In celebration of Adara’s 25th anniversary, our Founder and Chair, Audette Exel, has returned to Humla to where our story began all those years ago. As she treks throughout Humla, Audette is sharing her ruminations – this time about how her journey has reinforced how truly important Adara’s mission is, and the power of our Remote Community Development work to transform lives.
By Audette Exel, Founder and Chair
The call went out – sharp and long – carried on the breeze. Ramesh (our Technical Assistant) has been whistling up the wind for us this last two weeks. I pause as his whistle reaches down the valley to the mighty Karnali River and lifts with the wings of the hawk to the highest peaks.
Right on cue, the breeze comes up, softening the heat and blowing spring into our step.
This trip has been full of Nepali and Tibetan blessings and wishes – spoken as stones are placed on Buddhist chortens, sung to the landscape, and wrapped in gifts as we arrive and leave each hamlet. People in traditional dress line the trail everywhere, robes and dresses flowing. We are covered in kata – traditional scarves, garlands of flowers, red tika dotted on our foreheads in the Hindu villages, and red rice and barley offered to the Gods in others. Good luck, good luck. Blessings for us, blessings. From those who have so little, to those of us who have so much – blessings.
People are keen to tell us how our Nepali teams have changed their lives, working for 25 years hand in hand with them to bring smokeless stoves, greenhouses, toilet facilities, schools, health posts, micro hydro power. Extraordinary change since we first came here. Time and time again people tell us that Adara is different. We have stayed for so long, whilst others have come and gone. They see Adara as their partners. In village after village in formal welcome ceremonies, children and adults both take the opportunity to express anger to those in power for their neglect towards remote communities, and deep gratitude to the Adara team. The message is loud, strong and consistent.
Our Humla and Kathmandu teams, led by Pralhad and Angjuk , beam with justifiable pride. “These are our customers. This is how we know our work is meaningful.” Their work is so difficult. In this very tough landscape they are changing lives, in deep partnership with local people. I feel so lucky to have time with our team in this setting, to honour their work and their commitment. They could have made easier choices – they are engineers, development experts, nurses, agricultural experts, social workers, educators. They could get high paying work in an easy city. Instead, they choose to work here – away from the Nepali road system, where so much is defined by absence and lack of access.
It is magnificent up here, but it is hard. A few days ago, we heard the terrible news that a 13-year-old girl with a badly infected leg – who we met on the trail – had died. It took over a week for her to reach Kathmandu for hospital support. What loss. What grief. This is the reality of life and death in this remote place.
Romantic notions have no place here. Reality is hard. The human rights of those who live remotely – more than 40% of the world’s population – are appallingly neglected. I am glad this has been a cornerstone of our work: partnership with people in some of the world’s most faraway places. These people matter. Change is possible.
It is time for me to think about whistling up a blessing of my own – some wishes to send out – in return for so many we have been given.
Tomorrow I will send a wish into the valley for all the people of Humla – that their lives will be easier from here. A wish for our world that one day every little boy and every little girl will have access to quality education and healthcare. A wish for all my colleagues around the globe that the wind will always be at their backs, making their work easier.
And a wish that everyone of privilege will come to know the truth that I now know to my core: that the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to give to others.
Farewell Humla – and thank you for all your blessings.
25 years finished. So much done, so much yet to do.