Fiona’s story

Fiona Stephenson has worked at SIRC for 5 months as the Volunteer Coordinator and also provided training and support to the SIRC team during her time there.  Fiona leveraged her post-earthquake experience in Haiti to post-earthquake Nepal.  SIRC was really really fortunate to have Fiona be part of the team.  A huge thank you to Fiona!

This is a story about Fiona’s time in Nepal at SIRC that I am reproducing from SpireFM.  The article starts now.

“A South Wiltshire woman who spent the last five months in Nepal helping victims of the earthquake there says the support and aid for people affected needs to continue.

Fiona Stephenson (pictured here) from Winterbourne Gunner travelled to the country in the aftermath of the quake, which killed over 8,600 people back in April.


She’s been working in Nepal’s only spinal injury rehab centre, and will be going back there next month.

Fiona says it’s been a steep learning curve from them:

“If you can imagine going from 38 spinal cord injury patients up to 200, that’s an incredible challenge from anybody. I can’t even imagine if we could do that in this country, but anyway, we did it! With the capacity building came a lot of training, getting appropriate equipment in and medication in.”

Nepal Post Earthquake 4 (Fiona Stephenson)

Nepal Post Earthquake 5 (Fiona Stephenson)

Nepal Post Earthquake 1 (Fiona Stephenson)

Fiona’s got a history of working in disaster zones, spending three years in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there.

She says in Nepal, the increase in patients has posed some problems:

“90% of our patients home were destroyed in the earthquake, which is a huge figure, especially if you’re thinking about where do you discharge your patients? Their home is destroyed. That sort of thing has had a knock on effect to the care that we’ve been able to provide, just to make sure the patients have somewhere safe to go that’s accessible because now these patients are in wheelchairs.”

Click on this link to hear more from her about her time in the country this time around.

[Kate’s note – the recording is only 6 mins long and well worth the time.  Fiona really gives a feel for what it was like on the ground, and the challenges she faced].

But after five months of living and working in the aftermath of the quake, Fiona says she in awe of the way the country’s been coping.

She says the work has been challenging but rewarding and she’s getting ready to go back out there.

Nepal Post Earthquake 3 (Fiona Stephenson)

Nepal Post Earthquake 2 (Fiona Stephenson)

And Fiona says conditions in Nepal were a bit of a surprise:

“When I landed, I expected to see real devastation, as I had seen in Haiti with tents everywhere, rubble everywhere and just pandemonium. In Nepal, it was calmer. Driving through Kathmandu, people were just clearing up and rebuilding, even from when I went there in May, which was not long after the earthquake. Their ethos is very much ‘let’s pick ourselves up and get on with it’.”

The spinal injury rehabilitation centre only runs as a result of charitable donations – if you want to find out more, you can find their fundraising page at”

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 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 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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