Lambrina Nikolaou

(Nepal 1991)

The Nepalese I worked with had so little, but gave so much. They felt a deep responsibility for those less fortunate. Their approach to life and this feeling of belonging to each another was very powerful for me.

When I arrived for my Crossroads placement at the medical clinic in Chisopani, Nepal, the staff thought I was a spy. With the help of a translator, I convinced them I was a student volunteering with a Canadian organization and was there to learn from them and offer my skills. It was a very busy clinic with hundreds of people needing medical attention daily. I did odd jobs to help out — teaching English and family planning, taking care of kids who had brothers or sisters at the clinic — a bit of everything.

There was no triage system based on need, but a caste structure that determined how people were served. If you were Brahmin, you got to line up before anyone of a lower caste. It was unfair and while I wasn’t there to tell them how to run their clinic, I did suggest that there might be less work if the staff treated patients who needed serious medical attention first. It turned out a few staff members felt the same way, and we tried to tackle the issue with programming that would first serve those who were seriously sick, without causing conflict.

They were long days but very intense and I remember loving every minute of it. Because I spent so much time with the staff and the students we developed great rapport and trust between us. There was a lot of development and learning happening within this little community at the clinic. I think a lot of it came out the discussions we had in English classes and over tea. They were willing to open their horizons and discuss how certain things were done because of the culture and realized that some of it could be harmful to a patient’s well being. I felt good about people taking ownership and enabling each other to do things differently

The Nepalese I worked with were such hard workers who had so little, but they gave so much. They were kind to so many people and felt a deep responsibility to people who were less advantaged. Their approach to life and this feeling of belonging to one another was very powerful for me. I think my Crossroads experience motivated me when I came back to find work that brought meaning to people’s lives and promoted social justice. I wanted to give back to the organization because of the people who opened their lives to me. Putting time and energy in this organization is very important because civil society plays a critical role in making change in the world. I‘m proud to be part of Crossroads because it continues to make an impact, engaging people in both directions.

Lambrina Nikolaou is past Chair of the Canadian Crossroads International (CCI) Board of Directors and is currently Chair of Crossroads Toronto 50th Anniversary Committee. She is the Director of Community Programs with St. Christopher House in Toronto.


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