Volunteering can be a truly humbling experience and a unique opportunity to develop yourself. As a qualified dentist, I wanted to put my skills and energy into a rewarding dental experience in a new environment that was totally out of my comfort zone.
After much thought I chose to go to the top of the world, Nepal, home of the worlds’ tallest mountains, the Himalayas. I arrived in the city of Pokhara not knowing what to expect, but certain that it was going to be a special experience. As soon as I landed at the airport I felt extremely welcomed because the Nepali people are friendly and hospitable. We collected our luggage and were picked up by Work the World's Programme Manager. The journey to the house was a visual and emotional roller coaster ride — infrastructure is under developed and Nepal suffers from daily power cuts and water shortages. This is what I had expected, a real culture-shock experience!
being able to integrate into the local community enriched my understanding of the Nepali people and culture
During my stay in Nepal, I spent a few weeks alternating between local government hospitals and outreach clinics held in schools and villages. Consequently, my working days were busy, varied and full of challenges with a typical working day starting at 8am and finishing at 5pm. The local government hospital was a typical reflection of a developing country, suffering as it did from shortages of resources, basic facilities and poor infection control. Under the supervision of local staff, and once I'd proved my competence. I was able to diagnose and treat all sorts of oral pathologies and provide a range of routine dental treatments. There were, however, some conditions I had never seen in the UK, or at least not seen at such a level of severity. My rotations mostly involved oral surgery, oral medicine and oral maxillofacial surgery. Observing and assisting other dentists and doctors in an environment where the facilities were basic and the diseases severe gave me a unique experience. I also exchanged knowledge and skills with local dental students and nurses by demonstrating and observing their work.
While working in a developing country can be difficult and challenging, it is also very stimulating and incredibly fun. I made sure to enjoy the destination because Nepal is such a beautiful country and there's so much to see and do! The mountains, rivers, culture and food are things I will always remember about Nepal.
My time in Nepal has added more meaning and value to my career. Gaining experience overseas as a young dentist was a great opportunity for professional development and I have come back inspired. I also learned a great deal about my potential and aspirations as well as looking at dentistry from a completely new perspective.
Would I do it again? Absolutely!