Today was a very moving day visiting a blind orphanage outside of Kathmandu, Nepal.
I am in Nepal for a couple of weeks to help out after the earthquake in 2015 and to help out in general.
I was over in 2013 and became involved with a not for profit charity that assisted women and children in Nepal. We visited the Buddha Orphanage back then (I have been to a few) and it was brilliant. Clean and happy. The kids the same.
The blind orphanage was similar and it seems odd to say a visit to an orphanage was fun, but it was.
The great adventure started on the drive. The road was barely non-existent after the earthquake and the taxi had to navigate regular pot holes and rubble and dirt.
ON the way we bought some supplies for the children (who are totally reliant on donations). Rice, soap, butter, biscuits etc. We packed the taxi-bus up to the top.
Once into the outskirts of Kathmandu the country side changed. Not so noisy, not so cluttered and fields of vegetables around.
The orphanage was started in 1996 and now has 11 children. The numbers can fluctuate but is steady between 12-16.
As each child stands up and introduces themselves, I discover some were born blind and others became blind. One after an infections, one after an operation and another with no reason why.
I sit there thanking my lucky stars my eyes are still razor sharp and working well.
The children are amazing.
One boy read braille for us – which was in English – which was a huge feat. Not many children in Nepal speak English (unlike other countries).
One beautiful girl danced. It was intriguing to watch as she simply felt the music and moved accordingly. It was graceful and harmonious!
Five days beforehand I was lying in my beautiful comfortable warm bed on the Gold Coast with Nepal a distant dream and another world away. I had traveled here before but no two trips are ever the same and this was to be true of this adventure.
Sometimes I think I am a little crazy but behind Everest, and the proud face of Nepal, is a country in recovery and I want to see if I can help out.
The helicopter trip to the remote hillside village, seemed like a thrill ride. It was fascinating and exhilarating traveling over terraced fields high into the Nepalese mountains. The mountains are steep, not gradual and not subtle. How on earth homes have been built on the rugged terrain is beyond me.
The twenty minute chopper ride is the best way to get to Fulkharka (or Phulkharka as it can be spelt) and is far superior to the road trip. While it is only 150km north west of Kathmandu the roads are far from straight and flat and traveling on them is like being in a washing machine. A jeep could make the drive in 6-8 hours, or a bus 8-12 hours, needless to say for me, this time the helicopter WON OUT big time.
I am only here for a few days to help rebuild the school that was mostly destroyed in the earth quake.
This is a clip I took on the way to Lumbini and is indicative of road travel in Nepal. I am very grateful for my Italian fore-father Leonardo Di Vinci for inventing the helicopter (after the road tips I vow never to drive over flying here ever again)!
Last year, a 7.8 earth quake hit Nepal on Saturday 25th April. It shook the area around Kathmandu. 8000 people died, only two in this village, but many more were wounded.
Getting aid to the affected was a logistic nightmare, as the roads are treacherous at best. Post quake, many roads were impassable with fallen rocks and pit holes. Many people perished in the fields from injuries and cold.
For days after the earthquake the villagers were too scared to re-inter buildings as they were unstable and still collapsing. Smart move in this case as a second earth quake was to hit on 12th May.
It’s not surprising then , as we fly in , that we receive a royal welcome. The whole school comes out to greet us.
The school had 33 buildings and in the earthquake lost 22 buildings.
It’s an inspiring sight and I just wish it had been 9 months earlier and I was there after the quake to provide much needed goods, like blankets, emergency relief and food.
I feel mildly embarrassed by our welcome but soon realise the intrigue is pure gratitude.
In this village, Fulkharka, like many surrounding villages, there is no electricity, no cars and no social service benefit.
People race to greet us as they are truly grateful for us coming to help them. It’s only a small contribution in their road to recovery but our show of faith goes along way.
This is my friend Pravin’s home.
Like many homes in the village, it was three stories high, but now reduced to unsafe rubble, many are trying to rebuild.
The scars from the earthquake are still evident and over night I experience my first real life earthquake!
I wake to the ground groaning, mumbling and shaking.
Rapidly working out in my dreamy mind that I am not dreaming, this is not Jurassic Park and I am indeed in the middle of an earthquake. I wake instantly. What can I do? What does one do? I had never dress-rehearsed this before.
I felt a little naive – entering earthquake territory and all, Mt Everest, the surrounding cousins and the angry earth plates obviously rule the nest here and I was innocently camping on their soil.
Please be kind to me, I remember thinking.
Fortunately Mother Nature is kind to me this time and my little A frame tent stays upright.. and no boulders roll in to greet me.
Morning comes and I rise collaborating the night’s event’s with others… “was it really an earth quake?”
Yes a 4.5.
I can’t image the fear the people must have felt last year as the earth shook up and down and side to side. Apparently items were jumping in the air and people were knocked to the ground on their knees. It must have been horrific. Normally seismic activity occurs either laterally or vertically, but last year’s Nepal quake did both at the same time.
They must have felt the end of the world was nigh.
I spend a couple of days helping to concrete over the earth bagged walls.
Progress is slow with earth bagging but the concreting part seems to make an impressionable difference. People have been chipping in and coming here over the last few months to help out.
Notably a French guy, Thomas who is leading the project, a guy from Kansas City called John and volunteers with OURWORLDEXITS. I am here with my friend’s NGO called Journey Nepal. I only chip in for a few days but could stay and would love to stay and do more.
Earth bagging is labour intensive but perfect for locations where excavators, cement pumping and other modern techniques are limited. It is also environmentally aligned not that I am an expert. I like the concept, enjoy the process and love seeing it unfold.
When our day’s work is done we can hang out with the locals.
The children are really receptive and open to outsiders.
I am invited to give an impromptu English class and even have photos on my camera of Australian marsupials. The kids love it (I love it)!
My friend’s sister works in the local post office where mail is still delivered on foot and with a smile. I am sure everyone knows everyone’s business here but there is nothing to hide and family is number one. I love it. Very reminiscent of yesteryear and it appeals to my romantic mind.
I teach the children French cricket -which they pick up very quickly – and tuffs of tumble weed and broken wood is all we need for equipment.
My friend’s family also treat us to an incredible feast. The local dish is Dhal Bat and as a real treat they cull a chicken.
We cook inside on the wood fired oven and it smells out of this world!
The herbs and spices are amazing: fresh and local grown chilli, garlic, coriander, tomatoes and more. It is a chef’s (and nutritionist’s) heaven. I could write an entire blog about the herbs and food! Truly inspiring.
I was a little nervous eating the freshly prepared chicken but there was no need to be. Turns out chicken beaks, chicken meat and the sinew are tasty and really good in a curry. Nothing is wasted and I can see why there are few nutritional deficiencies around here.
The Nepalese are a resilient race. Strong in adversity yet humble and happy. I haven’t come across any other race as beautiful and well rounded.
Animals are still used to plough the land, and are respected for their produce and spirits. Most Nepalese are hindi so the cow is all sacred and all animals are treated humanly. Apparently the buffalo get marijuana from the fields for it’s medicinal benefits – makes so much sense to me!
I want to go back and help more.
The experience in these hills are life changing and will remain with me forever.
I was made to feel at home, as one and taken in with love.
I look forward to seeing my new friends again and encourage others to experience what I have before electricity gets to the hills and spoils some of their innocence.
It had been 3 nights in the himalayan hills and I was covered with dirt. BIG amounts of dirt. NO shower for 3 days, working with soil and concrete, sleeping in a tent and even experiencing my first earth quake! Fortunately only a 4.5 and no damage.
Fast forward an 8 hour very bumpy 4 WD trip into Pokhara and I feel like I have landed in an oasis.
Checking in to the hotel Temple Tree, feels like a surreal dream and then I spot my bath in my room. Squeals of delight and I didn’t realise how much I was missing the luxuries of home…hot water, big fluffy bed and free wifi!
My appreciation for life’s luxuries sky rocket.
This town is pretty awesome. It oozes with natural beauty and is a hub for action & adventure. The Annapurna range can be seen first thing in the morning – they don’t go anywhere but a fog consumes them as the day goes on.
I am craving a day off though and spend Sunday checking out Devi’s Waterfalls and caves. Remarkable and worth a visit if you are in town.
After that, back to base, a few mo-mos to tie me over for a lazy lunch at Mike’s Restaurant which is on the lake. The food is awesome and it ticks a few boxes… great margaritas, views, good food and a chance to do some painting which I have been missing.
Lakeside Pokhara – Mikes restaurant and doing some art
A late afternoon visit to Tal Barahi Temple, to make a blessing, then off to a bar lakeside for Sheisha and a Chillian sav blanc. The Busy Bee Cafe captures my attention and is a great meeting place for travellers. It’s here I learn about walking up to the Peace Pagoda and score a live band playing Cold Play Nepalese style.
After a big sleep I fulfil an urge which is to parachute, but this time is paragliding. After a panic attack some 16 years ago, I have been too scared to do parachuting but this seemed safer – or something. Anyway we go, and it is a hoot. Everything you would expect gliding like a bird through the Himalayas.
Slightly motion sick at the bottom, I am determined not to let it mess my day.
I am determined to climb up to see the pagoda and hire a kayak (costs 800 rupee) for the afternoon. It’s very dodgy but somehow I don’t capsize and find my way to the other side!
The trek to the top doesn’t take 2-3 hours only 30 minutes up and another 30 mins back down. It’s a great walk and just what I needed. The pagoda is ok… it’s closed today but the views are worth going for.
Everything else is accessible from here – white water rafting, trekking, ultra light flying, jungle experiences and more. I love the lake side vibe, the diverse food and great bars and am definitely coming back again.
My friend runs a tour company in Kathmandu and can help you arrange your flights and adventures and is good to go through as he gets great rates. His name is Shree and this is his company.
My first trip to Nepal was in 2013 and it is the first time coming back since the earthquake.
Visible, painful devastation everywhere.
And then to get a deeper understanding, an earthquake of 4.5 occurred while camping on the ground in Fulkharka. I woke to the earth grumbling and moaning and SHAKING! at 1.08am. I knew after the first (very long) second, what was going on. An earthquake.
I was gripped with awe, fear, excitement, confusion.
Was it real? Did I imagine it.
Then in the distance I heard some birds fly off and other animals break out in their tongues. I knew it was a quake.
Fortunately I was in a tent. No real harm could come to me, unless there was a land slide. And I rationally thought if that was to occur then my number was up and that was that.
Back off to sleep I finally went with a new appreciation of what really must have happened last April when the big earthquake of 8.5 hit.
People say the earthquake shook the ground up and down by a foot and side to side, so much so that they were brought to their knees. It lasted 55 seconds.
Buildings would have been tumbling around them and surely they must have thought the end of the planet was nigh?
This visit I am here to help people after the devastating earthquake that hit here on 25th April 2015. While 8800 people were documented to have died (many wouldn’t have been documented in the villages), three times as many were injured. And with the hospitals pushed to limits anyway, many died in the fields.
For months people lived on the streets of Kathmandu, too scared to go back into their homes. No electricity, no warmth and still today they are suffering.
In 2013, I came along with a charity organisation called Journey Nepal. A not-for-profit headed up by now close friend Anne and her Nepalese off-sider Shree.
When I describe both of these people I simply say, “they are the closest I have meet to living angels.” Both people are remarkable souls and very dedicated to helping the women of this magnificent land.
The first time I came I visited orphanages and hospitals and have made a post on this here:
India has put an embargo on the boarder so no fuel for cars can come out of India. The black market is thriving and fuel is now three times more than it used to be. This is crippling the country.
Nepal has to import most of it’s goods – and need trucks to distribute water – despite having the rivers of the himalayas. Electricity is limited and power black outs are a daily occurrence.
Cooking is limited as there is no gas coming into the country and people are relying on butan bottles.
It is cruel, bizarre and heart breaking to know we share the same planet but with different avenues to resources.
I wish to reshuffle just a few of those resources and help a few people.
If you wish to make a donation you can do so here.
Come to Nepal, meet the people and change your life! Something magic happens in this land of smiles and acceptance. My friend Shree has the best tour and guide company in Nepal and you can find out more here.
What a great question my friend and client asked me three days ago.
What’s your passion?
With out pausing, I recited my dream as a ten year old to give every orphan in the world a hug and someone to love them. To offer them hope and opportunity and to make sure they have somewhere to sleep at night. How I would split my time?
It would be split between charity work, raising my children and traveling doing art, writing blogs, making documentaries and doing interviews. To educate, empower and inspire women. That is my passion.
Next thing I know he has arranged for us both to go to Nepal. It feels like a miracle!
The not-for-profit organisation that I am involved with, Journey Nepal, is doing some work there at the moment and I had wanted to be there with them.
Unfortunately with my toes broken in Bali, parting with a significant amount of money to fix them (as my insurance didn’t cover hospital costs), I had doubted my ability to get to Nepal. I was there in 2013 and have been wanting to go back to help more.
And now we are off.
We will be arranging supplies to a school village via a helicopter where we will stay for a few days and help build the school and village. Then back into town to check out the women’s refuge centre that Anne has set up. I am taking a suitcase full of children’s clothes to the kids in the orphanages, some beanies for village children and health bars and more!
Why I like charity and volunteering.
I really love the energy positive charity creates. I can’t exactly put it into words but if you have ever given someone something spontaneously, just because you had something they didn’t… you will know what I mean. It is an energy like no other.
So for me, this is something I have recognised from a young age… or maybe it’s a calling. I don’t exactly know but if it’s been a while since you have done something for some one WITHOUT expecting any return give it a go. See if you experience what I experience … a flood of love and gratitude.
In my rapid preparation for Nepal, people are happily helping out, donating money, goods and good will. I even have friends looking after my daughter for few nights while I am away.
I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and know that so many will benefit once I am in Nepal.
Have you thought about what you would do if you had $75,000,000 sitting in the bank and never needed to work again?
Honestly what would you do with your time and energy?
It’s worth pondering this and knowing what you would do.
Discover your passion, follow your dreams, live your truth.
It’s amazing how easily things come together when you know what you want and what your life would look like.
My life might sound far fetched unless you are nearly doing this… and fortunately for me I nearly am. Life is amazing.
Last week I was camping at Byron with my children, surrounded by amazing people, then Friday I was talking at a fund and awareness raiser for domestic violence in women. Then this Saturday I am off to Nepal doing a few weeks volunteering. I feel truly blessed and fortunate to do what I do.
This is a big part of what makes me tick. I discovered early in my life that this is my calling/my passion.
I will be posting my travels and adventures on this blog and I welcome you to be a part of this adventure. Feel free to add comment and marvel at the beautiful people I am about to meet and introduce you to.