ASCoN 2015 – the first of the 5 Ps

5Ps you ask?  The theme for this year’s conference was “Quality of Life after Spinal Cord Injury” and there were five areas of focus:

  • Policy
  • Prevention
  • People
  • Practice
  • And of course PARTY!

I’ll start with the fifth P – Party.

The tradition every year is to throw a Gala Dinner where everyone can get dressed up and let their hair down.  This year was no exception.  The evening started with three dance presentations from staff members of SIRC, two groups performing traditional Nepali dances, while the 3rd group were made up of wheelchair users who crafted a dance routine called Selfie – they were awesome!

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A cross section of SIRC staff performing at the Gala Dinner including Anu who works in the Admin team (second from left)

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Another group of beautiful ladies from SIRC including Mandira, Sheela and Susmila representing nursing, social work and psychology …. with Keshab to the left representing OT, not to miss out on posing for a photo.

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The wheelchair dancing troupe including Ram, Lali, Kesh and Sonika taking a well deserved bow to rapturous applause from the whooping crowd!

And then the cultural exchange happened …. where every country is required to perform something that represents the culture of their country.  This was one of (the many) highlights of the evening, full of hilarity and togetherness.  I hear it was the idea of Dr Apichana from Thailand to incorporate this kind of event into the Gala Dinner – how right she was.  Take a look.

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The Bangladeshi team treating us to a folk song

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Prof. Wyndaele, President of ISCoS and representing Belgium, wrote a love poem to his wife. I think she was the braver of the two on stage!

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The Indian team led by Dr Chabbra giving it their all to a Punjabi number. There was not a stationary body in the house!

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Dr Katrina Collins representing Ireland is not only a brilliant Monitoring & Evaluation expert, but is also an All Ireland Dancing Champion. These ASCoN participants are an interesting and diverse bunch with an array of talents.

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The beautiful and talented songstress Dr Renee Maschke representing Italy

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The Korean team performing …. you guessed it … Gangham Style. They were not alone on the stage for long 🙂

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Lone representative Nazirah Hasnan from Malaysia so she pulled her husband onto the stage for moral support. Good friend Peter Murray from Australia also joined in the fun … they read the Malay lyrics off a smartphone!

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Another lone representative from Myannmar, so nothing would do Stephen but join her on the stage for her dance routine.

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And then the Nepali team hit the stage and all hell broke loose. There was so much dancing going on, we got them off the stage for fear of injury!

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Next up Inge and Dirk representing the Netherlands, reciting the story of St Nicholas – how timely given ’tis the festive season for many of us.

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Inka representing Sweden, using her beautiful voice to serenade the crowd.

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And then it was Dr Apichana’s Thai team’s turn to perform ….. they initially got off to a rocky start but found their way soon enough.

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The large contingent from the UK treated us to the Hokey Pokey! I think I see Dr Stan (a US citizen) seeking his moment of glory on the left.  He never misses out on anything fun.

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Part 2 of the UK’s performance was the singing of a lovely old English folk song by Dave Webber, CEO of Livability

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The US team (from left:  Stan, Aaron, Ron and Claire) getting themselves set up for performing their magic trick. All I can say is …. you had to be there ……

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And now a few fun shots, Suresh (left) and Keshab (right) with Prajwal in the background

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Maggie & Stephen each glittered up for the evening


Remember this was a cultural exchange, so Nikita (left) and Archana (right) decided to dress western for the evening. Stunning!


Dolma Sherpa radiant after her “Selfie” performance


Sonika looking very elegant after a quick costume change


And finally, a photo of me in a sari with Archana (l), Katrina (c) and Stan (r).




The beautiful Archana Shah Kanajit, ASCoN Coordinator along with her handsome husband Suraj.


The young folks having a blast! From left: Suraj, Inge, Archana, Nikita and Anu


At the end of the evening, Stephen Muldoon of Livability with the ASCoN Organizing Team: from left Anu, Archana and Nikita.

Once the Cultural Programme ended, the dancing started … and did not stop until midnight when the residents of the Gokarna hotel had had enough.  It did not stop a few of us from sitting around bonfires until the week hours sampling Nepali whiskey.  Not such a good idea when a few of us had to report to the Hyatt by 6.30am for the final day of the conference.  we survived!

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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One Response to ASCoN 2015 – the first of the 5 Ps

  1. Mick Canning says:

    It looked a good evening!

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