I was up by 5:30 on September 27, getting ready for our early morning start to the medical camp for children in Kavre district, Nepal. Bleary eyed, I grabbed the bags of gear and miscellaneous food items and headed down to the van we rented for the day.
Our first stop was to the house of Nepali Host Family board member. We unloaded the food items and bring everything into the kitchen. We worked as a mini assembly line, preparing sandwiches to serve as breakfast for the medical camp volunteers. We drank Nepali tea and tried not to get crumbs everywhere as we excitedly talked about our expectations for the medical camp at the village.
After packing the breakfast, we stopped by the pharmacy to pick up the medications for the health camp. We carried box after box of medicines from the pharmacy and down to our van where the driver, standing on top of the van, strapped the boxes to the roof. You could hear while you were carrying them, the faint sounds of glass knocking together. There were syrups, pills and other bottles of medicines in the boxes.
We headed out of Kathmandu and an hour later we were at the gates of Dhulikhel Hospital in the Kavre district. The community hospital is well known in the area and is a part of the Kathmandu University. The hospital had provided two Nepali doctors and a community programs staff member to assist us with the medical outreach. So after picking up the doctors then with a van full of volunteers and doctors, we journeyed the last 15 km to the site of the medical camp. We were setting up the health camp at a local school in the village.
I was forewarned that the last leg of the drive would be a dirt road with little upkeep. I was prepared for a bumpy ride. I was, however, not so prepared for the road being cliff side. As we bumped along I could see the road drop down on the side, a deep descent into the rice fields below. Being that I’m from one of the flattest states in America I had to close my eyes as we rocked back and forth on the edge of what I was sure would be our death. It is hard to imagine the children of the school walk through that road every day.
We did arrive safely to the gates of the school. The uniformed children greeted us and helped us to unload all of our boxes. The first step was to set up a makeshift pharmacy. The other Nepali Host Family volunteers and I opened box after box of medications and tried to keep them as orderly as possible on the low school tables we were provided. After all the equipment was unpacked, we sat down to breakfast, picnic style. That was our opportunity to talk to the board members of Nepali Host Family and the doctors and really get a feel for what was going to be happening there that day.
Before the camp officially started we were all gathered in the grassy field of the school. They held a mini ceremony to honor the doctors and volunteers, especially Mr. Khai-Thai Duong, whose charitable organization Hamromaya Nepal, helped to sponsor the event. I wasn’t expecting anything for myself, but they placed a flower garland around my neck and tika on my forehead. I was so touched. Here I was, just honored that I got to be a part of a good cause like this.
Medical outreach in Nepal
Different organizations organize medical outreach in Nepal every year. This medical outreach was especially for the poor children. The whole camp itself flew by. For the beginning stages I was in the registration room. When the children started arriving they lined up outside the door and were called in one by one. A form was filled out with their name and age, while other volunteers and I measured their height and weight. It was amazing to me that many children didn’t know their age or when they were born. Many children just guessed. A lot of them were really small for their age. You could see the children come in, some dirty, many with no socks and only rubber sandals to make the steep walk to school.
I got to observe the doctors as well. They worked tirelessly as the never-ending line of students sat around the makeshift clinic room. With patience, they examined each student. While there was no privacy, something westerners are accustomed to, each student was given undivided attention. They were given a basic look over, eyes, ears, throat and were asked about any health problems. The most common ailment, it seemed, was worms. The doctors had to diagnose based on symptoms because there was no lab there.
However, sadly, there were some more serious ailments. One girl in particular, just clearly needed medical attention. She had trouble with her eyelids; the muscles weren’t strong enough to keep her eyes open so she had constant obscured vision. She also had chronic severe ear infections that were spreading into her brain. It was apparent that she had some form of mental handicap and the doctors told me she had previously had Tuberculosis. It was heartbreaking. The doctors did what they could for her, but she would have to travel the 15 km to the hospital to be helped fully. I wondered what would happen if there was no medical camp for children. Would this girl just continue to come to school every day ailing? Her parents who I came to know are very poor weren’t there, but I pray that they take her to the hospital.
It was disturbing to think that some of these children had never gotten medical attention before. By the end of the day over 155 children were seen by the doctors and were provided with free medicines. By 4:30 we were once more packing up the van.
I was so grateful to have been able to be a part of that day. It was a lesson to me about what the drive of a few passionate people can accomplish. Nepali Host Family and Hamromaya Nepal, really made a difference in the lives of those children not in a superficial way, but in a serious and lasting way and that is truly awesome.