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Volunteer experience at the Sidha Sadabahar clinic

Every time I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve felt a desire to volunteer or give back to the amazing people that I meet. Its one of the reasons I became a nurse. Therefore, it was a priority for travel this time around. Luckily, my friend Mary was interested as well, so we did some research before we left, found an organization called Hands For Help Nepal based on a friends recommendation, and signed up.

We arrived in Kathmandu, and instead of bargaining for a taxi outside of the airport, we were met by a guy holding a sign and, like royalty, were whisked to our hotel. We spent two days in Kathmandu, learning Nepali, walking the streets of Thamel, and visiting temples as part of our “cultural orientation”. Badri, a large Nepali man who has been the head of the organization for over fifteen years, provided us with our daily schedules, and also escorted us out to our clinic.

Khadijaur, the village that we were placed, lies about 60 km northeast of Kathmandu, but takes about three hours to reach. When we arrived there, we met the friendly, inviting staff, who took us on a tour of the clinic, the hospital cantina, and our accommodations, which was a sparse but cozy room in a big house across the street from the clinic. There were several nurse interns who were staying across the hall, which made for a semi-social environment.

Because we were there in the winter season, the clinic census was lower than normal, so our hands-on skills were not necessarily needed. But, we were invited to participate in daily patient rounds, and watched several procedures. We spent most of our time interacting with the nurse interns, practicing our Nepali and their English, and comparing nursing practices in our respective countries. We were very impressed with their ability to provide care with limited resources, and their readiness to provide teaching and instruction to their patients.

One of the tasks that we took on while volunteering at the clinic was to visit a few of the local schools to talk about the health issues the students face. We named our presentation “Take Pride in Your Health!” and had a lot of fun brainstorming and then teaching students about basic things like handwashing, nutrition, covering your cough to reduce disease transmission, and other things along those lines. They seemed to enjoy it, and it gave them a chance to practice English and us to practice Nepali. And, for the rest of our time in Khadichaur, kids in town recognized us as the health workers, and would run up to us and say hi. One afternoon, we were playing and talking with a group of kids, and when we said goodbye and turned to leave, we were serenaded by an impromptu chorus of “Please Come Back! Please Come Back!”. It felt good. We also provided some education in the form of lectures for the nursing staff at the hospital, especially targeting the nurse interns. We found health posters on the internet, in Nepali, and hung them on the bare concrete walls of the hospital, adding some color and hopefully generating some conversation and awareness.

When we came to the end of our stay, everyone seemed genuinely sad that we were leaving, and Facebook addresses were traded frantically. I had no illusions of changing the world in two weeks, and although I had hoped to do more, it was a good “first experience” of what it is like to volunteer and share knowledge in a rural, developing nation. Im excited to do more!