Saturday, 14 November 2009

In India (at last!)

So it's been a while since I wrote about things that are actually happening in Nepal (/India)... we went on a trek and I lost my phone so I'm going to have to start writing more because I can't just get my parents to pass on the news!

The trek... we went to Langtang which is practically Tibet and it was beautiful! There was a lot of walking, and we were even more impressed with ourselves on the way back down when we realised how far we'd climbed! I went with Ellie and Becca didi (an Austrian girl who we've been living with and become really good friends with), but on the way we met 3 separate groups of people we knew from Kathmandu- what are the chances?! We also made a lot of friends on our way- although admittedly more with the porters and guides than the tourists- I think we have actually become nepali in our time here! It was crazy how thin the air got close to the top, just walking on the flat got us out of breath pretty quickly. I think our top altitude was about 4000m. Woop.

Now we're in India after a week of ridiculous strikes in Nepal- why would they do that on the week we have to travel all over the country?! On the day we returned from Syaphru Besi (where our trek began/ended) there was a strike on all local buses, which we were supposed to catch back to Kathmandu. Eventually we managed to persuade a bus to take a group of tourists for a higher price, and managed to borrow some money from a friendly fellow tourist because we'd had half our money stolen the day before :s)

That left us one day in Kathmandu before we had to leave. The day we didn't go anywhere, there were no strikes. The day we left, there were protests all over the city and we couldn't really leave our house until it was time to catch the bus in the afternoon. Generally, the strikes seem to run out of energy by the afternoon so it's okay. We drove all through the night, set back a little by traffic and an accident, but just as we were approaching the border we stopped again- more strikes!

This time we were told we couldn't move til tomorrow, which was serious because our visas ranout that day. Everyone was very concerned about us but pretty much said it was too dangerous and we had to wait (when Maoists strike they throw stones and fire at any moving vehicles- not fun). But eventually we got moving around 2 o clock (told you they run out of energy in the afternoon) and we made it across the border by 6, and to Darjeeling by 10:30, making it a 32-hour journey door to door. All that for a cup of Darjeeling tea!

So here we are in Darjeeling, supposed to be able to see Everest but it's so foggy I can only just see the end of the road, and freezing cold although apparently its warmer everywhere else in India. However, they do speak Nepali so we can communicate, and we're having Dal Bhat for tea tonight, so it's all good :)

Final Report

This is the final report we wrote for SGCP- thought it might be an interesting summary

We have spent 3 months working with SGCP across 3 of the programs including SEP (Special Education Program), Home visit program and CP centre.

In SEP we have spent time observing the children in class and at mealtimes.
We have worked with Medha, the employed Speech therapist, with individual children. We have also created some resources together intended to be used for speech therapy in the future. We have given feeding training to the teachers and therapy staff. We asked them to give feedback of what they had learned and suggest some new feeding guidelines, but due to a number of factors this could not be completed. Unfortunately, our goals were not reached as we were unable to provide training to the helpers who play a key role at mealtimes.

We would like all helpers to receive the feeding training (ideally provided by Medha and Saruna), and for everyone who has received the training to feedback and create a new list of guidelines. We would also like the resources we have made to continue to be used regularly. In the short time we have been here we have noticed a lot of improvements amongst various children. This shows the importance of therapy so we’d like to encourage you to continue with your good work.

In the CP centre we have spent time observing individual sessions and have offered advice to the physiotherapists about how to maximize communication.

We would like therapists to continue to use this advice with future children that they treat.

On Home Visits we have provided speech therapy in combination with therapy provided by the home visitor, regarding both communication and feeding. We feel that home visits are essential as it teaches the parents how to manage the child’s condition in their own environment.

We would like the good work to continue.

Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. We have really enjoyed our time here and will be sorry to say goodbye.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

SGCP- The end

So our time as volunteers in Nepal has come to an end! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I have no idea of how time has passed since we returned from Thailand.

As I thought over our time here the other day, I realised that we have gone through various stages in our approach to speech therapy at the centre. First, we were in the classrooms trying to promote communication in lessons and advising on positioning and technique for feeding the children. After a while we met the Medha, the Nepali speech and language therapist, and spent some time in individual sessions with her and the rest of the time attempting individual sessions with our phrasebook, a bag of plastic fruit and a candle. This was quite a short-lived phase, as we often found that the children’s Nepali language was better than our own! So finally we settled on a more consultative model, which I think is the most effective thing we could have done given the circumstances.

We went out on home visits with a new home visitor, who as well as becoming a great friend, learned a lot about speech and language development and some basic approaches to therapy on the job. We would make recommendations and explain why we did what we did, and she would pass on the information to the parents. It was great to hear her suggesting approaches for the children that were a result of what we had told her. We also spent a few sessions with the physiotherapists in the outpatients centre with children they felt were in need of speech and language therapy. Again, it was so rewarding to see them following out what we had recommended, and coming up with new ideas for other children. I feel that this area will be where we have had the biggest and most lasting impact within the charity.

In addition to direct therapy and advice, we have also made a lot of resources for the speech and language therapy ‘department’ which was all but non-existent when we arrived. We have bought books and toys for sensory stories; we have made three therapy games; we have bought and made picture cards to be used for any number of activities, and we’ve made a communication book for a girl who needed one. I hope that these continue to be used after we’ve left. There have been a number of occasions where I’ve suggested that we do something or make something and have been told it’s already been done before by other volunteers, but nobody has used it or thought to tell us it existed. Nobody even thought to tell us there was a speech and language therapist in the centre, we found her by accident! But since we did find her and she too has become a very close friend, maybe there’s hope this time.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

More photos!

Pictures are uploaded and should be able to view by anyone:

Enjoy! More news from Nepal soon


Thursday, 15 October 2009


Our "Summer Holiday" was a great break and time to relax and recharge before our final few weeks at SGCP.

The flight to Bangkok was quite exciting in itself- not long after we took off the pilot announced that Everest could be seen to our left! The cloud was low so all we could see was a snowy peak sticking out above the cloud layer, about the same height as we were flying. It was incredible to know that we were looking at the highest piece of land on the planet- wow.

As we flew into Bangkok, Ellie looked out the window and called me- the roads were so straight and the corners so square! All the houses were in rows! Such a simple thing has never been a novelty to me before, and it showed just how accustomed to Nepal we had become. Thailand (well, the parts we visited anyway) is very well developed aqnd westernised, but after the first dy or two of wonder at the civilised roads and the novelty of McDonalds and Boots, I was surprised how quickly everything seemed normal again. We take things for granted so easily.

So- the beach! The each was lovely, although overly cloudy. However, in the light of the earthquakes and tsunamis hitting the surrounding countries in the area, I don't think we can complain about a bit of wind and cloud! Lucy passed her PADI scuba diving open water course; Ellie and I went quad-biking; we all drove a 4x4 and I discovered that I was a fire-dancer! So quite an eventful week. The night-life was good as well- there were lots of cute beach-side bars, an 'Ice Bar' which boasts the world's only life-size ice tuk-tuk, and of course the full moon party!

We were in Thailand in its low season (apparently high season begins around about now) so nowhere was completely packed, but to me it seemed the perfect time to come for full moon. The party is on a neighbouring island so we had a booked a boat across, and foolishly thought that guarunteed us a seat. No chance! We sat on the beach awaiting the first boat with some Australian girls we had just met. As it approached, we joined the crowd standing on the shore but there were far too many people and far too little room. So we decided to wait on the shore for the next boat. We still weren't prepared for the fight-to-the-death that ensued as we tried to clamber on board! Ellie and I were pinned to the propellors by the crowds behind, but when Lucy got on board I knew that we all had to make it this time. We were being elbowed out and pushed from all sides, but finaly we made it- possibly our greatest acheivement of the trip so far! The boat ride again felt lilke an adventure and we arrived at the party island feeling more than a little wet and bedraggled. No worries though- this was a beach party so the wetter the better I guess. It was a gerat night- we danced & partied and met some people from Leeds! It's a small world.

It was a close call getting back to our island in time to catch the flight to Bangkok and then to Kathmandu (we were flying with Nepali airlines which has one plane and two flights to Thailand per week so if we missed it there was no second chance!) But we made it, just. Our Thai adventure was a bit of a rollercoaster at times but it was mostly a fun one, and how lovely it was to return to the normal insanity of Nepal!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Party Time

Festival is on the wind. You can smell it, hear it, feel it as you walk down the street. Children are eating ice creams; little girls are wearing pretty dresses; whole families are clambering on board buses with huge bags, going to visit their relatives. Fruit sellers line the street offering fresh melon, coconut and cucumber (?!) on paper plates, and banana-leaf plates are selling like hot cakes as people prepare for party time. Helium balloon float through the air. Kites fill the sky. Festival is on the wind.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Where's your clinic?

So I went to this church on Sunday and it was lovely, not what I expected but nice all the same. At one point all the 'new people' had to stand up an introduce themselves (thankfully I wasn't the only one) and say who they were, what had brought them to Kathmandu etc. This is the 3rd time I've done that so I like to feel I've mastered the concise introductions: "Hi, I'm Becca, I've come from England and I'm here for 3 months as a speech and language therapist". My cold was just beginning and I felt very croaky so I wasn't even sure if people had heard me, but I had opened myself up to more than I had bargained for!

They were having some kind of birthday celebration so I was invited to stay for lunch, which was very friendly, and then I was accosted on all sides by people saying, "So you're a speech therapist? We've been waiting for a speech therapist to come along for ages!" "I've got this friend who has a cleft palate..." "I work in a school identifying special needs..." etc. One couple came to me and the wife clearly had some kind of voice problem (much the same as I do today but more long-term :P ) and gave me a whole case history, and the husband asked if he could come to my clinic or make an appointment! I'm going to try and see them this week. I'm no voice specialist, but then I'm no CP specialist either so I can just do my best to help those I can help. Ellie's going to come with me so hopefully between us we can make a difference.

If I wanted to stay in Nepal there would be no shortage of work it seems!