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Martyn Edelsten

Children’s Holiday Venture founder and Dick Vet graduate Martyn Edelsten, explains how starting the student society led him to working in developing countries.

Name Martyn Edelsten
Degree Course BVM&S, DVSM, MSc Tropical Veterinary Science
Year of Graduation 1966, 1969, 1974
Martyn Edelsten

Your time at the University

I chose the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies because it was recommended to me by my local veterinary practitioner and I never regretted the decision.

The veterinary field station at Easter Bush opened during my third year and training included working on the different farm units at the Bush and staying at Bush House. The vet students were an unruly bunch but no match for Miss Brown, the warden. I made full use of the many exciting facilities on offer. I joined the University Air Squadron and flew solo but was not able to commit enough time to the unit and left after one year.

The most important and life-changing activity was Children’s Holiday Venture. I founded CHV with other members of the University in 1963 and it has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

We took children living in squalid refugee camps in Germany (a result of mass displacement following World War Two) for camping holidays in the Black Forest. CHV subsequently focussed on children living in deprived areas of Edinburgh, and now runs a range of activities for over 100 children each week.

The friends I made through CHV have also endured. We meet regularly and go on holiday together each year. More importantly, Children’s Holiday Venture introduced me to poverty and deprivation, and influenced my decision subsequently to work in developing countries.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I spent two years in general practice before returning to Edinburgh to attend the Diploma in Veterinary State Medicine. I was then posted to Somalia where I worked with the British Veterinary Team, investigating and controlling, where possible, the diseases of the huge livestock population (which included 10 million camels and 40 million sheep and goats).

I returned again to Edinburgh to study for the MSc in Tropical Veterinary Science at the newly established Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine (CTVM) at Easter Bush. This led to a secondment to Nigeria where I ran the Veterinary Investigation Centres in Kaduna and then Maiduguri.

I was lucky to be able to continue my tropical career with a lecturing post at CTVM in 1978 but itchy feet took me to Malawi in 1987 to run the Malawi - CTVM Collaboration project. The British government (Department for International Development) funded this innovative link for 10 years.

More importantly, Children’s Holiday Venture introduced me to poverty and deprivation, and influenced my decision subsequently to work in developing countries.

Martyn Edelsten

I returned finally to Edinburgh in 1994 to direct the MSC in Tropical Veterinary Medicine (subsequently International Animal Health). The CTVM was an exciting unit of the University with over 50 MSc students per year at its peak. The common room was a hive of activity with students and staff from all over the world exchanging ideas and ever wilder accounts of adventures.

I carried out many consultancies during my time at CTVM, the University encouraging this activity. It included visits to other African countries, South America, Asia and my furthest post, Vanuatu in the Pacific.

Although unplanned, I had a career in tropical veterinary medicine and Edinburgh University was central and dominant throughout.

Alumni wisdom

Pick at least one activity outside your academic course, and maybe outside your comfort zone, and give it your best effort. In my case Children’s Holiday Venture was that activity, it broadened my outlook immeasurably and I made friends for life of fellow students and some of the children and families.