Not a spare minute in the day

As you know, I arrived Tuesday evening and went to SIRC first thing Wednesday morning, and it has been non-stop since.  The place is a hive of activity.

From what I can gather, there are about 70 patients at the centre at the moment, the remaining 130 or so patients who arrived immediately after the earthquakes, have mostly completed their three to six month rehabilitation.  Some have been fortunate enough to regain their ability to walk, others have not been so lucky.  Those whose homes are still intact, have gone home.  Those whose homes are no longer, are staying in a newly-built step-down facility constructed on the SIRC grounds by Médecins Sans Frontières.

By step-down facility I mean an environment that allows ex-patients to continue to receive daily physio and other therapies as well as providing an opportunity to reintegrate back into daily life with the skills they need to be as independent as possible.  For instance to be able to look after their own personal hygiene, cook, do general household chores etc as well as getting comfortable navigating around a typical Nepali home in a wheelchair / with other mobility aids.  This is a bit of a departure from MSF’s usual – the provision of emergency care as a result of disasters or war – but it is a welcome departure for SIRC and their ex-patients.  MSF are also providing a team of on-site doctors, something the centre has not always had the finances to do in the past.  Given the acute needs of some of the patients, having on-site doctors provides enhanced medical care to those who need it, and takes a little pressure off the nursing team.

Once the staff bus arrives, ferrying staff from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and closer still from the Saanga area, the step-down inhabitants as well as the patients head down to the large therapy rooms on the ground floor at 9.30am on the button.  There, the significantly increased team of physios, rehab specialists, occupational therapists, peer counsellors, psychologists and social workers start their busy day, working with each and every person until 3pm, taking a short break for lunch.  The medical teams of doctors and nurses commence their rounds, assessing every patient’s medical needs and monitoring their state of health.  3pm to 4pm is the Daily Learning Hour where expert and experienced presenters make presentations on specific topics, building on the hands-on coaching these experts deliver as the teams work with individual patients.

Meanwhile, the kitchen staff have already been up for many hours, working their wonders in the outdoor cooking area with wood-burning stations, cooking 2 meals and one snack a day for over 300 people.  The cleaning staff have already been hard at it too, mopping walls and floors in the cabins (which many of us know as wards), walkways etc, as well as cleaning all the toilets & bathrooms, kitchen canteen and office areas.  Whew!  It is a never ending job, yet the place is always spick and span.

The temporary wards that were housed in tents to cater for the large numbers of patients post-earthquakes are for the most part gone.  One tent is left and serves as a play/learning area for the pediatric patients as well as the children of patients and their caretakers.  The kids are ably schooled by an ex-patient who is a teacher by profession and happy to give back to SIRC, grateful for the rehabilitation services he received post-earthquake.

The Admin team under the leadership of Dipesh Pradhan and Esha Thapa Dhungana is crazy busy these days.  Besides the usual day to day operations of the centre, there is also a lot of other things going on.  I just do not know how Esha and Dipesh keep track of it all.

The 14th annual ASCoN conference is probably the biggest additional project on their list currently.  The conference is being hosted by SIRC this year, in fact it’s this week! (Dec 3 – 5).  Just under 300 participants are attending, so you can imagine the logistics around that, especially with the effects of the blockade on fuel restrictions.  The ASCoN Conference Team is made up of Archana, Nikita, Anu and Kiran, assisted by a few young volunteers.  Shyam the finance guy is excessively busy receiving so many registration fees and paying invoices above and beyond the normal volume.  They have been working many a weekend, including this one to ensure it all runs smoothly.  Based on the effort they each have put in, I’m sure it will!

The 3-day programme is jammed packed that includes numerous symposiums, workshops, seminars, presentations and awards ceremonies.  In addition, there is a sporting demonstration as well as a cultural component during the Gala Dinner and knowing the Nepalese, there will a bit of craic too.  I’m told the dancing at the Gala Dinner starts at 10pm so I best get my dancing shoes at the ready.

The timing is perfect really as SIRC has had such tremendous support from its friends around the world, it is a good time to get together, learn from the year that was and celebrate how far we have all come.  For me, it’s just brilliant to be able to meet people in person, people whom I have been emailing and skyping with for a long time now.  It also gives me the chance to return to my beloved Nepal.

Other key activities I am aware of this week include the preparation of progress reports for key donors, as well as the collation of data for a research project, delivery of 3-day SCI-related training to Government hospital workers and more proposal-writing to initiate further projects that are in the SIRC strategic plan.

As for me, I have been writing writing writing since I got here (and I thought I had left that behind me Lindsey!).  I have had focused and long days at SIRC, interspersed with lunchtimes in the warmth of the sun and much fun and laughter with the team.  Coffee is keeping us going, as are lapsi candies (lapsi is a fruit here in Nepal).

All is good with the world.

PS.  I have ideas for lots of more posts, so bear with me as I gather some details, get some photos together and have the time to write the blog posting, and then have a wifi connection to post it.  Many things need to align, don’t you know!

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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2 Responses to Not a spare minute in the day

  1. jgedye says:

    As busy as you are keep the idea of crafts in the back of your mind for future development. The model from Maiwa is to focus on the lessons and talents already in use = what their moms & grannies taught them and then find ways to capitalize on that. at maiwa for instance there is one group of embroiderers – they embroider from babies – mostly clothing for their trousseau – or the equivalent – and then charlotte supplies the best with the best materials and gets them to make fabric which can become a pillow top instead of the front of a dress – encourage the best people to teach others, etc. your job is to figure out what the grannies are teaching – or grampas if it is sex specific = carving? Weaving? Possibly knitting. Spinning. All can be done from a chair, some from a bed.


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