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As a professional physiotherapist, Susanne Haupt knows the tricks of the trade. With clients and a nine to five back home in Germany, Suzy expected her two weeks volunteering in Nepal to be one of observation, and maybe a chance to share some of her acquired skills. What she didn’t expect was the knowledge and memories she got back in return. “I came here to see a new culture,” Suzy said. “I didn’t think I would take so much of it back with me.”
Suzy spent her time in Nepal in Bharatpur, a bustling town west of Kathmandu. While tackling the sights and smells of a foreign locale, she also applied her talents to CMC, or Chitwan Medical Teaching Hospital. As a trained professional, Suzy was able to jump straight in to the rigors of hospital life. “From the first day I was given patients to do exercises with, and I even learned about treatments like electro-therapy and ultrasound that we rarely use back home,” Suzy remarked. An even further testament to her initiative, Suzy and another volunteer are creating posters in the physiotherapy ward to help doctors and volunteers alike. Suzy related that “we decided to write down commands in Nepali and English; things like ‘breath’ and ‘relax,’ simple words that play an important role in physio.”
Although Suzy played a significant role in her workplace, it was her colleagues that gave her a new perspective on her craft. She worked alongside three other professional Nepali physiotherapists, and one even trained in a similar methodology as her. “Kopil took care of me from the star,” Suzy said. “He is so warm-hearted, and we like to exchange our experiences because the system in Germany is so different.”
Even further testing the boundless generosity of the Nepalese, Suzy fell in love with her host family. From laidback dinner conversation to playing with her host-brother, there was no shortage of laughter and learning in the household. After leaving for a visit to the jungles of Chitwan National Park, there seemed to be something missing. “When I came back to my host family yesterday,” Suzy realized, “it was like coming home.”
While her two weeks in Bharatpur has surely impacted the way she looks at physiotherapy, it has also helped Suzy define a country that was previously a mystery. Frustrations do occur in a land unlike one’s own, but they only add to the experience of somewhere different. “I don’t have many patients back home that have been to Nepal,” Suzy added, “but now I can tell them there is more than Himalayan Mountains. There is a wonderful people and culture, eager to share it with you.”
In the last part of the interview series, Olga discusses how organizations like Projects Abroad contribute to the institutions they work at, and even offers some advice for the prospective traveler. Most importantly, she talks about meeting the Dalai Lama, who is probably the coolest man on the planet. Hope you enjoyed the interview!
Ian: A shift of gears here. In terms of volunteering and Projects Abroad, how do you think that they contribute in helping address these epidemics and problems?
Olga: Well I think at J & K House they give them a window on the world. These are children who don’t really have too many people in their lives, and I think the volunteers help to make them feel cared for. And some of them have came back year after year to see the children and have grown quite attached to them. Another thing is that Projects Abroad volunteers have raised quite a bit of money. It was a Projects Abroad volunteer years ago who volunteered at the first NRH and then went back and raised money to build additional NRHs, and she ended up funding ten NRHs, more than a million dollars worth. A volunteer from Indonesia who lives in Australia just formed an NRH chapter in Australia. There is one who is working on a chapter in Canada. These are all Projects Abroad volunteers. And they have provided quite a bit of support and financial support to the MSPN directly as well.
Ian: If you were a volunteer at one of these organizations, what do you think the most important thing would be to keep in mind while working with these children?
Olga: It’s a cultural thing; to stay within the culture. Because if a volunteer comes and talks about things that are way beyond their cultural realm, there is kind of a dissonance there and it does a disservice to the children. A volunteer may talk endlessly about all the beautiful things he has in the US and all the toys and electronics, and I don’t know what good it is telling our kids that.
Ian: It must be incredibly disheartening to hear that.
Olga: Yes, there is little hope these kids will ever have these things. At least they feel that way.
Ian: When you’re working on eradicating malnourishment, it kind of supersedes getting a new toy car, doesn’t it?
Olga: It certainly does.
Ian: Okay, final two questions. What haven’t you done or seen in Nepal that you still have left on your list?
Olga: Well I haven’t gotten to the Annapurna sanctuary yet and I probably won’t anymore. I’d love to go trekking again to areas I haven’t been. Most importantly I want to see every Nepali child get a decent education. That I think is the key to everything.
Ian: Most important question: what’s the Dalai Lama like?
Olga: He is a really cool guy! He is so personal. I don’t know how he can be like that. You get this feeling like he’s talking only to you. And he’s got a great sense humor by the way, and a wonderful laugh. For example, at that award ceremony, one of the questions was about problems they were having with their teenager, and the Dalai Lama listened and he said, “How should I know I’m a bachelor!”
Ian: Well thank you so much for talking with me Olga, it has been incredibly informative.
Olga: Of course!
The traditional Dirty Day arrived. July hosted a very interesting one with a really interesting purpose. We arranged to work alongside 'Union Femenil A.C.' an ONG that works towards the development of groups of women in different communities.
The dirty day had two main activities:
- Production of bags with recycled clothes for their sale later on. The money obtained from it will be used towards the implementation of programmes in those groups of women in the communities.
- The fabrication of a clothe rack and a coat stand. These are for the exhibition of the clothes and products produced with recycled clothes.
It was a really busy day and the personnel from Union Femenil, volunteers and staff were doing great team work!
In the middle of the day, we had the chance to have a really nice Mexican barbecue with everyone!
We want to say thank you to the volunteers who joined us, the staff from Union Femenil (Katy and Maria Elena) and the staff from Projects Abroad Mexico!
Paulina Martinez 222 days ago
Paulina Martinez 228 days ago
We are happy to announce that we have a new addition to our placement list in Projects Abroad Mexico. We are working alongside 'Parque Agua Azul' doing an interesting couple of animal care projects.
This park is one of the most important ones in Guadalajara and it is running two interesting projects:
1- Rehabilitation of Red Macaw Birds. This programme is aimed to the rescue and reproduction of this specie. The main problem facing these birds is the loss of feathers by picking themselves and removing their own feathers due to stress or boredom. Sadly, this activity is inherited from the parents and the main activity of the park is the rehabilitation of the birds and their reproduction.
2 Butterfly production. This interesting project aims to collect and produce as many butterflies as possible in the lab. After they are born, they are released into the Butterfly special area in the park.
We have had our very first volunteer collaborating in the park and it was a success. We want to say thank you to James Kitchin for his commitment and also to Ricardo Tovar and the authorities in the park!
The park is waiting for as many volunteer hands as possible, there is a lot to be done for the birds and butterflies and your help will be greatly received!
Parque Agua Azul is waiting for your visit if you are around Guadalajara, it has a lot to offer! Green spaces, butterflies, macaw birds and friendly staff around!