Kathmandu Hospital: HRDC (Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children)

Just last week, Ashok (my guide) and I were driving to Bhaktapur which is located East on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The drive to Bhaktapur has always been a favorite of mine for two reasons. First, it’s always nice to escape the craziness of Kathmandu especially during monsoon when you feel extra congested from all the rain that literally falls from the sky by the ship load (Those of you who have actually experienced a monsoon season in Asia, you know what I’m talking about). Second, within 20 minutes your immediately surrounded by rice paddy fields, BEAUTIFUL Nawari architecture (Google it), endless rural Nepal, and my favorite…. the brickyards. On this particular day though it was my main purpose to visit the brickyards one last time before I would depart for Bangladesh on July 18th, however today proved that things don’t always go as planned and with a little faith, a Nepali, a motorcycle, and a cell phone anything is possible. As Ashok parked his motorcycle, we quickly gathered our things and navigated our way through the backs of some old shacks and in to the farmland of Bhaktapur. We hiked through rice fields, over a newly constructed half built concrete bridge, through ankle deep mud on the banks of the rice fields, and finally reaching higher ground where we could temporarily dry out Ashoks shoes because of the three inch coat of mud that engulfed his entire two feet. Within minutes of our little trek through the fields, we came to one of the brickyards I had recently photographed. a couple weeks prior. (SEE blog post: A True Authentic Cultural Experience/June-26th). We entered the property and I was very eager to get to work and start photographing, but within seconds I knew something wasn’t right. There were no human voices, no children playing, no trucks coming and going, and we did not see a worker in sight. Scanning for any sign of life, I recognized a man from my previous visit who was sitting in a little hut like office smoking. After a few words were exchanged in broken English and Nepali, Ashok looked at me with this look of shame and disappointment like a trained dog that had just peed on the floor and said “This particular brick yard was the last in the valley that closed yesterday and production will not continue till September due to the monsoon”. Quickly realizing that photographing the brickyard workers was literally a lost cause, Ashok and I quickly began to think. As we were figuring out our options for the day, Ashok suddenly recalled an idea that I presented to him a week back over breakfast. I had told him I wanted to go to a hospital in Banepa that specialized in orthopedics and prosthetic limbs. Ashok quickly got on the phone, made three phone calls, and within four minutes he eagerly explained we have a meeting with the director of the hospital and the facility was located off the main highway that we were traveling on from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur, all we had to do was keep heading East in the same direction we came from. realizing that it was already 10:00am we suddenly picked up our pace and made our way through the muddy maze of fields, bridges, mangroves, and half visible paths back to where Ashok had parked his motorcycle. Still with the same urgency and excitement we quickly pounded back a litre of water, started the bike and we were off to the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC).

Riding down the highway with a blue sky and glowing white clouds was a nice surprise that late morning given that it had been raining periodically for a week straight. On this particular day, the ride to HRDC was filled with warm feelings you get when summer arrives with it’s first week of warm weather with BBQ’s and evening bike rides. After 20 minutes of driving time we made a quick left turn off the highway onto a gravel road ascending through a series of switchbacks  that can prove difficult on a 165cc motorcycle with a combined weight of 300 lbs. As we reached the top of the hospitals main building, Ashok turned off the bike, and we quickly admired the beautiful view the hospital had of the entire valley. Ashok and I quickly went through our game plan and discussed what was needed to be said in our meeting with the director to increase our chances of access. From there we proceeded through the front doors confident in our intentions and mission.

We entered the hospital where we briefly waited for the director to finish with a meeting he was currently involved with. As we entered the office, we exchanged names, greetings and I found the director Krishna Bhattarai quite a humble, a gentle man. He was stern with his policies but had a quality that many Nepali men lack in Nepal, and that is an open mind. After discussing our intentions, our mission, patient ethics, hospital ethics and trust, he granted Ashok and I access to the entire hospital. Excited to start working, Ashok and I received an in depth tour of the hospital from one of the hospital staff. We witnessed many patients with a variety of physical complications, disabilities, and deformities. The hospital accepts children up to the age of 16 but they may stay until they are 18 if further treatment is required. They perform all orthopedic surgeries on site, physiotherapy, prosthetic fabrication, counseling, and attend to home visits. The HRDC is a privately operated organization where a variety of funding comes from philanthropists, grants, and international aid from a variety of countries. After the tour I was amazed at the facility compared to the government hospitals I had witnessed in Kathmandu, Surkhet, and Simikot. I would try to explain the joy I witnessed from ALL the patients in the hospital, but my words like cliche would not give them justice… They were just beautiful and I hope you are able to see that in my photographs.

My visit to the HRDC was intended for a one day visit due to other projects I had to wrap up in Kathmandu, but I fell in love with the patients, the international volunteers, and the staff making a total of three visits in the week. The visits included playing with the children, a portrait session capturing all the children and their facial expressions, distribution of prints to each of the patients (New Blog post coming soon…), and photographing the kids in their daily lives inside the HRDC. The HRDC is truly a fantastic organization and one I HIGHLY recommend volunteering for if you ever visit Nepal. The children seem completely immobile in some of the photographs, but trust me, their spirits get the better of them and I am not lying when I say you see them having races on crutches, climbing through windows, playing tag, jumping, and moving with the energy of any perfectly healthy child. These children are fighters and true survivors. I hope you fall in love with them as much as I did.



This photograph is of a boy named Sargam Rai who seems to really enjoy drawing and doodling. Every time I saw him he always had a pencil or pen in his hands.


Pawan and Manju Poudel pose delicately for a photograph.


Two young Nepali's spend their days playing in the courtyard taking turns racing in the wheel chairs.


Two young Nepali's spend their days playing in the courtyard taking turns racing in the wheel chairs.


A young Nepali boy shows me how high he can throw and catch a ball.


A Nepali girl imitates me taking photographs of her.


A young Nepali boy shows me how high he can throw and catch a ball.


Sabaya Devi and her daughter Niraj Sah take advantage of the fresh air and sunshine outside before the rain comes.


Sargam Rai enjoying some music on his mothers mobile phone while she takes a nap next to him.


Khumbanadur Pandey showing his excitement having his photograph taken.


Sanchamaya Praja was so delicate and gentle. She was an absolute doll when she tried to speak English.


This Nepali boy was AWESOME and had more energy than a Labrador. Constantly racing with his walker, hopping everywhere, and getting mischief...AKA- Mr. Monkey!!





Sharmila Nepel and her grandmother spend their days talking on the bed and drawing in the play room.


Parbarti Sharma is stubborn when it comes to have her photo taken.


One of the three workshops where local craftsmen fabricate soft leather shoes for patients at the HRDC.


One of the three workshops where local craftsmen fabricate soft leather shoes for patients at the HRDC.


One of the three workshops where local craftsmen fabricate soft leather shoes for patients at the HRDC.


A table of sample parts, prosthetic limbs, and other materials.


Need I say more...


Khumbanadur Pandey quietly poses for a photograph.


One of the three workshops where a local craftsmen fabricates a knee joint for a patient at the HRDC.


One of the three workshops where a local craftsmen fabricates a leg brace for a patient at the HRDC.


One of the three workshops where a local craftsmen traces shoe patterns to be made into shoes for patients at the HRDC.


Different size wooden shoe templates are used to construct shoes for the patients at the HRDC.