During the Spring semester of 2017 my fellow Health Science student, Marie Purificacion, and I completed Co-op placements as Interns with Partnership for Sustainable Development (PSD) in Kathmandu, Nepal. One of the many social development projects PSD had been previously involved with were Free Health Camps, temporary pop-up clinics in areas of Nepal where the population face barriers to accessing health care services; physical, financial, or otherwise. At the onset of our work-term we were both hopeful to have the opportunity to be involved in such a project; however, neither PSD nor the partner organization we were placed with, Friends of Shanta Bhawan (FSB), had the resources to host a Free Health Camp during our Co-op period. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to both have an impact on a community in need and enrich our own learning experience, we decided to try and raise the resources ourselves.
We set up a crowdfunding page through YouCaring with the original goal of raising $1,000 to cover the costs of hosting one Free Health Camp, including the costs of medical and administrative personnel, pharmaceuticals, equipment, and transportation. Marie and I were quickly blown away by the outpouring of generosity and support from our family and friends - in a matter of just three weeks we received $2,495 in donations, nearly 2.5x our original goal. With these funds we were able to host two Free Health Camps, with both events offering more specialized services than we had thought would be feasible. This includes hiring more specialized doctors, including gynecologists and dentists, and stocking a wider range of pharmaceuticals.
On March 18th, 2017, our first Free Health Camp was held in a community called Gothatar, located just East of Kathmandu, focusing on primary health care and gynecology services. This camp was organized through FSB, which is a non-profit medical outpatient center located relatively close to Gothatar. The location of this camp was beneficial for both the community of Gothatar, which faces high rates of poverty and ethnic marginalization, and for FSB to increase their exposure and promote the center to potential returning patients. Throughout the one-day event we were able to serve 269 patients, with an age range of 2 - 85 years old, completely free of cost.
Our second Free Health Camp took place on April 1st, 2017, in the rural community of Pipaltar. Located a few hours Southeast of Kathmandu, in the district of Kavre, this location was particularly special to us at PSD. Just a few weeks prior, in mid-March, PSD in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity finished rebuilding 87 homes for victims of the 2015 earthquake. Out of nearly 100 homes in the village all but 2 were completely destroyed by the earthquake, meaning the vast majority of residents had been living in temporary shelters for nearly two years. The Free Health Camp served 170 patients with a focus on primary health care, gynecology services, and dental services. We were also able to distribute free soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and sanitary pads to the patients and provide them with basic health and hygiene education.
Being involved in these two Free Health Camps was an invaluable experience, and Marie and I are so grateful to our family and friends who made it possible. Although such one-day events are not a permanent solution to access to health care in Nepal, their generous donations allowed us to reach more people and have a greater immediate impact than we had ever imagined we could.
Beyond the Blog
- To learn more about opportunities like Tessa's, visit the Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Co-op homepage.