Most Spring Breaks are synonymous with beaches, bikinis, and booze….my Spring Break was synonymous with mountains, monks, and milk tea. MTC was gracious enough to help sponsor me to take a trip to Nepal with two missions: 1.) Explore the role of OT in working with children with disabilities in Nepal, and 2.) assist Pam Whitworth, director and founder of Shanti Children’s Foundation (www.shantichildrensfoundation.org/) in her yearly visit to see sponsored children at their respective schools. Both experiences were successful and rewarding.
After researching the role of OT in working with children with disabilities in Nepal, I arrived in the country with contacts for two places in Kathmandu. The first place I visited was Autism Care of Nepal (http://www.autismnepal.org/). According to their website, “Autism Care is the only active autism organization in Nepal that is run by passionate parents that care for children with autism”. Upon arriving at Autism Care, I was greeted with tea by the director of the school. I sipped my tea patiently until their OT, Roshon, arrived. He gave me a tour of the four classrooms which were divided into age groups. These classrooms appeared to function much like a Special Day Classroom. Visual schedules, manipulatives, sensory-based equipment, and even a Nepali version of the Picture Exchange Communication System were being used in each classroom! When we went to the OT room, I noticed the homemade swing and ball pit. He let me observe one of his sessions; it was wonderful to see the things I do every day be implemented in a country so far from home. We left with a smile and a handshake. He looks forward to sharing information with other OTs who would like to visit Autism Care.
The next location I visited was the Aishworya Children’s Home (http://www.aishworya.org/). Aishworya is a family-run residence that cares for orphaned and abandoned children in Kathmandu. Some of the children living at Aishworya attend SERC, the Special Education and Rehabilitation Center (https://www.facebook.com/SERCschool) located up the street from the home. SERC is directed by Kalpana, a PT. Classrooms are created according to cognitive and developmental levels. Each classroom has a handwritten chart pairing all students’ names with brief, developmentally-based goals to guide classroom staff in working with each child. These charts are revised every three months. I toured the “Physio” room that housed PT and OT equipment including a homemade swing. Kalpana showed me the “sensory room” and explained that she would love for an OT to come and train the staff on implementation of strategies for the SERC students. During this eye-opening tour of SERC, I felt so grateful that these children had access to various materials and interventions.
After my solo adventures to these locations, I joined Pam Whitworth to visit the children of the Shanti Children’s Foundation. I enjoyed learning all the children’s names as I took photographs of each student for their sponsors back in The States. It was fun to engage the students in an activity where we made Thank You cards for the sponsors. One of my favorite moments that I shared with the children at the Pegasus hostel was the day we went on a “jungle walk”. Nearly 30 students gathered excitedly around me when the idea of a jungle walk was proposed. The highlight of this particular day was being adorned with a crown of flowers, handed a bouquet of rhododendrons, and being given a red tikka on my forehead once we reached the temples at the top of the hike.
I am so grateful to have experienced such an amazing adventure. I am grateful to MTC and the Shanti Children’s Foundation for taking part in what can hopefully become an ongoing project.