This article was originally published in Deseret News.
By Mercedes White @mercedesrwhite
If there is one thing every mother knows, it is that babies arrive on their own schedule. And no mother knows this better than 30-year-old Tewabech Kutambo, who lives in a small village called Lahyte, 370 miles south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
There is no water in Lahyte. To get water to drink, cook with, clean themselves and do washing, women leave before the sun is up and walk for two hours to the banks of the Orbole River. Filling their containers with as much water as they can carry, they make the two-hour trek back to their homes under the blazing African sun.
It’s a task that can’t be put off or postponed, no matter how tired or sick a woman feels — or how pregnant she is. Tewabech’s family depends on her, and if she doesn’t collect water, her family doesn’t eat or drink.
One morning when she was nearly nine months pregnant, Tewabech set out alone to collect water for her family. She was exhausted. She had sharp pains in her side. But she pushed the discomfort out of her mind as she made her way to the river.
It wasn’t until she was on her way back, containers of water in her arms, that the pain became too much to bear. Her baby was coming.
Tewabech gave birth to her child, a little girl, alone on the side of the road. She used some of the water she had with her to clean herself and the baby. Then, after resting for a little while, Tewabech got up and, with her baby in one hand and her water cans in the other, made her way back home.
Tewabech's story, told by David Winder, chief executive of the nonprofit group WaterAid, isn't uncommon. Every year 57 million women worldwide give birth without the help of a trained health worker, according to the World Health Organization. “It is often the case that they will give birth on the dirt floors in their homes,” said Dana Allison, executive director of Women’s World Health Initiative.
In these circumstances, the risk of infection to mothers and babies is extremely high. And in the developing world, where access to antibiotics is limited, infections are fatal. In this sense, Tewbech and her daughter are lucky. Although the delivery was traumatic, neither contracted an infection.
But many women and children in similar circumstances are not as fortunate. The World Health Organization estimates that half a million women per year die from infections associated with childbirth. Nearly 1 million newborns die each year from infection.
To address this issue, aid organizations have started distributing clean birth kits to women in low-resource settings around the world, such as Mozambique, Tibet and India. These aid groups, along with women’s health advocates, hope that by providing expectant mothers with a few basic hygiene items wrapped in a small portable bag, rates of infection in mothers and babies will dramatically decrease.
“When women in the United States find out they are pregnant, they are excited and think about what they will name the baby or who the baby will look like,” said Paula Dhanda, a California-based OB-GYN and founder of the nonprofit organization Worldwide Healing Hands, which works to improve maternal and infant health in developing countries.
“Women in developing countries have a lot of fear,” said Dhanda. “Will I survive the delivery? Will my baby?”
The importance of clean birth kits and hygienic practices when delivering a baby cannot be understated, said Allison. But getting attention and support for these projects is difficult.
“Because we don’t face these problems in the West, it is a difficult issue for women to connect to,” she said.
Women and babies in the West almost never die from complications related to delivery, according to Allison. “But any woman who has had a Cesarean section or had a doctor use a vacuum or forceps to facilitate delivery should understand that were it not for those interventions, they could be dead.”
Clean birth kits normally contain just six items: a bar of soap, a plastic sheet to deliver on, a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, clean string for tying the umbilical cord, gloves and a pictorial instruction sheet that illustrates the sequence of delivery events and proper hand-washing.
Research conducted by USAID in Tanzania shows the positive impact of the kits on women’s and children’s health. In a study of 3,200 participants, including some who used the kits and some who did not, the organization found that women who used the kits were substantially less likely to develop genital tract infections, and their infants were substantially less likely to develop cord infections. USAID estimates that if clean birth kits were used in 90 percent of home births, it would save the lives of 6,300 women and 102,000 newborns each year.
While clean birth kits have incredible potential for improving the health outcomes of mothers and babies, the $2 cost of a single kit is negligible. While prices vary around the world, most Americans could pay for a kit with the change in their sofas.
Two dollars covers not only the cost of the materials in the kit, but also the cost of putting the kit together. Danielle Ehret, a neonatal and perinatal resident at Boston Children’s Hospital, works with an organization called Ayzh to distribute clean birth kits in Bangladesh. Ayzh, Ehret explained, decided to have the kits assembled locally as a way of creating work opportunities for women who may otherwise struggle to find gainful employment. In this way, her organization’s clean birth kit program is assisting women on a number of levels.
Dhanda, who started distributing clean birth kits through Worldwide Healing Hands, has found modifications need to be made to kits sent to different countries to accommodate local practices and beliefs.
“In Nepal, it is traditional to cut the baby’s umbilical cord with a coin,” Dhanda said, “but money is about the dirtiest thing out there and using it to cut a cord can lead to infection for the baby.”
Out of respect for Nepalese custom, Dhanda arranged for the razor blades to be replaced with plastic rupees.
“Everything women around the world need to have a clean birth already exists. We don’t have to invent everything,” said Dhanda. Listening to what women need and understanding their traditions and practices is essential for the project to be successful, she said.
Roadblocks to distribution
While clean birth kits represent an easy, cost-effective way of improving maternal and infant mortality rates, there hasn’t been much of a push for this project, according to Jim Patell. Patell is a Stanford professor who teaches a popular class called Design for Extreme Affordability in which students produce low cost medical devices for use in the developing world.
One of the consequences of Millennium Development Goal five, which addresses infant and maternal mortality, is that there is a push to get women to deliver in hospitals instead of at home, an orientation that limits resources for making and distributing clean birth kits.
Allison has seen this firsthand in her work with the Women’s World Health Initiative in Senegal. She tells of a well-meaning Japanese NGO that built a state-of-the-art hospital in a central village in the area she works. “It has all the latest X-ray and ultrasound machines,” said Allison, but “it stands there locked and empty because there aren’t qualified health care workers to staff it and the people have no ability to pay for care.”
Neither Patell nor Allison are opposed to hospital births. “It is empirically true that women who give birth in hospitals do better,” said Allison, but sometimes it is “infrastructurally impossible for them to access the hospital.” For example, during the rainy season in Senegal, 40 percent of villages are cut off from the urban centers where hospitals are located.
Dhanda has seen similar issues in her work in Nepal. The government there offers women small amounts of money for delivering in approved medical facilities. However, Dhanda met women who lived three days from the nearest hospital. Even if they dropped everything the moment they went into labor, many would end up giving birth en route.
Even when the hospitals are accessible, lack of awareness about the signs of labor means there is often very little time between the moment a woman realizes she is having a baby and that baby is in her arms. For example, women in developing countries often don’t even notice when their water breaks.
“They are often malnourished and dehydrated, so there just isn’t a lot of amniotic fluid,” said Allison. When you combine that with the fact that in many of these places it is hot and women are sweating profusely, it’s easy to see how signs of labor might be missed.
Allison and Patell would like to see aid organizations focus more on solutions that recognize the situation on the ground when it comes to women giving birth in the developing world.
“My dad was a golfer,” said Patell, “and he taught me that you’ve got to play the ball where it lays.”
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By Eva Wilke, BSc(Psych), MCrim
Human trafficking affects everyone. It does not matter where the person comes from, what is his/her background, environment, culture, or country of origin. One hundred thousand children are bought, sold, and rented in the U.S every year.
"Part of this goes back to not being able to tell the difference between someone who is willingly in the sex industry and someone who is being exploited,” (Chinapen, 2013). These children often are marketed in pornography as college girls. Training of law enforcement and exploring the misconception of human trafficking is critical to the ability of patrol officers to identify the difference between a prostitute and a trafficking victim (Chinapen, 2013).
In the past few years there has been more data available on human trafficking, however the ignorance still exists and due to its illegal nature of modern slavery, numbers in reality are much higher than what is found in research.
Human trafficking has been around for centuries, going back to the ancient times where Romans were using slaves for their work, pleasure, and comfort (Poućki, 2012). After years, people still face slavery, modern slavery.
It is the third, largest criminal industry after arm and drug dealing (Polaris Project, 2010). Men, and women are trafficked within their own countries and across international borders. Regardless of how much impact it has globally, and locally, being more aware and educated on human trafficking could be a first step to prevention.
“When people think of human trafficking, they expect that people are being held behind walls, you know — locked doors,” said Boston Police Sgt. Donna Gavin. “That’s not always the case” (Martin, 2013).
Human trafficking is a “crime against humanity. It involves an act or recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion, or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them” (UNODC, United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime).
Why does trafficking happen?
Human trafficking is not only working as a sex slave. What is even more, human trafficking may happen within a family. Why does human trafficking happen? Is it so easy to get trapped?
The borders between countries have opened; there are more opportunities and chances for a better life. Unfortunately, people forget about their safety and once they have a possibility to expand horizons and experience different life, they just go for it.
It is critical to be educated about human trafficking in order to be able to avoid danger. Misconception of human trafficking and who is at risk, and geography of slavery in 21st century is a serious problem that should be investigated more closely.
Victims of human trafficking are most of the time not identified. Therefore they do not receive proper care, and their cases are misclassified. For instance, many cases of sex trafficking, especially when the victims are romantically involved with their traffickers, are identified as sexual or domestic violence.
Social service professionals report, this is a result of limited awareness by law enforcement, community service providers, and medical professionals. They are not trained enough in order to understand the definition of human trafficking and recognize the victims of it (Rape Assistance and Awareness Program, 2011).
Sex trafficking is a form of 21st century slavery. It does not only exist in third world countries, in happens in every country, United States included. Traffickers use variety of tactics to lure the victims. They prey on weakness, psychological and physiological such as threats, violence, lies, and debt bondage.
Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years that have been trafficked, either willingly or not is considered a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.
Every situation is different and some victims become romantically involved then these individuals are forced into work. Others are lured, they are promised a better future, job, money, and good life. Even more, parents or other family members exploit him/her as well. The trafficking situation might last a few days, weeks, month, or years. Some people never get out (Polaris Project, 2016).
There are no limitations or boundaries on who might become a victim. However, traffickers frequently target vulnerable populations: including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination.
Victims of sex trafficking can be from all walks of life, different nationalities, backgrounds, sexual orientation, beliefs, and politics. Sex trafficking occurs in a range of venues including fake massage businesses, via online ads or escort services, in residential brothels, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels.
The lucrative sex trade
Traffickers make on average $150,000-200,000 per child, per year. At least 100,000 children are used in prostitution every year in the U.S.” (The National Report on DMST: America’s Prostituted Children, 2010, Shared Hope).
The average age of a trafficked child in the United States is 11-12 years old (FBI). The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway (NISMART) children estimate that every year about 1.6 million children run away from home, in the USA. Moreover, after running away and becoming homeless within two to three days, 1 in 3 teens will be approached by a trafficker and exploited.
As of 2016, there are many shelters and programs available for victims of human trafficking. However, for fifty states, only twenty states have resources that have been somewhat successful. It is important to realize, that the other thirty states – have no place for victims of human trafficking.
In Colorado, there is no place – however, Extended Hands of Hope (in Colorado) is planning on opening the very first emergency shelter for girls that have been victims of human trafficking (Academy for Educational Development 2001-2006; Extended Hands of Hope 2015-2016).
The big issue is assumption of human trafficking. Human condition such as fear of poverty and abundance, vulnerability, and self-worth is deep rooted in individuals. It cannot be easily changed. However, working on a mindset, being able to spot it, and knowing the resources can save one life. One life matters.
The myths of human trafficking
Myth 1: Trafficked persons are foreigners and moved across borders
Truth: The federal definition of human trafficking states that human trafficking includes both U.S citizens and foreign nationals. Since the Trafficking Victim Protection Act as of 2000, both are protected under the federal trafficking statues (NHTRC, 2016). The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country each year is estimated at 200,000 American children into the sex industry.
Myth 2: Human trafficking involves travel, transportation, and movement
Truth: Transport might be involved as a controlling tool that way victims stay in unfamiliar places. Trafficking is not forced immigration. For example, if a family member is strained to work for another family member as a housekeeper and he/she is not being paid and treated properly – this could be a case of human trafficking. Conversely, human trafficking is not smuggling. “Smuggling is a crime against a country’s borders. Human trafficking is a crime against a person (NHTRC,2016).”
Myth 3: Human trafficking must include force and physical harm
Truth: This leads to misclassifying cases as traffickers use other forms of control. Traffickers use psychological methods and tools to obtain power over a victim. Victims are manipulated and threatened (NHTRC, 2016). This psychological and cognitive torture leads to lack of self-esteem, self-identity, and lack of trust. Since victims do not have any trust towards anyone, they often blame themselves for getting into a situation. Therefore, they often do not seek immediate help. They do not know how to behave when assistance is being offered (NHTRC, 2016).
Myth 4: Victims of human trafficking come from poverty or small towns
Truth: Anyone can be a victim. Although, poverty might increase the chance of becoming a victim and certainly can be a factor, it is not the reason. Victims come from all range on income level, and socioeconomic backgrounds. In further defining human trafficking, sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking. It includes both sex industry and physical labor. The crime can affect men, women, and children (NHTRC, 2016).
Myth 5: Trafficking only occur in illegal underground industries
Truth: Trafficking can happen anywhere. For example, in 2015 in Colorado Springs police raid at three massage places. That had led to the arrest of two people and recovery of seven Chinese nationals – believed to be victims of human trafficking (Denver Post, 2015). Trafficking can take place in illegal businesses as much as in legal settings. This might include hotels, restaurants, and massage places, and other establishments (NHTRC, 2016). Additionally, victims are not always undocumented immigrants. Foreign nationals can be trafficked within USA while on a legal status (NHTRC, 2016).
A Case Study: One case study to examine is that of Martina Okeke. “Martina lived in a dark basement in Queens that reeks of some mystery odor. She earned $100 a week caring for a cherubic toddler. She eked out a few more dollars pushing a battered shopping cart through the streets of South Jamaica, filling it with cans and bottles she plucked from the garbage and cashes in for the deposits. Welcome to America.
She agreed to come to the United States to cook, clean and care for the children of a Nigerian couple living in Staten Island. She said they promised to pay her $300 a month. There were promises of a house and tuition, she added, for her two children back home. She admitted now that she toiled 12 years for a paycheck that never came. Not one cent” (The New York Times, April 2007).
According to a study done by a PhD student at University of Michigan School of Nursing; Domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) is a significant problem on a social scale and also public health issue. It is said that human trafficking has not been given enough attention from healthcare professionals. There is more research, practice, and policy needed. Victim identification and prevention are thus far very limited or entirely absent (Choi KR, 2015).
Furthermore, Choi states that nurses and other healthcare professionals need more training and education in order to identify victims early on. They must know the signs of DMST, inform others, and be able to conduct high quality research (Choi KR, 2015).
Who is at risk?
Everyone is at risk. It is often believed that the victims of human trafficking are young, acquitted girls who were kidnapped and then forced into sex.
Trafficking knows no limits or boundaries. It can be anyone. People from all walks of life are at risk of being trafficked. A person may be trafficked into the United States, or within the United States, regardless of his/her legal status.
Also, some victims may be desperate to make a better living and they end up being trafficked (Florida University Center for Advancement of Human Rights, 2003).
How does it happen?
Coming to the United States is one of the biggest dreams for many people, especially for young girls. They imagine themselves making careers, getting a job, and having a wonderful free life. They will do whatever it takes to make their dreams come true while not being aware of the danger (Agustin, pp.96-117).
Those girls come mostly from Eastern Europe and Asia; however, trafficking occurs from Egypt, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Russia, and several other Eastern European countries. Nowadays, immigration has become problematic and borders are not open for everyone, thus it is difficult to come to the United States without any papers, passports, and visas.
Therefore, fake organizations take advantage of people, and they promise tourists who are interested in traveling that they will get a great job overseas, and all the legal paperwork will be done for them by the organization. Sounds like a dream come true.
Some people are naïve and almost desperate to do everything for their “dream lives”, mainly young women from poor, developing countries who seem to have no future perspectives. If there is a chance for them to get out and start living a perfect life, they go along with it, without reflecting on it.
By irrational thinking, they change their lives dramatically, often resulting in being a slave. Accordingly, scam agencies advertise hope, a better life, and perfect future, when in reality, people are trafficked into prostitution, forced labor, military service, domestic service, forced illegal adoption, and forced marriage (Global Report, 2005).
There is assistance available to victims of human trafficking. Adult victims of human trafficking, age 18 and over, who are certified by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), can receive federally funded services and benefits to the same extent as refugees.
To receive certification, an individual must: be a victim of human trafficking as defined by the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act), be willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, and have completed a bona fide application for a T visa, or have received Continued Presence status from the U.S Department of Homeland Security (U.S Department of Health and Human Services).
Victims under age 18 are immediately eligible for benefits; they do not have to apply for a visa. The benefits include: housing, medical care, mental health care, English language training, income assistance, food assistance, and employment assistance.
Although, to receive above services, the victim needs to survive and somehow be able to run away or to be given their freedom back in order to be even capable of contacting someone.
Need help or want to make a report? Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). Or call toll-free: 1-888-373-7888
Let's end this vile practice
Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of slavery today, illegal by the law. It is very complicated for a government to deal with the problem due to the unlawful nature of human trafficking. It is nearly impossible to gather data and resources. Nevertheless, by offering wisdom, mindfulness, and compassion, one life can be saved.
Eva Wilke was born in Poland but has spent the last decade living in Denver, Colorado. She holds a BS in Psychology and a Masters in Criminology from Regis University. Eva sits on several nonprofit boards in Denver and her hope for humanity is that we become more selfless and giving.
Global Orphan Prevention founder Katie Hilborn gives the keynote speech at the Social Impact Summit on April 8th, 2016. She takes us through her own journey, discussing her triumphs and tribulations to better illustrate how each of us can become changemakers; finding our own passions and utilizing those skills to facilitate the most good.
(c)3 Wines from Napa Valley will be donating 100% of its profits to us from now until May 14th! This fundraising collaboration will support our new Anti-Child Trafficking Program in Nepal! So grab yourself a delicious bottle and support a great cause!
Purchase online at http://www.c3wineco.com/#napa
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We weren't exactly sure what we'd find in the mountain village, nor did we know the danger we were headed into, so we took extra precaution during our investigation.
Our cover was that were were on assignment with a large charity conducting earthquake damage assessment, and it was our job to trek village-to-village in order to do so.
Over the course of the next three days, we'd walk up to 3-hours a day straight up the mountain, cobblestone-after-cobblestone, farmhouse-after-farmhouse, speaking with the people. They'd invite us in for tea and tell us their stories of the disaster; their hardships, their leaky roofs, their medical woes, and their dwindling food supplies. And at the end of it all, Laxmi would ask about the disappearing girls.
She made no hesitation it seemed. Laxmi, being of Tamang ethnicity seemed to make friends easily with the locals. Most at first were afraid to communicate, but others seemed to open up with time; as the peace pipe was passed around and glass or two of local Chaang was shared.
"Keep going up the hill," they'd say. "The girls were taken from Ward 8." And so we'd walk, higher and higher into the clouds, up the never ending path to the gateway to Heaven.
But far from Heaven were the cries in these villages. It was the opposite of Heaven, it was Hell for many.
Through Laxmi translating, I'd ask the uneasy question that needed to be asked, "where have your girls gone?"
"They don't know," Laxmi would reply.
"Have they been trafficked?" I quelled with heavy heart.
A father, whose daughter went missing three weeks before began to cry, "if they took her, I'd do unimaginable things to that person."
I too began to wipe away my tears; we all did. Because all of us knew where these girls had gone; and that was to India for prostitution, never to be seen again.
I put my hand on the father's shoulder and looked around to the group gathering in the small kitchen, "I can't get your girls back. But I will do everything in my power to make sure another girl isn't taken."
The Case of the Disappearing Girls
We had already an invested interested in Shikharbesi, a district of Nuwakot. Our friends at Nepal Cyclists Ride-to-Rescue (NCRR) were working in that region rebuilding all seven schools that had been flattened after the April and May 2016 earthquakes. The loud and boisterous Australian, Jenny Caunt was leading the group, utilizing the national mountain biking team to cycle supplies up the steep mountain roads over impassable terrain, through mudslides and in between the rubble strewn aftermath of the big shake.
I loved what she was doing; using her grassroots endeavors and local sources to help where normal methods deemed useless. And so, I asked her if we could help Shikharbesi too, because during the summer Global Orphan Prevention, Helping Assist Nepal's Disabled (HAND), and the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) were conducting labor and delivery training, as well as rebuilding maternity wards. It seemed a remote access region such as this, coupled with the passing by from the larger charities was right up our alley.
As so that week, myself, Laxmi Tamang from MIDSON, two representatives from NCRR, and our happy-go-lucky videographer Derek Freal from The HoliDaze outfitted a jeep, hired a translator, and went on a scouting mission to Shikharbesi; a 4-hour drive up curvy mountain road with often a 800-foot drop on either side.
"You know Katie, that's #1 child trafficking district in Nepal," said Laxmi.
Although saddened, I thought in my heart that this was the next project I wanted to undertake on behalf of Global Orphan Prevention.
"I'm ready for anything," I eagerly told Laxmi.
"Yes, but we're going to have to be sneaky about it."
The problem was, we knew the politicians and higher-caste peoples such as the Brahmin and Chetri were the ones behind it. You see, in the Hindu caste system because of reincarnation, they believe if one is born of a lower-caste, it is because they have done something to deserving of their current incarnation. Therefore, the higher castes have no problem treating them with the same value as livestock. While they'd never sell their own girls, they have no qualms selling the girls of low-castes or indigenous populations; which in this case are the Tamang.
My Plan to Halt this Vile Practice
As we were sitting in with the villagers, I asked if anyone had a solution. A young girl standing in the shadows asked to speak, and spoke softly in Nepali.
"She says that money is the problem," Laxmi translated. "All the girls taken couldn't afford to go to school."
"Yes!" I was so unbelievably proud that this young girl understood the issue; without any prompting.
Indeed, money was the issue. Without an education, the girls are illiterate, thus the risk of being lured and trafficked increase ten-fold.
Since our visit, I've been in contact with a Nepali microfinancing company called Clean Village Microfinance Bittiya Sanstha Ltd. We are exploring income generating enterprise ideas such as Chili and Cardamom farming (both cash crops), as well as sheep husbandry for purposes of meat and textile opportunities.
So how can you help? It's easy; we are needing individual and corporate sponsors to make this happen! If you are not in a position to contribute financially, please help us share our campaign on social media and with your friends! Remember, I can't do this alone. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or make a donation directly. All donations are a tax write-of!
Thank you for reading,
-Have you ever dreamed of seeing Mt. Everest up close? How about climbing 21,247 foot Mera Peak, the highest trekking peak in the Solu Khumbu Region? Have you dreamed of trekking for a cause?
Join us for a trek in Nepal to help fund our Anti-Child Trafficking Program! The proceeds from this trip of a lifetime will go towards our new social entrepreneurial program in the Shikharbesi, Nuwakot region of Nepal!
Your dream can become reality with the trip of a lifetime in April 2016.
About your Trek
We will begin our trek on April 16th with a breathtaking flight to the Sherpa village of Lukla. From the Sherpa village of Namche Baazar we will take the “road less traveled” as we turn off of the main trekking route and cross Rejo Pass, climb Gokyo Peak, spend a night at the shores of beautiful Gokyo Lake, then cross Chola Pass and join the main trekking route at Lobuche.
The views are breathtaking throughout the trek. After completing the Everest Base Camp trek, those who have dreamed of climbing a Himalayan peak will continue up 21,247 foot Mera Peak. Those wishing to return home will return to Kathmandu for their return flight home.
The trek/climb will be led by Brian Smith, the founder/director of Helping Assist Nepal's Disabled (H.A.N.D.) who reached the summit of Mt. Everest in 2007. Brian is also a Certified International Tour Director. The logistics are provided by 10-time Everest summiteer Tendi Sherpa.
EBC Trek + Mera Peak (optional extension)
COST FOR EBC (RENJO, GOKYO, CHOLA & EBC):
USD $3800 per person
COST FOR EBC+MERA PEAK:
USD $6500 per person
COST FOR MERA PEAK ONLY:
USD $4500 per person
Itinerary Renjo, Gokyo, Chola & EBC:
Mera Peak Extension:
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Nearly 5 months after Nepal's series of devastating earthquakes (April 25, the 26th, and May 12th), people are still displaced living in tents. A group of volunteers travel to Dhola in the district of Dhading to build a semi-permanent health post and deliver birthing kits. What they find is a village with 15-days left of food, no medical services, and families still living under tarps. While the rest of the world has drawn their attention elsewhere, people in Nepal are still suffering. Much aid has yet to arrive in the remote access mountain villages and INGOs are having to now scale down their relief efforts. The fight is far from over.
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The conclusion to the Leychang Birthing Center Mission. The team finally arrive to the remote mountain village of Leychang Nepal after a stressful 8-hour journey through monsoon on unforgiving road. Episode 2 explores the earthquake destruction, and find the health post in rubble. The team then build a semi-permanent shelter and conduct labor and delivery training.
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The Global Orphan Prevention advisory team visits JanaJyoti School Farm Enterprise in Bharat Pokhari, Nepal. The dairy farm was established in December 2014 with intent to provide income generation for the attached primary school for low-caste children. Profits realized are reinvested to provide enrichment material, teaching training, curriculum development, and eventually technology.
Written by Eric Moffett and photographed by Sarah Abou Jaoudeh
Global Orphan Prevention have teamed up with two organizations and undertaken the mission of rebuilding birthing centers in remote and rugged locations in North-Central Nepal after two major earthquakes. The most significant damage in this country occurred in areas directly to the northeast and -west of the capital of Kathmandu, stretching to the Chinese border. Countless villages across steep mountain ranges that hug the Himalaya have experienced total destruction of labor and delivery facilities.
Click here to watch a video tour of our first birthing center
Our partners are the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON) and Helping Assist Nepal’s Disabled (HAND). MIDSON, a trade and advocacy association native to Nepal, “contribute[s] to the reduction of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in Nepal by providing skilled [and] compassionate care to women during the entire maternity and reproductive cycle.” And HAND, a US-based nonprofit organization, “serve[s] the Nepali people who suffer from disabilities of all types,” and takes special aim at serving communities in isolated and inaccessible regions
The alliance of GOP, MIDSON and HAND focuses on remote Nepali communities in need of immediate relief efforts. The engagement of these organizations has centered on maternal and neonatal care through providing temporary birthing centers, medical and postpartum supplies, and labor and delivery training. Our primary objective is to support communities and individuals during labor and delivery and for the duration of the postpartum timeframe (defined as the first six weeks of the newborn’s life). Our philosophy balances upon the principle that we have the ability to prevent infant and maternal mortality; indeed, more than half of such deaths occur during the childbirth and postpartum period.
Our methods include the construction of temporary birthing facilities. We provide high-quality tents intended to serve the community until permanent arrangements can be undertaken; especially in light of the imminent monsoon season. Besides staging necessary supplies and equipment as available, further services involve education and training of local health workers plus the provision of birthing and post-birth supplies (“kits”) for mothers and birth attendants. These kits contain a receiving blanket, sterile gloves, cotton diapers, maternal nutrition options, soap and more.
We have now completed two field “missions,” one in Rautbesi, Nuwakot District, and another in Ichowk, Sindhupalchowk District. Both villages are located within great river gorges in the midst of towering summits. The first site, Rautbesi, experienced complete condemnation of its health post; a large two story building that leaned off the edge of a cliff to the river below; it was reported that 78 pregnant women were once dependent on its birthing center. The second, and most recent, site of Ichowk experienced an incredible amount of destruction - the health post lay in rubble, only the foundation and wall remnants could be distinguished from the piles of rocks; most of the village resembled this scene.
Plans are now in action for four additional birthing centers. The first mission departed June 10th, to Dhading District, after which the team returned for two days and then departed June 14th for a multiday, three site mission in Sindhupalchowk District. These missions have been planned in conjunction with the US-based 501(c)3 One Heart World-wide, who has furnished intel and data, plus medical supplies, tents and solar power cases. As well, the 501(c)3 organization, Khusi Hona has provided additional supplies such as tarp tents and blankets.
On a reflective note, the great lesson of this work proves the power of collaboration. The partnership of GOP, MIDSON and HAND has employed personnel and expertise in order to outfit a highly motivated and capable team. Further, through pooling human capital and physical resources our alliance has optimized a unique model and methodology, thus occupying a distinct niche in the earthquake relief effort within Nepal.
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Birthing kits to be delivered to make-shift maternity wards after two major earthquakes devastate medical services in Nepal
RAUTESBI, NEPAL -- After major back-to-back earthquakes in Nepal, the country is still in immediate survival mode, especially with the start of the rainy season.
Global Orphan Prevention has teamed up with the US nonprofit, H.A.N.D. (Helping Assist Nepal's Disabled) to rebuild the Rautesbi Village Maternity Ward in the one of the country's most underserved and remote regions.
The earthquake's aftermath saw the clinic leveled, leaving behind 78 pregnant women attended by one 19-year-old boy. "This is a very rural area," says GOP advisor Eric Moffet. "It's nearly a 100-kilometer drive northwest of Kathmandu on steep unforgiving mountain road. The village is so remote that no aid workers or supply trucks have helped them since the first earthquake hit on April 25th. People are in survival mode here."
Clean Birthing Kit Program:
Our program aims to provide birthing kits to pregnant mothers. These kits are life saving and provide basic, inexpensive tools to help mothers and newborns avoid acquiring infections during childbirth.
Each kit includes;
In addition to assembling and delivering the kits, the team will build a temporary clinic, and stock it with general supplies such as antiseptic, masks, and further identified items. A portion of labor and delivery training while on site will also be included in the program.
How can you help? We need donations and people to organize fundraisers in their home cities. Even sharing our campaign on social media is necessary for our success! Every little bit helps! A simple $5 donation can literally save a mother's life!
The world is one family; let's do this together! Thank YOU for your continued support and positive thoughts. Please watch this space for updates.
GOP's sustainable development advisor, Eric Moffet has arrived to Nepal last week with urgent medical supplies he purchased while working in Africa. He flew directly from Uganda and is currently on the ground organizing a relief mission with local NGOs. Below is Eric's first blog from the field.
By Eric Moffet
KAMPALA, UGANDA -- The earthquake hit on a Saturday, the 25th of April, in the afternoon local time. For some weeks prior I had been working in Uganda; the plan had been to head home to the States for a few weeks and then depart for Nepal in late May. The work would include organization and oversight of a dairy farm social business that had been implemented by Global Orphan Prevention, an American NGO, some months prior. Now, all that changed.
Late in the evening on that Saturday I received a message from one of my Aunts, “Praying your friends in Nepal are OK.” Immediately I searched for news reports, and there it was: “Devastating.” “7.8 magnitude.” “Thousands feared dead.” “Kathmandu in ruins.” It was clear in just a moment that I must go early, that I must find something to do, somewhere to help. Without a plan, I bought a ticket to depart Uganda on the following Saturday.
Sometime the next day the reality of my commitment to this country and its people became apparent. It was as if I stood at the foot of a great mountain peak, without any idea how to take the first steps; only a passion to reach the top. The days prior I had felt exalted after successfully coordinating a free pediatric clinic campaign in rural Uganda between a local community based organization and a group of physicians from the U.S. The project had cared for over 1100 children in just five days - I recognized this as my greatest achievement. Days later it paled in comparison to the calling that now beset me.
That I was in Uganda seemed a blessing, they have liberal pharmacies. My idea was to export the vital medications needed in the wake of a disaster. With an unjust sense of urgency I purchased thousands of units of these items. The cost was minimal; the dollar strong; in this case nickels and dimes would save lives.
But as soon as I had the seven boxes and 300 pounds of meds back in my room - 20,000 tabs of tylenol, 5000 doses of oral rehydration salts, 11,000 antibiotic tabs and enough chlorine tablets to treat 6,000 gallons of water - the uncertainty of the task overwhelmed me. A voice inside insisted I was in over my head - this proved impossible to hide.
A friend that I met at the guest house some weeks before caught me and asked, “Eric, are you OK?” She was a Family Medicine resident physician from Maine, in country for service work. She stood with her hands on her hips, taken aback at the medications stacked high in my room.
“I keep telling myself naivety’s a great motivator.”
“You’ll be fine,” She said, and we proceeded to bounce ideas off one another as to how I ought to pack this boatload of medication in order to ease transport. I decided to leave the oral rehydration salts in their original packaging, and assumed it would make transport easier if I were to remove all of the tablet pop-out strips from their boxes. I then piled them into a large duffle bag, saving volume and weight.
After that I took a nap. Awoken I felt refreshed. Remotivated.
The doubts would not overwhelm me, I maintained. I must find a way to get these live-saving opportunities to the people who need them most, I pledged. Even if it costs me personally, the cost was small in comparison to the good that would come of it.
Soon I lugged the cargo towards a waiting taxi, to head for the port city of Entebbe, the location of the Ugandan airport. Entebbe sits on the northern shores of Lake Isabella, the source of the Nile River; an upscale city in a low-income country.
The morning of my intended departure, on the Saturday after the quake, the sky was gray with clouds and the air was misty. My spirits were high; sure of the uncertainty, excited for the trip ahead. At the airport, after I loaded the boxes and the large duffle bag of meds onto a roller cart, I followed signs to the cargo terminal. After looking into rates via a big time international carrier it had been decided that shipping freight directly from the airport would be the most economical option.
On my way towards the gate that marked the cargo terminal entrance a man with a checkered shirt stopped me.
“You must have paperwork for entrance - I am a cargo agent. My name is Bensen.” He smiled wide, his white teeth against his jet-black features.
We walked away from the gate, he asking of my plan. “To Nepal,” I told him, “these are medications for the earthquake survivors.”
It took a moment, but it dawned on him my mission. “For Nepal?” He reassured, pronouncing the last syllable of the country much like the first syllable of palace.
“I can help. When do you leave Uganda?”
“1230.” It was 0800.
“Oh-“ he responded, a sudden sense of urgency upon him. Our walk quickened, as did the rain, enough for Bensen to place his plastic document folder above his head.
First we left the cargo in a trusty location, among the cab drivers at the door for arriving passengers, then we headed to the Civil Aviation Authority office to procure a pass for me to enter the cargo terminal. In the warm rain, among the humid, non-air conditioned rooms, I began to sweat. The occasional muttering by Bensen of the words “Oh my god…” made clear that we were not on a usual path. The unease began to rise; pressed for time. We rushed.
In a cargo airline office we were given the necessary documents and quotes; we then ran by an office to make a handful of copies. Next we hurried back out of the gates towards where the medication had been left. I gave the babysitter a few dollars, wheeled the meds through the terminal gate and towards the bay labeled “Cargo Export” and felt as though things had turned in my favor. Although the rain swelled, the export seemed so close to completion. Soon I'd board a plane for Nepal - it was 1015.
“You need approval from the National Drug Authority of Uganda.” The young Ugandan woman said, sitting behind her screen that flashed the contents of the boxes in the x-ray machine. She was clear. I needed approval, no arguing: export rules.
Pulling the cargo from the backside of the machine was a kick to the gut. And rolling it back out of cargo, through the now pouring rain, was a kick to the head. Then I tried to roll the cart over wide grating, where the wheels caught up, throwing three boxes and their contents onto the pavement before me. And of course my airline would not provide a voucher or reschedule my flight, I had purchased it through a third-party agent. The numbness had overcome me at this point. Dejected, I returned to the guest house.
That evening I took a motorcycle taxi to the botanical gardens where I strolled, read a book, drank a beer and calmed myself. I’ll make the best of this, I consoled. I had no choice. I made plans to visit the Ugandan National Drug Authority (NDA) first thing Monday morning; my friend, a Ugandan physician and leader of the Ugandan organization I worked with, would accompany me.
After my export fiasco on Saturday, it seemed appropriate to investigate procedures for importing medication to Nepal. This is the point where my naivety and will became outweighed by a lack of procedural knowledge.
Turns out that import requires original packaging, which provides a variety of necessary information. When I ditched the packing boxes for the tylenol, antibiotics and water treatment I had unknowingly doomed my intent. This was not a complete loss, the medication could be donated to my Ugandan community based organization, however, it was a further hit to my self-confidence.
Everything seemed to be falling apart on me. It would no doubt provide invaluable lessons moving forward, yet, my mistakes were adding up. The only saving grace was that it would not cost Global Orphan Prevention and their donors, my beneficiaries - again, as with the missed flight the day before, this was a mistake I had to pay for.
On Sunday, I packed up and headed for Kampala from Entebbe, about an hour ride into the big city and location of the NDA. As I slid the boxes out from under my bed I writhed at their soppy wet exterior. They left puddles on the ground. And when I picked them up they sagged and crumpled like the paper they were. The hits just kept on coming.
That night I made friends with some German and Dutch folks, stayed out late, visited a number of night time establishments in a ritzy area of Kampala on top of a hill where the city lights lay below. The night was calm and I left the group early, under protest, at 0100 to hit the sack for my 0800 rendezvous with my doctor friend at the NDA.
I woke up late the next morning, rushed through a shower and breakfast, packed my bags and boxes, now dry after having basked in the sun upon arrival the afternoon prior, then departed in a cab just in time. I met my friend, Dr. Wadaya, just four minutes after 0800.
Uganda National Drug Authority Offices, Kampala.
As we waited in the lobby he laughed at my experience, his deep looping voice displaying the smile he wore at my misfortune. “People don’t usually take medicines out of Uganda.”
“Right,” I laughed, “and there isn’t a guidebook out there for this kind of thing.”
“And in Uganda they let you make mistakes.” Maybe it’s better that way.
We were invited to the second floor where Dr. Wadaya made my case, then I spoke for a moment of my work in Uganda and the plans for Nepal. The man behind the desk was solemn, hard to read and soft spoken. Through his glasses I couldn’t see his eyes, the glare of the office whited out the lenses. I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation, but Dr. Wadaya shot me a knowing nod and we were told a letter of approval would be provided. And further, that the typical license fee of $35 would be waived since the export was for donation.
After another hour and a half waiting and pacing in the front lobby we were again invited to the second floor where a letter was provided - success - and I hit the ground running. It was time to get back to Entebbe, back to the cargo terminal to get these boxes in the air.
From there things ran smoothly. Although the freight company I had intended to use was no longer flying into Kathmandu, the next one tried was, plus they charged $250 less. Once I left payment and received all of the necessary copies for retrieval I walked out of the building, Bensen guiding me. As we descended the iron steps to ground level he pointed to a just-landing white jet.
Bensen and freight airline representative.
“That’s yours.” He said. The cargo would arrive to Nepal before I would.
My flight followed the next night, about 28 hours later. Ahead towered a challenge just as significant as the one just met, I thought in anticipation. My first steps up this mountain had been wobbly. Weather the storm, I recited in my mind. With these intentions things fall together in the way intended; the right people encountered, the right places found. Just weather the storm.
UPDATE: Eric is currently on ground in Nepal assessing risk and need for earthquake survivors and victims. As time progresses, Eric will be trekking into the far reaches on Nepal, teaming up with local NGOs and bringing aid to underserved populations. Subscribe to our blog updates to hear more notes from the field. Also, consider a small donation to fund our necessary relief missions.
KATHMANDU, NEPAL -- After a devastating earthquake flattened Nepal last Saturday, followed by 47 (and counting) major aftershocks, the death toll has risen to 3400 casualties and is expected to climb to over 10,000. Children and loved ones are still lost under rubble while hospitals are overflowing with the wounded.
We can't sit back and watch this unfold.
Global Orphan Prevention's sustainable development advisor Eric Moffet has volunteered to fly to Kathmandu this weekend to assist on the ground. Eric originally was scheduled to arrive May 25th to assist with our current development projects, but in lieu of recent events, the call was made to depart as early as possible.
In addition to regularly scheduled work on the sustainable dairy farm project in Pokhari, Eric will support in prompt relief and clean up efforts while providing desperately needed supplies for the people of Nepal, especially in rural and underserved regions.
We are collecting donations for his efforts.
Eric will be using his personal money to purchase the following:
If anyone would like to donate money to help with these purchases, your contribution is urgently requested. Please find the link to donate here. We will be keeping updated blogs throughout the emergency informing donors of Eric's mission while on the ground.
He plans to stay in-country for the next three months. 100% of your donation will go to the earthquake relief efforts.
Thanks and much love, the GOP team!
By Katie Hilborn
"You forgot to tell us what we'd be walking into," Leigh amusingly said after the ceremony.
"Did I?" I replied with a sly smirk.
Not sure if this was intentional as my mind was elsewhere these past few days. But I led on that it was all part of my intricate plan.
The room was buzzing from the day's events. Leigh, myself, and the some of the other volunteers had gone to dinner to reflect.
Our faces were still covered in red powder and adorned with necklaces piled high of pink, red, and yellow flowers. We looked like we'd just finished on set at a horror movie. Perhaps some tourists thought this could be the case, but all the Nepalese knew exactly what had happened.
"Oh Tikka. You look good," they'd exclaim as we'd pass them on the street.
I was flying high.
This wasn't the first Nepalese ceremony I had been a participant; they usually involve some sort of tikka, lots of flowers, music, speeches, food, and of course an entire village.
Yet somehow, despite knowing what was in store, I was again overcome with emotion. Each one beautifully remaining unique, equally as exciting as the previous.
The volunteers, on the other hand, had no idea. As I looked over at them from our line of chairs on the podium, Leigh, Bibesh, and the two Frenchies, Pauline and Leilita looked priceless. So much shock coupled with joy. Huge grins ear-to-ear. Krish, my project director was with us too. I could see a tear running down his cheek.
But the tear was there for so much more. We had accomplished a major feat and could now see so clearly what the impact would be. I too began to wipe the tears from my eyes.
Our dream of making low-caste schools financially self-sustained had begun eleven month's prior. We had so much help. So many people. So much devotion from hundreds of people and an entire community behind us with full support.
This was never my project or Krish's project, but it belonged to entire group of people who made it possible. From the donors, to field volunteers who painted, to the development committee who organized, from my board of directors, and my 1/2 dozen other advisors back home who supported me every step of the way, and to the villagers and teachers who could also see the greater good of it all. Even the people who I met serendipitously who joined the momentum in the last week.
I see it all so clearly now. Those who were involved were always apart of it from the beginning; they were always in the plan.
"This farm is going to change your life," I said during my ceremonial speech.
Krish was translating as a crowd of a 100 watched with full attention. Even the children, who were seated in front kept still, eyes wide, heads locked in my direction. I was speaking for them, on behalf of them.
"I have traveled this country and have seen the injustices caused amongst the castes. There are some children in this country who do not have equal access to education because of their caste."
My eyes started watering.
"This is not right. No child in this world should be denied the right to knowledge."
I was looking each little boy and girl in the eye, occasionally peeking up at the parents sitting behind them.
"Lack of money should not be reason that little boys and girls have to stay home from school and work the fields. Or have to learn from outdated and inferior workbooks, or not know how to use a computer. Soon you will have the same access to education as other children your age," I optimistically stated.
And before I could finish my last sentence, all the children began clapping.
I love them. I love them all so much. They are my children, I thought gazing upon them endearingly.
With the conclusion of the speeches, the children began passing out hot tea to the patrons and the Diddy's (older ladies) began serving the local snacks of samosa and jeri (a deep-fried, pretzel shaped yellow-orange loop dipped in saffron syrup).
Music began to fill our ears of traditional drums, chants, and horn, known in Nepal as Panche Baaja. People were happy. The energy flowing through the air was undeniable. People were ecstatic.
The farm is now fully operational.
A total of six cows were purchased thanks to Krish's endless search for that perfect cow; three of which came with a calf and at current, each cow is producing roughly 12-18 litres of milk per day.
A local young couple with a toddler moved into the adjacent living space as full-time caretakers. Their jobs will be round-the-clock, waking up at sunrise to milk the cows, taking the milk to the markets, cleaning the stalls, looking after the animals, and general upkeep, as well as record keeping of milk produced.
An organizational committee was created to oversee the farm co-op, with an elected Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, and standing committee inclusive of teacher representatives. Krish will remain the on-site project director, while I will serve as the director monitoring progress from back home in either the States or Australia.
Twice per year, the committee along with approval and advice from Global Orphan Prevention's board of directors will decide how the farm profits are reinvested; which will fall under the categories of educational development.
The ceremony and subsequent party were for much more than an opening announcement, but rather to get the entire village involved in the project's success. Teachers, students, parents, workers, and members from the community were brought together to see how the farm would operate and what the profits would go towards; and that was the betterment for own their children and breaking the barriers of caste discrimination.
It was a beautiful thing; everyone coming together for the common good. I believe for the first time, these people could see a way out of poverty. Instead of using bandages to mask their troubles, they could see a solution for preventing the problems before they begin. And that made the entire mission worthwhile.
*More photos can be found in our Facebook album.
By Katie Hilborn
It's the week of the farm project ceremony and my mind is in a million places all at once. I have three week's work that needs to be finished in one.
I delegate the photocopying of our operational manual to Leigh, the humourous red-headed Aussie. Meanwhile our Nepalese field manager Krish finishes up the cow shopping and gets the party details sorted.
I'm thanking the Universe again for sending me help.
My project policies and job descriptions have just been translated into Nepali from the trekking guide down the street at 3 Sister's.
Oh crap, it's 11am! I was supposed to leave two hours ago as I still have to paint the logo on the barn. Just my luck. Rushed as usual and it's been leaving my head in a whirlwind.
Construction has been stalled two weeks and thus the rush to finish before I depart the country has been looming.
"Leigh! Coming to you in two minutes!" I frantically say on the phone. I'm dropping off some documents on my way to the school. He chuckles into the ear piece.
He knows my style. And weirdly is okay with it.
I realize now that I've manifested Leigh. And the six others who have been helping this week.
I was under pressure last week, coupled with a pinch of anxiety, perhaps coming to the realization that my dream wouldn't pan out as expected; meaning that I couldn't devote my month to training the farm workers and committee, but rather my time was being hogged with construction management.
I need help, I found myself saying out loud one evening. Universe; I am grateful and blessed that I am attracting people who are enthusiastic about helping me with my project! I put my vibration out there and I suppose working on Reiki all week surely opened me up to the possibilities.
Two days later, Leigh showed up.
I was sitting in a cafe in Lakeside (the tourist area) when I overheard a loud Australian bloke discussing his horror stories of volunteering in Nepal. He had signed up with an Aussie placement agency called Greenline. Upon his arrival to the orphan home in Nepal, he found the director was housing street children in exchange for servitude. Children cooking the family meals, waking up at 5am to do laundry, and being rudely snapped at to clean up water spills from the volunteers.
"That's really not necessary," Leigh insisted to the director as the child humbly came over, head down avoiding eye contact.
"No, this is his job," the director curtly replied.
It was at this notion that Leigh reported the orphan home and left.
His conversation was not an uncommon tale; I had heard it time and time again from dozens of volunteers over the years. It's been commonly known as voluntourism.
After secretly listening from a nearby table, I believed it was time to chime in. "Excuse me, sorry for eavesdropping, but I hear you are seeking a meaningful volunteer experience!"
The table immediately began laughing. "Ah yes, we are! You know about the bad ones then?" they asked.
"I am well aware," I stated. I then began to explain the logistics of the project; a dairy farm to financially support a low-caste school. I needed help with the organizational structure and management.
They all seemed intrigued, but it was Leigh who asked to come for a visit.
"So this interests you?" I questioned.
"Well I've been working with HR management and reconstruction in the Australian government," he added.
I was in disbelief. "I need you!" I exclaimed.
"Oh yeah, and I grew up in a farming community. My Dad worked for a milk technologies laboratory for most of my life too," he smiled as the words left his lips. He also knew this wasn't a chance meeting.
My heart opened. This is the person I manifested. I knew it now.
It's the age old philosophy of Laws of Attraction. If you want something, you must first become the vibrational match of your desire. As we exist in the Universe on vibrating strings (proposed by major physicists), it's quite easy to accomplish once you understand the Laws. I raised my vibration to attract someone else who was seeking/needing the same desires (and that was the help).
Vibrational manifestation, yes, but also I'm sure he was nudged to walk into that cafe at that hour; or me to come to him. Perhaps it was a combination of both manifestation and fate.
Either way, I now had Leigh. He was a huge proponent in the final weeks; helping me structure the governing committee, writing the operational manual, creating structural flow charts, holding committee meetings, and simply just there for general moral support, which I find working as a team is most beneficial to my productivity.
Fast forward three days and the barn is ready to be painted.
Universe; I am so grateful and blessed that I am attracting volunteers who want to paint, I wrote in my journal one afternoon.
The following evening, we bump into Dustin and Asha, sitting at a cafe on the lake. My friend Lauren (a visiting American from Saigon also helping with the project) and I were walking along the lakefront foot path. Power was out again all over the village and I needed to borrow a lighter for our candle.
Dustin was sitting there with his long wavy locks, illuminated by the moon. He was holding a lighter, so I walked over to his table. This American-made Giants trainer turned yogi had just finished a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. His companion at the table was Asha, a beautiful long-haired Israeli that been making her way up from India. They met on their travels two-month's prior and decided to reconnect in Pokhara.
Both of their smiles were truly captivating and they invited us for a beer. After an evening's conversation, they both decided to join Lauren and I at the school the following day to paint the barn.
It was a two-day job however, and Dustin and Asha had to continue on with their travels soon after.
Universe; I am so grateful and blessed that I am attracting volunteers who will help me continue painting the barn, and oh yeah, I'm grateful that I'm attracting an artist too, I found myself saying again after Dustin and Asha parted ways.
This time, not only did I need someone to help with the 3rd coat, but I needed an artist to paint the logo.
That evening, as some friends and I were sitting at the local hippie hangout, Freedom Cafe, with the smokers, free spirits, and wandering vagabonds, I happened to choose a seat next to two quiet but amusing French girls, Leïlita and Pauline, from Lyon.
English was minimal and my French was pretty much non-existent. After telling them briefly about the farm, Pauline asked with a strong French accent, "So we come to school?"
"Sure why not," I replied. The girls glanced at each other then back at me.
"So we rent mo-tor-bike?" Pauline queried.
"Sure why not," I offered with a smirk. Their accents were cute. The girls looked at each other again.
"So we have homestay?" Pauline inquired again after a moment's pause.
"Sure of course! You can have it all."
And the very next morning, this is how two happy French girls joined us in finishing the school. Because communication was taxing, I decided to just roll with it, not realizing until their arrival that Leïlita was an artist! She so eloquently drew our logo with ease. I again knew, these girls were sent for me.
The final beautiful soul sent into my life was Babiche. An 18-year-old lively, beautiful, and vibrant girl from Holland.
Having just finished school, she was on an 8-month trip through Asia exploring life, discovering cultures, and self-actualizing. She was the final piece of the puzzle.
I was in desperate need of a photojournalist to help document the farm project and most importantly, photograph the ceremony at the end of the week. As the project director, I simply could not be both the host and take the photos. A traveling friend whom I assumed would help, fell through in the last hour. Fate had pulled him in another direction. I understood his decision to continue on his path, but it left me feeling anxious about the situation.
Universe; I am so grateful and blessed that I am attracting a photographer who will help with the project, I thought out loud with Leigh one evening. Leigh and I were driving back from the school site to Pokhara on motorbike. I told him about the Laws of Attraction and the technique for it to be successful. We both made it our mission that evening to attract a photographer.
Babiche was Leigh's friend from the Greenline volunteering placement the month prior. At the time, he did not know Babiche was a photographer, but happened to invite her along to the school one day. She had been asking to come up to the site. But it was only after she arrived, that we both discovered her ability.
I was in tears at this realization.
Not just because we found the missing piece of the puzzle, but rather because the entire project and all the beautiful souls that were meant to help had arrived and delivered. It was if I was jolted into the collective conscious, stepping out of the 3D, and leaving me with profound clarity.
I've always said that people will come together for the common good; they always do. And no matter where in the world I travel, I see this time and time again.
From my darkest hour when I feel alone and as if no one actually cares about the world, I find these pockets of people both abroad (and at home) who show support, and love, and kindness, and it is at these times I realize I don't have to do it alone.
I've never had to.
By Katie Hilborn
I'm constantly wondering why I fail to roll up my pants before entering the cow shed.
We're cow shopping.
Krish, Narayan (the headmaster), and I have been hopping around from farm to farm in search of the perfect cow. We want the most litres produced for the cheapest sale price. Currently, most farms are asking $1,000 per cow and we need six.
The bottoms of my trousers are resting in mud, hay, and water and I'm wearing my $6 pink loafers I bought from Old Navy. My trekking boots unfortunately disintegrated after my Himalayan trek the other week. So this is all I got left; pink polka dotted loafers.
Spray from one cow's urine is splashing up onto my thigh. I take higher ground on a large pile of dirt.
I'm taller than everyone anyway, and my stuffed backpack from the day's excursion doesn't help the situation any. I'm in constant search of a parcel of dry pavement to stay clear as farmers, Krish, and Narayan make their way about the cows; inspecting, gathering information, and taking photos. The dirt pile seems safe.
After a moment though, the pile begins sinking.
Oh wait, it's manure.
I quickly hop off and notice the men have been conversing in Nepali with the boss of the cow farm.
"Katie come," Krish says quietly.
He pulls me aside foar from the ear of the farmer to discuss price. Some cows are more or less depending on size and milk production. Though since cow is considered Godmother here and thus will never be eaten, size seems irrelevant. I'm still confused on pricing.
Krish also informs me that all the farms in the area have been warned of our intention. Through a clever game of "telephone", it appears each farmer knows exactly what we want even before our arrival! They know how many cows we want, what prices we've already been quoted, and how much money we have to play with! Cheeky farmers!
Price has now inflated $200. Krish suggests we back off for a few days to appear disinterested.
I (and my shoes) have decided to leave the cow shopping to the men.
A Day at the Office
Later on, back at the school, I decide to get some work done in the office while Krish and Narayan continue in search of that perfect cow.
There seems to be an audience gathering as I create an official milk production spreadsheet. There are giggles and pointing, and children asking me questions in Nepali!
Laughing with a large smile, I reply, "I don't know what you are asking! Me... no Nepali... Tora Tora (meaning little little in their native tongue)!"
They giggle again and run off.
The teacher's work desk is piled high with papers, notebooks, and textbooks. I wonder how anyone can find anything around here. It reminds me of certain American teachers I worked with back in Colorado and Saigon. Perhaps a future investment of a filing cabinet could be useful.
One smiley female teacher in a pink churidar kurta comes walking into the office. She begins to speak with me in Nepali and again I grin with a I don't know expression. I hear the word tea mixed into the conversation and reply, "Ma cāhanchu" meaning I want. Now this is something I understand.
She begins making tea on the double gas burner in the far corner of the room. Slowly four more teachers come into the room and sit down besides me as I continue to create my spreadsheets. I have two teachers looking over my left shoulder and one looking over my right. They seem very interested in what I am doing.
I am amused by the situation, knowing very well that I couldn't work in these conditions back in the States. But for some strange reason, I'm not bothered at all! I giggle at this realization and am happy to show the crowd my project.
I suppose my 5 days of Reiki training this week have allowed me to become much more relaxed.
Though, there is this underlying pressing concern to get your computer/internet work done as quickly as possible. It can create somewhat anxiety.
The power goes out for up to 9 hours a day due to load shedding (meaning Nepal turns off it's power to sell to India) and internet speed is hugely intermittent. One hour, it can be fast(er) and upload photos and emails with ease, then without a moment's notice, it will turn into dial-up speed from the 90s.
This is one of those moments.
Power has ceased and my computer battery is at 5%. I'm racing against time to finish these spreadsheets, audience and all.
I decide it's not worth the headache, and shut down my computer to socialize with the teachers. And by socializing I mean various head nods, hand signals, and confused looks of expression. I take a bowl of lentils provided by the smiley teacher.
By Katie Hilborn
I never quite imagined myself as a foreman. Engineering, buying construction material, gathering workers, making measurements... It feels good to build something, starting from nothing.
"Thank God for Krish!" I found myself saying.
My trusty Nepalese field manager! He's confident, assertive, caring, and gets things done! Not to mention, we share the same vision for our project. I rarely have to tell him what I want or how I see things going. It's truly synchronicity.
My eyes wander back to the digging. Organized piles of stone and dirt are in an outline of an L-shaped structure. Krish is yelling at one man as he digs. It looks heated; something is up. Their voices, in a language I cannot comprehend rise up over the top of each other at a rapid pace.
"Krish? Everything okay?" I ask apprehensively.
He looks at me quizzically.
"So you're not angry?" I chime in after a moments stare-off.
"No of course not!" Krish replies nonchalantly.
Ah the Nepali. I'm laughing on the inside for my mistake. I will never quite understand their tone. I frequently find myself wondering why everyone sounds like they are Kung Fuing a cinder block when they converse! It causes great confusion.
"No worry, I manage everything," he adds as my worry wrinkle on my forehead fades away.
It's been a busy few days. I've been tirelessly trying to sort out our banking woes - transferring money into Nepal by avoiding the exuberant fees and exchange rate commissions! Nepal government laws forbid money departing Nepal; though will gladly allow it to flow in.
To further the headache, American laws make it egregious as well.
There is a perpetual fear of money laundering. Thus, opening a business account here is a long and tedious process involving a lawyer and authorizing a local Nepalese as a grantor to our holdings. Humph.
In the end, we've sorted a bank-to-bank transfer, but I'm convinced Wells Fargo should donate their wire fees to nonprofits. Come on Capitalism!
Tea has just arrived.
Brought down from the cliff-top from a shop next to the school. The men take their drink and cookies and sit fervently in a circle, sweaty from their labors. We exchange smiles and they share their tea with me.
We're paying them a fair-trade wage, but my mind starts to wander to the national average. Factory workers, for example, earn a meager $2/day in this country.
I often think about how hard people work in this country and it still saddens me. I wish I could ease their back pains, assuming they have one. Having just trekked into the high himalaya to visit some schools, back disintegrating under the weight of my pack, and knees swelling to a balloon from the 6,000+ steps daily, I can sympathise with their hard labor.
I think I will buy them lunch and bring some coca-cola for them tomorrow. Not that I'd ever support people drinking this, but it is a luxury here. Besides, I hear the best way to men's hearts are through their bellies :)
After tea, the men get back to work. Two are digging a ditch in the outline of the shed while another is hacking a round white stone brought up from the gorge bed. The tool of choice, similar to an axe, is swung high above his small frame then allowing gravity to take care of the rest, slams down onto the stone.
Only a small piece of rock breaks away. He laboriously begins the process again.
Once broken into smaller bits, the rock will be used to fill the ditch, then hand-tossed cement will be poured into the cravasses to form the foundation.
Seems like it should hold.
But then again, when you live in country where most concrete construction is done my hand, one hopes for the best. Luckily they are skilled in cow shed construction.
Left: Our tractor from the bluff, stuck in the bush.
Right: Seeming like clouds in the distance, the mighty Annapurna peeks out from amongst the haze.
The high sun is now beginning to fade in the distance. My Mac is about to crash because electricity is scarce up on this bluff overlooking the river. Internet has been slower than a turtle and is sometimes out for days. Loading a picture could take more or less 20 minutes each go.
I take this as my cue to head home and stop yelling at the computer. Besides, who could be frustrated when the mighty Annapurna decided to show her face amongst the haze? It allows one to take a moment's pause to be present and mindful.
Tomorrow will be another day on the construction site afterall.
Poor parents routinely duped into sending children to homes where owners use them to extract money from foreign visitors
By Pete Pattisson
Like an increasing number of tourists visiting Nepal's mountain peaks, colourful markets and lush national parks, Marina Argeisa wanted to experience the latest must-do activity on the tourist trail: a volunteering stint at an orphanage.
What the 26-year-old Spaniard did not know was that her good intentions were unwittingly feeding an industry that dupes poor parents into sending their children to bogus orphanages in order to extract money from well-meaning foreigners.
It is a business model built on a double deception: the exploitation of poor families in rural Nepal and the manipulation of wealthy foreigners. In the worst cases, tourists may be unwittingly complicit in child trafficking.
Nepal's tourist sector comprises nearly 3% of its gross domestic product, and in 2012 more than 600,000 foreigners visited the tiny country.
Volunteering, or voluntourism as it is sometimes known, is a rapidly expanding industry. There are dozens of agencies offering the chance to spend weeks, or months, working at some of the country's 800 orphanages.
Have you ever wanted to "Change the World" but didn't know how? Global Orphan Prevention's founder Katie Hilborn is a snowboarder turned philanthropist who one day realized she could do just this, and that it's easier than you think! In this inspirational speech, Katie explains why it's in our own best interest to take care of others, citing that the natural self-confidence which develops allows us to achieve great things.
Chronicling her own story and pathway to 'changing the world' affirms that anything is possible. Katie now runs her non-profit, Global Orphan Prevention. Her humanitarian work extends to Nepal, Vietnam, and various other developing nations.