In Nepal, healthcare can be nonexistent for those living in rural villages. An Orlando-based organization has found a way to take volunteer medical professionals into those remote areas to work side-by-side with a Nepali medical team.
The Medical Trek helps treat hundreds of villagers a day — in their own language and familiar surroundings, and without technology. At the same time, it offers the medical professionals an immersive experience in a different culture.
It is part of Orlando-based TREKT Adventures, a multifaceted champion of social growth that promotes wellness, education and self-improvement by taking people on philanthropic vacations. In addition to the medical excursions, the organization offers treks for teaching and yoga.
“Medical Trek Nepal started in 2012 with just three medical professionals and our trekking team,” says Sandra Krasa BK, the founder of TREKT Adventures. “We went out, and on our first trek, helped about 1,000 people. And through that experience, we discovered this is something people really need.”
On the 14-day itinerary of the Medical Trek, the group sets out to remote regions of Nepal to villages where people are in dire need of medical attention. In most of these remote locations, it is a few days’ walk to the nearest medical outpost, and even those are seldom staffed with doctors and nurses. TREKT provides a mobile pharmacy that is free for the villagers.
Each expedition is staffed with a Nepali medical doctor, medical translator and coordinator, expert guides, and a sidar, or cook. This option is for medical doctors, nurses, medical students who want college credit and experience, or volunteers who are ready to learn and help in any way possible. The hike itself is rigorous but rewarding, with evenings that are filled with food, relaxing campfires, and occasionally cultural celebrations of drumming and dancing.
Another excursion the organization offers is the Teaching Trek, which facilitates educational endeavors through fluency in English, instructs students in subjects such as math and social studies, and provides hope for a brighter future. Lack of education in these remote regions often leads uneducated children and adults to fall victim to unethical labor practices.
“The overall goal of this trek is to not only ensure that children in remote villages of Nepal are getting the supplies they need to foster learning, but also to ensure their teachers stay connected with other educators and facilitators,” Krasa BK said. “By helping the children and the teachers in these villages, we foster growth and sustainability.”
Volunteers hike to and serve remote schools in the foothills of the Himalayas and then help deliver supplies and clothes, read with children and interact with teachers. Volunteers do not need to have any formal teaching experience or certifications before signing up for this trek. The program accepts people who are 18 or older with at least a high school education.
The third type of expedition is a 21-day Yoga Trek, which offers what the organization calls an opportunity for an internally and externally transformative experience. Each trip is escorted by a fitness trainer and yoga guru, as well as a Tibetan Sherpa, who accompanies the group to the picturesque Annapurna region of Nepal along the Thorong-La pass.
Each day begins with a morning workout and yoga session, followed by a healthy breakfast and then a full day of hiking through mountain vistas and ancient Himalayan villages. Participants learn healthy eating, tone specific muscle groups, and focus on breathing, meditation and yoga techniques.
An Additional Tier of Philanthropy: Dalit Guides
The organization offers an additional bonus through its adventure treks: It gives hope to people who are subject to an inequitable social class system. Many of the children TREKT Adventures helps are Chepang, an indigenous group often described as the poorest of Nepal’s poor and one of Nepal’s most marginalized cultures.
The volunteers work to help break the stigma of this social classification system. The trek guides are of the Dalit caste, and their employment with TREKT Adventures serves to distinguish them within their community.
“Dalits are considered untouchable, and we are trying to reverse that stigma, which is why I took the name BK with my own when I married my husband,” Krasa BK said. “I want to show solidarity.”
The Hindu Bishwokarma, or BK caste, dates back generations and is a common last name in Nepal. Her husband, Ramesh BK, co-founder of TREKT Adventures, explains that in his native Nepali tongue, “bishwo” means “world,” and “karma” means “life, cause and effect.”
“Your participation elevates the life and village status of the guides who work for us,” Krasa BK says. “They return home as proud guides and can say they work for one of Nepal’s top tourism companies.”
Sustainable Entrepreneurship Model
TREKT Adventures is not a traditional 501(c)(3). All profits are rolled back into sustainment, training and administration services, which helps grow various Nepali businesses and tourism. The organization does not regularly accept donations because physical or monetary donations that are transferred to Nepal are often subject to a system of bribery or theft.
“Donations do not foster growth,” Krasa BK said. “In Nepal, the goal should be to create businesses that can scale and provide jobs — that’s growth. We are coming into an age when people want what is known in business as ‘the triple bottom line.’ That means the company provides value for the client, value for employees, and value for the firm. I would add another value — that of social good. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
For more information www.trekthimalaya.com