Pun-Pals

February 18th, 2017 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Jeannine from The School Inside describes their latest project with the teachers from Nangi at Himanchal Higher Education School.

“It’s an old idea that still has much meaning: pen pals.

Although I and other volunteer English teachers take maximum advantage of the internet to teach English to people all over the world (via Skype), the one thing the internet can’t change is time zones. One of the biggest challenges we face in serving more students is finding teachers who aren’t in bed when the students are free for lessons!

That’s when we got the idea of e-mail writing lessons. Right away it had 3 big “pluses”. Tutors and students could write when it was convenient and when students had the internet connection (a big problem in many areas).  It would strengthen the students’ writing skills and speed up their learning time. (We’ve now learned that students who write more—rather than converse more—learn more quickly.) And, finally, even the simplest correspondence would bring much-needed friendship in a world filled with so much misunderstanding and fear.

We began by calling it the “E-friends” Project . . . until we launched it in Nepal.  We asked Toya, the indefatigable teacher and do-it-all helper of Nangi’s High School, to set up e-mail addresses for all the teachers taking English lessons from us.  One by one the new e-mail addresses began to come in. It was then that we noticed that everyone’s last name was “Pun”.  It was simply too irresistible. We changed the project name to “Pun-Pals”.

When people ask us what “pun” means, we say it’s the Nepali word for “one worldwide family”.  At least that’s our definition!”

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Teaching in Nangi Using Skype

February 1st, 2017 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Republished with permission from The School Inside website: http://www.interesteng.org

ONE week I prepared a lesson based around the theme of food.  Of course, I used a lot of things from my kitchen. I held an egg up, for example, and asked the kids what it was. Immediately they shouted out, “It’s an egg!”

I praised them and we talked about eggs, where they come from and, yes, they have chickens in Nangi. I asked if they liked eggs and they enthusiastically told me “Yes, I do!” Then the Skype connection cut off.  So I waited patiently for them to call me back. When they did, the children all had big playful smiles on their faces. They then totally took charge of the class! One of the pupils, a little girl, held an orange up in her hand and playing teacher, asked me what it was! I answered, “It’s an orange!”

Giggling, the children praised my correct answer and asked me if I like oranges!  I said, “Yes, I do!” I then held up an orange I had had ready to use. They all fell about laughing and, as their laughter is infectious, I was laughing hard too.  The atmosphere and energy coming from the classroom in Nepal was tangible in my living room in Spain.

I was truly amazed by the children—their quick thinking whilst we were cut off, their playing the teacher, their praising my correct answer and giving a follow-up question.  Teaching via Skype is definitely more challenging than face to face, especially when the connection is not very reliable, but clearly this can be used as an advantage if you are quick thinking like the students in my class.

With each class, the students are coming out of their shells more and I see a little more of their personalities. The fun-loving and mischievous parts of their characters are surfacing and I love it! They call me by my name now, which they were too shy to do at the beginning, and so I can feel our rapport growing. For example, another week we were talking, and then singing, about feelings.  The kids acted out feelings:  sad, tired, surprised, etc.  Then we sang, “If you’re happy and you know it”. They danced around the classroom and had so much fun.

It is amazing to see what is possible in our world today. I    love the fact that Skype teaching allows me to share stories, songs, and experiences with these eager students on the other side of the world and that they enjoy them so much. It’s really special. —Kaz

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National Innovation Center Nepal – Concept Note from Dr. Mahabir Pun

January 23rd, 2017 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Need and Opportunity

One of the main reasons why Nepal is economically a least developed country is because there is not much happening for economic development. Nepal imports over 90% of products for different purposes and exports less than 10% products to earn foreign currencies resulting in the huge trade deficit. Therefore a major economic overhaul is required to make Nepal a developed country in the 21st century. For that to happen, Nepal must give the highest priority to science, technology creation, and innovation in order to ensure a sustainable base for her much-needed growth engines. Considerable attention is needed to nurture homegrown inventors, innovators and scientists for the economic development to happen. However, because of the lack of such an initiative at the government level, many talented, innovative and creative Nepalis are leaving the country every year in search of better careers and opportunities abroad. This is a huge and shameful loss for a poor country like Nepal. As a result, Nepal is always one of the least developed countries despite so many foreign aids coming for many years. Unless and until Nepal stops losing gifted and talented human resources at such an alarming rate, it will always remain an underdeveloped country. This is the bitter but irrefutable fact. Our wish is to keep those talented and creative people and use their talents for the economic development of Nepal.

National Innovation Center (NIC) has been formally established in 2012 to find ways to keep innovative, talented and creative Nepalis in the country. In other words, NIC aims to retain, nurture and promote Nepal’s top human capital and leverage their considerable intellect, creativity, and talent in fostering the country’s social and economic growth. NIC will also provide donor communities and friends of Nepal with a unique and powerful opportunity to help Nepal become a prosperous nation.

Vision

The vision of the National Innovation Center is to introduce Research and Development (R&D) culture in Nepal and help to nurture and promote innovation based ecosystems by employing both grassroots (bottom up) and top-down approaches as given below.

  • Grassroots Approach: NIC intends to set up the network of local grassroots innovation hubs in rural Nepali communities with the idea to provide tools and resources in order to support innovative rural Nepali populace and to incubate their creative ideas. This is about recognizing and helping the often-overlooked resourcefulness and inventiveness of grassroots innovators as well as supporting them to creatively solve their local challenges, all the while contributing to the local economy.
  • Top-down Approach: NIC will also have a central structure and regional structures to work with talented and innovative Nepalis, who are either studying at the university or graduated from the university. This central hub is intended to act as an ‘impact accelerator/incubator’ at the national level to support innovative enterprises and research projects that can positively impact the social and economic fabric of the country. This hub is intended to foster an anti-disciplinary spirit, “going beyond boundaries and disciplines and encouraging an unconventional mixing and matching of disparate areas to create projects and products that can create tangible impact in the country.”
  • Moreover, the vision includes creating an environment conducive to persuading talented Nepalese researchers and scientists currently working abroad to engage and contribute in various ways to help nurture the creativity of young and talented Nepalese back home. NIC will create a database of those researchers and scientists and will request them to provide mentorship to young Nepali researchers and innovators in various fields as it will be needed.

Modality

A not-for-profit sharing company by the name of “Rashtriya Awishkar Kendra” (National Innovation Center) has been registered according to Nepal Company Act 2006. The innovation center will provide young researchers, innovators and inventors full financial support and mentor in four steps as given below:

  • Step 1 – Provide full financial support and mentoring for accelerating prototype design,
  • Step 2 – Provide full financial support and mentoring for product development,
  • Step 3 – Provide full support for getting patent right, trademark, intellectual property right, etc.
  • Step 4 – Provide support for connecting them to investors so that they can launch innovative products and services aimed at impacting the economic and social development.

Sustainability:

NIC will be a unique organization because the goal is to make it fully sustainable.. In order to make the center unique and fully sustainable from the very beginning, NIC will register a hydropower company as a major stakeholder and will develop a 10 MW to 15 MW hydropower station. The power will be sold to the government to generate cash income for sustaining the center.

The hydropower station was chosen to make the innovation center sustainable because it is the most predictable, stable, and steady source of revenue than other sources. It is one-time investment and takes about five years to complete the construction and generate power. Four potential sites for the construction of the run-off-the-river hydropower stations have been selected by our hydropower expert team for detail study. NIC will get necessary permission from the government of Nepal to build the power station and sell the power.

It is estimated that a 10 MW hydropower station will generate a net income of about US$ 3 million to US$ 4 million every year by selling the power to the government. At the beginning years of power production, 75% (~$3 million) of the net income will be used every year to pay back interest and loan, and pay for the operating and maintenance cost. 25% (~US$ 1 million) of the net income will be used to run the innovation center. The estimated loan payback period is 8 years. Once the bank loan is paid off, NIC will have at least US$3 Million for operation. After NIC will start operating from the income of the hydropower, we will also be looking for all possible sources of income in future as well.

Current Board of Directors

As for the team members for now, Dr. Mahabir Pun (Social Entrepreneur and Internet Hall of Fame inductee) leads the project as Chairman with Mr. Rameshore Khanal (Economist and Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance), Dr. Dambar Nepali (Hydro Power expert), Dr. Pramod Dhakal (former scientist in Canada now with Open University Nepal), and Dr. Dinesh Bhuju (Scientist, National Academy of Science and Technology) are taking initial leadership role. More board members will be inducted as the project will develop in future. The Board Members are not entitled to any financial incentives.

Requests to Individuals and Donor Communities

NIC has already requested to the government of Nepal for some seed funding for the development of 10 MW hydropower station. The government always seems positive to the proposal but they have not provided any concrete support even after trying hard for four years. Therefore, NIC has launched a public fundraising campaign since July 2016 to raise US$ 5 million from the Nepalese living in Nepal and abroad. NIC is getting very good responses from all the Nepalis and friends of Nepal so far.

NIC would also like to request donor communities and angel investors for some financial support in the form of the grant or soft loan to help materialize the project. There is no doubt that such support will have a long-lasting positive impact on the economic and social development of Nepal.

The estimated minimum cost of building a 10 MW hydropower station is US$15 million. NIC is seeking a one-time full or partial grant of US$4.5 million (30% of the total project cost) for equity from the Government of Nepal, individuals, donor communities and angel investors to build the 10 MW hydropower station. 70% of the total project cost will be taken as loan from the commercial banks. Once we get the fund for the equity, commercial banks will be ready to provide 70% of the project cost as the long term loan.

While we will be involved in building the 10-MW hydropower station for long term sustainability, NIC will also keep supporting innovative and creative people for small-scale innovations and researches whatever way it can.

Let us conclude with the famous Chinese proverb – “Give a Man a Fish and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”. Your contribution for NIC will exactly the same way for Nepal. Your contribution will be the most meaningful investments you will ever make for helping NIC become sustainable and for supporting Nepal become an economically developed country. On behalf of the young generation of Nepal, I appreciate very much for your involvement and support to make the dream come true.

Contact Information:

Mahabir Pun (Email: nicnepal.mahabir@gmail.com, Mobile: +977 9841592361

Chairman, National Innovation Center, Nepal

Nimesh Ghimire (E-mail: ghimirenimesh@gmail.com)

Global Outreach Coordinator

Saurav Dhakal: Email: saurav@storycycle.com

Communication Coordinator

For Contribution and more information, please visit website: http://www.nicnepal.org/

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Mahabir Pun’s Annual Report

January 16th, 2017 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Happy New Year from Nepal!

Dear Supporters:

I would like to update you on of the progress of the projects I did with the Myagdi district community members and supporters.

1. With donations from around the world and HEF; HEF helped rebuild four classrooms in Shree Kanyadevi Lower Secondary School in Pokhari village of Gorkha district that was completely damaged by the earthquake at the cost of about $32,000.

2. Two new classrooms were added to Himanchal High School with funds from the U.S., the Nepal government and contributions from the communities.

3. A new two bedroom solar heated building was added in Nangi with financial and technical support of Engineers Without Borders Group of Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology for about $7,500.

4. Construction has begun on a 50 KW hydropower station near Khopra ridge. It will provide power for cooking, heating, lighting and washing in four community-owned lodges. Our plan is to convert four lodges in the region as “Zero Carbon Emission Lodges”. The total project cost is approximately $175,000. To date we have received a $75,000 grant from Asian Development Bank, $17,500 from Huguenin Rallapalli Foundation California, and $25,000 from other sources. Nepal Tourism Board had committed $40,000.

5. Kathmandu Model Hospital which is managed by the Public Health Concern Trust received a grant to upgrade the clinics in Nangi, Tikot, Paudwar and Aula villages. A model for resilience health care programs in sparsely populated regions like Nangi will be implemented. A surgery room and patient check-in room will be added in the existing Nangi clinic. Two medical doctors will reside in the village permanently to provide health services and move from village to village depending upon the needs. All the clinics will also be connected to each other and to Kathmandu Model Hospital for regular consultation through high-speed Internet. The grant supporting this is available for one year only, then additional funds will be needed.

6. In September, Nepali Communities in the U.S. held the Himanchal Open Golf Tournament in Dallas, Texas to help raise fund for HEF. Thanks to Ajay Rai, Bhim Rai and Madhav Silwal for their efforts which raised $2,900.

7. I have started a nationwide fundraising campaign for the establishment of an innovation center in Nepal. I am seeking help and support from all Nepalese. The goal is to raise $5 million in one year and invest the fund in building a 10 MW hydro power station. The total cost for building this station is $15 million. This 10 MW hydropower station will provide an income of $3.5 million income per year through the sale of power to the government. The income from the hydropower project will be used to run the innovation center.

Thank you very much for your support through Himanchal High School and Nangi village projects. We appreciate it so much.

Sincerely,
Mahabir Pun on behalf of the Himanchal Education Foundation

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Ajay’s Visit to Nangi

January 9th, 2017 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Ajay has been fundraising for HEF through a golf tournament over the last few years. He recently visited Nangi and shared this email with the BOD:

“Greetings to you all the way from Nepal. I’m in Kathmandu at the moment and will be flying back to the US in few days. Wanted to share with you the amazing experience I had while visiting Nangi village and the school last week.  It was so wonderful to have received such a warm welcome by the entire school on my arrival there. The day started with an assembly gathering of all the students and teachers in the morning where I was introduced to everyone as HEF rep from the US. The headmaster Mr. Raman Pun talked to the students about the friendship between HEF, the school, and the village. I had the chance to inform everyone about the work HEF does for the school and about myself and my role in how I help. A special meeting was held in the afternoon between myself and all the teachers. We talked about lots of stuff regarding the school, its financials, and the future goals.  We discussed how HEF and the school and the village could form better communications and create better bondings. All the teachers were very grateful for the help they receive from HEF. They were happy to meet me in person and be able to hold this meeting.

I stayed in the community lodge run by the villagers.  I really had a wonderful stay in the lodge. I was amazed to see the harmony between the villagers where they cater to the trekkers who trek through that region and the profit made is donated to the school.  The ladies from the village run some small handicraft businesses whose profit again goes back to the school. It was wonderful to see villagers working so diligently for the improvement of the school and their village.

I felt my trip was very productive and am proud to be representing HEF. Like said earlier, the students, villagers, and the entire school staffs are very appreciative of the support they receive from HEF. I will share with you all the details of our meeting in next HEF board meeting. I encourage other HEF members to visit the school and the village if they can.  You can learn so much and have a wonderful time there.”

Regards,
Ajay

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A Teacher’s Thoughts on Long Distance Learning

January 2nd, 2017 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Toya is a teacher at Himanchal School for Higher Education. He supervises the School Inside English learning classes givien long distance by native English speakers all over the world and connected via Skype to students and adults in Nangi. (The last post was written by one of those teachers and described her experience.)

Toya said:

I think The long distance teaching is very fruitful and useful to students and teachers. Students and teachers are very interested to take lessons. They eagerly await their turn. They really enjoy the lessons. The teachers are really qualified,dynamic ,energetic and friendly. They have been teaching and creating child friendly environment according to students and teachers needs. We really appropriate their great contribution. Presently 20 students and 6 teachers are involved in lessons. Except the internet, which is unreliable, other things are good. Sometime internet is not working good during the lesson, but we are trying make it better. We love and happy to continue this Skype class.”

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Karen’s Story

December 24th, 2016 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Connecting to Nangi through The School Inside

Whilst working at a summer school in Europe this summer I learned about ‘The School Inside’. It is a voluntary run online school that connects with learners through Skype to give English classes with fluent speakers of the language. These either supplement the lessons they already receive or are the students’ sole access to English instruction.  One of the teachers I was working with has been volunteering with them for quite a while and shared some of her experiences, which all sounded really special.  I had been searching for volunteer work which fits in with my current timetable and The School Inside sounded perfect so I applied.  

Prior to this I had already planned to visit Nepal in 2017.  It has been a lifelong dream to visit this mountainous country.  I am a keen hiker and feel completely at home in the mountains, which has fuelled my desire to visit.  I always feel that people make a place and I know I would not get to know Nepal properly as a tourist so I had planned to do some voluntary teaching whilst there.

So when The School Inside as me how I would feel about teaching a class of school children in Nepal I jumped at the chance. Through this organisation I learned about The Himanchal Education Foundation and the opportunities to volunteer teach in person in Nangi and I plan to visit and teach there towards the end of 2017.

The School Inside gives classes every day to the students in Nangi and a different teacher teaches each day.  Tuesday is my day and I really look forward to it.  The lesson I teach is 45 minutes long the students attend after their school day.  The students are not always the same and numbers can vary but they are always all very enthusiastic and happy to have an English class.  There is always a teacher with them to help with the Skype connection which we usually need to reconnect a few times during each lesson.  

I usually decide on a theme for the lesson for example – animals, clothing or weather – which are some of the topics we have studied recently.  We start off with some vocabulary games, using the screen share facility on Skype and learn or review the words connected with the theme.  I tend to use games which have been made on PowerPoint or some online language learning sites such as Quizlet.  We review the vocabulary through these activities and build up to making sentences, reading online story books and freer conversation.  I was really keen to introduce songs to the lesson and then disappointed to work out that you cannot share sound over the Skype screen share facility.  My tech expert cousin was on hand with reasons and a solution so the children can have music and lyrics – not just my voice!  I show them a YouTube video, on my screen and then I play the same video on my phone with a speaker attached so they can get the full benefit of the songs.  And they really enjoy it.  They sing, clap and move around to the songs – it’s really lovely and adds a nice atmosphere to the lesson.  

Then of course, as with any lesson plan – you do not always end up teaching it as the students bring different things to the class.  During my last lesson one of the students asked me if it was my birthday today.  I said no, not today and asked if it was one of their birthdays and it was!  So the lesson plan was pushed aside and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in English, clapped and talked about birthdays in Nepal.  This was quite special as the children have been a little shy up to now and it was cool to see that one of them felt confident enough to ask me a question.  I really feel that their confidence is growing as is our rapport and it is amazing to be about to build that up now before I go there to volunteer teach.  

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Former Volunteer Returns to Nangi

December 14th, 2016 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Sharone visited Nangi for the first time in 2000 as a volunteer. She recently returned and shared her experience with Dr. Mahabir Pun in a letter.

Dear Mahabir,

“I hope your travels are off to a good start. Keep me posted on your New York plans and if it works, would be lovely to visit.


Here are my brief impressions to share with HEF:

In the spring of 2000 I had the honor and joy of spending 7 weeks in Nangi, volunteering in the school and tree nursery. Over the past 16 years, every month that passed brought memories and thoughts of the village, the faces and hearts that make up this strong community. This November I finally visited this special place that has meant so much to me.

I was eager to see familiar faces and to see the developments in the village. Everything I saw and experienced exceeded my expectations! I am overwhelmed with the impressive changes and hard work that is clearly a labor of love – the community lodge , the infrastructure for local trekking, and the technological developments. In addition to these great feats, I was most excited to see the dormitories built for high school students. What a clear and productive way to help foster stronger educational goals! I am thinking both about the amount of time saved in daily travel but also the opportunity for these students to be more fully immersed in their school environment and with one another.
Finally, I am also so pleased to see the paper, book, and bag making projects. The dedication for supporting one another’s needs and improving their health and wellbeing, together as a community, from the ground up is inspiring and I know I will continue to do my best to help in any way I can. I certainly will be back again! And if a lodge, wifi, a dormitory and paper and bag making project are some developments in 16 years, I smile to think of whats ahead.”

 

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Long Time Supporter Shares His Insights

November 21st, 2016 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

A long time supporter of HEF, Sherwood, describes how he first heard about HEF and met Mahabir Pun.

  • When did you first hear about or meet Dr. Mahabir Pun?

My wife and I met Mahabir in Nangi Village in 1995, when our Annapurna trek was washed out by torrential rains, and we took refuge in several classrooms of the Nangi school, where Mahabir taught…serendipitous. We stayed several days to dry out, then finished our trek up to Kopra Ridge. While in Nangi, Mahabir expounded on his plans for the village. We thought that he had more simultaneous ideas than most people could consider in a lifetime. After we returned to the USA we contacted Leonard Skov, HEF’s then-president, and learned more about Mahabir and HEF. We have supported the organization ever since…over 20 years.

  • What was your first impression of him?

I first thought that he was a totally crazy man. He was remarkable, singular among the people we met on our travels, and we have met some pretty enterprising folks. Mahabir was a cut above. It wasn’t just that he had a plethora of ideas, but he knew how he would put them into effect. I came to realize that although he was educated in the West, and could have had a successful career there, he was brilliant in adapting first world information into local solutions for rural Nepal. How many people of his intelligence and skills actually return home and apply that information where it is most needed?  Not just his compatriots in Nepal, but my life as well, is enriched for having met him.

  • Do you recall the projects he was working on at that time? If yes, which one left an impression on you personally?

Mahabir understood the importance of local ownership and enterprise. We discussed with him, his plans for a yak and cow breeding/hybridization program, which we eventually supported by donating the money to purchase the herd of cows. He emailed us pictures of Nepalese villagers driving the catttle up to Nangi…what a treat!

  • What present projects of Dr. Pun’s do you think are sustainable and important to the development of Nepal?

First and foremost is the development of the school system. Also of significance are the village cottage industry projects such as papermaking, the meat and dairy program etc., and then the promotion of tourism.

  • Why do you continue to support HEF and Dr. Pun?

Why not? I prefer to donate to small projects, rather than large charities.  I try to assess where the money is going, and how it will be utilized. HEF is an organization which  uses effectively every dollar donated, without chewing up the money in overhead, and the result is the emergence of locally sustainable enterprise.

  • Do you have advice for people who want to support a non-profit organization such as HEF about how to choose and commit their resources?

We used to donate anonymously, but we don’t do that anymore. We have learned to lead from the front, and not to be embarrassed by putting our names out in public, as caring about a project.

 

 

 

 

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Volunteer Zachary Shares

August 29th, 2016 by Debra Stoner · No Comments

Zachary, from North Carolina, USA, volunteered in June 2016 in Nangi village. He taught wilderness medicine skills to guides, porters, community trek lodge staff, students and local healthcare providers. He shares a meditative page from his journal:

21 June 2016
“Today has been one of the most incredible of my life. It started out fine, woke up and got ready to teach. The day was rainy and crappy all day, but at sunset, it cleared. Completely, totally cleared with the sun and clouds in the lower elevations. Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Annapurna south and Annapurna were all visible together in an unbroken line. It was an incredible sight. I was running to the round house to pick up milk for rice pudding and I saw what was happening with the weather. I couldn’t contain myself. I ran to the roundhouse, got the milk, and was doing parkour moves all the way back down. I dropped it off with Pokmaya and ran to the highest place in Nangi and stayed there until dark.
The mountains were so large and imposing that their black rocks looked slightly blue due to the atmosphere refracting the sunlight. The sun was setting and casting colors all over their sides. The clouds were in the valleys and ravines below Nangi, so it was as if I was flying through the clouds and up to the peaks above. The sun cast its dying light first on Dhaulagiri then Nilgiri, causing snowdrifts to blow off their peaks. Lenticulars were swirling around the Dhaulagiri range. Annapurna was basked in shadow but still completely imposing looking over Nangi. Eventually, the sun started to pass behind the mountains and cast its last alpenglow across the range.
I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s been 20 years since I first learned about the Himalaya in elementary school, and to think that I’ve finally arrived after all this time is humbling. My time here is wrapping up – 4 days left in Nangi. It’s bittersweet, as always. I want to get back to school and my family. But at the same time, I want to continue teaching these people and continue learning from them. They are the hardiest, friendly, caring, and giving people I have ever met. My work in Haiti comes close in comparison, but this is slightly different. They are resourceful, extremely giving, always sharing and offering. The Haitian people are very similar, however, they live in more abject poverty and have received assistance for many decades.  These people, with their mountain lifestyle, the work, views, the community…that’s what is incredible – the community. They work together on everything. School, finances, projects, childcare. Anything to help the community and the people who live in it.
I am glad I emailed and reached out to the organization to get this started, even if it was on the whim of seeing a  youtube video. I continue to be amazed by the power and beauty of nature. As I left the lodge, after eating rice pudding and daal baht with Pokmaya and Ramaya, I left to find the solstice moon full and casting its light on Annapurna. Incredible. I walked back by moonlight. Tomorrow I should either be teaching students or traveling to Ramche to teach the health workers there. Either way, I know it will be another great adventure.”
IMG_4438

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