Mountain Heart Nepal

Our experiences working within a remote community of the Everest Region – Lifechanging!

This article was published on: 10/12/16 10:26 PM

Our experiences working within a remote community of the Everest Region – Lifechanging!

Lewis and I (Roshanna) spent two weeks volunteering with Mountain Heart Nepal in Najing, which is a remote community within the Solukhumbu region of Nepal. We focused our efforts on teaching English in the local school and providing training in nursing skills at the local clinic.

We were welcomed into our host family and they wasted no time in making us feel like family ourselves. The kids were amazing and we also got to share the house with the English teacher of the local school, who was a great help for developing our communication skills in Nepalese! They put in so much effort to make sure we weren’t lacking in anything: we received three meals a day (Radha is an amazing cook!), had a spacious bedroom -that could house four people- available to us to sleep in and there’s nothing like taking a shower with refreshing mountain water. Don’t worry, we could boil the water as well for warm showers or safe drinking. That is, when the electricity was up, from sundown to sunrise. When it comes to a power supply; waste not, want not! Because of all the efforts of the people we stayed with, it was comfortable to adapt to less luxury than we are usually used to. You really can’t even think about complaining about an outside toilet when the surrounding hills are so beautiful anyway. So we settled in very easily and were eager to contribute to this warm and welcoming community!

I started my days working in the Community Clinic for a few hours. The clinic opened its doors a year ago and since the nearest hospital is at least a 3 hour trek away, it serves as the central medical hub for the surrounding three villages and their combined population of about 1500 people. The daily running of this clinic falls on the shoulders of three (three!) people: a health assistant who adopts the role of the doctor in the community, a midwife and a general assistant. Officially, the clinic is open 6 days a week from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, but the reality of the matter is that these people are on call basically 24/7. There is some government funding for the clinic (regarding elderly care and monthly vaccination checkups for mothers and their newborns), but there is a huge need for the community to come together when it comes to the wellbeing of others. For example, there is no ambulance service available and communication channels are very limited, so often people are brought in by family, friends or fellow villagers on makeshift stretchers to make sure they are tended to in the clinic. Regarding any resources or infrastructure beyond that. the clinic can only rely on donations and fundraising from external resources, which are barely enough to get by and not substantial enough to treat every case accordingly.

A variety of patients rely on the clinic and show up when they need help. The staff and community are constantly challenged to come up with resourceful and creative solutions to provide people with the best possible help for their problem, which is essential because of the lack of equipment. For instance, often people come calling with respiratory pathology (COPD, pneumonia, chest infections, etc). The clinic, however, has no modern devices for Sp02-monitoring, oxygen- or nebuliser therapy available, so this does not particularly facilitate diagnosis and treatment. The clinic and community get by with what they have -sometimes by torchlight if the power cuts out- to treat the wide variety of cases (dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as typhoid, gastroenteritis, head injuries and so on). Additional services rely heavily on fundraising and donations, that are chronically insufficient to provide all of the equipment that is needed. Doing what we could,  I was happy that I could identify some problematic areas and help the community in an educational and prevention-oriented fashion.

I provided teaching on ‘The spread of infection and importance of hand hygiene’, as through my observations I found this very relevant. I made up posters, had them translated and we enjoyed discussing and going over the hand hygiene technique. I also provided basic life support training, from paediatric to adult – choking and CPR. I had to improvise due to there being no resuscitation doll but felt accomplished and reassured that the staff now know how to deal with these kinds of situations. As a backup and a reference, I also provided flowcharts of each scenario. The staff were very happy and appreciative, and teaching this to people who really wanted to learn was a great and fulfilling experience!

I would join Lewis for English classes in the local school after my daily involvement in the clinic to find very welcoming pupils that were so eager to learn! The school (only closed on Saturday) was organised in a way that after the daily national anthem and brain training exercises, the different groups would get taught in 8 lesson periods of 40 minutes each. During the day, each group would also have a free period and we got to work with groups 1 through 8 (ages 5 to 14) during those free periods. The kids were very interested in learning about new things in new ways! We taught greetings, colours, emotions, prepositions, body parts, animals, weather, natural disasters, fruits and vegetables and shapes in our time here. The kids were very excited and the use of songs and games were very appreciated as well as fun!

During our time here we also saw the effects of landslides on the community, and a number of families had to leave their homes and move into emergency housing. Luckily nobody was harmed. Since the earthquake in April 2015, the land has become cracked in many places and when the monsoons come to these cracks fill with water, causing devastating landslides. Some of the people who are living down the hill will have to rebuild their homes elsewhere as the land on which they previously resided has become too dangerous. Many others did move back as the situation has become safer, but will likely have to move again when the monsoons come again next year. The only safe option is to relocate and rebuild on new land, but this is often very expensive and many of these people are farmers cannot afford this. The local community rallies together once again and they are collectively working and gathering funds to help in such cases.

The area itself has beautiful views and each walk is an awe-inspiring experience. There is so much nature around you, the air is beyond fresh and there are loads of waterfalls to discover. The locals are always friendly and willing to show you around the breathtaking surroundings. The school even organized a wonderful farewell for us with lots of dancing and an amazing ceremony in which we were decorated with lots of scarves and flowers.

In reflection, we had an amazing experience being part of the community and could see a real spirit of solidarity among its people. We were welcomed into homes and treated like family. If you are looking for a unique volunteering experience in Nepal then we highly recommend going here. We have truly had our hearts warmed by this experience and will keep this with us forever.