Working at SIRC

Although my resume is fairly decent, I must admit some apprehension that my skills would be transferable to the needs of SIRC.  There was no need for my apprehension, SIRC is a very well-run organization ably managed by Esha and her team, and supported by its dynamic board.  Their dreams for SIRC are huge, but they have come so far since setting out to provide SCI (spinal cord injury) rehabilitation services to the people of Nepal.  In just a short 12 years, they have gone from an idea to a superb clinic providing rehabilitation to just under 1,200 people during this period. Where SIRC patients are from The clinic is run just like a business, and the growth and operations have been guided by many organizations including Stephen Muldoon of Livability Ireland  The Irish are everywhere, aren’t they?

My first task was to read a myriad of documents, papers and other materials to familiarize myself with SIRC etc.  That took me about a week.  The 2014-2018 Strategic Plan was finalized in the weeks before my arrival, and I have been tasked with making headway on two of the objectives.

The first in relation to building awareness of SIRC through networking/communication and the all-important fundraising to cover ongoing operating costs of the clinic, much needed equipment and tools, modification of patients homes as well as the establishment of a Poor Patient Fund.

The second objective is to strengthen human resource development for SIRC staff, specifically implementing a performance management system. As a reminder, I am only here 5 months so there is much to do!  But they are an able team and with a few additions, it all might come off before I leave end April 2014.

Fortunately, I have been able to track down two Kathmandu universities with MBA programs who include internships as part of their programs.  One set of interns will be available in the 3rd week in February and the other set will be available in June.  The plan is to hire two interns both in February and June.  The interns starting in February will be coached and mentored by me and we should be able to pull off two fundraising events plus get the awareness campaign underway by the time I leave.  I’ll prepare a bunch of work for the June interns and they will be overseen by Esha and her team.

On Sunday, Esha and I are meeting with the Fundraising Committee primarily made up of board members.  In the past week I have prepared a presentation that outlines what I believe are the deliverables associated with the objectives from the strategic plan.  It’s this we will present and seek their further ideas and approval.  Later that day we’ll meet the website guy afterwards to lay out the additional features we need implemented on the website.  So it is all go, albeit at a slower pace which I am grateful for – I am enjoying this work and am very much convinced I can add value here.

I spent the last two hours with Prajwal who is SIRC’s CBR guy (community based rehabilitation).  He showed me some recent photos and movies of home modifications he has organized.  Home modifications are critical to the improvement of the quality of life of the patient in their home setting, and in some instances, allows the patient to contribute to the household in a tangible way.  Very inspiring and it reminds me of the value of the work I am doing.  I’ll touch more on this in another post for sure.

Yesterday, Esha and I visited Sable, a factory run by a Nepali whose sister is married to (you guessed it) an Irish guy – they live in Co Meath.  Told you we are everywhere!  With Livability Ireland’s guidance, SIRC secured funding from Lloyds Bank to enhance the vocational training program (VT) for SIRC patients, with the aim for the patient to earn an income from a ‘real’ job during and once they leave the clinic.

Sable manufactures bags, wallets, iPad holders etc using recycled inner tubes from truck wheels as well as cow’s leather.  They also have a 30-man silver jewelry-making operation and a department that also makes cotton clothing. They primarily distribute and sell their products to the German market.

Sable are open to outsourcing much of the preparatory work and due to the Livability Ireland connection, are happy to work with SIRC.  Most of this work can be done by those in wheelchairs and without specialized tools so it’s an ideal partnership. The SIRC facility has the space to accommodate this work.

We worked out the logistics behind a training program, delivery of the raw materials and collection of the products, as well as the all-important payment per completed piece.  With the Lloyds funding, a Project Officer can be hired to expand this concept so when patients return home, they can continue to complete this work and get paid.

A really worthwhile program and something that makes a clear difference to the lives of patients.  It was really neat to play a small part in getting this program up and running.

As you can see, there is lots afoot at SIRC, I don’t know how Esha keeps track of everything plus being a mother to a 4-year old and a 6-month old – pretty impressive.  Let’s hope I can be as impressive as Esha and the team!

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in now that the planning portion is nearing the end.  It’s where I am most comfortable, rolling up my sleeves.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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4 Responses to Working at SIRC

  1. Hi Kate,
    Lindsay here, Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. Just wanted to say that I am enjoying your blogs about life in Nepal. Sounds alike you are having a great experience.

  2. Tandi says:

    Kate, This looks like a wonderful organization, but your task is a bit daunting, at least for me. Good luck!

    • Kate Coffey says:

      I am sure your goals would be radically different to mine and I would think they were daunting for me! We all have our skills. Glad you are following along to the blog. If you return to Nepal, you will have to come visit. You will be impressed from your medical perceptive.

  3. bkmiec says:

    Hey Kate… this work with SIRC seems right up your alley, and as usual, your enthusiasm and readiness to dive in is palpable. Must be really satisfying to be part of the work with Sable, which is clearly going to have a meaningful impact in the lives of those who the clinic supports. Sounds like SIRC is a well-thought out organization. And yes, oh those Irish! Nice to have those connections!

    I’m also happy to hear you discovered a country walk alternative to the dusty dangerous main road — photos?! : )


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