THE boss of West Fife’s biggest veterinary practice has swapped jobs with the head of its ‘twin’ practice in Africa – and their families have moved with them.

On 27th November, Adam Tjolle, managing director of Inglis Veterinary Centre, flew to Malawi with his wife, Sandy, and children, Thea (11) and Freddie (eight), for a nine-week stay in Malawi, where he will run the veterinary charity, Lilongwe SPCA.

Meanwhile, the programme director of the Malawian practice, Dr Richard Ssuna, has come to Fife to help manage Inglis’ multi-centre operation and its 50-plus staff. He is joined by Proscovia and children Martha (seven), Cissy (five) and Marianne (19 months).

With both families in foreign parts over the festive period, the vets see the exchange as a chance for all involved to experience different cultures and lifestyles.

The Tjolles are staying in the Ssunas’ home in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, while their counterparts are staying in their West Fife friends’ Aberdour home.

“It’s something Richard and I have wanted to do since we first teamed up two years ago,” said Adam. “It will be a fantastic experience for us all. Richard and his family will experience a Scottish winter for the first time and we’ll be spending Christmas and New Year in the height of a Central African summer.

“My kids needed to be persuaded that Father Christmas did visit Malawi!” Inglis forged its relationship with Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals in 2012 when Adam and three colleagues went to Malawi to convert the charity’s rudimentary clinic into a state-of-the-art facility.

Inglis’ voluntary effort, which the Dunfermline-based practice funded, involved working with the RSPCA on its ‘Clinic in a Box’ initiative, which provided equipment worth nearly £100,000 to Lilongwe SPCA. During their 10-day stay, the Inglis team helped to install the equipment and trained staff and volunteers in its use. The end result was probably the best-equipped veterinary practice in central Africa - and that in a country which, with a population of 14 million, had only nine registered vets.

Now, Adam will be spending two months working in the Lilongwe practice, repairing equipment, doing day-today veterinary work and even helping to fix equipment in a healthcare facility for humans.

Meanwhile, Thea, who normally attends Mary Erskine’s School in Edinburgh, and her brother, Freddie, a pupil of Aberdour Primary, are continuing their education in a school in Lilongwe.

“Naturally, they’ve had a few apprehensions but they are looking forward to it,” said Adam.

Freddie added, “I’m really looking forward to playing tennis in Malawi - and to seeing some big wild animals!” And Thea said, “I think going to school there will be the best thing. I’m really excited about it.” While his family make themselves at home in Aberdour, Dr Ssuna will be helping to run the Inglis operation: its 24-hour animal hospital in Halbeath Road and its pets’ wellness spa in Hospital Hill, both Dunfermline, as well as its practice and shop in Inverkeithing, its Care&Save practice in Cowdenbeath and Alphavet, its linked practice in Kinross.

Dr Ssuna, a Ugandan, said on arriving in West Fife, “This is the first time my family have been to Europe and everything is very strange for them. But they have been looking forward to it - despite the cold!” He added, “Professionally, it will be very good for me to experience the dynamics of work in a European practice. I am sure I will learn things that I will be able to put into practice in Malawi.” It is Dr Ssuna’s second trip to Fife. In September 2012, he travelled to Britain to receive an award from the RSPCA and used the opportunity to visit his new-found friends and seal their twinning relationship.

Readers can follow how Adam Tjolle and Richard Ssuna are faring in their new lives in a blog: