For the past 11 years, we have had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen Insurance. Each year, staff members from Aspen offices across the globe visit Adara’s projects on the ground to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. Until 2017 this visit was to Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda. This year, for the first time ever, a group of seven staff visited Adara’s Nepal projects!
As always, they left inspired by the incredible experience and invigorated by the knowledge that so much of this work has been made possible by Aspen’s support. They have been kind enough to share some of their stories with us.
By Domonique Rivas
The gang started off day three with a visit to Benchen Free Clinic where we met Dr. Chirring Lama, the centre’s coordinator. Adara has worked with the clinic, which operates out of the Swayambhunath monastery, since 2001 and has developed a very special relationship with the staff. Before we headed off on our tour of the grounds, Dr. Lama provided us with some information about the operation of the clinic. The clinic, which is 100% free to everyone, is open five days a week from 8:00am – 11:00am. Services include medical consultations, X-rays, lab testing, as well as dental services. No appointments are needed. Only staffed with seven team members, the clinic provides free health care services to severely disadvantaged local families which ranges from 30-45 patients daily. Dr. Lama explained that patients visit as young as six months and as old as 94 years, and no one is turned away.
The ambassadors were then taken around the clinic. We first were shown the consultation room which was very basic but packed with all the necessary supplies. We were then taken into the lab where we were greeted by a nurse who was preparing samples for testing. Amongst our questions and chatter we could hear a very intense drilling in the background. Dr. Lama assured us that we need not be concerned … it was only the dentist providing services to a patient that had come in that morning complaining about tooth pain. Michael and I, being curious, asked if we could look in on the procedure to see how the patient was doing and were told absolutely. The patient assured us he was doing well as he gave us a thumbs up as we left. The rest of the gang were patiently in the waiting area with a few patients, including one very active 14-month-old who stole our hearts as she wandered from room to room, showing off her sunglasses that she had taken from Yvette. I’m not sure if she ever got them back, but I’m sure Yvette was more than happy to leave them with her.
We then were taken to the Swayambhunath monastery. The exterior of the building was coated with vibrant reds, blues and golds, while the interior was covered with breathtaking hand-painted art. Some of the walls were in the process of being repainted due to the damage done by the earthquake in 2015. Just outside the monastery we watched as men worked in the hot sun to rebuild what once was the monk dormitory which was originally built in 1985. Also affected by the earthquake, the dormitory was demolished, displacing more than 300 monks. Before our departure we were greeted by one of the monks that still resided there, throwing up his “peace sign” as we stood on the steps of the monastery for our daily group photo.
We all loaded into the van for the quick drive to our next destination. Following the previous day’s scares on the road, the seating arrangements had been reassigned due to Maria’s fear of seeing an accident occur before her eyes. We unloaded at the Swayambhunath Monkey Temple and were all were excited to see the monkeys in their natural environment just roaming around us. We then climbed what seemed like 1,000 steps to the top where the dome of the stupa sits, along with shrines and many vendors. As the guys wandered around, the girls tended to some souvenir shopping before we headed to the side for some snaps of the breathtaking views of Nepal. Hot and a little tired, we wandered back down those “1,000” steps on to our next destination.
With our seat assignments rearranged again (thanks to Sophie this time) we headed off to Hands in Outreach (HIO). HIO is a local Nepali non-government organization that Adara has partnered with in Kathmandu to help improve access to education for people living in poverty. We were happily greeted by twenty 4-5-year-old students as we entered the gates to the school. We then sat down with Ms. Plamo Damo who has worked for HIO for 12 years and helps to facilitate the program. The program tackles gender disparity in education by supporting more than 150 children and their families. Children are taken as young as three years and some are always supported all the way through university. Through sponsorship HIO can provide tuition, books, clothing, school essentials as well as medical care to the children.
Following much anticipation, and the highlight of the day for all the ambassadors, we were given the opportunity to interact with the kids. Our first stop was the computer lab where we found the kids engrossed in their laptops learning English words and phrases. We then popped in on the 5-6-year-old class where the kids were happy interacting with each other as they played various games geared towards leaning. Our visit ended with a load of selfies taken with the kids who got a kick out of my Snapchat filters.
From there we ventured off to the beautiful Garden of Dreams located in the centre of Kathmandu where we enjoyed a well needed lunch. We finished off the day with some retail shopping “Nepali Style” amongst the busy streets.