Tara Shoecraft - Physical Therapy in Nepal
If I were to look back about a year ago I would have never thought I would be the kind of person to take a break from school, and leave the comforts of home to volunteer in a third world country where I would pray for clean hot water to shower and a decent toilet. However, earlier this year I was that person who dropped everything and left America to volunteer in a little country many people have never even heard of.
Choosing to volunteer in Nepal
I chose to volunteer in Nepal because I wanted to take a break from school and further my education in a different way; by getting hands on experience volunteering as a physical therapist in a different country. I chose to go with Projects Abroad because they offered exactly what I wanted. Experience I would not get anywhere else, while immersing myself in a different culture.
My Physical Therapy placement
I volunteered at a facility called the Bhaktapur Community Rehabilitation Center for physical and mentally handicapped children for 2 months. This facility consisted of about 20 children who had a range of disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, downs, and different learning disabilities. Most of the children at the facility had cerebral palsy, which is a disorder occurring from brain damage leading to impaired motor and physical ability. They do not have control over their muscles, often in the limbs, and the body feels ridged at times or very flexible and weak. At the center, there is about 4 staff and 1 or 2 volunteers with one qualified physical therapist, very understaffed.
Every day is different at the center, and there is usually always something to do. I had the chance to learn a lot about the children and their families and learn a lot about their condition. I was able to perform different range of motion exercises along with helping the children to gain strength and balance in their core and legs to help with walking. I realized physical therapy there is much different than in the west, there you had to be extremely creative with what you had, which is a lot less then what I was used to at home.
Besides helping the physical therapist, I helped to feed, teach and play with the children. We would play games like hopscotch or put together puzzles. I learned so much about these children and this experience helped me to develop more of a selfless attitude while caring for the basic needs of the children. I also learned a great deal about Nepali culture.
Nepal way of life
The concept of time in Nepal is much different than in America; things were much slower paced and relaxed. People are very friendly and enjoy each-others company especially over chai (tea). Of course, the weekends are very adventurous. I cannot even tell you how many times other volunteers and I wondered around, turned down the wrong road, and found one of the many beautiful ancient monuments or temples Nepal is known for.
Usually on the weekends we would retreat to Thamel to go out to eat, do some shopping, or sit at a nice cafe. Sometimes there was an event for the weekend involving travel, such as Chitwan National Park, or Pokahra. My experience in Nepal was amazing and I loved everything from the Dahl Bhatt to the crazy bus rides. Some of my favorite memories though are when I was volunteering and spending time with kids at CBR. I feel so blessed to have been able to experience what I did and start lifelong friendships with the people I met in Nepal. Thank you everyone for making this an amazing experience!