Good Deeds: Dan Winkelmann Makes Med Trek To Nepal

Karmo Thalo in Neapli means a place where you do your good deeds. 

Already scheduled and much needed, the Karma Thalo Foundation’s October medical mission trip to Nepal was nearly derailed due to political unrest in the region. An earthquake in April already caused historic destruction and the people were in need of ‘good deeds” more than ever. 

“We could get into Nepal, but because of protesters holding resources at the border, the risk was not having enough fuel to get back,” says Dan Winkelmann, an associate candidate with the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Luckily, his group had a plane that had enough for a round-trip journey and they were on their way to 17 days of service in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

Dan, a pharmacist, joined 20+ doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, hygienists and volunteers with Karma Thalo, whose mission is to deliver sustainable health programs to the poor in the most remote areas of Nepal, improving the quality of life through access to medical care and health education.

“It started out with a group of friends and it grew from there,” says Dan, who himself joined the group through friends. 

The mission team travelled by bus from Kathmandu and hiked into village called Lisankhu. This was Dan’s second med trek so he was prepared for, what he calls, a “very rustic” environment—no electricity, running water, sanitation or gas—and importantly, no access to health care. 

In fact, 90 percent of the population has no access to health care, particularly impacting childbirths and emergency care situations. (Fortunately, through a donor and Karmo Thalo, Lisankhu has an ambulance and has saved many, many lives that would have previously been lost.)

With remote villages being only a crow’s fly from Kathmandu, but a days-long walk or a day-long bus journey over mud roads, this annual medical clinic is the only option. “For some people, it is the only help they get all year,” Dan says.  

The villagers start lining up at 6:30 a.m. to hopefully be seen that day. By the 2 p.m. darkness, the clinic has to shut down the line and bring the people back the next morning. Dan estimates that nearly 1000 people were seen for up to 1200 visits total. 

All of this is done free of charge, supported by donations that provide prescriptions, medical supplies and other necessities. Volunteers pay their own way as well. 

In addition to the standard supplies and care, Dan was also able to hand out hats, gloves and scarfs, courtesy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “The smile, the joy on the people’s faces. It was just awesome!” Dan says.

The province sponsored a collection, and Dan expected to bring a bag or so of warm donations. “I ended up taking five army duffle bags with me on the plane!” 

He also ended up with $2500. “I kept getting checks from people I didn’t even know. It was overwhelming and surprising. A big, big thanks to the Sisters of St. Joseph.” 

And the Sisters of St. Joseph thank Dan for in the way he lives the CSJ mission to serve the dear neighbor where they are in need.

Province Leader Sister Maureen Freeman says, “In the 2013 Chapter document of the Sisters of St. Joseph it is states, ‘We commit ourselves to: walk with those who are marginalized …’ Thank you, Dan, for walking with the people of Nepal and making our Chapter come alive!"

 

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