When I received an email from my good friend Rachael who ran the Elephant orphanage in Kafue national park in Zambia it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I was becoming tired of the life I was living in London and I desperately needed a challenge and direction.

Rachael told me she had me someone at a fundraiser for the David Shepherd foundation who said their animal welfare association in Lusaka badly needed a dog person to help at the shelter as they were struggling to even re-home a single dog. It was the opportunity I was waiting for a after a few weeks raising money and organising my business to be looked after I was on a plane to Zambia.

One of the conditions of me working there was a place to sleep and access to a vehicle. Upon arriving there was neither and it was quite disconcerting arriving in a strange land and being loaded onto the back of an open truck as a young Dutch lady attempted to find me somewhere to sleep.

Eventually I managed to blag a room in the back of a restaurant that was owned by the president of LAWS. My adventure had begun and I was embarking on a mission which informs my daily work to this day.

My first day on the job I was informed that there was no vehicle for me so I asked a few people about public transport. I was greeted by looks of amusement and was told to stand on the main road and wait. The looks we’re because public transport in Lusaka is something that white people just don’t do and I was greeted with incredulous looks as I squashed myself into the backseat of a camper van with 15 other people. This is a campervan with roughly the space for 8. An old lady was really lovely to me and could see I was completely confused and disoriented!

The location of the shelter was on the edge of an industrial estate. At the time a huge shopping mall was being constructed so everyday hundreds of local men were collected from surrounding villages to work on the site so it was like a chaotic, pop up mini city with food being cooked and people selling the most bizarre wares.

One of my first jobs was to teach the dogs about leads and collars and get them used to being handled my a human. Most of these street mutts were small sandy coloured dogs with intelligence in their eyes and a healthy mistrust of humans!

Imagine the scene as I would walk up to six dogs on leads around a huge construction site surrounded by local guys who had never seen a bloke walking dogs. It was incredibly surreal and every day I got to know many of these guys well. Some even ended up taking a dog.

Being in Zambia changed everything for me. I fell in love with the country and the people. Because of the lack of knowledge around dogs and low resources I found that by training the handlers and working with the dogs everyday I could make a tangible difference. It was that trip that showed me how I could take the skills I was learning as a dog trainer and turn them into a force for good. The lessons I learned there are still being put into practice every day.