It’s just been over a week ….

It’s just been over a week since I arrived in Nepal and I am happy to be here.  I have reconnected with many of the people I respect and admire, in Kathmandu, Kapan, Bhaktapur, Banepa (you know who you are!) and of course SIRC.

It was surprising to walk into the grounds of SIRC and see the extended building (upwards).  The step-down facility for those patients who are still in need of some care yet do not have homes to return to as a result of last year’s earthquakes, is open and operating on a newly built 2nd floor thanks to the generous donations of Medecins Sans Frontiere.

SIRC before the extension. Photo credit SIRC

SIRC before the extension. Photo credit SIRC

An aerial view of SIRC with visable additions (red tin roofs). Buiding to the right is the step-down accommodation, mid building is the new admin offices and the new building to the left is the KOICA sponsored vocational training centre. August 2016.  Photo credit:  SIRC

An aerial view of SIRC with additions on the next floor (red tin roofs). Building to the right is the step-down accommodation, mid building is the new admin offices and the new building to the left is the KOICA sponsored vocational training centre. The courtyard -synonimous with Nepali homes, remains providing light, sunshine (& rain!) to the lower floor.  July 2016. Photo credit: SIRC

Also moved to the 3rd floor are the admin offices – three offices in total: one for Esha as SIRC’s Executive Director, another for Lekhnath as SIRC’s HR Manager and a general room for Project Management and Communications/Fundraising staff members.  Shyam in Finance and Dipesh the Admin Director remain downstairs close to the action.

The kitchen has been completely expanded to cater for a doubling of mouths to feed (patients, their caregivers and of course staff).

The old admin offices will be converted to a larger OPD (out patients department) soon, but in the meantime, the OPD is located downstairs on the lower floor, where physio, occupational therapy, psychology, hydrotherapy and vocational training continue to be located.  The Social department remains on the ground floor close to the Nursing station and Doctors rooms.

Also new (literally brand new, no flooring down yet but it has been painted!) is a new and large Vocational Training centre generously funding by the Korean Government.  It is planned to provide improved vocational training to ex-patients so that they may generate an income, given a return to their previous jobs of subsistence farming and such-like is unlikely.


Soon to be in use large & expansive vocational training centre, with washing facilities for felt-making and such to the right.

Soon to be in use large & expansive vocational training centre, with washing facilities for felt-making and such to the right.

Accommodation for any ex-patients who are at the Centre for vocational training and who do not live nearby.

Accommodation for any ex-patients who are at the Centre for vocational training and who do not live nearby.

Training in this centre will focus on laundry & ironing techniques where ex-patients will be trained on the art of laundry & ironing, and then given the necessary equipment to set up a small business to generate income for the family back home in their village.  A second focus will be to train ex-patients on how to make candies (lapsi candies being one of Nepal’s favourites) and again the necessary equipment will be provided to take back home to their village.

One social enterprise is also planned – a bakery – a brilliant idea!  The Korean Government are also providing the funding for the bakery on SIRC grounds.  This is a slow process and will take some time to get the paperwork in order, but in the meantime, work will commence on the laundry/ironing and candy-making training shortly.

The Korean Government is working very closely with Sapana Neupane, SIRC’s newly hired Vocational Training & Employment Counsellor along with Sonika Dhakal who has transitioned from the Peer Counsellor role to Vocational Trainer role.

The centre now holds 150 beds (as compared to 51 beds before last year’s earthquakes) and there has been an increase in staff to provide continued rehabilitation services to the ever growing number of SCI patients referred to SIRC.

Key focus for the Project department is completion of final reports to the various funding agencies and key focus for the Fundraising department is the writing of a number of proposals for future projects and expenses.  It is one thing to have a bigger centre, it is a whole other challenge to keep it operating!

As you can see, SIRC continues to be a hive of activity with juggling of lots of priorities.  Kudos to the entire team for keeping up the momentum after what was probably the most challenging year of both their personal and professional lives.

So what am I up to?  SIRC’s Annual General Meeting is upcoming in August so I am assisting with the preparation of the Annual Report and other AGM documents.  In addition to the required financial reporting, I was also keen to document department achievements other than those related to the 11 projects that were funded last year.

This has given me the immense pleasure of speaking individually with many of the staff in the various departments, gleaning their achievements in the last 12 months.  I tell ya, it would put any for-profit organization to shame!  I say it again, the SIRC staff are just incredible with their dedication, compassion, respect for one another and the ingenuity they show in problem solving and making things happen despite the challenges that everyone faces in Nepal.

As soon as my AGM work is complete, the plan is formalize a fundraising department (HR plan, process & procedures), implement on-line donation functions both in Nepal and internationally, market SIRC’s conference centre & services to Nepalis and maybe run and event or two in Kathmandu.  I bet this list will increase as time progresses. I’ll be kept busy, have no worry!

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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5 Responses to It’s just been over a week ….

  1. Grace Coffey says:

    That’s great catching up with everyone and seeing,firsthand, all the fabulous work that has been done since your last visit! You will be kept very busy by the looks of it. Enjoy every minute of life, work and socialising ! X

  2. Heather says:

    Sounds like you are having a great time! Thanks for drawing such a fantastic picture of activities with words! Xh

  3. Mick Canning says:

    Sounds as though it’s going well at present. Hope it continues to do so!

  4. lalastudios says:

    Thanks for the update Kate. I too am so impressed with SIRC. Going from 50 to 150 beds is such an achievement! But I can imagine that growth brings challenges too. Still, the confidence in the organization demonstrated by its funders is significant and obviously well deserved. And you definitely have your work cut out for you, which I have no doubt you’ll tackle with great passion and exemplary skill. Miss you!

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