By Patricia Andersson
Sixteen intrepid DFW travelers met up in Nepal in early November 2011, spending two weeks with Heifer International traveling to small, rural villages to meet with women whose lives had been changed through their involvement with Heifer’s program.
We were thrilled to see the progress that women’s groups have made by joining together in their communities to learn skills in gardening, healthcare, education, and livestock management. In one instance, an uneducated mother was earning enough from her livestock to be able to send her daughter not just through high school, but on to college – the cycle of poverty being broken in just one generation! Basing the Heifer programs on their 12 Cornerstones model, individuals are seeing the benefit of working together and supporting each other, resulting in the betterment of the whole community. We were treated to warm welcomes, surprisingly tasty local cuisine, and were often pulled into joining them in their traditional dances. We decided to teach them a dance of our own, and had great fun showing them the Hokey Pokey!
We also visited One Heart Worldwide (supported by DFW 2006-2008), hiking for two hours to the remote hilltop village where they were based. We camped there for three days, on a breath-taking cliff looking out to the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. Along with visiting a local school and talking with a women’s co-op, we also attended a OneHeart training. Here, community birth assistants learn to work with pregnant women in remote areas, educating them on pregnancy and nutrition, and encouraging them to come to area birthing centers to ensure good care during labor and delivery. We also visited the large region’s only hospital, small and dirty, and all walked away with the sense of unbelievable good fortune we have for having access to – for all its flaws – the Western healthcare system.
The beauty and openness of the Nepali people, their unparalleled hospitality, being gifted with endless garlands of marigolds, all set against the backdrop of huge white-capped mountains – these are memories that none of us will soon forget. While each of us took home something different as our “standout moment,” what we can all agree upon is that this trip has caused us to see our own lives differently, and experiencing Nepal first-hand in all its glory and deprivation has increased our commitment to DFW and the work we do in the world.