Nepal: An enlightening trip

Nepal is a beautiful country that is famous for Mt.Everest. It is landlocked and borders with India and China. What you might know is that Nepal has Mt.Everest, but what you might not know is that it has 8 of the worlds 10 tallest mountains. What you might know about Nepal is the 2015 earthquake but what you might not know is the extent of devastation it has caused and how much of the rebuilding is still in progress. What you might know about Nepal is it’s beautiful treks and tourism industry but what you might not know is that one of the major challenges that Nepal faces is trafficking. Innocent children and women fall victim to human traffickers. The 2015 earthquake made the country even more vulnerable, specially remote areas like Sindhupalchowk. Many schools in the area were destroyed. While relief from government and NGOs did exist, the journey to deliver help to some remote areas in the skills was difficult. Kids and communities without access to education falls particularly prey to traffickers.

Education can be an equalizer: Every child is born with potential but millions of children around the world lack access to basic education, support and the opportunity to shine. In some places like the villages hidden in the hills of Nepal, access to education is a real problem. But even when access is solved, kids sometimes don’t get to school because their parents do not believe in it. There are not too many role models from these areas that are losing parents to migration for work to other countries. The people who do make it due to education are considered exceptional and uncommon. Given this challenge, two of my friends had decided to make a difference. I met Shailee and Maya during a trek to base camp Everest in 2015 when they first talked about their dreams of rebuilding these schools in Nepal. This year, we had an opportunity to do something more. Thanks to good friends and colleagues, we have been able to raise $10k towards helping build a school called “Shree Balsudhar” in one of the hardest villages to reach in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal. In early August, 2018, we went to visit this school to volunteer, learn more about the kids, the community and see what we can do to help.

Our long journey from SFO: After almost a 40 hr journey, my husband, 2 kids, nephew and I reached Kathmandu. After a short break for the night, we left early the next morning to go to the village. Given the monsoon season, it took us almost 6 hrs to drive 44 kms. The roads were dangerous and unstable. We almost got stuck in the mud and helped other cars that were stuck. The car ride was far from pleasant. It was extremely bumpy and we barely had enough energy to hold on. The driver took us to as far as he could. From that point, it was another 3 hrs hike to get to Kalfe Kakani where we are building a new school. It took us an hour to just get to Bhotenamlang where there was another school that my friends helped rebuild.

The journey from San Francisco to Botenamlang, Nepal

Tough Physically and mentally: I had not anticipated this hike. With a bad knee that was aggravated by my recent work travel, I couldn’t walk much without extreme pain forcing us to stop for the night in the village Bhotenamlang. There were no hotels but a great Mrs.Gurung who hosted us in her home.

Resources: We ate a healthy meal made from simple rice and lentils. Nepal is famous for “Dal Bhat” (rice/lentils). In addition we got to eat a very simple curry made from simple vegetables found growing outside. Organic and fresh! But there wasn’t any fresh milk because nobody can take care of any cattle in these hills given that young and able people are migrating to other countries for livelihood leaving behind children and older people. Most of the money in the area was little but came from remittances. People in the villages were not receiving any digital remittances. They were walking almost 2 hours to the closest village to pick up their money and get rice and pulses. For everything else they were dependent on whatever was available around their homes.

The Opportunity: We spent a couple of days volunteering at Shree Ganesh school. The school seemed well built and had students from till grade 8. However, the school was far from a normal school we see in developed areas. There were kids ranging across 5–6 yrs in the same grade. As we spent time with students in each of the classes, their stories were both sad and amazing. Atleast half the kids had had nothing to eat when we had met them and barely had any food to last them the day. Thankfully we had carried some breakfast bars that helped that day. But what about the rest of the days?! There were a few kids in classes as young 2 in their early development class who lost their parents in the earthquake or to poverty. There was a 2 yr old in the class whose parents keep sending their kid to school so that the teachers could watch him during the day as they had to both go to work. And he had no comprehension of what was going on around him and we didn’t see him smile or talk for the entire day but he just stayed in the room with the rest of the kids. Most of the classes were taught in Nepali but how would a student thrive in this digital world without learning Science or Computer language in English? How would the kids be global citizens when the kids could barely read the alphabet. How would the girls feel empowered when one of the stories in their official syllabus talked about a man with two wives? How would the kids achieve their dreams of becoming teachers and doctors like they had shared without the tools to deal with the hurdles they will face?

At the end, we didn’t volunteer a lot but the little time we did get with the kids made me realize that fundraising to help build the school is just the beginning. It is like reaching base camp Mt.Everest. The climb up is ahead! Building the school is just the beginning. There is a lot more ahead to ensure kids stay in school, they are inspired to achieve more, to become global citizens.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep…”

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