09 September 2004
by Marta Caceres
Volunteering in Nepal has been one of the nicest experiences I’ve had, mostly for what I’ve learned. I volunteered in Kaskikot, which is a town near Pokhara, helping in a little Health Post, and this way I’ve been able to see how different Medicine is practised there from what I’m used to, here in Spain.
There, people go to the doctor only when they are really ill, and they trust the doctor completely. They hardly complain. Instead, they try their best to get over it and, if they can’t, they accept the situation without mourning.
However, I was surprised with the shortage of some medicines and materials of the public medical system. For some problems, people have to pay the whole of the treatment and because of this, they have to take out a loan that lasts for the rest of their lives. Not everyone can afford to pay the little money required to get certain medicines, and many medical instruments we had had been donated by charities.
Besides the volunteering, I got to know the charming character of the Nepalese: they are always helping each other (as if they all were a big family), never in a hurry and always looking calm. On the other hand, in Kathmandu, shopkeepers can be very annoying; they pursue you everywhere, trying to make you buy their goods.
I think the nicest thing was to live life as they do; to take it easy and face things as they come, never loosing one’s temper, and with a big smile whenever possible.
Of couse another important thing I learned with this experience is Nepalese itself: Rupa and Matrika are the teachers at VSN who taught me the “survival course” on arrival. Later I thanked them about 20 times per day in my thoughts for all the practice...It was very useful and much easier afterwards to catch new words and sentences while volunteering. I stayed one month in Nepal, but still I was able to have a -short- conversation in Nepalese when I came back. It is an easy language to learn, except for some grammatical structures. Maybe it would have been good to have had more classes during the volunteering too, in order to learn useful structures people used when they came to the Health Post. I believe learning the language is a great idea when trying to get into a foreign country’s culture.
Looking back, it would have been better to stay at least for two or three months rather than one because, just when it was time for me to go back, was when I was best prepared, to handle work at the Heath Post. And it was then that my Nepalese was starting to become “good”...
Nevertheless, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I think the programmes VSN are carrying out are really useful for the local people, and I’ve liked the Nepalese way of life very much, so, when I finish my medical studies I may be coming back to stay a bit longer...
Submitted by Ms Rupa Shrestha