Since 2012, Trekt Himalaya, an Orlando-based tourism agency has been focused on medical care in Nepal. Through a project called Medical Trek Nepal, they take volunteers to remote villages in Nepal as part of a field team of doctors, nurses and medics. This mission trek provides healthcare to people who have very little or no access to any kind of treatment or medicine.
"It is very rare for these people to see a doctor ever in their life because their villages are days walk from any kind of public road, and then another arduous journey to any kind of hospital," said Sandra Krasa BK, founder of the project. "Even if they could go, many would not have the money to do so."
At Medical Trek Nepal, doctors, nurses, and medical students from around the world volunteer to trek to these villages, where medical clinics are set up and they provide check-ups and medicine. According to BK, they take a moving pharmacy with them, and treat what they can. A Nepali medical team serves as translators for the foreign doctors and nurses. They are also instrumental in educating the villagers about common illnesses, prevention, and seeking further treatment.
Medical Trek Nepal is a two-week program. The medical teams camp and trek for 10 to 11 days in the foothills of the Himalayas, with the option to extend for two weeks (4 weeks total) in a Kathmandu hospital. Those who need internship credits usually do the 4-week option. "This is a mission and an adventure," said BK.
"The views are breathtaking, and the cultural immersion is something that one does not find in any other type of travel vacation," she said.
To date, Medical Trek has helped over 20,000 people, treating up to 400 people in each of its medical camps, serving only the regions in Nepal where there is a clear hardship and no healthcare for the local people. This project has been so incredibly successful that it decided to go from four treks per year to eight. In summer 2016, they will start Medical Trek Peru, offering a similar itinerary and experience to volunteers who would like to serve in Peru. This will serve remote villages in the Andes.
There are plenty of benefits as to why Orlando physicians and medical personnel should become involved with Medical Trek Nepal, said BK.
"Many of our doctors and nurses comment that there is no way to get the type of experience they have on Medical Trek in a classroom or in a hospital ward," said BK. "This type of field medicine forces you to confront diseases that have been eradicated in the U.S., like TB and polio. It teaches you to work without the aid of technology just using basic tools and medication; it is truly treating those who need care, there is no elective medicine here."
Mostly, she added, they should become involved because they will have an amazing journey, and get to share their gifts to help people who are very cut-off from the modern western world.
To help prepare volunteers before they go abroad, Medical Trek Nepal stays in constant contact with its volunteers.
"We encourage them to email with questions," said BK. "We also have a monthly newsletter that goes out monthly as they count down to Medical Trek Nepal."
The biggest adjustment for volunteers is cultural since Nepal is a developing country. Things are very basic and simple; the country is very poor, noted BK. When they camp, everything is provided for the trekkers including tents, sleeping bags and meals, but this is not a luxury trek in any way.
"We are roughing it," she said. "Also, they are completely foreign, and quite a novelty to some of the villagers who have never seen western people before."
While this is considered a volunteer experience, there is a fee of $1,500 which goes towards supporting the trek itself.
"The trekkers get both the experience of trekking in Nepal and volunteering to help," said BK. "Most volunteer experiences in Nepal offer to place you in a hospital, where volunteers observe only, for a fee. Any extra activities you would want to do, you would have to pay for. So, our trek is unique in that you get to experience the wonders of trekking through the remote regions of Nepal, and you also get to volunteer in the medical camps we set up."
If you have never been on a medical trek before, BK encourages you to bring your skills, eagerness to help humanity, and a spirit of adventure.
"Expect the unexpected because that is Nepal," she said. "Everyone loves this trek, but the people who have the absolutely best time are those who embrace the fact that they are in a place where everything is a bit wild, and flexibility is a must."