Zoe Dorrington - Medicine Electives in Nepal
I chose to visit Nepal for my four week public health placement, while in my second year of my Nursing degree. I chose Nepal before the earthquake hit in April 2015, but what had happened since then made me even more motivated. I have not been to South Asia or experienced working in health care outside the UK, so I felt nervous but excited. I was hoping I could use my training to help local staff, lead workshops, and even treat patients.
I knew my journey had truly started once I had landed and was greeted by a Projects Abroad staff member at the airport and taken to the hotel. I got to meet the Projects Abroad Nepal team, have an induction, meet some other volunteers, and have a sleep before heading out to my host family.
Volunteering at a school
While in Nepal I worked for two weeks in a school where I taught young children how to wash their hands and about the importance of hygiene, how to count, and the alphabet. We also played games. I brought items for the children such as pictures of our families and homes, drawing books, pencils, hair bands, and hand soap, which the school and children appreciated.
It was lovely to see the children enjoy themselves and it was amazing to see the progress of the children in just two weeks. The children even taught me a few words of Nepali! It was very impressive how well the children could speak and how neat their handwriting and coloring was. It is a great opportunity to see how things that are done differently to back home.
My medical placement
After my Care placement, I volunteered at a hospital for two weeks where I attended different departments. I mainly observed while the doctors and nurses explained to me what they are doing and why. It was great to be able to visit a variety of departments to get the full experience of how the hospital works and the different wards they have. I took some medical equipment such as gloves, fob watches, scissors, cotton wool, dressings, and posters.
I found the hospital was more equipped than I expected and the patients’ families seem to get really involved in patient care which seemed to work really well. I was impressed with the knowledge and skills of the staff and the equipment they had available. Everyone is so friendly and willing to work and teach the volunteers. The medical staff took a big interest in what we do back home and the kind of things our role included.
My host family
The host family I stayed with was welcoming, friendly, and supportive, and they respected our privacy, which made the whole experience more enjoyable. It was nice to watch TV, chat about your day, and play games in the evenings with the family and the other volunteers staying in the house. We were provided three meals a day, but due to being out volunteering we usually had lunch out. We got breakfast before heading out to work, which was different every morning and dinner when we got home in the evening which was usually dal bhat and curry. A must try are the traditional Nepalese dumplings, called momos. It is a very popular dish and absolutely delicious!
There was a nice little café close to the house where we could go to after work to relax, have a chat, get a drink, and to use WIFI. Be prepared for a few cold showers in Nepal, but when it’s hot that’s all you want (just don’t get any water in your mouth!). One thing I was prepared for was the rain as August is monsoon season in Nepal. I packed my waterproof jackets, umbrella, and wellington boots, but I did not need it as it rained at night luckily.
Sightseeing and traveling in Nepal
While on my trip I met some fantastic people and saw some amazing places. We had weekends free to explore the country which we made the most of. We got to visit Kathmandu where we went to the monkey temple (I would advise not having food or drinks in your hand – the monkeys will take it!), Patan for sightseeing and shopping, and Pokhara. In Pokhara, we went paragliding and took a steep walk up to the Shanti Stupa. At the Chitwan National Park, we saw beautiful sunsets and had a chance to see the local wildlife. We stayed in some lovely hotels in great locations with great prices and food. To top it off we flew round Mount Everest on our last day, which was incredible and well worth it.
It may be a shock to the system to start with, but you soon settle in and have a routine. It was an amazing opportunity to learn about the different working practices, culture, and language. I have come back with some amazing memories, photos, and friends. I will never forget my time in Nepal.