From Kenya with Love: Reflections from an Amazing Adventure 

By Kasadee Allan, Andrea Messina, Karen Yetman

As the final year veterinary students from the Atlantic Veterinary College selected to participate in the Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) and UPEI trip to Kenya, we had known since winter 2021 that we would be making this trip. When we were chosen, it often felt like forever away and that it would never arrive. We cannot believe we have now left Kenya and it is time to reflect on our experience. Putting into words what we have learned from this trip seems like an impossible task, but we will try our best. 

We have been writing these blogs as a team, but for this post we thought we would do something different. Even though we were all a part of the same organization, we all experienced this trip uniquely. We will each take a turn discussing what we learned from this trip on a veterinary basis and from the people of Kenya, our favourite thing about Kenya, and any other insights from our trip. 



This experience is offered to fourth year UPEI veterinary students with a focus on small holder dairy management. Although the farms in Kenya may be on a smaller scale compared to those in Canada, herd health is at the centre of the care. While in Kenya, we discussed cow comfort and nutrition over and over with farmers. The value of these two sections in dairy management cannot be overstated, both in Kenya and back home in Canada. It was amazing to see how the Kenyan farmers would listen intently to our suggestions and ask intelligent questions to ensure they fully understood the concepts to make their cows the most profitable that they can be. 

My favourite veterinary experience had to be the walk-in clinics. They were dusty, sweaty, and non-stop, but they were also extremely gratifying. These clinics were an opportunity to have hands-on experience with Kenyan farmers and their cattle while feeling like we were making an immediate impact by offering deworming and veterinary medical advice. So much of the work FHF and UPEI is doing in Kenya focuses on small changes over time that will lead to improved quality of life. However, these intimate moments at the clinics, where we could discuss specific challenges their cows face, was one of my favourite parts of the trip. 

I pride myself of being a fairly decent writer, but I know I have not even begun to scratch the surface of this experience. Kenya opened my eyes to a different way of living. The people were all so warm and inviting. It didn’t matter that we were a different skin colour, they welcomed us into their homes as if we were their own daughters. They sang to us, fed us (to our limits), and led us in dance. Stephen Chandi, FHF staff member, even said I was an excellent dancer, which from a Kenyan, I take as the highest of compliments. This experience is not one that will soon be forgotten and is sure to impact how I choose to live my life in the future. 


As I sit and reflect on my time in Kenya, I struggle to find the words to describe the impact this experience has had on me. To say this was a life-changing experience would be an understatement. If I had to pick a single word to describe this journey, I would choose “humbling”. Everywhere we went, we were met with gratitude and appreciation for sharing our time and knowledge. The simple ability to have access to resources and veterinary care, something most of us take for granted, was life-changing for them. There were even a few times we had to give bad news regarding the health of a cow, but the farmers were still grateful to have answers they otherwise would not have had.

My favorite thing to see in Kenya was the thirst for knowledge every farmer had to improve the lives of their cattle. Thoughtful questions were asked at every seminar we held, with some farmers walking a fair distance to get there. As we traveled to different groups of farmers from different areas, it became apparent which groups had been working with FHF and UPEI in previous years and which groups were just starting out. It was stunning to see the improvements made in cow comfort and management after they learned about small-holder dairy management from FHF and UPEI. 

It was quite the change from working in Canada, where we have advanced diagnostics like bloodwork and ultrasounds available, to working in Kenya, where we had nothing but our stethoscopes and thermometers. I had to rely more on the findings of my physical exams and learned to ask thorough questions regarding the history of the cows to help come to a diagnosis. These are skills I will take with me and use in practice everyday no matter where I am. This experience has, without a doubt, made me a better veterinarian and I will forever treasure my time spent in Kenya. 


My experience in Kenya was everything I thought it would be and more. I have always hoped I would have an opportunity to engage in international development and I couldn’t think of a better way to start this journey. I have returned to Canada with a new perspective on my own privilege and a deep appreciation for the-small holder dairy farmers in Kenya that are dedicated to bettering the lives of their families and animals. We were met with song, dance, many handshakes and pure gratitude on a daily basis. To have the opportunity to share my knowledge of dairy farming and veterinary medicine was an experience I won’t soon forget. 

My favorite veterinary experience was when pregnancy checking a dairy cow in Nkando. This area has experienced the severe effects of climate change resulting in continual drought conditions seen as four failed rain seasons. This particular cow had not been successfully bred for 3 years. When I reached into the cow, I hoped with all I had that I could provide this kind family with great news. Luckily, I instantly felt the head of an approximately 7-month-old calf and gave the farmer the news! The male farmer fell to his knees, blessed me and thanked me over and over again, stating that he now has hope for a better year ahead. I did my best to tell the family this was a result of their dedication, resiliency and hard work and that I was glad to pass on this news. 

There were many ‘wins’ such as this pregnant cow, throughout our time in Meru; however, they were accompanied by many difficult stories, failed crops, food and water insecurity, and lack of veterinary resources. While some stories were challenging to hear, we were also provided with stories of improvement, hope and resiliency due to the programs and resources provided by FHFand UPEI.  

I will miss the excitement I felt waking up every day and jumping in the vehicle with an enthusiastic team ready to tackle the uncertainty of what we may see or experience each day. I will miss the gracious women’s groups, dairy farmers and incredible FHF staff. I am hopeful that this is just the beginning and I will return to the same dusty streets and smiling faces some day in the future. 


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