor, so they don’t have access to veterinary medicine. It’s a big deal that we’re offering them a free spay and neuter clinic.”
Without the free clinics, said Tavonda, the animal population would spiral out of control in an area that lacks the necessary vaccinations to properly care for the animals. The girls will, in addition to the spay and neuter clinics, also be performing vaccinations on horses.
“It’s a great opportunity to get hands-on experience that you don’t get in a classroom,” said Fredrianna.
As are most worthwhile causes, however, the effort is not without cost. The program fee is $1,800 for each participant, and the flight is around $800 each. Ilka, who operates the daycare Kids in Motion, sold a daycare van in order to help the girls fund the trip.
“I told them whatever they needed, I would try to help,” said Ilka. “I want my children to be exposed to other parts of the world, because young people often don’t appreciate what they have or don’t see the need to help others.”
The family’s dentist in Wilmington donated 600 toothbrushes to be given out to the Nicaraguan natives, and Fredrianna said that they would be going into the communities and doing some sort of community service with the people there, such as nutrition education.
“It’s a win/win situation,” stated Ilka. “It’s a win for Fredrianna and Tavonda, because they get to travel, meet people from other cultures, and become better at spaying and neutering, and it’s a win for the people in Nicaragua because they don’t have to pay to have their pets spayed or neutered.”
“I hope to learn something new about another place that allows me to open my eyes and be thankful for what I have and be able to give back,” said Fredrianna.
The McElveens are currently raising money for the trip, and anyone interested in helping can call Fredrianna at 910-874-2275 or Tavonda at 910-489-8483.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.