Reflections on Nepal trip December 2013
Dr Kate Yarrow
I have just spent 9 days in Nepal filming a documentary for the charity, and celebrating our first students’ graduation. It was incredibly hard work, but also the most the most rewarding of moments for the charity. The documentary will be released in April. Read below for some of the hurdles we overcame, and feelings generated from the trip.
As usual, I have left Nepal with a feeling of sadness at leaving behind Lalit and the other students, their families, and everyone else who has made our visit so welcoming. But there is also a sense of pride at what we have achieved; both within this visit, and with our longer term goal as a charity.
I am not sure that anyone truly believed six years ago when Lalit asked us to sponsor him, that we would come so far, and actually achieve our aims and goals. We put a huge amount of faith and trust into Lalit and the Nepalese medical school, and have had inevitable moments of doubt that we would ever actually “get there”. So, to have had the honour of attending Lalit’s graduation in the place of his parents, was one of the proudest moments of my life. His sheer determination to go back and serve his community is more than commendable, given that there are plenty of more alluring posts available to him.
The last nine days has been an intense journey, both geographically and emotionally. Gareth and I had mapped out rough ideas and a storyboard for the documentary, but really had no idea if it was achievable, or what hurdles we would have to overcome. For me, I had to learn how to step aside from my job as a doctor, and try to act as a link between the Nepalese and the viewer. Never having talked “to camera” before, I had a mountain-sized learning curve in the first few days. There were many inevitable comedy moments – which kept the mood up, especially when we were working within such time constraints, and difficult conditions.
Filming the monuments and temples gave us a lovely backdrop to the documentary’s introduction. It was also a chance for us to soak up the sounds, smells, and colour of life in Kathmandu. Interviewing Meena and Nahakul gave us a lovely insight into their passion for, and belief in their medical education. Their desire to serve rural communities seemed sincere and genuine, and it was encouraging to realise that we had again selected strong and determined students.
Leaving Kathmandu really felt like the start of an unknown adventure. We knew what we would like to achieve, but really had no idea if we would actually find the patients with stories to tell that would reflect what we perceive to be the healthcare problems in rural Nepal.
Our tour of Gourkha district hospital was really quite shocking; although I have worked in an isolated hospital in rural Nepal, I had forgotten quite how basic the facilities actually are.
Accident and emergency had no equipment at all, just a table and chair, with two simple beds; none of the machinery that we rely upon and take for granted in the developed world. Sterile gloves hung out to dry between uses was a reminder of how limited the resources actually are.
Setting out on foot into the mountains allowed us to experience how most of the Nepalese get around from one day to the next. We felt tired and struggled up the steep areas, and that was without carrying a child, nor being elderly or infirm. It really brought home to us how difficult life really is for the majority of people in Nepal. The fact that almost all of the women had given birth at home, with no medical support whatsoever – said a huge amount about how difficult it really is to access healthcare. There was story after story that reiterated to us the plight of medical care in rural Nepal.
It was interesting to gain a perspective of various medical institutions, and to see the different levels of care available to the population. Visiting the rural health posts really drove home to us how far behind rural healthcare is in comparison to urban healthcare in Nepal. The need to encourage doctors to undertake rural postings couldn’t have been clearer.
Returning to Kathmandu for Lalit’s graduation was a beautiful way to conclude our trip. Seeing him surrounded by his friends, and clearly so happy with what he had achieved was the highlight of the charities’ work so far. His family’s hospitality and warmth also showed how far we have come together as a team; crossing the cultural divide with a common goal.
Sending Lalit on his way to commence his first few days as a doctor in Kalikot was deeply moving for all of us. The journey we had been on in Nepal, the enormous efforts across the world in the UK to get the charity this far, and Lalit’s personal efforts in medical school – culminated in mixed feelings when we said goodbye. Lalit’s apprehension of the task ahead of him, my relief that we had made it this far – mingled with the sadness of watching him leave, and my own sudden questioning of whether or not we were doing the right thing….
On reflection I know that those emotions were a culmination of tiredness from the work we had done, the high of the graduation, followed by the fear of the unknown for Lalit. I know that he will be a fantastic doctor, and given time, and patience will make an enormous difference to the lives of tens of thousands in his district.
Good luck Lalit!!!
Please keep supporting our work, so that we can have more Lalits, and make an even bigger difference to the lives of so many people in rural Nepal. Your donations not only changes lives, they save lives.
Dr Kate Yarrow
December 23rd 2013
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