World traveler aspires to treat horses

Fiona McCarthy, Staff Reporter

O'Grady connects with an elephant in India, one of the many places where she has traveled with her father, a veterinarian.
O’Grady connects with an elephant in India, one of the many places where she has traveled with her father, a veterinarian.

By their senior year, many teens have not even boarded a plane, much less been out of the country. Senior Jendaya O’Grady, however, has traveled all over the world with her father as an assistant for his charity work, visiting 39 countries and many different parts of the U. S. before she’s even turned 18.
“My father does a lot of veterinary volunteer work all over the world,” O’Grady said. “Sometimes he gets asked by his work associates to travel to a specific place, but most of the time he just sees places that need his help, and he has the money, so he just goes. We do a castration surgeries, because a lot of animals in these poor countries have babies, and the owners don’t want to take care of them so they get abused; our work helps to stop that. My dad brings me along to give me experience, because medicine is what I’d like to pursue when I’m older.”
Although born an American citizen, O’Grady spent her formative years overseas and began traveling more when she moved back to the U.S.
“I grew up in South Africa for the first five years of my life,” O’Grady said. “I still visit there frequently, because it feels like home. Overall, I’ve been to every continent except Australia and Antarctica, but I’ve definitely visited Africa the most.”
In just her senior year, O’Grady has traveled to St. Kitts, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Havasupai, a Native American tribal village in the Grand Canyon.
“In Havasupai, you’re literally living in their village and the Indians are the only people around you,” O’Grady said. “They don’t speak your language, and they don’t share your religion. Actually, it was cool to hear about their religion because I would look at the side of a mountain and just see a rock, and it was a god to them. It’s a beautiful place.”
The physical act of traveling to Havasupai was challenging and rewarding.
“To get to the village, we packed all of our stuff onto mules and rode in,” O’Grady said. “It’s an eight hour ride, so your butt really starts to hurt. Still, it was nice to be able to just stop and appreciate what a beautiful atmosphere it was.”
O’Grady’s father specializes in equine medicine, so she mainly works with horses, donkeys, and mules.
“I give the animals vaccines and sedate them mostly,” O’Grady said. “I also hold the surgeon’s instruments to give to them in the middle of surgery. I’m basically the go-to girl. I grew up around these surgeries so it’s nothing at all; I don’t get squeamish.”
This year, O’Grady got the chance to be the first-in-command in her favorite destination.
“Being in the Dominican Republic is a memory that sticks out at me because that was where I performed my first surgery,” O’Grady said. “It’s my favorite place to visit. [His practice] is in the projects so it’s kind of a dirty place, but the people were so appreciative of anything you gave them, and they would do anything to repay you. The surgery itself was pretty simple – I just did a castration surgery on a horse. All the doctors stood above me, but they tried not to tell me what to do. They really trusted me and that meant so much.”
The volunteers get a free day once a week, and O’Grady made the most of her time in the Dominican Republic.
“We took some horses and rode up to Moonie waterfall. It must be 500 feet tall, and we all went swimming in the caves underneath the waterfall and dived off the rocks,” she said.
O’Grady saw similar beautiful scenery when she visited India for two weeks during her junior year.
“India was very cool because a client of my father’s funded the trip,” O’Grady said. “So he hired a guide to take us to the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. I liked it because I normally don’t get to be a tourist. I’m usually just there to do my job and for once I didn’t have to, so I just got to admire everything in India.”
India, however, exposed O’Grady to the poverty in the world.
“More than 70 percent of Indians live in poverty,” O’Grady said. “I saw a bunch of people on the sidewalks living in cardboard boxes. I’ve seen and been around diseases that are just miserable. It definitely makes me appreciate everything more when I come back to the States.”
Surprisingly, O’Grady has seen the same social degradation stateside.
“I went to a Native American reservation in Montana, and it was awful,” O’Grady said. “They’re basically handed whatever they want by the government, so [the volunteers] all showed up drunk and high. The project failed because it was like they just expected it from us.”
Even though most of her volunteer trips are to developing countries, O’Grady has found inspiration.
“In the Dominican, the children stand out to me, because they have absolutely nothing and they are the happiest people I’ve ever met,” O’Grady said. “They make games out of nothing, and play all day, and they’re some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. When I come back to the U.S., I see people complaining about not getting a new car or something, and I just realize that those ‘problems’ are nothing compared to the rest of the world.”
In the fall, O’Grady will attend Virginia Tech to major in agricultural science, and she hopes to eventually follow in her father’s footsteps.
“I definitely want to do equine medicine just like my father,” O’Grady said. “He’s inspired me so much, and it’s what I grew up doing. I do hope to continue traveling with him and maybe carry it on myself once I get more money and experience.”