NAME: Laura Ellison, Wildlife Veterinary Nurse
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’m a vet nurse specialising in wildlife, my main interest and focus is on our world’s rhinos. I have just returned from Africa where I worked hand raising orphaned rhinos for the last 3 years, to start my studies towards becoming a vet.
IS THIS WHAT YOU'VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF?
I had always dreamed that I would be working with animals, specifically African wildlife. Working in Africa was an enormous privilege and a dream come true.
THREE OF YOU HARDEST MOMENTS?
I think all 3 of my hardest moments would circulate around what I was doing in Africa.
My first would be the time I was deported from South Africa. I had originally only travelled to Africa to volunteer at The Rhino Orphanage for 6 months, but two months in, I was asked to stay (probably the best day of my life). So when the time approached near when my 6 month visa had expired, I went through an agent in South Africa to get a work visa. That turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes I had ever made. I was given my new visa in the head office, I thought everything was good to go. So I boarded my already booked return flight to Australia a few weeks later to gather more things and visit home for 2 weeks before returning to my new home, South Africa. Everything was fine on this side, until I got into South Africa. Going through passport control, they discovered my visa wasn’t on their system. It seemed impossible to me. Surely I was able to sort this out. But after many tears (while the immigration staff laughed), 36hrs in South African immigration detainment- a jail like cell, next to someone who was suspected of having ebola- I discovered that ‘agent’ was a fraud and I was forced to return back to Australia. My heart was broken. I remember every moment of sitting in my cell. I was terrified that I would never see the rhinos or the people that were like family to me ever again.
It wasn’t until I returned home to Australia and went to the embassy that I was told that I had been prohibited from returning to South Africa for life. For me, there could not have been anything worse. I of course appealed the decision but Africa runs in a different time than we do. I had found my calling in helping those rhinos, and I felt like I had left half of my soul in Africa. It took 4 months for my appeal to be processed. Not once did I consider giving up. Not going back to those rhinos was just not an option.
I could not tell you the happiness I felt when I got that email advising that I could return.
WHAT MAKES A WOMAN ELECTRIC?
Compassion and confidence. I would say anyway. I believe there is no greater strength than to be compassionate for others and other living things. Confidence that you can achieve and make a difference is what excels you in your passion.
WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO GIVE UP? HOW DO YOU BOUNCE BACK?
I don’t think I have ever seriously considered giving up. Especially when it comes to rhinos and our world’s animals. Their problems are bigger than me. I don’t get to give up when they don’t.