This belated post contains brief highlights from our last trips in Nepal. Since I’ve been back, I’ve followed up on contacts made while I was there and started marketing for our next trip in 2012.
We used the same voluntourism itinerary we had in previous years. This post is about our service project in Dadagaun Village’s orphanage. As usual, my group was apprehensive about visiting such a poor orphanage. Our reservations evaporated instantly once we arrived and were welcomed warmly by the children and staff. We were included in their festival titled, Dasain.
Dasain is the longest and most favorite festival of Nepal. Everyone stays home with their families, all offices and schools are closed. The skies of Kathmandu are filled with Kites and the marketplaces are filled with farmers bringing their goats, buffaloes, ducks and chickens to sell. The animals are to be sacrificed on the night of ‘Kal Ratri’ to goddess Durga to celebrate her victory over evil. On the day of Dasami, everyone puts on new clothes and goes to honor their family elders, where they received large red ‘Tika’ of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of Dasain, families and friends unite, feasts are consumed, blessing is imparted and gifts are exchanged. Nepal’s most beloved festival ends with the full moon.
Neeru, did a wonderful job facilitating our time in the orphanage. Two members of my group were teachers. After consulting with the orphanage “parents” and Neeru, we used RESPECT as our theme. Since the children were eager to practice speaking English with us, we used these opportunities to reinforce respecting yourself, each other and the environment was part of our message. We all reinforced picking up trash, hand washing, brushing their teeth, and taking care of their belongings as ways to show respect. We facilitated putting up signs, art projects and watched them sing and dance for us.
Neeru explained that there weren’t any files on the children. With her help and the help of the older children, we interviewed each child to gather basic information about him/her. Neeru took photos of each child to attach to the form and put the form in a folder for them. Prior to this visit, there was no record of them. At the end of our first day, Sandy said, “These children are happy and they have NOTHING.” “They are so respectful and love each other.”
During dinner one night, Steve introduced us to Cornelia Santschi, a neuropsychologist working at Columbia Hospital in New York City. She delivered mattresses, new bedding, and teddy bears purchased with money she raised through her private non-profit, Anatta Out Reach. www.anattattoutreach.org. She and Ramesh (the “father”) replaced the urine soaked, bed bug invested straw mattresses and bedding where the children slept.
After we finished our trek, we visited the orphanage again. What a change! Neeru framed and hung some of the art work the children did. The old broken tables and benches in the dining room were replaced by new ones. The frames from the old tables were used to store food products that had been on the ground before.
After saying good-bye to my first group, I welcomed the second group for our trek to Basa Village in the Solo Khumbu region of south of Everest. We hiked thru the richest farmland in the world, through small villages and varied terrain with breath taking views of the Everest Range.
If you are interested in learning more about this trek, one of the trekkers, Barry Suskind took photos, tracked our trip on google earth and wrote a diary. Here is Barry’s note:
“After much delays and me being side tracked by so many other things going on, I’ve finally gotten the Shutterfly site completed. There I’ve chronicled our trip, uploaded many of our photos, provided a link to my You Tube Channel where I’ve uploaded the videos I took from the trip and even uploaded the Google Earth data, both in image format and the actual data. If you go to the “Google Earth Tracking Data” and click on a file you can open it directly in Google Earth, even on an iPad or Android. ”
The site password is basa
In between the two trips and on our last day, I met with three private non-profit groups working with human trafficking victims. In a small cafe near Boudanath, two of my trekkers and I met with Anuradha Achara, Ms. Charimaya Tamang and Sabina Darshandhari, the founder, with Shakti Samuha. www.shakisamuha.org.np. Sabina told me they had received an award from Hillary Clinton for being known as the first human trafficking program in Nepal. They invited me to give a workshop to their staff in November 2014. I accepted enthusiastically.
Prior to meeting them, I met Glenda Houser the program manager of Beauty For Ashes, www.beautyforashesintl.com
and Dhru Thapa, founder of New Hope Foundation, www.newhopenepal.com.
Meeting each of this people inspired me deeply to continue my efforts in taking westerners to Nepal. We are in a unique position to help these worthwhile programs. The dates for our next trip to Nepal are October 21-November 1, 2014. Two more people are needed to complete the group. There is an informational event this Sunday in Potomac Maryland.v Please contact me soon if you are interested in joining us!