By Audette Exel, Founder and Chair, Adara Group
What really matters?
My head spins as I walk the dusty paths in Simikot, a small town perched at 9,815 feet, set in the majesty of Humla, high up in the remote Himalayas – a place where Adara has worked for 20 years. When I first came here, our most remote project was more than 20 days walk from the nearest road, and still there are no roads as we know them in the West.
Many things have changed here, but the beauty of the place and the harshness of the life remain the same.
I am back at last, to see the place, and to honour the work of our incredible Nepali teams. Our Global Health Director, Heidi, springs along the path ahead of me, and the incredible duo of Pralhad and Angjuk – our two most senior leaders in Nepal – stroll chatting beside me.
I can barely contain my sense of joy and utter privilege.
A Maori proverb from my childhood in New Zealand keeps repeating in my head: “What is the most important thing in the world? The people. The people. The people.”
And how true that is here – shown clearly in the strong, funny and kind people of Humla with whom we have had the amazing good fortune to work with for two decades. Today was a day of hugs, of meetings, and of reconnection – even with one of our Adara kids, who was with us in Kathmandu for so many years after we rescued her and her Adara brothers and sisters from the dark world of child trafficking. Now she has a Bachelor’s degree in social work, and a job. She is vibrant and happy. I hold her hand and feel ridiculously content.
I talk all the time in Australia, about the heroes that I get to work with, and constantly regret my inability to breathe life into the descriptions. Today, we spend time with a man who embodies that ideal exactly, and showcases for me every single thing I love about international development work, and this life of business for purpose and bridging worlds.
Chhitup Lama smiles when he takes our hands, to welcome us and to show us his work. When we first meet, I have no idea that he cannot see. Raised in a village over the big Simikot pass, bullied at school and taught under a tree, he decided that no place should ever be inaccessible, that inclusion was to be the cornerstone of his life, and that no child in Humla would suffer as he did. He passed his school exams by memorising everything and then dictating results. He talks of the revolution of encountering Braille in his early twenties, and then becoming a Braille teacher. He introduces us to the kids he has in his homes – one for the vision impaired, another for the physically impaired. They sit diligently doing their homework from the local school, where he has managed to get them included.
He talks of how much there is still to do, as he shows us the computer lab, the hot water showers, the solar that lasts day and night. Their rooms are bright and welcoming. He shows me the meal plans.
I realise he looks only in one direction – forward – and that he is truly a visionary, just one without the ability to see.
I am so glad we have managed to support him in his work, even in small ways. I wish we could do more, of this and every other thing that Adara does. And as the sun sets in the most beautiful place in the world, I know without a doubt there is only one thing in the world that really matters.
Te Tangata. Te Tangata. Te Tangata. The people. The people. The people.