Samantha Willows - Medicine & Healthcare, Physiotherapy in Nepal
Hello! I am Samantha. In 2010 I graduated as a physiotherapist from Sheffield Hallam University. Me and my boyfriend Luke (who is also a physiotherapist) wanted to do some travelling before entering the real world of working 9-5 so we decided to arrange a trip abroad. Whilst trawling through the internet we stumbled across Projects Abroad and decided our best option was to go volunteering so that we could put our newly learned skills to use. The last thing we needed to decide was where to go and with so many options it proved very difficult. We eventually decided on Nepal; a decision we definitely do not regret.
We could not have asked for a more suitable placement, all the requirements we requested were met. It was such a pleasure to work at the Cerebral Palsy Rehabilitation Centre. It was a gentle 40 minute walk from where we were living; through rice fields with great views of the mountains. The centre consisted of an assessment department where young children were diagnosed and treated. This is where the doctor was based; he was an invaluable resource, he gave us presentations and answered any medical questions we had about cerebral palsy.
Also at the centre was the school which consisted of four classrooms for ages 4-12 and one teenage room for ages 12-20 where practical life skills were taught. In addition there was a physiotherapy room and this was where we were based. We worked alongside a Nepalese physiotherapist who provided us with guidance and 3 physiotherapy assistants.
After a couple of days shadowing we were given the opportunity to work independently which was ideal as we wanted to get stuck in. Although we were working independently it did not feel daunting as we could ask the qualified physiotherapist for help and treatment ideas. Our role was to work with the children on gait re-education, fine motor control and other functional activities. It was difficult to communicate with the children due to their learning difficulties and the language barrier therefore we had to rely heavily on my non verbal communication with a big focus on demonstrations. We found it really useful to learn a few basic Nepalese commands such as sit, stand and slowly this helped create a better rapport with the children.
We were surprised as the centre was actually very well equipped however some of the luxuries we have in the UK were not available therefore we had to improvise; we used tables to create parallel bars and encouraged the children to blow bubbles to increase lung volumes. During the 4 weeks spent at the centre we got really attached to the children, the staff and the other volunteers which made it hard leaving. On our last day they held a leaving ceremony for us; it was a great ending to a great experience.
The volunteering work although amazing was just a small part of my whole experience; what made it complete was our host family and the other volunteers we met. Our host family added a lot to my experience. They were so friendly and made us feel welcome immediately. The evening meal was often the highlight of my day; we were always guaranteed great food, interesting stories and lots of laughter. Our host 'sister' was our age so she was great company. She gave me, Luke and the other two volunteers cooking lessons so we soon picked up how to make two of Nepal's specialities dal bhat and chai.
Once a week we attended the community dancing hosted by our host 'dad', all the children who lived locally were invited into the hall at the bottom of our garden to dance the night away. It was a great way to interact with the locals and learn about their culture.
The volunteering did not stop us from seeing a lot of what Nepal has to offer. The centre where we worked was very flexible so we were able to make the most of our weekends. We went on a number of Projects Abroad organised trips which were brilliant as we got discounted prices and it gave us the opportunity to make some great friends many of whom we are still in contact with. We went to Last Resort and did a 160m bungy jump and the world’s largest canyon swing, make sure you pack a spare pair of pants if you go on this trip!
We also travelled to Chitwan National Park where we boated down the river next to crocodiles and went on a jungle walk amongst the rhinos. Also we went mountain biking, took trips to many of the temples and socialised in a number of the bars, cafes and pubs in Kathmandu. Just a word of warning; I would strongly recommend taking some travel sickness pills and anti-diarrhoea tablets on any of the trips involving long bus journeys as the roads in Nepal are a lot different to what we are used to.
At the end of our volunteering we scheduled to stay in Nepal for two extra weeks to do some more exploring. We chose to spend the rest of our stay in Pokhara which is an amazing town situated next to a beautiful lake with the backdrop of the of the Annapurna range. Whilst here we went on a 4 day trek with three volunteers we had met at the centre; it was challenging with lots and lots of stairs to climb but the views were breath taking which made it one of the best experiences I have ever had. After the trek we enjoyed some well deserved chill out time; we hired a boat for a day on the lake and rented mopeds to rest our tired legs.
This trip definitely fulfilled my desire to go travelling but I am sure it won’t be long till the travel bug returns and when it does it will be Projects Abroad I will turn to for another amazing experience.