A legacy of empathy brings clubfoot care to children in Nepal

February 08, 2023
HRDC’s main campus in Banepa.

The road leading to The Hospital for Rehabilitation and Disabled Children (HRDC) winds through the lush hills that surround Banepa, a small city about 30 kilometers outside of Kathmandu, Nepal. Each bend gives way to beautiful views of Buddhist shrines shimmering gold on neighboring hilltops. A fitting entrance to a very special place.

The campus, a series of red brick buildings with large windows nestled on a hillside, includes things you would expect to find in a hospital: medical wards, operating theatres, and offices. But there are also classrooms for children, an open courtyard with a playground, training facilities for medical staff, and an airy dining hall with a nearby garden. A large workshop where prosthetics, crutches, foot abduction braces, and other medical assistive devices are carefully crafted—primarily by former patients turned hospital employees—is another unique facet.

HRDC has been a MiracleFeet partner since 2018, but the incredible facility was a long time in the making. It all began with the dream of Dr. Ashok Banskota, whose personal journey is as compelling as the hospital’s evolution itself.

A Legacy of Empathy Brings Clubfoot Care to Children in Nepal

Dr. Banskota did not grow up wealthy or ensconced in the affluent medical community—quite the opposite. Springing from humble roots, Dr. Bankota’s personal drive and moral compass were shaped by the world he saw around him as a young man and especially by his father, an orphan, who instilled in him the importance of hard work, education, and empathy. A book Dr. Banskota read while in Catholic school called The Night They Burned the Mountain profoundly impacted him and helped hone his calling to care for the most vulnerable.

After attending medical school in India and completing his orthopedic residence in the US, Dr. Banskota returned to Nepal and began volunteering as a doctor at a local hospital.

“Every time I saw a disabled child, I thought of my own children’s faces.”

Dr. Ashok Banskota

A few years later, he founded HRDC and the doors to the facility’s first campus opened in 1985. Soon after, 4,000 children with all types of physical disabilities were enrolled. It was no small job to fund, supply, and staff the hospital, especially as the patient load mounted—evidence of the existing and growing need for critical orthopedic care.

As the need continued to grow, Dr. Banskota started envisioning a larger facility in a location easily accessible to Kathmandu with a reliable water supply and an unobstructed view of the mountains. Fast forward several years (and many, many hurdles later) the current HRDC campus opened in Banepa in 1997. Dr. Banskota’s dream had been realized, and a lifeline was available for thousands of Nepali children.

DSCF0431 Bishal Rajbhandari 2022-05-12
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Unlike his father, Dr. Banskota’s son, Dr. Bibek Banskota, was introduced to hospitals and operating rooms at an early age. While growing up, he would accompany his dad to work witnessing the impact of treatment on the children receiving care. He saw first-hand the transformation a child born with clubfoot would undergo – arriving shy, scared, unable to walk properly, and then, after just a few weeks, leave with straight feet, a determination in their step, a bright smile on their face.

“Whatever is necessary to bring a positive transformation to a life, we have tried to structure our program around that.”

Dr. Bibek Banskota

Dr. Bibek continued to follow closely in his father’s footsteps, attending medical school abroad and specializing in orthopedics before returning to Nepal to work at HRDC. He is now the Executive Director, overseeing 230 staff including doctors, counselors, nurses, physical therapists, and casting technicians, but also teachers, cooks, drivers, administrative officers, and cobblers. The personal element extends beyond the Banskotas – ask any staff member and they will tell you HRDC is a family. Of the 230 employees, nearly half are former patients, and many have worked at HRDC for over 20 years.

HRDC is also more than a medical facility – it’s a place where children and their families find acceptance, care, and support. The staff ensures that every aspect of a child’s wellbeing is accounted for while undergoing treatment—a process that can take several weeks or even months.

Since the stay can be lengthy, HRDC hosts academic classes to ensure children don’t fall behind in their studies. For younger children there are art and music classes. Peak into a classroom and you’ll hear children laughing and singing, learning English, or see them drawing their favorite animal. And families, who often stay on campus with their children while they receive treatment, are well-nourished thanks to the meals provided in the dining hall which are cooked fresh daily utilizing fruits and vegetables from the on-site garden. Meat (a delicacy for many) is served once a week.  

In every way, HRDC embodies its founder’s vision of creating a compassionate, inclusive, and caring environment where all children have equal access to opportunities and the best possible quality of life.

Partnership with MiracleFeet

It was in 2018, when MiracleFeet program staff were searching for a local partner in Nepal to support clubfoot care in the region that they learned about HRDC and Dr. Banskota. With aligned visions and similar missions, it was an obvious fit.

Since then, MiracleFeet has been supporting HRDC to reach and treat children with clubfoot. Each year, the hospital treats more than 20,000 children with various disabilities, including 500 with clubfoot. Since MiracleFeet began its partnership with HRDC, over 2,800 Nepali children have received clubfoot treatment at the hospital. No one is ever turned away.

Dr. Banskota’s dream to create a facility to reach disabled children was a long time in the making, and today it is still one of the only resources in Nepal providing transformative care at no cost to families.

Partners like HRDC are at the heart of MiracleFeet’s mission to eliminate clubfoot disability worldwide, and together, we are committed to ensuring quality care and life-changing clubfoot treatment is available for all children who need it.

HRDC staff pose for a photo in the courtyard.

Clubfoot has many heroes

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