Jessica Woolerton - Nursing in Nepal
I was 22 years old, halfway through my second year of studying adult nursing at university and spending too much money on nights out, parties and food. I knew this couldn’t continue and decided it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something challenging. My housemate and I had discussed volunteering abroad previously and decided it would be an amazing adventure if we travelled together! Projects Abroad was one of the first companies we came across, and after looking at their extensive destination list, we chose to volunteer our nursing skills in Nepal.
In the months leading up to our trip, Projects Abroad were very helpful. They had given us a volunteer advisor who we could email or phone with any questions we had about the trip, including culture shock, the weather in Nepal, our host families and more! We were always answered promptly and with more than enough detail. With our trip only days away, we were wished a safe journey and a great three weeks.
Namaste from Nepal
Arriving in Nepal, the heat hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt a million miles away from my home back in the UK. Having a friend by my side and an exciting opportunity ahead of me was enough to keep me going. We were met by a Projects Abroad staff member who escorted us to the hotel in Kathmandu that we would be staying at for the night. After a quick power nap and freshening up we met a Projects Abroad coordinator who showed us around Thamel. It was crazy! There were cars, vans, busses, mopeds and pedestrians all whizzing around the roads together. Horns beeping, people cooking and dogs sleeping were all sights I was not used to seeing in the middle of a road.
After an early night we were up early, ready to embark on the six hour bus journey to Bharatpur, Chitwan. The journey along the cliff edge was scary but the views were amazing, really something special. When we got to the hotel, the air conditioning was a treat and the staff was really welcoming. We discussed living arrangements, hospital shifts, meeting other volunteers and activities we could do in our spare time. They also prepared us for the fact that every day there would be power cuts and ceiling fans and plug sockets would be out of use. It sounded like the next three weeks were going to be ones to remember!
Rice, vegetable curry and our host family
We were shown to our host family’s house a few hours after arriving in Chitwan. We became accustomed to their way of life slowly but surely. They lived above a girl’s hostel so we were on the top floor and between my friend and I, we had a large room and our own bathroom. Showering with cold water everyday seems like an unpleasant thought, but it was just what we needed after working in 30 degree heat when we weren’t used to it! Our host parents had two young children of school age who were full of energy and very playful, which was lovely. We played UNO, helped with homework and they even tried to teach us some basic Nepali, which we weren’t very good at!
For dinner every evening, we ate dal bhat and vegetable curry. I really enjoyed the home made curry although it was a lot spicier than what I’m used to. Eating rice everyday though was not something I would do again! On our penultimate evening with the family, we went to a local shop and bought the material for a traditional Nepali dress and trousers. It was handmade that evening and ready to be collected the next day. It is a lovely keepsake and I will always remember the time I spent with the family.
My Medicine placement
On our first day at the hospital, a Projects Abroad coordinator showed us around the medical departments. We were then allowed to choose which department we wanted to start in. We decided on a surgical ward as this was of interest to both of us. We were allowed to join in on doctor’s rounds and although most consultations were done in Nepali, all the patient’s medical notes were written in English so this made it easier to understand their situations.
A lovely group of student nurses explained the procedures to us and we swapped stories of the illnesses we had seen. We saw a fascinating, yet sad condition called necrotising fasciitis. I really felt for the patient as it must have been extremely painful. We also managed to see a few live births in the maternity ward, surgery in the operating theatre, CPR in the emergency department and we even spent a short time in the psychiatric ward. Although life in a Nepalese hospital is somewhat different to ours, they are making the best out of their situation and the facilities they have.
Goodbye Chitwan, hello Pokhara!
In our final week of travel we left the people of Chitwan behind and journeyed to the more touristy part of Nepal known as Pokhara. We had a great week with the other volunteers. We met volunteers from America, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Japan and many other countries which was definitely a highlight for me. I now have contacts from every corner of the world! Together, we hiked down the side of Sarangkot at 6am, flew down a zip line at high speeds, got caught in a monsoon and watched The Lion King at an open air cinema. It was a wonderful week to top off a fantastic volunteer experience in Nepal. I thoroughly enjoyed my time away and would definitely recommend it to anyone. I am already looking forward to my next adventure!