"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.
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.
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.
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.