Toby Evans - Medicine & Healthcare, Physiotherapy in Nepal
A month in Nepal was a truly life-changing experience. I never expected the trip to affect me as much as it did, or for it to be full of such emotion with many highs and lows. Yet there is nothing about the experience that I would change.
Walking out into the arrivals lounge at the airport in front of 200 Nepalese locals was like being a celebrity. I felt a mixture of being scared, surprised and also shocked. Having never visited a third world country before, it was a truly unique and eye opening experience. Darting through the busy streets, with cars hurtling towards you on the other side of the road made me think how lucky I was to be experiencing it all!
During our drive to the hotel gates, the driver had to navigate down a street with less than a foot either side of the vehicle but arriving to a hotel room all to myself with satellite television, en-suite and a double bed made it all worthwhile! Dinner was my first opportunity to sample the Nepalese dish Daal Bhat which consisted of lentil soup, rice, curried vegetables, potato, spicy sauce and a poppadom.
After settling into the Nepali way of life, I was taken to meet my host family. When I say family, I actually mean host school as I was going to be staying in a boarding school called the Jyoti Academy which was in a small town south of Kathmandu. The head-teacher was inevitably called Jyoti who looked after about 30 children, some of whom she fosters, which is a truly remarkable feat. There are another 100 or so children who attend the school during school hours and a number of teachers who look after them all. The children were incredibly welcoming, being called sir everyday made me feel like I had an OBE! Making friends with the children was very easy, and throughout the whole month I stayed there, there was always plenty of activities and fun to be had.
My placement was at a Cerebral Palsy center just down the road from the school. When I first went to the center, my emotions ran very high, as I had never seen anything like it before. A child suffering from Cerebral Palsy in a developed country is hard enough but this took on a whole new level. I was given my own classroom, which had between six or seven children in it each day. I looked after the children, did exercises with them, played games, fed them and even took them to the toilet. I felt overwhelmed but extremely proud to see that I could do so much to help.
Despite the Cerebral Palsy center being the place where I spent most of my time, I also had the opportunity to visit an orphanage closer to the centre of Kathmandu. The orphanage was a place for children with no homes to be taken in and nurtured. Some of the children there were also suffering from Cerebral Palsy, and this was even harder to see. Nevertheless the children still had so much energy and enthusiasm and wouldn’t let you feel sorry for them.
Aside from the placements, the weekends provided time for travel around Nepal, which was often aided by the Projects Abroad staff. Trips included a visit to a resort where various adventure sports were on offer such as bungee jumping, canyon swinging, canyon-ing and white-water rafting. There were also opportunities to get massages or simply relax in the plunge pool. Other trips included the Chitwan National Park, visits to Pokhara with stunning views and the great lake and to Annapurnas. There is so much to see and do in Nepal there will never be any shortage of options.
Whilst staying in Thamel, the main tourist site in Kathmandu, we visited the monkey temple named Swayambhunath, which provided us with spectacular panoramic views over the whole of Kathmandu. Whilst walking around it became clear that it was not only a monkey temple but a monkey and dog temple, although I am not aware of dogs being sacred. There are many other sites in and around Kathmandu that prove very interesting and you really need to find the time to visit everything.
All in all, my experience in Nepal was a truly amazing adventure which I will never forget. You can really tell that developing countries really need the help from volunteers, and I cannot wait to take part in something similar to this again.