March 2017 Natalie's Final Blog from Nepal

My last full month in Lumbini was an eventful one! Although it was a time to finish working on current projects, Nepal’s calendar had great holidays and events in store for us throughout the whole month.

LUMBINI SOCIAL SERVICE FOUNDATION DATA COLLECTION:

The collection continues… So far we have collected student, household and health history information from over 300 students in the 3 local schools. With this information we’ve recorded that the students come from 61 different villages in the region and are part of nearly 80 different castes. In the upcoming school year the data collection will still be in process and will be led by LSSF members Dharmendra and Sudharma.

punnihawa boys.jpg
punnihawa girls.jpg

  

HOLI FESTIVAL 2073 (Nepali year)

This famous holiday celebrated in India and Nepal celebrates the good over evil.

 

KGS MURAL PROJECT UPDATE:

The mural project is almost complete! With end of year exams, the students at Karuna Girls College have been very busy preparing. But will continue as soon as the new school year commences. This is the first student led art project at KGS but will definitely not be the last. The girls are already planning to create more around the school.

 

 

As I’m typing this final Lumbini update, I can’t believe six months have already passed. Life in Nepal can feel very strange. Almost as if I’m living in a different world. The experiences and emotions will be remembered and felt for lifetimes.

Lumbini Emergency Response Network: Expanding access to health care

Background

In late 2016 Cornelia Santschi connected Henry Ashworth with Rockey Tripathi and an amazing collaborative project began.

Rockey is well known to Anatta, and very much at the core of our international family.  

He is currently working in financial management in Dubai, but remains the main coordinating manager for so many of our health and education projects in Lumbini.  

He was a force to be reckoned with during the post earthquake disaster relief, and there is no way we could manage our medical camps without his expertise and incredible LSSF volunteer network!  Rockey is also working on a number of social concept projects which tie in with our local sustainability efforts.  

 

Henry is an EMT, a Master’s in Public Health student at University College Dublin and a current Fulbright grantee to Nepal.

He is a former student of Cornelia's sister, Linda who wisely thought they might come up with a like-minded collaboration .  Henry went to Nepal in 2015 to work in some hospitals as an EMT and ended up with a 10 month Fulbright Scholarship.

 Henry is is also working on a project designing and implementing epidemiological data collection and analysis in Lumbini as part of his Master's Thesis.  We intend to incorporate this information with our medical camp data  to more fully understand the population our hospital will serve.  

Introduction

Located in the Lumbini zone of Nepal, the rural city of Mahilwar is a 45-minute motor vehicle ride from the nearest hospital. Without an ambulance service to serve this region, residents of Mahilwar and its satellite villages do not have access to medical services when emergencies arise. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal also highlighted the need for emergency response services suitable for difficult terrain around Mahilwar.   

Project Concept

Working under the auspices of Lumbini Social Service Foundation, project leader Henry Ashworth is working to create the self-sustaining Lumbini Emergency Response Network (LERN).  LERN’s mission is to provide emergency transportation and basic first-aid services in Mahilwar and a defined ~10km surrounding rural area. LERN will serve those who, because of terrain or inadequate medical infrastructure, cannot otherwise access medical services in an emergency situation. A variety of funding models are being investigated, but the current expectation is that user fees will be levied based on ability to pay. This sustainable model, once proven, could be applied to other organizations and locations in Nepal.

Project Status

Twenty volunteers have already been selected to serve in LERN. US-certified emergency medical technicians Henry Ashworth, Zena Marpet and Haven Allard, are utilizing their past experience in emergency response training, are preparing the LERN training program based on curriculum from the US National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Henry and Zena will be donating their time to train the recruits and set up a continuing education program comprised of training videos accessible on the Internet in addition to annual in-person training through a partnership with the Eckerd College Emergency Response Team. Also,  Eoin Minnock and Bronte Jong, two of fourth year medical students at University College Dublin are providing medical guidance, research assistance and support.

The missing project component is transportation. A projected US$6,000 is needed to purchase a new motorcycle and cover startup costs for supplies, gasoline, motorcycle maintenance, and public outreach for the first year. After one year, local funding from services provided is anticipated to cover annual costs of the project.

Action Plan

Once funding is secured for first year costs, training of the volunteers can begin. LERN could begin offering services within 6 months after funding is secured.

To learn more or donatehttps://hcashwor.wixsite.com/lernnepal  https://www.generosity.com/medical-fundraising/lumbini-emergency-response-network--2/x/15844182

 

February 2017 Natalie's Lumbini Project Update

February 2017 Lumbini Project Updates

 

 

It doesn’t take a while to notice that the students at Karuna Girls College are very passionate about music and arts. Lumbini Social Service Foundation volunteers, Vanessa and Olivia spent much time teaching the students about music and essentially helped them fall in love with it. During the first week of February a few students came up with the idea of teaching guitar to other students who are interested. Since there isn’t a permanent music teacher at the moment this is a way for them to continue playing on their own and share their knowledge with others. Other students who are more interested in art spend their morning free drawing and painting.

But surprisingly the following week a new temporary guitar teacher came to the afternoon music class. Barun Sawhney is a medical student from Lumbini and studies in Bhairawa. He had a few weeks off and heard about the KGS music program through the school’s principal. Throughout his time with us he has taught over twenty students from four different grades. He is currently teaching the class a Nepali song called ‘Jaha Chan Buddha Ka Aankha’ which translates to ‘Where Buddha’s Eyes Are’. The students are preparing to perform the song next month. 

On February 16 a group of LSSF volunteers took a trip to the district of Kapilavastu in search for a school where Anatta’s next medical clinic could be held. Most of the villages in Kapilavastu are some of the poorest in Nepal. The families here do not have access to health care and most times live their lives without a single medical checkup. The next medical clinic here will be Anatta’s first in the district. Previous medical clinics were held in the neighboring district of Rupandehi in Punnihawa. 

KGS MURAL PROJECT UPDATE:

January 2017 Natalie reports from Lumbini

Happy New Year from Nepal !!!

 

mural drawing 2.JPG
mural drawing 1.JPG

 

During the first week of January the mural team at Karuna Girls School started bringing their sketches to life on the wall of The Lotus Room (the music and art room). A small team of 10 students planned and designed how the mural would look, using art which was submitted by students in the school. This project was started and managed by LSSF volunteer Franzi and now myself.

 

The girls are very dedicated to their work. Every day they come in, stacking chairs and tables up high to create huge mountains and beautiful trees. This project promotes creative thinking for the girls by allowing them to make their own decisions as a team and letting their ideas flow freely.

 

 

 

On January 15 the group of Eckerd College students spent a day clearing a path at the Crane Sanctuary. A new well was also being drilled, making the space more suitable for visitors.

The following day the Eckerd group took a trip to Metta School for an afternoon of gardening. Many different trees were planted including a few banana trees! In the past gardening projects at the school weren’t successful due to lack of maintenance. This time we have high hopes that it will be different. Metta School now has an environmental club where a group of students are responsible for the care of the plants and regular trash cleanups.

 

On January 26 the first day of data collection at Punnihawa School begun. Metta Family volunteer, Dharmendra, and I started the collection with the oldest students, class five.  The population of students in Punnihawa School is much smaller than that of Karuna Girls School and Metta School. Many children in this area still do not attend school despite the easy access to it. With the students’ data we hope to understand their lives and the lives of their families much better, so we can serve them better in the future.

 

Towards the end of the month the mural team at Karuna Girls School started painting, after just a few weeks of outlining. The mural team has grown since the beginning of the month. Every day different students come in fascinated by the mural and become inspired to help in any way. Here is how the mural looks as of right now…

An update from our ANM nuns in the Tsum Valley:

The branch of our humanitarian family involved in our earthquake relief efforts is Global Karuna. Below is their description of the Tsum Valley:


"Tsum Valley is one of the hidden cultural treasures of Nepal. In the northern Gorkha district bordering Tibet, it is tucked away between the four great Himalayas : Himalchuil, Ganesh Himal, Buddha Himal, and Sringi Himal. Because of its remoteness, inaccessibility, and high altitude, the Tsum Valley has remained virtually unaffected by the global chaos of commerce, development and exploitation of nature. Indeed for centuries, Tsum valley has been known as a hidden valley of happiness, rich with ancient art, culture, and spirituality."

"The earthquakes of April 25th and May 12th, 2015 caused immeasurable destruction to the Tsum Valley. The temples and monasteries that crumbled were not meaningless constructions: they were a heritage. In every stone, a story, a thought, a feeling, and a lifetime of perseverance and knowledge. Perched precariously on the side of a mountain, Gompa Lungdang, or, the Lungdang Nunnery, was an eight hundred year old story. As a place of tradition and a place of liberation, it is worthy of acknowledgment, remembrance, and reconstruction." 

"The proximity of Tsum Valley to the epicenter of the April 25 t h earthquake resulted in catastrophic damage to the Lungdang Nunnery. Dharma hall, kitchen, retreat building, storeroom, nun’s living quarters, statues, scriptures, paintings – heritage, history, and home – broken and buried. At the foot of the Ganesh Himal, the Lungdang Nunnery is a five day walk from the nearest road under normal circumstances. However, landslides triggered by the earthquakes and their aftershocks have created impasses limiting any hope for relief or rescue to air travel. As a result, assistance has been scarce. Gompa Lungdang in particular is dependent on surrounding villages for survival. Although the Tsum Valley has received some tents, food, and medicine, with limited food and resources for themselves, villagers can spare little to support local nuns. If the harvested barley cannot be properly stored this season, all inhabitants of this devastated region will be under threat of famine."

Now over a year after the earthquakes, the inhabitants of the Tsum are still badly in need of assistance.  The climate is harsh and the life style difficult, especially during winter.  Our ANM nuns have learned to adapt:

Our young ANM nuns have made it their mission to help.  Mudita, Dhammadina, and Sudharma have been working hard at the Compassion Clinic.  We are so proud of their determination and the serious skills they have acquired

Take a look below:
 

 

The Tsum does have its incredible rewards - not the least of which are the spectacular scenery and the warm-hearted people.  Please enjoy the photos and check back as we gather some of our ANM's favorite stories to share.

Earthquake Rebuilding Progress in Dadagaun Village

Dadagaun Village, in the hills above the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, suffered significant damage in the April and May 2015 earthquakes. Anatta and many others have been supporting rebuilding efforts, but progress has been very slow.  Build Up Nepal has initiated a 16 day brick building training course for 10 of the most committed Dadagaun villagers.  The hope is that the skills acquired in training will generalize to get the entire local community up to speed.  

One of the disaster relief efforts many of us supported here post-earthquake was to import compressed earth brick making machines from China, largely orchestrated through our friend Steve Webster of Shivapuri Cottages (see Partners and Friends).  The early stage brick making process revealed the need for greater expertise in order to mix correct amounts of earth, sand and cement for earthquake-resistant brick strength.  Build Up Nepal is now providing that expertise.  Once government approval is obtained, the villagers should be able to access additional rebuilding grant funds.

Saru Tamang provides on-site photos

Saru Tamang also shared photos of Dadagaun villagers finally rebuilding from 2015 earthquake damage after receiving the long awaited first installment of government funds.  Shown below are " Houses  #30, #16, #32, #42 and #51".  Thank you SO much to all who helped; as you can see there remains much to be done.

December 2016 Report from Lumbini

Natalie Hernandez is back with her monthly update.  Read on and be inspired!

On December 8th Metta School and LSSF volunteers begun the first of many trash cleanups in Lumbini. Students from classes 5-8 spent the afternoon picking up litter from around the Central Canal and outside numerous monasteries. Although Lumbini is a beautiful place, it is unfortunately covered by lots of rubbish. Littering is a norm here, even in the World Heritage Site. It is crucial to inform and educate the children of Lumbini on the importance of taking care of their environment. While participating in regular cleanups they will understand and see what a difference a clean ambience makes.
Following on the 12th of December, the first ever LSSF Data Collection was carried out at Metta School. Volunteers and teachers were trained to assist in the collection of student and household information for classes 5-8 (Phase I). The goal for this collection is to gain a clearer understanding of students and their families to better serve them and their community. With the data collected we can form accurate statistics on education, health history, child marriage and more. This collection will be carried out in Karuna Girls School and as well as Punnihawa School.
METTA SCHOOL BEAUTIFICATION PROJECT- UPDATE
Metta School is looking beautiful as ever! Students have been creating amazing paintings on the walls of their classrooms, from flowers to birds and more. Young artist Sunil Harijan has been coming every Saturday morning to put his passion to work. Check out his latest painting on the class 6 wall.

Learn how you can help our three Nepali Auxiliary Nurse Midwives begin their careers.

Over the past 2 years Anatta and CEBA have co-sponsored an ongoing Auxiliary Nurse Midwife Training Program for local girls.  The first 4 girls graduated in 2016. This is a remarkable achievement in a part of the world where girls are undervalued and often promised in marriage by 7-11 years of age!   These girls have inspired their community and are true leaders of social change.   

Three of our ANM nuns, Mudita, Dhammadhina, and Sudharma have offered their services as volunteers in the Compassion Clinic in the Tsum Valley of Nepal.  This region in the high Himalaya was devastated in the massive 2015 earthquakes, and is now accessible only by helicopter.   

During the earthquake recovery efforts conducted by our group in this region, a strong bond was formed between our Lumbini team, Global Karuna, and the Compassion Project in Tsum.   Our first ANM graduates are now growing this connection by offering their medical services to this remote region. 

This means that our ANM novice nuns will live for a year in this isolated region of the Himalaya, in a climate and culture that is completely unfamiliar to them.  Growing up near sea level in the warm Terai on the India border, they have never before been in a high mountain nor snowy climate.  They will also need to learn a new local language to communicate effectively and care for their new community.

Anatta is inspired by our ANMs courage and willingness to begin their careers in this way, completely without financial compensation.  Although our ANMs have no expectations of financial gain, we understand that without a salaried position, they will not yet have fulfilled their career goals.  Our educational programs aim to empower local women to become role models and change makers of their society.  Without compensation their achievements will not be seen as useful, valuable or sustainable; standards by which society will measure their success.  Women are held to a higher standard in order to overcome the cultural bias keeping them locked in the traditional roles of child bearing and uncompensated manual labor.  To break free and become true pioneers, these women need to earn a living wage.

We intend to make this a reality and pay their salaries in this first year of their employment.  With your help, we can encourage and support these future leaders to 'be the change'.  

Please visit our fundraiser site to follow our progress:     https://www.youcaring.com/anattaworldhealtheducationoutreach-711153

 

 

An ancient art, a modern-day artist

We are in the garden of the famous Kathmandu Guest House watching artist Binod Gautam engaged in slate mandala stone carving.  This is an ancient Nepali art form.  This particular carving depicts 5 different positions of the Buddha, along with the auspicious symbols.  It is lovely to see and support this ancient art, which has been taught in its present form from one generation to the next.

The Super Heroes of Nepal

From our friend Eileen Spillane's blog The Balanced Nurse, about her experiences during Anatta's trip to Nepal.

Venerable Metteyya and the nuns of Karuna School

Venerable Metteyya and the nuns of Karuna School

Two weeks in Nepal, two days of travel over 7,000 miles - I am happy to be home in San Francisco. As an outdoor enthusiast, I resonated with a quote from Lonely Planet's Nepal guide "while you first come to Nepal for the mountains, you return here for the people". I most certainly will be returning to Nepal for the people and I just might squeeze in a trek next time.

Exploring Nepal is not for the delicate traveler. The smog can do a number on the lungs, you need tissues for the encounter with the porcelain hole in the ground and you might be challenged with a stomach bug here and there. The flights aren't cheap and it takes a very long time to get there. Due to political challenges, India has placed a blockade on fuel coming into Nepal. This meant no heat in some of our hotels but for Nepalis it impacts their daily lives for cooking, heat and transport with outrageous lines at gas stations. We resorted to buying fuel on the black market, which can be up to three times the normal price

Practicing patience as we wait for fuel.

Practicing patience as we wait for fuel.

 

I had the added adventure of losing my luggage early in the trip. We literally watched it fly off the roof of the van while we in it. We turned around within minutes and it was scooped up by someone likely dealing with the economic hardship of post earthquake Nepal. I got a lesson in letting go and in return, I received a stylish wardrobe from my new friends.

Attempting to fit in with all the sweet nuns

Attempting to fit in with all the sweet nuns

I have never been surrounded by more productive people committed to improving the lives of others. As health care providers we often reap the benefits of feeling the impact we have with patients. Now imagine that ten fold. When I mentioned to Cornelia, the founder of Anatta that I climbed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, she had also done that but only after building toilets for the indigenous people. So it should be no surprise to me that in addition to working full time as a neuropsychologist, sometimes talking to patients during an awake craniotomy, she created a non-profit called Anatta World Health and Education Outreach. Anatta is like an octopus with tentacles reaching out and sending love to the people of Nepal. 

Susan, Debra and Cornelia

Susan, Debra and Cornelia

When Cornelia's team at Anatta partners up with Bodhi Sakyadhita's team at CEBA and Venerable Metteyya, they are a serious force to be reckoned with. A monk usually lives a peaceful life meditating in a monastery supported by the community. Ven. Metteyya is part monk, part super hero. With a soft spoken voice, a smile as wide as Nepal and a gentle disposition, he ingratiates everyone he encounters. This dynamic trio is committed to improving the lives of the people of Nepal, with a strong emphasis on health and education. Many children complete school at grade 6 in Nepal. Traditional Nepal culture does not value education for girls, leaving few opportunities for girls, in which they are arranged to marry young while others are bought into human trafficking or prostitution. Through Anatta, these children have the opportunity to go to college.

Bodhi and the Karuna School girls welcome us

Bodhi and the Karuna School girls welcome us

This year, four young women will graduate as auxiliary Nurse Midwives. I had the honor to work with them and share stories of preeclampsia, hemorrhage and c-sections. I told them of a trend in San Francisco in which women eat the placenta and they shared that some villagers put cow dung on their babies umbilical cords - something they are educating the villagers to change and hopefully improve infant mortality.

Donna, Cornelia and Debra

Donna, Cornelia and Debra

In addition to the medical and dental clinic, CEBA sponsored a vet clinic and treated local street animals. We also had the opportunity to see the continued efforts of earthquake relief through Global Karuna  during the catastrophic earthquake last April, which killed over 8,000 people. I learned how complicated rescue efforts were due to red tape created by the Nepali government, the UN and so called disaster relief experts as they debated over who would win the contract - all while people were dying under rubble. 

Venerable Metteyya coordinating the rescue of nuns in a remote area

Venerable Metteyya coordinating the rescue of nuns in a remote area

 

While the quake was nine months ago, the rescue efforts are far from over. As a Westerner, we thought we were troopers wearing our wool hats to bed and snuggling up with a hot water bottle. An unheated hotel is quite a bit warmer than living on the side of the road in a tent village. There is much more work needed to be done and we can be part of that solution.

If you feel called to help in the continued earthquake relief, you can donate through Global Karuna here

If you are like me and appreciate the freedom your country affords you to be educated and marry who you want, when you want and if you want and you would like to support the work of Anatta through training nurses, building a community hospital, supporting education of boys and girls or supporting an orphanage, you can donate through Anatta here

Come join Anatta next year, make deep friendships and cry all the way home!

Cornelia putting Anatta to good use during a medical clinic in Lumbini, Nepal.

Cornelia putting Anatta to good use during a medical clinic in Lumbini, Nepal.


Hospitality in a temporary home

These nuns are from Bigu, located near earthquake epicenter.  They were evacuated and relocated by our Global Karuna team when they could not receive any assistance.  The two senior nuns walked for 2 days to access a bus to Kathmandu where they finally found the Global Karuna tent city.  Here we are welcomed to their safe temporary home, and enjoy a special yak cheese treat - Chirpee!   Stay tuned for details on rebuilding their Gompa Village.

Two busy days at the Lumbini Medical Clinic

Some of the faces from our 2 day medical clinic in the remote village of Purnihawa, near Lumbini Nepal.  Our team treated 850 people in two busy days!