Entrusted to Heal – Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital

July 01, 2021

Tapting, a place where there is no internet. The mobile phone network is sparse. The top of a hill is only a place where you can make a good call. Green leafy vegetables are a luxury. Half of the year, tires skids on the road filled with a slippery slob. Another half of the year, the road is filled with dirt which could submerge half a man. Travelling is extremely difficult. Despite all, people are happy. Happy because a hospital is being made. Their children are enrolled in school with computers. Their children win awards in the competition around the district. Electricity is provided to such a place where the mainline is not available. In recent times, development is rapid. The population is growing. People are settling from more remote places to a place with hospital, school and electricity. All this was possible only because of the untiring efforts of Late Mr Wonchhu Sherpa, whose legacy is being continued by Wongchhu Peak Promotion and Himalayan Yokpu Foundation.

After I came to know that a hospital is being made in a remote village of Solukhumbu District, I wanted to visit. I requested the Project Manager of Wonchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital, who is my friend since childhood, to let me visit the hospital. We conformed to the dates. I was ready to go to a place where the terrain was challenging and weather non-forgiving. We decided to meet at Ghurmi, I left my place at 3:00 am. The Gale of wind, blinding fog and cold could not stop me to reach Ghurmi after an 8hours ride. Meeting my friends for a lunch at Ghurmi gave me new energy to pursuit forward in the journey. We rallied our bikes. Passing Hilepani, Okhaldunga, Dhap Bazar was easier. The most challenging roads were yet to come. To reach Tapting, it was 1.5 hours off-road from Dhap Bazar. The uneven roads with stone-paved gave jerks to the rider, people here considered it a good road. Dusty roads on hills produced a trail of dust making it difficult for following rider to see. It was cold when we reached the top. Muddy puddles spattered dirt on the bike. After 14hours of the adventurous ride, we finally reached the destination. When we are slaking with tiredness, a local said, "The road is good in this time of year." Nabin and I had come here for the first time. It was difficult for us to imagine what the local was saying.

On the way, Pasang pointed to a top of a hill where there were three beautiful building and said, “That’s the hospital.” The scene was picturesque. Surrounded by hills with terrace farming, areas of forest and sparsely placed white and blue houses, Wonchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital seemed a centre of attraction. Not far away from there, we could see, a ground with some houses around it. "Is that a school?" I asked. It was a Shree Wongchhu Biswadarshan Primary School. It was also built by the same person who has initiated our hospital. Late Mr Wongchhu Sherpa. By now, I had heard some of his good deeds, which, I later realized, was like the tip of an iceberg. I wanted to know more about him and his place. We started our bikes and left for the picturesque hospital.

As our bikes were entering the premises of the Hospital, it felt more like a well-decorated resort. The buildings, pavement and the grass beside it. The hospital, its ambience and the view from the top were majestic. Half of your ailment would vanish by the view of the hospital. The interiors were also clean and tidy. There was a meeting in the hospital. As a doctor, I was asked to speak about my experience. I had reached this place only about five minutes ago but would talk about it for any length of time. We stayed there for a while. The project manager had to do some of his tasks. After helping him set his office, he took us to the place to stay.

It was already dusky by then. He took us to one of the white building with blue decoration. It was our home for few days. The inside of the room reflected Sherpa culture. A large dining hall with cushioned chairs and tables around the periphery with a furnace in the centre. The room was entirely covered by wooden insulation and pictures of different forms of buddha was hung by the room.  All the guests were welcomed into this room first.  We are assigned our room; it was cosy and warm. The double blanket was a must in this place. A tired body and warm bed, a recipe for sound sleep.

 I woke up early the next day. How could I miss the first rays of the Sun that blessed Wonchhu Memorial Hospital? On my way to the top of the Hill, I tried to know more about it from the locals. Hospital Dadha, as the locals called it, which means "Hospital Hill", was a well celebrated and awaited thing for the people of Taping. As I reached the top, I could see the view of bare hills, few sparsely placed houses separated by a terrace of farmland being ploughed to plant potatoes. It was the best crop in this place. Livestock was the second-best option. In front of the main hospital, the building was a sculpture of Late Mr Wongchhu Sherpa. Some of his works were portrayed in the engravings. I was fascinated by his works. I went inside the Wongchhu Memorial Hospital. It was a Health Post and a Birthing Centre and was being planned to be upgraded into Primary Health Care Centre. I could see the names of doctors and paramedics on-call with their contact number. All the facilities that they provided were listed in another table. Later when everyone from the team of WPP and HYF had come, we inspected more. After meeting the head of the hospital, who was a Health Assistant, he explained the problems and the suggested solution to the board of WPP and HYF. After the meeting was over, we explored Tapting.

The next day we visited more remote parts of Tapting. Places where everything was covered with snow during long winters, monsoon water damaged the roads, spring was foggy and during summer, roads had to be re-excavated to be useable for few months. This cycle was inevitable. Though constructions were being done, they could not face the harshness of the climate. People here were thankful that a good hospital is being made, a difficult road was better than no road at all. That day I ate few special foods native of the mountainous region of Nepal. Su-chiya, which is famous all over had originated from this region. It helps to keep us warm, hydrated and euglycemic in places where energy consumption is more. Either made with flour, ghee, salt and other grains or with tea leaves and milk. Hople a fermented beverage served warm after tempering in ghee and egg. Femer is made by mixing high-calorie grains with ghee. Femer were stored and eaten throughout the year. It is one of the most important foods for Sherpas. From being used during cultural events, to be the main source of energy during high altitude expedition, femer is considered more valuable than gold. Its quantity stored depicted the wealth of the house. (More one can store means chances of surviving increased.) Shyakpa, or famously known as Sherpa Stew, is a delicacy in the Sherpa community. Soup made with locally available potatoes, meat and leafy vegetables, mixed with flattened wheat flour dough and tincture of spices. Although the type of food people eats there has changed a lot. These hold a historic and evolutionary background.

The stay at Tapting was wholesome when we visited School Dadha. On this hill, Mr Wongchhu Sherpa had started a Primary School many years ago which was now being operated smoothly by the local bodies. It is the only school which had a computer. The students of this school have stood out in events around their municipality and had displayed their trophies in the principal’s office. We distributed the stationaries and equipment required to the school which was donated by the Himalayan Yokpu Foundation and Indiana Trekkers. I was prepared from my side. I went to different classes from 1 till 5 and gave oral health education. Teaching the importance of oral health earlier in life means building good oral habit throughout life. After learning what they knew, I tried to bridge their knowledge gap interactively. The sessions ended by teaching proper brushing technique according to their age and distributing toothbrushes. We talk with teachers on how to improve the quality of education and how more children can be enrolled in schools.

Late Mr Wongchhu had created a positive impact on his community even though he had not got a quality education himself. Knowing more about how he had worked in a different field to take his place prosperous, my respect for him had only grown higher. He had gone against his community to build a road for which he was treated. Now people can eat fresh fruits and vegetables that come from the city. He has made his place independent in electricity. A hydropower plant that is maintained by the locals has been installed in the nearby river. These are only a few that he had done for his community. His contribution to mountaineering, tourism, and foreign relationship is immense.

All this time, I was also noticing and talking to people about the need for upgraded health facilities. Providing health facilities to almost 2000 households in Tapting and nearby villages, Wongchhu Memorial Hospital carries a lot of hope from local. Instances of saving the life of people by timely interventions and primary care before referral has deepened the faith among people. I also observed the need for dental services to the people. Inflamed gums and carious teeth were visible while talking. People explained how they had to travel the whole day to their tooth pulled out. A dental health camp along with follow-up camps could be helpful to significantly minimize the prevalence of oral diseases.

We headed back after staying a night in Salleri. Only then we were able to call our homes and inform them that we were safe. In the era where telecommunication, internet, roadways and electricity are considered essential for the day today activities, there are places where basic need are at sparse. The place, lifestyle of people has made an impression. Thinking about the place, as I write this travelogue, I wish to go back and provide help in my might.


Dr. Anumesh Dahal

Dental Surgeon

District Hospital, Dhankuta

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