Queen’s Nurses Volunteer in Nepal
9 May 2018 | Queen’s Nurses Diane Gould, Sue Halliwell, Tracy Reed, Hazel Dent and Jenny Bostock
In April 2016 Queen’s Nurses Diane Gould, Sue Halliwell, Tracy Reed and Jenny Bostock travelled to Nepal to volunteer in health clinics. This blog showcases their reflections about the 2016 trip. This year Diane, Sue, Tracy and Hazel Dent returned to Nepal to find there had been amazing improvements since their last visit. The group (pictured above) plan to write a follow up blog about their second trip later this year.
‘Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change’Barbara Mikulski
“Our trip to Nepal was planned well before the terrible earthquake last April. Each one of us had a personal reason for wanting to take part in this trip but what very quickly became evident was we all worked together not just with each other but our wonderful team from Global Vision International (GVI).
Through our “Health Clinics” we realised there were common health problems emerging, one of which was “stress incontinence”. We provided a workshop for local women to learn about pelvic floor exercise. Who knew that balloons and water bottles could cause such hilarity? This workshop enabled women to learn a simple exercise that they could easily do and share with their friends. Their secret exercise. Our Nepalese interpreter is now an expert at teaching this exercise and will be able to spread the word long after we have left. This seems such a simple intervention, but will hopefully improve the well being of these women.
An unexpected bonus was that our interpreter said that she was so inspired by our team, that she was now considering a career in Nursing.
'There were tears of both joy and sadness shared on our trip, but I think all of us would not hesitate and go back tomorrow.'Diane Gould, Queen's Nurse
“Our days were enjoyable, hot and humid, learning about Nepal, the people and their culture. During our time we undertook Health assessment Clinics in Pokhara and outlying villages of Male Paton, Pame and Bandipoor, where a trend of health issues emerged Hypertension, Diabetes, Epigastric Problems, Muscular skeletal and uro-gynae problems. We covered a variety of Health Promotion subjects, with hygiene advice, exercises sessions with instruction for muscular problems. We also taught first aid to a women’s group, day center helpers and a Girls empowerment group. There was also a visit to a Street boys home in Pokhara and Asha Nepal, a home for trafficked girls and young women in Kathmandu.
On reflection, I was surprised to find that hospitals, doctors and pharmacist in the areas we visited were readily available and easily accessed, although were often expensive and care offered not equitable with the developed countries health care system. People had access to adequate food although often basic. They had access to water if only from a stand pipe but many drank a great amount of fizzy drinks so suffered with dental cavities.
I witnessed first-hand the difficult life women have in Nepal, a kinship they share with women of other developing countries. One thing that does stick in my mind among the many things we saw was the day our Guide carried a load for an elderly lady across a suspension bridge at our suggestion, then bought her a bottle of water- would this have occurred if we had not asked him?
Great changes we learn through life cannot be made in an instant, and neither should it if it is to be self-sustaining through the community and following generations. We must respect culture, traditions and their life, approaching gently with understanding of things that we can help change. ‘A drop in a pond and watch the ripples spread’, thereby ensuring what is started can grow and develop further, was a good approach to adopt.
'Many things I experienced gave me hope for the future development of Nepal. Through GVI I saw and learnt of the projects ongoing and the planned initiatives they hoped to implement with the help of volunteers and local people in the future. They are one of many organizations attempting to bring about change in small ways. Maybe our Healthcare outreach group has also added to this growth.'Sue Halliwell, Queen's Nurse
“Pokhara the second largest city in Nepal, whose economy is from Trekking, has 97 districts. Each vary according to the area they are situated. In the clinics we held some were more rural than others. Not unlike rural and suburban areas we see in the Uk. The Nepalese experience many of the same health conditions with a mortality rate of 67 years; the highest deaths being accidents and infections. The climate and conditions in which they live is very different to the western world and as time went on during the trip it became more apparent the many challenges they face.
The hard work they endure was evident in all areas we worked, especially heavy loads they carried on their backs supported by their heads. The positions they work bent over tending the land and constantly swatting on their feet for hours wearing flip flops. Therefore it was no surprise at the clinics the second highest complaint was backache and joint pain. We taught them basic back and joint exercises and there was a lot of fun had with exercise classes and literature to encourage them to stretch out and move, to enable joints to become supple and not fixed.
'The laughter these classes provided was rewarding and positive as they everyone wanted to join in.'Tracy Reed, Queen's Nurse
“As a ‘virgin’ volunteer, I was not sure what to expect. Although I was aware that Nepal is a developing country, I was at times shocked at how far behind the country is in terms of healthcare provision. The health issues reflected a country with no strong policies in key areas such as health and safety, infection control and Public Health. Builders, wearing flip-flops, leaned against bamboo ladders tied together with flimsy string, the local hospital had squat toilets and no hand washing facilities and rural communities had no local access to healthcare. We met Diabetics who could not afford medication and babies dying of diarrhea and gastric complications after drinking untreated water.
Coming back to the UK, to an NHS service that strives to care and improve life; that has processes in place to provide quality care, I felt grateful in knowing that I can access free care and have choices in my lifestyle.
'The Nepalese people we helped had no choices or free care. Did we make a difference? Yes, if only a small ripple, but from small ripples great waves of progress can be achieved.'Jenny Bostock, Queen's Nurse