Written by Arielle Cotoia
Willimantic, Conn. - Associate Professor of Psychology Carlos Escoto; Geeta Pfau, retired associate director of health services; and Information Technology Service Trainer Barbara Williams led a group of Eastern Connecticut State University students to the country of Nepal this past summer. The trip was part of a Comparative Health Psychology course designed to provide students with an overview of social, psychological and education aspects of health from an East Asian perspective, and a look at the HIV pandemic affecting Nepal.
The students gained insight into Nepal's health care system by visiting the Ayurveda Health Home, which practices health from a holistic approach; Maiti Nepal, a women's shelter for women involved in sex-trafficking, sexual abuse and domestic violence; Cattrapati Free Clinic, which provides free health care for those who cannot afford it; MaryKnoll Nepal, the first psychiatric hospital solely for helping the mentally ill; and other hospitals. When visiting MaryKnoll Nepal, the students also learned how doctors use cow milk as agricultural therapy.
"Ayurvedic health practices health through a holistic approach that incorporates mind and body," said Natalie Bustamante, a 2011 graduate. "It includes physical, sensorial, mental and spiritual aspects of health. One thing I learned was that people must learn to love themselves and be truly happy before any real healing can occur."
Despite the medical and economic limitations in Nepal, the students were inspired by people such as Anuradha Koirala, the founder of Maiti Nepal and 2010 CNN Hero of the Year. Koirala has worked tirelessly to address the harsh social struggles Nepali women face daily. "Maiti Nepal is a safe haven for traumatized women and children, and is treated as sacred," said Sydney Price, a junior from Oakdale. "It was very hard to listen to our presenter speak of the horrors that occur in Nepal and the world today, where children as young as 7 are stolen from their homes and forced into a life where they are exploited, beaten and tortured. I'm very thankful for Anuradha Koirala and people like her who dedicate their lives to rescuing these poor individuals."
The situation in Nepal has inspired the students to take action. "Visiting Chattrapati Free Clinic was extremely inspirational," said Price. "It got all of us thinking how Eastern could help raise money for it since it is run by volunteers and donations."
For many students, discovering the Buddhist temples and shrines throughout Nepal was the highlight of the trip, as the shrines and temples represent symbols of hope for Nepali people. "The people, culture and scenery made this trip the most beautiful experience of my life," said Melissa Griffin, a senior from Willimantic. "We met wonderful people who gave us so much, and I feel that it is now my turn to give back to them. I plan on spending a few months next summer volunteering in Nepal because this trip has had such an impact on me."