How does Volunteering in Nepal sound? Sport & Spinal have been volunteering our services to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities in remote parts of Australia for a while now. You can read more about some of our Charitable Works Programs in Palm Island, (here and here), North East Arnhem Land (here and here), and Nepal. This time we’ve amped up our program and we’re volunteering in Nepal.
My Experience in Nepal
I recently travelled to Nepal for a hiking trip through the Annapurna region with Matt Eakin, co-founder of Hike Himalaya Adventures. We started our trip with a few days in Kathmandu organising our equipment. Kathmandu was an interesting place, but it was good to get out of the dusty city and get into the mountains. However, this meant getting a jeep ride to our starting point which meant travelling along a bumpy road cut into the side of a mountain.
The road had many large rocks and this meant the jeep would rock side to side, sometimes towards the valley a few hundred metres below us. This was by far the most frightening part of our journey. Sometimes I peered out the window and noticed that our tyres were only a few inches away from the side of the cliff.
Trekking & Mountaineering in Nepal
After the jeep ride with our heart rates slowly settling down, we began our trek. We generally walked about 5-6 hours per day over 12-15kms, gaining about 400-500m vertical per day. Overnight we would stay in tea houses. It was basic accommodation but at least we had a bed and were provided with warm Nepalese meals.
Along the way, Matt and I ventured into some mountaineering, climbing Chulu Far East (6100m) in the process. It was a tough day taking just on 11 hours. We started our day at 2am and summited at about 9am. The weather was great with some awesome views around us until the clouds rolled in 15min before we got to the summit. This was my first time doing such a thing and I was pleasantly surprised how safe I felt, much more so than the jeep ride getting us to our start point in the first place.
Overall it was a great adventure and I was well looked after by the guides and porters from Hike Himalaya Adventures. The porters were amazing. They would carry up to 50kg up and down the mountain. Despite my suggestion of using a backpack, they opted to carry the load using the traditional Nepalese way. This meant using a rudimentary strap (usually out of baling twine or a cut off from a bag of grain) under our bags and over their foreheads. I was both concerned and fascinated at the same time.
Volunteering Nepal: An Idea Emerges
Along our hiking adventures, Matt mentioned the poor state of health of the Nepalese in the remote rural villages. These people really are quite disadvantaged with poor education facilities, housing and health support. As I was hiking along, I started thinking to myself that Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy and Your Podiatry Canberra could help out. I floated the idea to Matt that our organisation could send allied health professionals over to Nepal to help out where we could and he was very enthusiastic.
Identifying Women’s Health Problems
He mentioned the main health concerns of the villages were womens health problems, foot and ankle pain, and spinal pain. Many of the women in the villages also suffer horrendously from incontinence and other pelvic floor issues, particularly after child birth. Many women resume lifting duties in the fields too early after birth, resulting in their pelvic floor not recovering to normal function.
Incontinence can be a burden at the best of times, but when you are poor and cannot afford sanitary pads and the like, it can make life particularly uncomfortable. This is where our womens health physios could provide some training and education to the local people and community nurses to help retrain their pelvic floor muscles.
Identifying Podiatry Issues
Many village people have feet and ankle problems generally from walking around in thongs or unsupportive shoes. They also suffer from nail and skin problems. The podiatrists at Your Podiatry Canberra could help out here.
Identifying Biomechanical Problems
Back and neck pain is common in these villages. Poor manual handling techniques and long hours bending and digging in the fields tending to their crops puts a lot of pressure onto the spinal areas and it no wonder that many village people suffer from back and neck pain.
Our physios could help out by showing the local people how to take proper care of their backs and necks with correct lifting technique. Again, our focus would be on long term results, so ideally, we would be educating the community nurses as well.
How our Volunteering Nepal Program Works
Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy and Your Podiatry Canberra will support any staff member who wishes to volunteer their time in Nepal. Hike Himalaya Adventures will provide support and guides for the volunteers as they travel to the poorest villages and those most in need. We will also provide financial support for our staff member while they are in Nepal. It is our aim to start our first health support trip in April 2018.
Anyone is also welcome to come along if you simply want to volunteer your time and paint a school house or hammer some nails to help improve the housing needs in the villages. We will connect you with Hike Himalaya Adventures who will then provide support and guides for your time in Nepal.
How You can Help
You can help our program by volunteering your time in Nepal or donating some much needed items. The Nepalese villages can get very cold at night in winter, so any spare blankets or clothes will go along way. The schools also need school books and stationary supplies like pencils and crayons. The children have rudimentary toys to play with. Prakash (co-founder of Hike Himalaya Adventures) explains how his village made soccer balls with socks and paper when he was a child.
So if you have some spare toys lying around the house, please think of donating them to these Nepalese villages.
Things to Donate
- Sporting Equipment
- Beanies & Gloves
Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy will collect any items that you would like to donate. We will start collecting in February 2018 and you can drop any items off at our Gungahlin or City West practice.
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact our reception in the first instance.