Dorothy Hudson - Physical Therapy in Nepal
On July 28th, 2005 I embarked on a journey to Nepal for a one month work placement at the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Banepa. Banepa is a community 25 km or about an hour and a half bus ride from Kathmandu. Little did I realise how quickly that month would go by. Little did I realise how the people I would meet would touch my heart.
HRDC is a centre that was set up in 1985 by the non-governmental organisation, Friends of the Disabled. Its services are aimed at under privileged children with a number of physical disabilities. Largely orthopaedic in nature, the staff treat children with club foot, post burn and post polio contractures, a number of congenital conditions, fractures, TB of the bone, osteomyelitis, osteosarcomas and osteocondromas. Children with neurological conditions such as spina bifida, peripheral nerve injuries and cerebral palsy are also seen and referrals are made to other centres when appropriate. I was impressed by the treatment provided by the centre and by the overall programme that they offered. Not only did the centre provide services to inpatients, they were very involved in several outreach services and were actively involved in training staff that were stationed around the country. A team approach to treatment was very evident. Morning rounds included staff from all disciplines and one could sense the camaraderie between the staff.
The physiotherapy staff at the centre were outstanding. They had strong assessment and treatment skills and it was not uncommon to see them whip up splints and slings in mere minutes. These professional skills were accompanied by a large amount of heart and a sense of fun. No wonder that the children and volunteers often migrated to the department during their free time!!!
During my placement at HRDC I was blessed by an incredible host family. Lovingly known as Lok's house, my accommodation was much more than a place to eat and sleep. Lok and his family provided the volunteers with a home away from home. Several of us joined Lok at yoga class first thing in the morning and evenings were spent playing cards and a variety of games with Shanti, Sejan and Suzan. Shanti, Lok's daughter and Sejan and Suzan, his nephews were only too willing to take us to local celebrations and to share a bit of Newari culture and language instruction.
As my stay in Nepal was short, I tried my best to make the most of my weekends and free time. A member of Rotary and Toastmasters in Canada, I made contact with some Rotary and Toastmaster's Clubs in Nepal and was warmly welcomed at their meetings. I also played tourist and explored the Durbar squares in the valley. I walked by the temples and stupas of Swayambhu. Pashupatinath and Bodhnath. I took mountain flight over the Himalayas, hiked to Nagarkot and visited Pokhara and Chitwan National Park. I bargained with Tibetan women on the shores of Phewa Lake and came face to face with a rhino.
I have returned home with many souvenirs and fond memories of my brief stay in Nepal. One of the souvenirs is a T-shirt from the mountain flight. It says I did not climb Mt. Everest but I touched it with my heart. As I sit at my computer in Canada, I cannot help but think that my brief stay in Nepal is just a beginning of what I hope will be a long and lasting relationship with the country and people of Nepal. I am not sure that the phrase should be that I touched Mt Everest with my heart but rather that Nepal reached out and touched my heart.
My thanks goes out to Projects Abroad director Sajani,(an awesome project coordinator), the staff of HRDC, my host family, the staff at Excelsior Hotel, other volunteers, exceptional tour guides, Toastmasters and Rotarians who made my visit an unforgettable experience.