SCI training in Jumla

Where is Jumla you might ask?  I knew it was far far west of Kathmandu, but couldn’t point it out in a map to save my life.

The star indicates the location of Kathmandu and the district called Kabhre Palanchok - the location of SIRC

The star indicates the location of Kathmandu and the district called Kabhre Palanchok – the location of SIRC

Jumla is 830km from Kathmandu – 3 days and 2 nights travel by jeep along bumpy, mountainous, unpaved narrow “roads” where vehicles have for the most part, just a few inches to spare from the sheer drop at the edge of the “road”. I am told there were a number of hairy moments as the SIRC travelled to Jumla – one team member told me she “was chanting and remembering God throughout my journey”.  It does not bear thinking about.

Bad roads



Dangerous Road... yes we passed it anyway

Elevations in Jumla range from between 2000m and 5000m and it boasts the highest point in the world where rice is cultivated (at 3000m).

Following the trails of numerous hills

Over the years, SIRC has received some 176 patients with spinal cord injury from the Mid-Western region of Nepal, many of whom were initially cared for in the district hospital in Jumla (population 110,000).  There is a relatively high instance of SCI in the Jumla region purely to it’s topography – people travelling by foot carrying heavy loads along narrow mountainous trails at the edge of the cliff or along the river.  Dangerous stuff.  I have no doubt the district hospital does it’s level best in treating patients with new spinal cord injuries, but the reality is there is very little training on SCI management for health care professionals – they can only do their best.

Up until now, SIRC has never had the manpower nor the funds to travel so far west and take a leadership role in building capacity of local healthcare professionals in SCI management.  That is until Direct Relief provided the funding to do so.

I have to say, Direct Relief – recently ranked #1 in the Top Ten Charities in the US – have provided tremendous support to SIRC since last year’s earthquakes, and have enabled SIRC to provide a high-standard of patient care and education of healthcare professionals across Nepal.   Through their support, Direct Relief are making a key contribution to the future of Nepal’s healthcare system.  Direct Relief

Through Direct Relief and UKAid’s ongoing support, SIRC  has provided much training to healthcare professionals in other districts over the past six month are so.  I guess word spread that SIRC’s training was of good quality, resulting in an invite from the Karnali Academy of Health Science (KAHS) to deliver training on SCI management in Jumla.  With Direct Relief’s funding, SIRC made it happen.

A three-day hands-on training course was planned, with the primary objective to develop capacity for ten of Jumla’s healthcare professionals by improving their understanding of SCI management and rehabilitation.  While there, a total of five awareness camps were directed to health students as well as to the young students of Jumla’s high schools.

A group of eight experienced SIRC staff from nursing, medical care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psycho social and administration traveled this long journey to deliver specific aspects of the program.

SIRC team in Jumla

SIRC team in Jumla

The following is a table denoting the broad range of topics covered in the program and shows the participation of healthcare professionals and students in Jumla.  A lot was covered in three short days!












The outcome of the training was very positive with a marked improvement in attendees’ understanding of SCI management and rehabilitation.  SIRC staff were also in a position to establish a solid relationship with Jumla’s District Health Officer and talk of future plans to work collaboratively in the service of SCI patients there.

All in all, a very successful training and awareness program!

As the program came to an end, the SIRC team took the opportunity to hike into Rara Lake and get on the water – a well deserved break before the long journey home.

I never did mention earlier, but the SIRC team travelled with 21 wheelchair users from NSCISA and Nepal Paralympic Team. They were travelling to Jumla to increase SCI awareness and demonstrate life is not over for those in wheelchairs.  They took part in wheelchair basketball and cricket games while in Jumla.  I’ll find out some more information about their trip and will provide you with the details I promise.

Nepal's wheelchair basketball team in Jumla

Nepal’s wheelchair basketball team in Jumla

Photo credits SIRC

Many thanks to Nikita Kayastha for her detailed reporting!

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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