News BlogLatest News From Our Volunteers in Nepal

 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

For me, meeting the local interpreters, acupuncture students and our cook, and getting to know them on a personal level, has been the most amazing experience.

The high unemployment rate in Nepal means that many young people try to seek opportunities abroad and are likely to end up exploited as cheap labour. The average yearly wage of a Nepalese is $240USD and for many, going on a holiday is but a dream. I had a chance to listen to the stories of some of the youth I met and worked with.  Prior to working for ARP, some were unemployed or had unstable low paying jobs, and pursuing higher education was something that they couldn’t all afford to do. Seeing their potential, ARP offered them a meaningful way to earn money and contribute back to their communities. Here are their stories:

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Suman is 24 years old from Kogate village and has worked with ARP as an interpreter for 3 years.  He finished high school and completed one year of a Bachelor in Humanities before dropping out due to financial difficulties.  Suman tried out for a job to work as a government worker but was unsuccessful, so he helped his parents in the fields to plant, harvest, and carry heavy loads of firewood. He was considering applying for work abroad when he met Tsering, the coordinator for ARP, who at the time was staying with Suman’s family while looking for a place to set up the clinic. Seeing his potential, Tsering encouraged him to try out as an interpreter for ARP. Suman had long dreamed of becoming a social worker, hoping to give back to his community. He sat and passed the interview and went on to complete the interpreter training. 

From having no idea of what acupuncture was, and no experience in healthcare, Suman was initially very nervous but has become one of our most competent interpreters. He has really enjoyed being an interpreter and watching people's health get better with acupuncture. He decided to try out for the scholarship to study acupuncture this year. He expresses that he is very grateful and that if it weren’t for ARP believing in him, he wouldn't be where he is today. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Bibek L. is 27 years old and from Hetauda village.  He previously worked as an assistant electrician but was finding it hard to survive financially. Three years ago, he was on his way to Kathmandu for an interview to work in the Middle East when he bumped into his friend Suman, who told him about the opportunity to train as an interpreter with ARP.  He immediately took a detour to the ARP interview and has not looked back since. He also hopes he can study acupuncture in college mid this year. As currently ARP is operating for 6 months in a year, he finds being jobless for the other 6 months very difficult. He said, ‘if I get the chance, I want to be an acupuncturist, not just an acupuncturist but a very good acupuncturist!’

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Pawan is 22 years old from Kogate village and has been interpreting with ARP for 1 year. He moved in to live with his grandparents after his parents separated when he was 16.  Having no monetary support to continue his education, he dropped out after studying one year of a Bachelor of Science. One year ago he was given the opportunity to be an interpreter for ARP. He wanted to study acupuncture in college but because he didn't graduate from a government school, he wasn't eligible to apply for a scholarship. The three year acupuncture course costs approximately $4,000USD not including living expenses, and this for most Nepalese youth who have no financial support, is unaffordable.  During the 6 months when ARP is not operating, he would go back to his village to work in the fields, cut grass and carry heavy loads of firewood. After this camp ends, he said he might have to work in Dubai for 2 years to save some money. When I asked him what he would do there, he said, 'maybe work in a supermarket...' which is a pity as with his talent and skills he could do very well in Nepal if only he is given the opportunity. He loves playing the guitar, and during our meal breaks, provides us with music and entertainment.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Jesica is 23 years old from Bhimphedi. After seeing how much acupuncture could help her community and the fulfillment her brother found from working as an interpreter, Jesica decided to follow in his footsteps, joining ARP 2 years ago. Prior to that she was working as an accountant for a brick factory that operated seasonally and was closed during the monsoon season. Not only is she a brilliant interpreter, but her head for business makes her an excellent organizer, keeping everyone in line.  She changed her career and also decided to study in acupuncture school this year. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Rupa is 19 years old, a third year acupuncture student from Kapan. Initially she had passed the entrance exam for nursing but her father got admitted into hospital for lung cancer and she missed out on the opportunity. Then she heard about the new acupuncture course and with a hunger for knowledge she decided to enrol in it. In April last year, her whole house collapsed during the big earthquake and her elder sister was trapped under the rubble unconscious. Being injured herself with bleeding hands, knees and head, Rupa dug for 40 mins to get her sister out. She had no shoes to wear for days and couldn't get to the hospital to visit her sister and father as it was three hours away and there was a transport strike. Since then, there is no one in the family who could financially support her as dad is in hospital undergoing chemotherapy and her sister is still recovering from the quake. She has no money to even buy textbooks. The acupuncture course is rather new in Nepal and there's no practical component, so students know only the theory but don't have experience in needling. ARP approached the college and affiliated with them by allowing final year students to observe and train in our clinic. Rupa said since she has been able to observe in our clinic and help with interpreting, everything she has learnt in college started making sense. She is so eager to learn and after seeing the positive changes our clinic is making on people's lives, she found herself evermore passionate about acupuncture. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Bibek M. is 20 years old from Kogate village and has been working for ARP as a cook for 6 months, making sure all the practitioners and interpreters get fed. Before joining ARP, he was exploited and worked long hours (from 6am to 2am the next day) in a guesthouse earning only $20USD per month.  He had also worked as a labourer loading construction materials such as bricks and sand onto trucks. Due to the physical stress of his jobs which aggravated his hip problem from a childhood injury, he had to take a break and return to his village. As his parents were elderly, and all his brothers had left home early, he was the only one left to work on the fields. From plowing the fields with an ox, he had multiple infected skin wounds left untreated. At the time, ARP was operating a camp in Kogate village where he sought health care for four months and got significantly better.  Later ARP offered him the position as the cook for our camps.  Bibek said working with ARP for the past 6 months has been a great learning experience.  He got to meet and become friends with practitioners from different parts of the world.  As he dropped out of school in 7th grade, his English language skills are limited. His goal is that by next fall he can be fluent enough in English to be part of our conversations. Every evening I would spend some time teaching him simple English phrases and in exchange he taught me beats on the madal drum. Bibek says he can now finally support himself financially, and hopes that he could earn enough to support his family and one day get married.  After this camp ends, he intends to study a cooking course for 3 months in Kathmandu. 

As the clinic only runs for six months a year, the chef and the interpreters are all on short term contracts and staying afloat both financially and motivationally is incredibly difficult. Their only real option is to spend the intervening six months at home with their families or look for work abroad, a commitment that might prevent them from returning to work for the next camps.  All 4 of the interpreters are extremely keen to study acupuncture and would make incredible practitioners, but whist the tuition of $4,000USD for three years seems like a bargain to us, it is out of reach for our friends, and that is before you factor in living expenses.  

We may feel sad listening to their stories, but these young people are happier than many of us in the first world who have more than what they could imagine because they are passionate about what they do and they really want to contribute to society. Watching them happily singing folk songs and playing the madal drum on the bus ride to and from a picnic, I thought to myself that they really have no idea how amazing they are. 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Rachel Chang

Why am I doing this again? To witness and experience firsthand economic inequality, the problems associated with the disparity between the rich and extreme poor. To not ignore suffering and see the world for what it really is in order to propel me to create something of long lasting value for humanity so that our children can live in a better world for the future. As the Native American saying goes, ‘we don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’  I am grateful to all those who have made it possible for me to be a part of this project and hope that they realise how much their contribution means not only to the livelihood of these young people but also in keeping their dreams alive. ARP's goal is to be able to run not only for 6 months but all year round, which will not only benefit the patients but also help reduce unemployment by providing full time jobs to the locals such as the opportunity for the acupuncturist students to be employed as local practitioners when they graduate, giving unprivileged youth who are full of potential the opportunity to shine. ---Rachel Chang

More Articles

  • Walkabouts in Nepal’s Agricultural Nirvana

    Walkabouts in Nepal’s Agricultural Nirvana

    As an American Acupuncture volunteer for Acupuncture Relief Project (ARP) in Nepal, I stepped into an eastern culture that is a distant shadow of my own, regarding the traditional farming

    Read More
  • The Work of Farming

    The Work of Farming

    I’ve been moving around for awhile, but for most of my life I lived in one place. There is much to be said about having roots and feeling at home.

    Read More
  • Everyday Acupuncture Podcast

    Everyday Acupuncture Podcast

    Here in the west we are used to seeing acupuncture clinics in an urban setting, and it is often sought as an adjunctive therapy used in combination with other modalities.

    Read More
  • Jatra: The goddess

    Jatra: The goddess

    Patients come on a first come, first served basis, often arriving a little before 6am, slipping their appointment cards under a designated stone on the reception window sill. Many will

    Read More
  • Beyond the White Coat

    Beyond the White Coat

    When I started fundraising for this volunteer trip, many friends asked me why I chose to come to Nepal with ARP, and my simple response was, “to step out of

    Read More
  • Baskets and Knees

    Baskets and Knees

    In the foothills of the Himalayas, Bhajra Barahi is made up of steep hills, the slopes of which have been terraced for farming. These plots of rice, cauliflower, mustard, squash,

    Read More
  • A Day in Bajrabarahi: Where There are No Doctors

    A Day in Bajrabarahi: Where There are No Doctors

    When we open the clinic doors at 8:30, there are usually already a handful of patients waiting outside in the crisp morning air. Patients arrive throughout the day. There are

    Read More
  • Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

    Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

    The day started like most days, a brisk late-autumn morning with a light frost on the ground and clear blue skies. A breakfast of churra (beaten dried rice), chickpeas and

    Read More
  • Death

    Death

    Today's topic: Death! (the author does not pick blog topics; the blog topics choose him) I began thinking about this after hearing that one of our ARP staff members, Tsering,

    Read More
  • Together We Drink Tea

    Together We Drink Tea

    The morning sunlight, through a gap in my curtain reaches onto my bed and teases my skin. I look outside the window to see beautiful blue sky above our mountain

    Read More
  • I love food

    I love food

    Fun fact, my body is 85% digestive tract with the rest being sensory and motor structures that assist me in attaining more food. My genetics are closely related to a

    Read More
  • Return to Baseline

    Return to Baseline

    As part of our long term goals in Nepal, it is our aspiration to train several Nepali born practitioners to serve in our clinics. We have partnered with a small

    Read More
  • Today, I am very happy.

    Today, I am very happy.

    After clinic one day I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful delve into the down country culture of the local folks I've befriended over the last couple weeks. Gunaraj,

    Read More
  • My Bone Problem

    My Bone Problem

    Today I fitted my elderly patient with her (hopefully) semi-permanent shoulder cast. This woman came into the clinic a few weeks ago. I remember treating her knee pain and when

    Read More
  • Worth it

    Worth it

    Having lived my whole life in a developed country, with most of my needs magically looked after for me, it was a cultural shock to see the many inadequacies the

    Read More
  • More than just acupuncture

    More than just acupuncture

    In Bimphedi, a small remote village in the hills south of Katmandu where the acupuncture relief project has a clinic there is also an orphanage. The children that are there

    Read More
  • Trust The Process

    Trust The Process

    It’s been one week in Nepal and 3 days of clinic in Bajra Baraji. I’ve gone through so many emotions and learned so much about practicing primary care in a

    Read More
  • Bookends

    Bookends

    At the beginning of my service with Camp B at Bajra Bahari, my first patient is a 70 year old male with right-side hemiplegia resulting from a stroke. I look

    Read More
  • The Magic of Determination

    The Magic of Determination

    I meet Buddhi for the first time at the end of the second last week of the camp. He had a stroke 5 years ago which affected the mobility of

    Read More
  • Groundlessness

    Groundlessness

    Nepal for me was a practice in being comfortable with the feeling of groundlessness. Have you ever been on a suspension bridge? Nepal I came to learn, is full of

    Read More
  • Birth

    Birth

    There was definitely a special something in the air that Saturday night. We had just had a fantastic day off from clinic visiting the home of one of our rock

    Read More
  • Two Realities

    Two Realities

    Has anyone ever seen the movie, or read the book The Hunger Games? I know it is a teen drama but I am not sorry to say I have done

    Read More
  • Compassion is the Communication

    Compassion is the Communication

    I come from a large Russian Orthodox family and an even larger community. I spent my childhood wondering what any limits might be. What would that look like, where would

    Read More
  • My Nepal Experience

    My Nepal Experience

    Nepal and people who live in this country, the Nepalese; where do I begin? It was sensory overload the moment our flight landed in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.

    Read More
  • Avoiding the Finish Line

    Avoiding the Finish Line

    Upon arrival to the ARP Clinic in Bajra Barahi, nestled amongst the peaceful tree covered hills in the countryside of Nepal, I sensed a note of an “uh-oh, what have

    Read More
  • The Heart of Good Healthcare

    The Heart of Good Healthcare

    It has been a pleasure to spend two months as part of the project living and working with the people of Sipadol and Bhaktapur. In retrospect my role as a

    Read More
  • Compassion Connects The Series

    Compassion Connects The Series

    In the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, Andrew Schlabach, Director of the Acupuncture Relief Project and Tsering Sherpa, Director of Good Health Nepal begin a new primary care clinic

    Read More
  • The Interpreters

    The Interpreters

    For me, meeting the local interpreters, acupuncture students and our cook, and getting to know them on a personal level, has been the most amazing experience. The high unemployment rate

    Read More
  • Context is everything

    Context is everything

    Time is flying by and we have less than a week before this camp’s rotation is over and the clinic will close until September. The first week or so here

    Read More
  • The Pushing Away, Pulls You In.

    The Pushing Away, Pulls You In.

    When it's all said and done, leading a team in any capacity is not an easy job. Being a medical volunteer here also stretches each of us. I thank my

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

News Archive

Latest Instagram

Follow Us on Facebook

Your Donations Help

In addition to volunteering their time and energy, our practitioners are required to raise the money it takes to support their efforts at our clinic. Please consider helping them by making a tax deductible donation in their name.

DONATE NOW

Support our work

Donate Volunteer Get in Touch

Support Us