Banskota then volunteered at Shanta Bhawan as a paediatric surgeon under Archie Fletcher, and felt that he had finally found his calling in life – helping children from underprivileged families who could not afford treatment. After Shanta Bhawan merged with Patan Hospital in 1982, Banskota turned down an offer to join Fletcher in Seattle, and continued volunteering at Anandaban leprosy hospital doing hand reconstruction, and at the Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa.
It took another seven years of fund-raising and painstaking preparation for Banskota to finally set up his dream project: the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Banepa in 1992.
“As a young surgeon looking for challenges, I couldn’t have asked for more,” Banskota recalls. “The plight of the children was heart-breaking, and the personal sense of fulfilment of having the privilege to make them better was the greatest reward I could have. Yet, there was so much more to do and so little to do it with.”
The hilltop facility in Banepa was also a great escape from the grime and congestion of Kathmandu for Banskota, who was working on a parallel project to set up the private B&B Hospital with fellow-physician Jagdish Lal Baidya.
Juggling two jobs was not easy, when not supervising construction and overseeing administrative work, he was operating nearly non-stop in the surgery from early morning till late at night. “I did not have much of a family life,” he admits.
HDRC offers free medical care for children with congenital and trauma-related disabilities, infections in its six operating theatres, and offers physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Since the children are away from home for so long, the hospital also runs a school so they do not miss out on studies.
This is a unique model, where a private city hospital supports a rural charity facility. Besides Banepa, HRDC also runs a Community Based Rehabilitaiton program with four satellite centres and mobile clinics all over Nepal. In the past nearly 40 years, HRDC has changed for the better the lives of 105,000 children, nearly half of them female.