I lay there, staring at the peppermint green painted walls. The room so hot and humid, there was no need to have lugged my sleeping bag along for the past 2 days! The window flapped open and slammed shut as the breeze outside moved in and around the little room that Laxmi and myself were to share that night.
Tired, sweaty and content, we lay on our wooden slat beds and talked for at least an hour in broken English and as much Nepali as I could manage, before drifting off into a restful sleep.
I start my blog by reflecting on this moment in particular, as when I think of that night at the dilapidated ‘Mountain View Hotel’ I feel a sense of calm and I find myself smiling.
Laxmi and myself had stopped off to break up the journey back to Kathmandu from Manbu where we had spent a week working. It had been an extraordinary week scattered with several emergency clinical cases I had never had to deal with in the UK. By this I mean seeing a child with severe malnutrition and the hospital being over 6 hrs away. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen in England and it was moments like that when you get such an appreciation of what PHASE Nepal is doing for those remote communities in providing a healthcare service ….
In total I spent 11 weeks in Nepal this year, alongside my husband Ed and our toddler Max, volunteering for PHASE Nepal. We lived simply with only one single gas stove and no fridge.
I am a relatively newly qualified GP and have always hoped to return to Nepal having undertaken my medical elective there in 2006. My husband had quit his job as a teacher to be a fulltime Dad whilst we travelled, enabling me to be involved with a project that felt ‘right’. Planning this time away I had been searching and searching for something to do….And PHASE Nepal was perfect.
Whilst in Nepal I visited, lived and worked in Rayale, Fulpingkot and Manbu healthposts.
Spending on average a week in each I was mentoring a small group of PHASE staff. We consulted patients in the healthcare centres for 4-6 hours per day sometimes longer. Clinical problems that presented were intriguingly similar to British General Practice (osteoarthritis, children with fever, chest infections) but there was of course the additional rare and more complex case of possible TB/leprosy/advanced cancer/severe malnutrition.
I absolutely loved the teaching element of this volunteer post. To be actively involved in teaching the PHASE health workers was a privilege and hugely rewarding.
On return to Kathmandu I had the opportunity to be involved in the training programming of PHASE staff – an impressive annual event that effectively co-ordinates bringing all staff from remote areas back to Kathmandu for teaching workshops and social events. This was fantastic and very enjoyable.
More latterly I started to get involved in editing the clinical guidelines.
Staying for longer than the typical volunteer post of 1-3 weeks enabled me to get a real feelfor Nepal as a country and how PHASE Nepal fits in. I developed a sense of what can be achieved, and considering PHASE Nepal is a relatively small but expanding NGO, they are doing great and important things.
I learnt enough Nepali to consult (but had to have my notebook to hand throughout much to the amusement of the Staff!). Being a keen cook, I feel fortunate to have had personal cooking lessons from my Nepali friends teaching me the step to step approach to making perfect daal and the pitfalls of the pressure cooker…! I learnt how to tackle the intricacies involved in making the delicious mo-mo and one evening I was taught how to perfect the ‘puri’ bread.
I had my hair dyed with soya bean to a rich brown by the wonderful Staff at Rayale health post who took such good care of me and my family during our time there.
I learnt how to sing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes in Nepali and rehearsed this most evenings with the children of Manbu….
As the heat intensified in mid June, the first rains of the monsoon season fell. Drenched and laughing me, Ed and Max ran home. It was very nearly time to fly home to England….The wonderful thing was that we also felt at ‘home’ here, in our skyblue house in Kathmandu…..
We are back in the UK as I type this, with all its order and fast pace of the rat race, with materialism and bureaucracy , rolling green hills and family. I try to sit quietly and reflect on our time in Nepal…..
The lack of order, the freedom that flows from this, the stunning architecture of the endless temples, the bright oranges and reds and the intense heat. The Nepalese people, with their resilience, composure, warmth and dedication.
We had time to build relationships with many of the PHASE staff and the Nepali community near where we lived.
There is simply too much to put in words and we have been moved and challenged by many of the situations we found ourselves in during our time there for various reasons. It was a very fantastic time and an experience we know we shall never forget
For anyone thinking of volunteering with PHASE Nepal I would wholeheartedly recommend it. PHASE Nepal is a very special organisation and I feel lucky to have found them. It is like being part of a family.
Thankyou Gerda, Sarah and every PHASE Nepal Staff member I met and worked with…..
Lucy, Ed and Max, July 2014