14th Annual ASCoN Conference, Kathmandu

Forgive me for my tardy report on the 14th Annual ASCoN Conference, held here in Kathmandu December 3rd to 5th, 2015.  Between sporadic internet connections, it was a week of much to do and a grant application deadline in the middle of it all.  The conference consumed SIRC but the reality is, the patients still needed care and therapy, and their family members/caretakers needed our support – I thought the SIRC staff juggled all of their responsibilities splendidly.

So who is ASCoN?  The Asian Spinal Cord Network (ASCoN) was initiated in 2001 following a meeting of regional experts during the International Conference on Spinal Cord Lesion Management hosted by the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), Bangladesh.  ASCoN has 75 member organizations in 18 countries across Asia.  Each year, one of its members hosted the regional conference and this year it was Nepal and SIRC’s 3rd time to host the event.

2015 brought many challenges for SIRC, with the two large earthquakes in April and May 2015 respectively, but also the border blockade and subsequent fuel restrictions that have been ongoing now for 3.5 months.  Hats off to the organizing committee for making the conference happen!

The conference itself was opened by none other than the newly appointed President of Nepal:  H.E. Bidhya Devi Bhandari. We were very fortunate to have her attend, to receive our gifts and then to speak on her empathy for those with SCI and the importance of providing healthcare as well as rebuilding Nepal in the wake of the earthquakes.  Here are a few pictures for you.

Waiting for the president

From left, SIRC Board members – Meera, Arvind, Kumudini and Shanta, as well as Stephen from Livability, Prof. Wyndaele President of ISCoS and Nepal’s Minister of Health & Population …. awaiting the arrival of Her Excellency

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President of Nepal: H.E. Bidhya Devi Bhandari lighting the panas (oil lamp) to officially open the conference

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Opening ceremony speeches by Esha Thapa Dhungana, Executive Director SISN

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Sonika, SIRC’s Peer Counsellor presenting Her Excellency with a copy of the newly published Patient Stories book.

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Dr Chabbra of India, presenting Her Excellency with a copy of the newly published ISCoS Textbook on Comprehensive Management of Spinal Cord Injuries

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Her Excellency presenting Valerie Taylor of CRP Bangladesh, with the ASCoN Star Award in recognition of her hard work and dedication to those with spinal cord injuries everywhere. Well deserved Valerie!!

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Sonika, yet again presenting Her Excellency with a basket of artisanal products made by patients & ex-patients of SIRC.

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Esha and Maggie looking pretty please with how the conference was going!

participants main hall

Conference participants at one of the many sessions

end of conference

An end of conference photo, we are all relieved and look pretty darn pleased with ourselves! A team effort for sure – Jai SIRC!

Thank you to the conference’s Key Sponsors:  Livability, UK Aid, Direct Relief, Spirit and Himalayan Bank.

More posts to follow on some of the sessions,, the people and of course the Gala Dinner ….. man do these ASCoN folks know how to party!!

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 www.bomkarlsson.com 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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