Three tires on the ground, one half-way off the mountain, a drastic realignment to get all four back on the cliffside dirt road. The trip to the village of Ghyachchok in Nepal was no easy task. With a large medical group of almost 50, traveling caravan style with 10 packed 4×4 vehicles traversing 12 hours through rivers, mud, and a single-track road hugging the side of the monstrous mountain should give you some idea of the dedication of each person sitting in a car seat. The best part being when the caravan came face to face with a farming tractor. This put the capabilities of the drivers to test, narrowly maneuvering and allowing space for each other to pass through. Dangerous – yes. Nerve-racking – yes. Safe – yes, especially in the hands of these trained expert Nepali drivers.
Upon arrival, there was a large group of well-dressed eager villagers waiting to greet the medical staff. Each person walked through an archway made up of vegetation and were given a flower necklace known as Mala and a paint on the forehead known as the Tika, signifying the third eye, as a cultural sign of gratefulness, respect, and blessings. This was followed by a grand dinner prepared with their very own grown food, the best in the organic world. Known as a popular staple dish called Dal Bhat, consisting of rice, vegetables, chicken, dal (cooked lentil soup), spinach, and potatoes. To all of it, I exclaimed, “Mitho!” (Nepali to English translation: “Delicious!”).
After dinner, a meeting occurred to introduce each doctor, nurse, and volunteers’ title and hospital or college of origin. With respective introductions, a final overview of the plan for the medical camp was completed. Early rise, and breakfast ready, this time hard boiled eggs, chickpeas, and Sel roti (a ring-shaped baked rice bread).
The medical camp, which shocked me, was overtly organized and systematic. There was a triage/registration for proper allocation of persons, a General Practitioner, ENT specialist, Orthopedist, Pediatrician, Pharmacist, Dermatologist, Gynecologist, Dentist, and Gastroenterologist. From start to finish the patients moved appropriately to their needed specialist and finished with proper medication and follow up appointments, if needed. For people with serious ailments, they were asked to visit the city for further treatment, free of charge.
This was not just a medical camp 5,000 feet in the mountains, this was a mobile hospital that provided 100% of its services for free. There was no parking lot at this “mobile hospital,” but only a dirt road leading to the first green tent and the triage tables in front. Local villagers travelled many hours by foot (with no shoes) to be greeted by compassionate faces of medical staff. Amazingly, these barefooted patients who walked a 5 hour trek were in their 60s or older. Hearing, “I have a cough”, was astonishing when there was not a single complaint about the 5 hours of barefoot walking on unpaved dirt roads and swollen feet. Even to rest they comfortably lower themselves into a squat rather than sit. The mobility of the elderly was outstanding to me, a person who has worked in healthcare for the past 6 years, you rarely see that level of movement with people of similar age in USA. In the hospitals I have worked at, it is rare to see someone squat comfortably, but common to have pain while seated. Technically, we should sit to rest from standing, not stand to rest from sitting. This is the backwards nature many uninformed patients have. What plays to the benefit of the people in Nepal, is that they lead a self-reliant and active lifestyle, which results in health benefits due to their daily physical activity.
The people in the villages of Nepal had minimal complaints and although I did not experience it, I could tell they endured excruciating pain. Whereas in the United States, there are more complaints per person, cumulatively. As an American, it is disheartening to see the discrepancy in proper health practices among individuals in such a developed nation as the United States. We can learn more than one thing from the Nepali, in terms of positive everyday health practices and mentality.
I have learnt so much that I can infuse into my own medical career. The doctors were empathetic and respectful to each patient with their interactions and body language. For example, doctors would call the patients as if they were addressing their own mother (Aama), grandmother (Hajuraama), sister (Didi or Bahini), father (Bua), grandfather (Hajurbua), or brother (Dai or Bhai). They would attentively and openly listen to the complaints of everyone as if they were their own family. This was amazing and beautiful to witness in person, the comfort level between doctor and patient, was stratospherically heightened. Something to remember for healthcare, globally.
During the camp, a joyous Nepali folk song was played over the loudspeakers to welcome the patients to the camp – the song itself being in the folk style, which the villagers are more accustomed to. There was more joy at this camp than at Disneyland.
After the completion of the medical camp, remaining time in Nepal, allowed the Director, being myself, and Founder Pritan Ambroase of Humans Of Our World to further explore the ancient nation that has never been conquered by a foreign force. Even more respect and awe was found for Nepal when traveling to different local towns. The capital, Kathmandu, was abuzz with both large and small temples, found all over the city showing their love and respect for all aspects of the world and God. Each with its own beautiful architecture.
The interactions of any Nepali was primarily focused on respect and love, irrespective of segregations. For example, when being handed ANYTHING, it would be given through the right hand with the left hand touching the right forearm and a bow of the head. Another way was with a bow of the head and both hands reaching out holding the item. Either way it was done, utmost respect was their habit, even to complete strangers.
Verbally, every word was positive and again respectful. Strangers that had just met, would call each other, older or younger brother/sister. Treating everyone as a member of their own family is common in Nepal, even as a visiting foreigner. Safe is what I felt everywhere that I went.
Nepal also has a plethora of beautiful holidays. The saying goes, “Nepal has more holidays than days in the year.” During this trip, there were multiple holidays that occurred while we were in the land-locked country. One being Dashain, a 15- day long auspicious holiday celebrating the victory of good over evil.
Amazingly (but not surprising), they have holidays or celebrations for certain animals where they place “tika” on the forehead of the animal. This shows a thankful and grateful attitude towards the animal for its role in their life. The dog festival, known as Kukur Tihar, is where they pay respects to dogs all over the country, for their loyalty and friendship.
Overall, there is something far greater to learn from a Nepali other than the best trekking path in the Himalayas.
As a Director, I have found that trips to medical camps in foreign countries, have a lot of hard work that come with it, much of it being PRE-PLANNING. The process and organization prior to any medical camp is in itself a challenge, but worthy. Raising funds, working closely with celebrity spokespersons and their publicists, and collaborating with local Nepali charity partners are just a few of the tasks that needed our focus, months before we even landed in Nepal. Almost a year of pre-work was done in preparation for a successful camp.
Humans Of Our World (www.humansofourworld.org) has a well curated list of patrons that are highly respected celebrities, such as Academy Award Winner Dame Judi Dench, the highly dignified Joanna Lumley OBE, followed by Academy Award Winner Adrien Brody, Amanda Holden, and respected adventurist Bear Grylls. Each celebrity gave their support, funds, and poured their heart into supporting Humans Of Our World along with its Nepal campaign. With Hollywood Insider as a partner, awareness for the Nepal cause was increased. One of the many reasons, I am proud of my role as the Director of Humans Of Our World, as the foundation stands for uniting the world regardless of segregation and differences while also being the change we want to see in the world. I believe wholeheartedly in the work of the Founder keeping the organization 100% non-profit, previously self-funding humanitarian causes. Someone with the level of love for the world as the Founder does speaks for itself why I am proud to be a part of said organization.
To other humanitarians and travelers looking for a country to visit, why is Nepal a good choice? Undoubtedly it is the safest country in the world – even in the remotest areas. Nepal is uniquely placed in between India and China and yet has its own culture that is completely different to other two countries , and boasts some of the most beautiful geography anywhere in the world. When you hear “Nepal” most will think of Mount Everest, as it is the tallest mountain not only in Nepal, but the entire world standing at 8,848 meters. What makes Nepal so unique is it only makes up 0.1% of the world and yet it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. From the Himalayas as high as 8,848 metres to the plains that are a little under 100 meters above sea level – landscape is dramatic. Nepal is the size of Florida in the USA and if laid flat, it would come close to the size of the United States, this gives a good representation of how mountainous nepal is. Absolutely amazing.
But apart from Nepal’s beautiful geography, there is something even more beautiful about Nepal and that can only be found in the heartbeat of Nepal; the Nepali. Without the people of Nepal, and it’s rich heritage, culture, and way of life, Nepal would not be Nepal. Any Nepali you meet from the first to the last time, will show you respect; it is embedded in their DNA and every aspect of their culture. This includes animals, plants, or even their car. Nothing is amiss when it comes to respect. The way they show love for others and God can be found on every corner of Nepal with a small shrine to a large temple, Tika on their dog or tika on their house. Whatever it is, it is out of gratefulness.
The biggest advice I can give for anyone who travels to Nepal is to embrace the culture with an open mind and a non-dogmatic heart. Whether you believe in religion, God, or neither, Nepal will truly change your mindset about the way you appreciate life. Enjoy nature and the animals that live in harmony with the Nepali people. Try new things and eat the local Dal Bhat and momo. Give and receive blessings. Above all, come with an open mind and leave with a full heart – and the credit goes to Nepal and the Nepali.
Please donate to continue to help the villages of Nepal and help the amazing Nepali people – www.fundrazr.com/villagesofnepal
Director, Humans Of Our World
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