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 Michael Feighan
Yes…Namaste! Having spent last night’s dinner reading the blog entries aloud and realizing how incredible our journey has been until now, we began the last part of the trip.
Back in Kathmandu, we woke up knowing we would take hot showers, use a hair dryer if needed (to Maria’s relief!), have internet, WiFi and cell phone service to easily communicate with family, friends and work back home. Not so for the families and children living in the remote Himalayan mountain region of Ghyangfedi. No doubt we all had that sharp contrast etched in our minds.
As dawn crept in, the familiar sound of the cock’s crow could be heard, LOUDLY! It was nice being reminded that, even in this much more developed part of Nepal, we were still in a very different part of the world.
This would be our last opportunity to spend time with the youth of Nepal. Seven of the teenagers from the Adara Youth programme (whom we met on our first day) accompanied us high into the hills surrounding Kathmandu. In addition to our Adara family — Pralhad, Yvette and Pam — we were led by Som Bahadur Gharti Chhetri (Som GC), whose sir name means he’s from the warrior class, the Ghurkas. A naturalist and wildlife photographer who specializes in birds, Som was part of the group that surveyed and catalogued Nepal’s birds and animals in 2005. He has survived a King Cobra bite at age 9, and later attacks by wild elephants…then a rhino! What kind of day was ahead for this intrepid group of trekkers?!
The day began with Andrew having a bit of a wardrobe malfunction, only able to zip one leg onto his hiking pants. While it was an interesting look having one short pant leg and one long, Yvette helped save the day, safety pin in hand. Getting to the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park proved dicier than expected. Even here in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, the roads are incredibly rocky and uneven.
For the teens, this would be an educational experience learning about nature, but also another chance to practice their English, which is always welcomed. As we stopped to spot birds, the two boys — both from Humla — told me that in their village there is a bird which starts “singing” shortly before they begin their winter migration, and this signals when the children need to start gathering firewood in preparation for the cold season ahead.
The Nagigumba Monastery, home to over 200 Buddhist nuns, was our destination. Included within the monastery grounds was the Nagi Clinic, part of the Himalayan Medical Foundation. Adara has supported this facility since 2003 and provides basic medicines and a paramedic nurse who visits once each week. This is one of seven clinics supported by Adara in this area, so the nurse rotates to different locations each day. Here, approximately 26-30 patients are seen in a day, mostly for common colds, stomach ailments, skin infections and diagnoses of more serious problems, for which the patient needs to be treated down in Kathmandu proper.
The monastery hosted a lunch for us, overlooking the city below. Outsiders don’t normally eat here, so this was a rare treat. A delicious but typical meal of rice, dahl, cabbage, squash and okra was served, graciously as always. Maria was pleased to find out that many Irish have come to Nepal to help rebuild houses, since the earthquake of 2015. Once again, her smiling face evoked a warm conversation with those we met.
We parted from our guide and the wonderful students, friends whom we’ll remember fondly. As we headed back to the hotel, a loooooong discussion ensued about what to do before dinner. Pretty funny how indecisive and confused a group of nine adults can be. In fact, there was only one pressing matter at hand – the purchase of a traditional sari dress for that night’s final celebratory dinner.
In the end, we did get to a local fair-trade shop to purchase Nepali crafts. Everyone was happy — even Andrew “I Never Know What to Get Anyone” Parker bought a couple things!
Dinner at Nepali Chulo was a lavish feast, complete with a performance by local musicians and dancers. As is the custom, raksi (local rice wine) was flowing. When there was excess raksi to be consumed, Prahlad noted “Paul (aka Mr. Bean) can do it, he’s a man!” But the highlight of the evening was the entrance of our own Nepali Princess Domonique, bedecked in her colorful, aforementioned sari, complete with 50 gold bangles and jewelled forehead! Everyone applauded at the sight! Finally it was time for goodbye speeches. Pralhad thanked Aspen for everything we do to support Adara’s work in Nepal and Uganda. Paul thanked Adara for the incredible work we witnessed firsthand this week. What they do is nothing short of miraculous.
The night came to a close with an on-stage, festive dance with some Aspenites in the mix — Dominique, Sophie, Paul and Pralhad, honorary Aspen colleague.
We can’t believe tomorrow is our last day.