Volunteer Society Nepal has a variety of health placements to ensure that your medical expertise reach the neediest people
Adequate medical care is a serious problem in rural and urban areas of Nepal. The rapid movement of people to Kathmandu due to the civil war and to seek better financial opportunities has left much of the city’s public health infrastructure desperately oversubscribed. For many of the poor living in Kathmandu seeing a doctor for themselves and their children is simply not an affordable option. In rural areas health facilities are also in short supply due to poor transportation links and funding.
On top of this, there is also a cultural challenge in providing modern healthcare. Many traditional Nepali people are suspicious or do not know about Western medicine. To improve both these situations organisations like Volunteer Society Nepal (VSN) have established health clinics and health camps to provide basic health checkups and awareness in needy communities. VSN is also affiliated with some hospitals & health centres that are in need of extra financial and personnel support.
How does a volunteer help?
VSN has three different types of health placements for volunteers in Nepal:
1. Pre-medic placements
These placements are available for those who have a desire to work in the medical profession, but are not yet qualified or studying medicine. As a volunteer on this placement you will be given the opportunity to observe doctors in clinics and run your own health awareness programs in schools, women’s groups, orphanages and other community organisations. These awareness groups may provide local communities with sanitation knowledge and first aid training.
2. Medical student placements
If you are in the process of becoming a medical professional then this is the placement that will best suit you. Volunteers on this program will have the opportunity to carry out basic health checks in health clinics, observe Nepali doctors in hospitals and practice in your elected field. For most of this placement you will shadow Nepali doctors, who will have good spoken English. On this placement you may also get the chance to run/take part in VSN’s own health camp, which moves between needy communities offering basic health care. If you come in a group of 4 or more medical students then you may have the opportunity to run the health camp yourselves.
3. Medical professionals’ placements
If you are a qualified medical professional then you may have the opportunity to work in hospitals, health clinics and the health camp. Depending on the length of your stay you may prefer to work with Nepali doctors.
Please note that working as a medical professional/ student in Nepal may be very different to your experiences in your home country. Medicine names and practices may differ here and volunteers have to adapt to these changes. Although VSN provides the service of an interpreter where necessary, communication can sometimes limit the actions of our volunteers. This said, often volunteers feel that these factors enhance their experience in Nepal, forcing them to learn quickly on the job.
Do I need any specific qualifications or skills for this volunteering placement?
For pre-medic placements you must have a keen interest or be planning to study medicine in some capacity. For medical student placements you must be currently studying/have studied medicine. For our professional placements you must be practicing in the medical profession. On applying for these placements please let us know your level of experience and field of expertise and we will do our best to find you a suitable placement.
A day in the life of a health project volunteer…
Previous volunteers’ experiences:
Marta Caceres, Spain
Volunteering in Nepal has been one of the nicest experiences I’ve had, mostly for what I’ve learned. I volunteered in Kaskikot, which is a town near Pokhara, helping in a little Health Post, and this way I’ve been able to see how different Medicine is practised there from what I’m used to, here in Spain.
There, people go to the doctor only when they are really ill, and they trust the doctor completely. They hardly complain. Instead, they try their best to get over it and, if they can’t, they accept the situation without mourning.
However, I was surprised with the shortage of some medicines and materials of the public medical system. For some problems, people have to pay the whole of the treatment and, because of this; they have to take out a loan that lasts for the rest of their lives. Not everyone can afford to pay the little money required to get certain medicines, and many medical instruments we had had been donated by charities.
Besides the volunteering, I got to know the charming character of the Nepalese: they are always helping each other (as if they all were a big family), never in a hurry and always looking calm. On the other hand, in Kathmandu, shopkeepers can be very annoying; they pursue you everywhere, trying to make you buy their goods. I think the nicest thing was to live life as they do; to take it easy and face things as they come, never losing one’s temper, and with a big smile whenever possible.
Of course another important thing I learned with this experience is Nepalese itself: Rupa and Matrika are the teachers at VSN Nepal who taught me the “survival course” on arrival. Later I thanked them about 20 times per day in my thoughts for all the practice…It was very useful and much easier afterwards to catch new words and sentences while volunteering. I stayed one month in Nepal, but still I was able to have a -short- conversation in Nepalese when I came back. It is an easy language to learn, except for some grammatical structures. I believe learning the language is a great idea when trying to get into a foreign country’s culture.
Looking back, it would have been better to stay at least for 2 or 3 months rather than 1 because, just when it was time for me to go back, was when I was best prepared, to handle work at the Heath Post. And it was then that my Nepalese was starting to become “good”…
Nevertheless, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I think the programs VSN Nepal are carrying out are really useful for the local people, and I’ve liked the Nepalese way of life very much, so, when I finish my medical studies I may be coming back to stay a bit longer…
Martin Charette, Canada
My experience with VSN Nepal is unforgettable. My friend and I were living With a family, in a village south of Kathmandu. Everyday, we were teaching English language to two groups of approximately 10 students. Students were job-holders or college students who wanted to improve their English skills. The great thing about teaching to adults is that you can really have interesting discussions, debates, and talk about more concrete topics in class, such as politics, environment, culture, etc.
We were also working in the local health post. Even if our practical Medical knowledge was limited when we arrived, the nurses and assistants were really kind with us, teaching us what they knew. From patients’ examination to injections, we learned to do everything that can be done in a health post!
People from VSN Nepal were really supportive too. before beginning, they gave us Nepali language classes, introduced Nepali culture and showed us important places around Kathmandu. During our volunteer work, they were always present and supportive, giving us teaching materials for our classes and more.
I will never forget what I learned in Nepal, and will always remember My nepali friends and family.
Also, on our Volunteer Community Page you can find email addresses to contact past volunteers and also join our Facebook group to post any more questions you may have. You can also learn more about the experiences of past Medical volunteers by watching our documentaries on our Videos Page.
Where in Nepal can I volunteer in a health placement?
- Hospital placements: Kathmandu, Pokhara and the Himalaya region
- Health Camps: Kathmandu, The Hills Region, Pokhara and the Himalaya region
- Health Clinics: Kathmandu, The Hills Region, Pokhara, The Terai (jungle) region and the Himalaya region
What accommodation will I be living in?
Wherever you chose to work in Nepal you will be placed in a homestay with a local Nepali family. By living with a family you will gain a greater insight and understanding of Nepali culture. The standard of lodging will depend on whether you are in a rural or urban area. In a rural area the facilities will be basic with minimal running water and a squat toilet. However, in an urban placement you will most likely have a flushing Western style toilet and a shower. All of your food will be provided for you at your homestay and you will never be more than 30 minutes from your place of work. For more information about your food and accommodation go to our Volunteer Accommodation Page.