What Can One Person Achieve?
Personal history and background to medical projects in Nepal:
• I was born in Madi area south of Kathmandu on March 8, 1970, and grew up in the remote village of Meghauli, Nepal, where about 99% of Nepali population lives by subsistence farming.
• Access to education was difficult, and although I was able to attend school my parents had to pay fees for the education that was of an extremely low standard.
• Health care was practically non-existent aside from local traditional medicine practitioners using herbal medicine.
• As I grew older I became increasingly frustrated with the state of both the health care and of the educational system that were surrounding me.
• At the age of 17, I finished education, left home, and went to work in the city. It was difficult to find work but a friend helped me to get a job as the bartender on a hydroelectric project.
• Once I saved enough money, in 1989 I returned to my village, Meghauli, where I directed and participated in the construction of a guest house made of local building materials, accommodating 8 to 10 people. In addition, in my spare time I taught and tutored children of which many belonged to the under priviledged groups in the village.
• In 1991 I was sponsoring university students and I already had in my mind to also go to the capital to enroll at the university in medical studies; then, one night I found a few German and Nepali people taking shelter in the guest house. They were traveling Nepal helping to improve the lives of people with Leprosy, disabilities and living in poverty. I joined the team and was given training as a health worker. Disagreements among the group of trainers led me, together with a group of friends, to leave with the purpose of creating a health clinic and rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu. This project evolved into the establishing of an addition to the existing hospital and this addition was officially inaugurated on 22nd of July 1992.
• Now earning money, I continued to personally sponsor students, and teachers in my village/district. Over time, I have been in a position to sponsor more and more children and teachers. I now sponsor over 100 students (20 of whom have graduated and are working as junior electrical engineer, nurses, teachers, etc.) and the three teachers one for each of 3 rural schools.
• In 1996 I returned to Meghauli with the vision of opening a medical clinic. I sought support from my family, local people, as well as from individuals and organisations over-seas and little by little the project came into existence. By then I had also sold all personal possessions that had some value to add to the financial capital. My parents’ permission to sell a piece of land to build the medical clinic was essential. I said to my father that I would first try to raise the money and if I did not succeed, we would then sell the land. Money was raised successfully to cover construction cost. At the same time, I wrote about a hundred letters to various potential donors describing my vision. One of them a British whom I had helped when he was lost in Nepal, responded raising money from his family and from others in the UK. Most of the money to built the clinic came from these donors. However, to cover travel, transportation, communication expenses as well as food, the land was sold at a later date.
• In 1997 ‘Clinic Nepal’ was finally established, with many sub-projects quickly developing from this time on, in the following fields pertaining to health, education, clean water.
• Friendship Clinic Nepal – primary health care centre, run by a multi-disciplinary medical team including: local and volunteer doctors, nurses, midwife, pharmacist, and clinic manager.
• Free Health Camps – a mobile team of health practitioners, both local professionals and foreign volunteers who travel to remote villages that are otherwise isolated from any form of medical treatment. Patients that travel for many miles to attend the health camps are given treatment and medicine free of charge, and where appropriate referrals for specialist investigation and/or surgery are made, for which the patients will be sponsored.
• Specialist treatment and surgery - Patients that attend the Health Camps or visit the Friendship Clinic with conditions requiring specialist treatment or surgery are sponsored by individual sponsors.
• Ambulance service – the clinic has 1 ambulance that is used in emergencies. For example: snake bites; problematic labour; or injuries from wild animal attacks (rhinoceros, tigers).
• Student sponsorship – over 150 students are currently sponsored to receive an education. 3 kindergartens (one of which is a boarding school) have been established and are maintained through sponsorship, and financial aid is given to government/local schools when needed.
• Scout groups – have been established to encourage the younger generation to adopt positive behaviour in relation to health and education.
• Vocational training – offered to adults in the local communities to enable them to earn an income and support their families. Vocations include: electrician; lab technician; mechanic; builder; and midwife.
• Farming for kindergarten – purchase and maintenance of cows and goats that produce milk for the children, often malnourished. Rice, wheat, maize, vegetables and fruits are also grown, some of which are sold to generate a small income.
• Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation Project – Near the end of the first year (1997) of the Clinic it was apparent that approximately half of the problems patients presented were related to poor sanitation and water borne diseases; local people used the river banks, fields, roads, and ground outside their own homes as a latrine an were reluctant to change their ways, despite the education given by staff at the clinic.
• Particular problems were apparent during monsoon season when the water levels rise, bringing disease into the local water source through open wells (5-15 feet deep).
• Within Meghauli village development community there are 2865 house holds, and only 213 of these had a latrine at the time when Clinic Nepal was established.
• The clinic staff approached the community by visiting local villages, groups, and individual homes to educate, and motivate people about how they can implement good hygiene (both personal and food) and agree to the installation, and use, of a latrine.
• In 2002 Clinic Nepal started the safe water and sanitation project, installing one water pump between 5 to 10 houses, drawing water from a depth that enables access to safe water (30-35 feet). There are now 241 water pumps that have been installed.
• In the same year Clinic Nepal started to install latrines within local houses, and within the past 10 years 2652 latrines have been installed, meaning that all the houses in the village development community have a latrine.
• Since the introduction of the safe water and sanitation project there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of water borne diseases in the Meghauli village development community, which has achieved full sanitation; a unique occurrence in Nepal!
• There are 3913 village development communities in Nepal, 13 of which have been declared as a ‘no open latrine zone’; however Meghauli is the only village development community to achieve FULL sanitation.
Summary: As a result of the events and the creation of successful projects in my life it has become obvious to me that health and education are inextricably linked. This may be well known in western countries, yet the idea in Nepal is still in its beginning.
In order to achieve my goal in the health care system, i.e. providing access to health care for all members of the community, it was essential that local communities were educated. Only through persistent education, of both children and adults, has it been possible to achieve the dramatic improvement observed in the health and welfare of people in Meghauli village development community.
For now I aim to maintain the Clinic Nepal and its associated projects, though in the future I hope to develop the facilities and projects already in place, and establish a hospital that is run without depending on volunteers from over-seas. However, I feel that it is important for local and international supporters, sponsors, and/or friends to visit Clinic Nepal and the projects for many years to come as we are always able to learn from one another.
I am particularly grateful to numerous friends, British, German, Gibraltarian, Americans, Spanish, Malaysians, Australians, and from many other countries and regions of the world, for helping me to realize my vision with both financial and friendly support.
On another personal level, to maintain myself, my family and members of my extended family, I developed business to sell arts and crafts of Nepal in Germany, United States, and Spain, and I also work independently in the organization of yearly travel tours in Nepal (trekking, climbing mountains, white water rafting, and wildlife activities in the jungle (elephant rides, jungle work, jungle drive).