I began my journey to Nepal seven months ago in December, when I applied for the Community Health and Disparity Outreach program. After talking to a few of the other students, it’s safe to say that our reason for choosing this program had less to do with the actual program itself and more to do with Nepal. “Why Nepal?” My non-global health friends would ask me. And honestly, I wasn’t really sure. There is just something about the culture there that intrigues me more than almost any other place. The landscape isn’t too shabby either, and when you top that off with “the friendliest people on the planet” (according to my previous Nepal traveling friends), I fell in love with a place that I had never been. It is modest yet majestic, bustling with people yet seemingly untouched, ancient yet up and coming. Soon after I received my acceptance letter, the months of preparations began: 4 to 5 orientations, a geo-journal, shopping for supplies, rounds of vaccines, and meeting with my fellow students led us all to be more and more excited each day. Through a very difficult spring semester, both academically and personally, at times I told myself “105 days, 100 days, 40 days, that’s it, and then you’ll be in Nepal.”
So, as you can imagine, we were pretty shocked when we heard news about the earthquake that devastated much of Nepal and left people that we would potentially know and love wounded or dead. Selfishly, all of us wondered what it would mean for our trip. Initially I was in complete denial that our trip would be canceled, but the more I learned and saw and read, the more I began letting go of that dream. After accepting that our trip was lost, I began feeling more empathetic and sympathetic towards a national disaster than I ever have before.
People would ask us “why don’t you still go, and help? Maybe your trip would be different, but it will still be valuable”. And most of the time, I was one of those people, because I so desperately still wanted to go. But thanks to our wonderful public health education in Madison, we knew that we would quite honestly be more of a nuisance than aid, as we are all unskilled volunteers in a country that doesn’t need more confusion or people to direct. I am confident in the work that Shashir, our course leader, is doing over there, and unfortunately understand that we would not, at least at this time, be of much use to him. In addition, our trip to Nepal was never a mission trip. It was a learning trip. There is a fine line between doing truly good and sustainable work for others and doing well-intentioned work for yourself. The department of Global Health at UW Madison tries very hard not to cross that line, and I think they do a very good job of it. And since it was a learning trip, our journey did not end on April 25th, when the devastating earthquake shocked the world, or on May 22nd, when our flight left without us. Although I would do anything to reverse the effects of that earthquake, it did bring us to Sardovaya, which we would have possibly never been involved with otherwise. And so here we are, interning for Sardovaya and learning as much as we can about Nepal, Sri Lanka, the earthquake, CKD (chronic kidney disease), grassroots work, Shramadana, and many other assets that influence this part of the world. Our goal is to learn, educate, and raise money for the people over there that really know how to use it and maximize its’ effects. I am thankful to Sweta, Ken, Shashir, Lori, Robin, Joe, and everyone else in the global health department that has made it a priority for us to continue learning, serving, and loving that part of the world and our commitment to global health. I know without a doubt that not only will I get there one day, but my visit will be much more fruitful than it ever could have been otherwise.
Please stay tuned to our Facebook page and Instagram to learn more about Sardovaya and what we are up to this summer!