For 2 months from January to March this year, I volunteered with the Acupuncture Relief Project (ARP) and provided primary healthcare to a rural village 3 hours South of Kathmandu, Nepal where there is no access to medical care.
Nepal remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. As we all know, on April 25th last year, the big earthquake had taken the lives of many and left many homeless. It has been a year since and I still saw many living in half collapsed homes and in temporarily built tents. And there is a high infantile death rate, mainly from lack of hygiene.
We saw on average 100-120 patients a day. We treated patients suffering from poverty and aftermath of earthquake. For the majority who has no money to pay for medicine, seeking hospital care may mean they lose their farm and home. Common conditions include digestive issues from dirty water and lack of food, respiratory problems, musculoskeletal and skin diseases, stroke rehab, recovery from tuberculosis, typhoid fever, hypertension and diabetes.
I was part of a team which consisted of 5 health practitioners and 2 team leaders. We all come from different parts of the world. Including the local coordinators and cook, there were 10 of us in total living in the same building. Basically for 2 months, I learnt to share a bathroom with 10 people and a room with 3 other women. It was in the middle of winter, temperatures can drop down to -3 degrees at night with no heating available. Squat toilets and no toilet paper. Perhaps a tepid shower once a week, twice if lucky. Frequent electricity blackouts. We ate whatever our cook made for us as food choices were limited and mainly vegetarian.
That having said, volunteering with ARP in poverty and disaster stricken Nepal is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Not only had I got to meet and work with an incredible team of practitioners and locals, I was also able to gain firsthand experience of using acupuncture and herbal medicine to treat acute/third world diseases. And the invaluable lessons I have learnt from the way of life of the Nepalese villagers, have deeply changed my life and my practice of medicine. As a healthcare practitioner, this experience has strengthened my lifelong determination to support the wellbeing of people so they can work to their full potential to contribute to society in their own ways. In the following weeks, I will upload a series of posts on my experiences and realisations volunteering in Nepal.