Sarah Wilson - Physiotherapy in Nepal
'What am I doing here?' I thought as I was driven from the safety of the airport into the unknown, not knowing anyone, a very naïve and young 19 year old. I'd been away from home before but never to a third world country volunteering and that initial trip from the airport to the hotel I'd be staying in for my first nights in Kathmandu was the scariest and most shocking trip of my life.
I was struck by the poverty and general dirtiness of the streets. The smell was another thing all together. It was sickening and hit you as soon as you got out of the airport. I was shaken up enough by the antics in the airport. My suitcase had been broken on the way out and resulted in me only having one wheel left so I ended up half dragging it through the airport as I couldn't find any trolleys.
At the doors of the exit there was a glass wall where you could see crowds of people holding pieces of paper with various names on, all with hopeful faces. I found the 'Projects Abroad' sign and headed with relief towards the man holding onto it. We struggled through the mob to greet each other but as soon as I stepped from the door there was a sudden rush toward me of locals. There were hands grabbing at my bag and a chorus telling me I wanted a taxi, asking where I was going. I let the man who'd been holding the sign take my bag as I was in no fit state to drag it across the car park! He led me to the minibus where I collapsed, my heart pounding as the bag carrier asked for money, and never felt so alone in my life.
However that all changed when the driver handed me a mobile and on the other end the director of Projects Abroad Nepal told me that she was glad I'd arrived safely that I would be transferred to the hotel and that a member of staff would come to visit me once I'd settled in.
Once I finally reached the hotel I was still quite shaken up but a visit from one of the staff from Projects Abroad really calmed me. Before then I'd not seen or heard anyone from the western world so it was really comforting.
The first two nights were the hardest by a long, long way of the entire trip. After moving to the hostel, where I spent the rest of my time, and settling into a routine of work at the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre I didn't want to leave and the two months was over way to quickly.
There were two other volunteers living in the hostel and four others nearby and we soon formed a close group. The people I met without a doubt made the trip what it was. The local people at work and 99% of the other Nepali's we met were the friendliest and kindest people I've ever met. They would go out of their way to help you and nothing was ever too much trouble.
The language was a bit of a barrier but you soon pick up a few words and people are more than happy to teach you. It was a particular problem with me being pre-physio as it was really important for people to explain to me what they were doing and why. I was really lucky because for the majority of my time I was shadowing a volunteer who'd just graduated as a physio so she was able to explain in English, and the nurses were always there to assist communication with the patients.
I couldn't have asked for anything more with my placement, it really was perfect. I learnt more than I could ever have imagined and I will always miss the people I met there. I will definitely return to Nepal and to the new Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre once it's built, hopefully in the not too distant future. The experience of just being away from everything and everyone you know is something everyone should do, it's really opened my eyes to the vast world that's out there, I've got memories that will stay with me forever that I know I'll always be able to look back on and smile and friends that I know will be friends for life.
I can't thank the staff at Projects Abroad enough for the opportunity they've given me, I wouldn't have been able to do it without their support and help that was obvious from the minute I registered right to after I landed back home. There were never doubts that if you needed someone all you had to do was pick up the phone. Having that kind of support system made me feel safer and more at home than anything and gave me the confidence to survive and enjoy my time in Nepal to the full.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Programme Advisors.