Elsa is a volunteer nurse from France working with the women to improve healthcare. Here is what she has to say about her experience.
My name is Elsa, and I am a nurse from France. I quit my job in September 2011 after working for two years in a hospital ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in Paris and took a one way flight to Nepal. I came to this country without any fixed plans, with only a little bit of medical equipment from my hospital in Paris and a lot of hope and love to share….
I was very fortunate to meet the renown Dr Mahabir Pun in Kathmandu a week after I arrived and with his introduction I was allowed to spend some time working in the Kathmandu Model Hospital. When I learned about the efforts Dr Mahabir Pun and Dr Saroj Dhital were making to improve the lives of the mountain villagers through the use of modern communication techniques, I found myself intrigued and grasped the chance to go and live in a remote village of Nepal. I arrived in the Himalayan village of Nangi in November 2011. I discovered their way of life to be totally different from mine. I slowly tried to follow the flow of the days. I got involved in the village clinic, the kindergarten, the paper making center and in the fields sharing the simple life, getting to know the people around me, learning about their crops in the fields and their animals and how they use all the things that nature provides them to live a simple and comfortable life. After Nangi, I went to three other villages including Ramche, Tikot, and Sikha to see the health-centers and work with different local health workers. Slowly, slowly after a few months working with these people and observing their lives the idea of an association came to me.
The women of these villages have traditionally made wool bags for everyone; children who are going to school, husbands who are going to work, to teach…I believed that the women could raise money for themselves and for the community in general by using their traditional skills and selling their products/crafts. I started meetings with the women to explain and discuss different ideas with them. We created community groups run by committees of a dozen women in Nangi and Tikot villages. The sales of these bags in Nepal, France and elsewhere enables the implementation of fair and sustainable economic activities in these remote villages. The women are paid per day of work in Nangi and per bag in Tikot.
The profit from the sale of the bags is also used to improve villagers’ access to basic health care. The committees work closely with local health workers. The cooperative is presently supporting pregnant women with money from the sale of these bags and has already paid for the expenses of three childbirths in Nangi. “Women’s skills for sustainable women’s health” is the heart of this association. After six months in Nepal, I went back to France to create the association and to begin to sell some bags there. The name of the association is “MilleZola” which means “a thousand bags”. You can visit our website http://www.millezola.com and also follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/MilleZola2012
I am now back in Nangi to continue to work on this project. I want to create a new design for the bags, particularly for the French market. The association is looking for textile designer volunteers. I will probably stay five more months in Nepal. I just want to say that these people have changed my life. They have taught me how to live in the precious present moment, how to become liberated of judgment, how to live in harmony with nature around.. how to never stop smiling, how to be happy, be happy, be happy !!!!!