By Katie Hilborn
"You forgot to tell us what we'd be walking into," Leigh amusingly said after the ceremony.
"Did I?" I replied with a sly smirk.
Not sure if this was intentional as my mind was elsewhere these past few days. But I led on that it was all part of my intricate plan.
The room was buzzing from the day's events. Leigh, myself, and the some of the other volunteers had gone to dinner to reflect.
Our faces were still covered in red powder and adorned with necklaces piled high of pink, red, and yellow flowers. We looked like we'd just finished on set at a horror movie. Perhaps some tourists thought this could be the case, but all the Nepalese knew exactly what had happened.
"Oh Tikka. You look good," they'd exclaim as we'd pass them on the street.
I was flying high.
This wasn't the first Nepalese ceremony I had been a participant; they usually involve some sort of tikka, lots of flowers, music, speeches, food, and of course an entire village.
Yet somehow, despite knowing what was in store, I was again overcome with emotion. Each one beautifully remaining unique, equally as exciting as the previous.
The volunteers, on the other hand, had no idea. As I looked over at them from our line of chairs on the podium, Leigh, Bibesh, and the two Frenchies, Pauline and Leilita looked priceless. So much shock coupled with joy. Huge grins ear-to-ear. Krish, my project director was with us too. I could see a tear running down his cheek.
But the tear was there for so much more. We had accomplished a major feat and could now see so clearly what the impact would be. I too began to wipe the tears from my eyes.
Our dream of making low-caste schools financially self-sustained had begun eleven month's prior. We had so much help. So many people. So much devotion from hundreds of people and an entire community behind us with full support.
This was never my project or Krish's project, but it belonged to entire group of people who made it possible. From the donors, to field volunteers who painted, to the development committee who organized, from my board of directors, and my 1/2 dozen other advisors back home who supported me every step of the way, and to the villagers and teachers who could also see the greater good of it all. Even the people who I met serendipitously who joined the momentum in the last week.
I see it all so clearly now. Those who were involved were always apart of it from the beginning; they were always in the plan.
"This farm is going to change your life," I said during my ceremonial speech. Stephanie's Barn, named in remembrance of the donor's daughter.
Krish was translating as a crowd of a 100 watched with full attention. Even the children, who were seated in front kept still, eyes wide, heads locked in my direction. I was speaking for them, on behalf of them.
"I have traveled this country and have seen the injustices caused amongst the castes. There are some children in this country who do not have equal access to education because of their caste."
My eyes started watering.
"This is not right. No child in this world should be denied the right to knowledge."
I was looking each little boy and girl in the eye, occasionally peeking up at the parents sitting behind them.
"Lack of money should not be reason that little boys and girls have to stay home from school and work the fields. Or have to learn from outdated and inferior workbooks, or not know how to use a computer. Soon you will have the same access to education as other children your age," I optimistically stated.
And before I could finish my last sentence, all the children began clapping.
I love them. I love them all so much. They are my children, I thought gazing upon them endearingly.
With the conclusion of the speeches, the children began passing out hot tea to the patrons and the Diddy's (older ladies) began serving the local snacks of samosa and jeri (a deep-fried, pretzel shaped yellow-orange loop dipped in saffron syrup).
Music began to fill our ears of traditional drums, chants, and horn, known in Nepal as Panche Baaja. People were happy. The energy flowing through the air was undeniable. People were ecstatic.
The farm is now fully operational. A total of six cows were purchased thanks to Krish's endless search for that perfect cow; three of which came with a calf and at current, each cow is producing roughly 12-18 litres of milk per day.A local young couple with a toddler moved into the adjacent living space as full-time caretakers. Their jobs will be round-the-clock, waking up at sunrise to milk the cows, taking the milk to the markets, cleaning the stalls, looking after the animals, and general upkeep, as well as record keeping of milk produced.An organizational committee was created to oversee the farm co-op, with an elected Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, and standing committee inclusive of teacher representatives. Krish will remain the on-site project director, while I will serve as the director monitoring progress from back home in either the States or Australia.Twice per year, the committee along with approval and advice from Global Orphan Prevention's board of directors will decide how the farm profits are reinvested; which will fall under the categories of educational development.The ceremony and subsequent party were for much more than an opening announcement, but rather to get the entire village involved in the project's success. Teachers, students, parents, workers, and members from the community were brought together to see how the farm would operate and what the profits would go towards; and that was the betterment for own their children and breaking the barriers of caste discrimination.It was a beautiful thing; everyone coming together for the common good. I believe for the first time, these people could see a way out of poverty. Instead of using bandages to mask their troubles, they could see a solution for preventing the problems before they begin. And that made the entire mission worthwhile.*More photos can be found in our Facebook album.
By Katie Hilborn Leigh and Krish discussing management
It's the week of the farm project ceremony and my mind is in a million places all at once. I have three week's work that needs to be finished in one.
I delegate the photocopying of our operational manual to Leigh, the humourous red-headed Aussie. Meanwhile our Nepalese field manager Krish finishes up the cow shopping and gets the party details sorted.
I'm thanking the Universe again for sending me help.
My project policies and job descriptions have just been translated into Nepali from the trekking guide down the street at 3 Sister's.
Oh crap, it's 11am! I was supposed to leave two hours ago as I still have to paint the logo on the barn. Just my luck. Rushed as usual and it's been leaving my head in a whirlwind.
Construction has been stalled two weeks and thus the rush to finish before I depart the country has been looming.
"Leigh! Coming to you in two minutes!" I frantically say on the phone. I'm dropping off some documents on my way to the school. He chuckles into the ear piece.
He knows my style. And weirdly is okay with it.
I realize now that I've manifested Leigh. And the six others who have been helping this week.
I was under pressure last week, coupled with a pinch of anxiety, perhaps coming to the realization that my dream wouldn't pan out as expected; meaning that I couldn't devote my month to training the farm workers and committee, but rather my time was being hogged with construction management.
I need help, I found myself saying out loud one evening. Universe; I am grateful and blessed that I am attracting people who are enthusiastic about helping me with my project! I put my vibration out there and I suppose working on Reiki all week surely opened me up to the possibilities.
Two days later, Leigh showed up.
I was sitting in a cafe in Lakeside (the tourist area) when I overheard a loud Australian bloke discussing his horror stories of volunteering in Nepal. He had signed up with an Aussie placement agency called Greenline. Upon his arrival to the orphan home in Nepal, he found the director was housing street children in exchange for servitude. Children cooking the family meals, waking up at 5am to do laundry, and being rudely snapped at to clean up water spills from the volunteers.
"That's really not necessary," Leigh insisted to the director as the child humbly came over, head down avoiding eye contact.
"No, this is his job," the director curtly replied.
It was at this notion that Leigh reported the orphan home and left.
His conversation was not an uncommon tale; I had heard it time and time again from dozens of volunteers over the years. It's been commonly known as voluntourism.
After secretly listening from a nearby table, I believed it was time to chime in. "Excuse me, sorry for eavesdropping, but I hear you are seeking a meaningful volunteer experience!"
The table immediately began laughing. "Ah yes, we are! You know about the bad ones then?" they asked.
"I am well aware," I stated. I then began to explain the logistics of the project; a dairy farm to financially support a low-caste school. I needed help with the organizational structure and management.
They all seemed intrigued, but it was Leigh who asked to come for a visit.
"So this interests you?" I questioned.
"Well I've been working with HR management and reconstruction in the Australian government," he added.
I was in disbelief. "I need you!" I exclaimed.
"Oh yeah, and I grew up in a farming community. My Dad worked for a milk technologies laboratory for most of my life too," he smiled as the words left his lips. He also knew this wasn't a chance meeting.
My heart opened. This is the person I manifested. I knew it now.
It's the age old philosophy of Laws of Attraction. If you want something, you must first become the vibrational match of your desire. As we exist in the Universe on vibrating strings (proposed by major physicists), it's quite easy to accomplish once you understand the Laws. I raised my vibration to attract someone else who was seeking/needing the same desires (and that was the help).
Vibrational manifestation, yes, but also I'm sure he was nudged to walk into that cafe at that hour; or me to come to him. Perhaps it was a combination of both manifestation and fate.
Either way, I now had Leigh. He was a huge proponent in the final weeks; helping me structure the governing committee, writing the operational manual, creating structural flow charts, holding committee meetings, and simply just there for general moral support, which I find working as a team is most beneficial to my productivity.
Fast forward three days and the barn is ready to be painted.
Universe; I am so grateful and blessed that I am attracting volunteers who want to paint, I wrote in my journal one afternoon.
The following evening, we bump into Dustin and Asha, sitting at a cafe on the lake. My friend Lauren (a visiting American from Saigon also helping with the project) and I were walking along the lakefront foot path. Power was out again all over the village and I needed to borrow a lighter for our candle.
Isreali Asha painting the 1st coat
Volunteers Krish, Dustin, Lauren, & myself prime the wall for paint.
Dustin was sitting there with his long wavy locks, illuminated by the moon. He was holding a lighter, so I walked over to his table. This American-made Giants trainer turned yogi had just finished a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. His companion at the table was Asha, a beautiful long-haired Israeli that been making her way up from India. They met on their travels two-month's prior and decided to reconnect in Pokhara. Frenchies Leïlita and Pauline crafting the logo
Both of their smiles were truly captivating and they invited us for a beer. After an evening's conversation, they both decided to join Lauren and I at the school the following day to paint the barn.
It was a two-day job however, and Dustin and Asha had to continue on with their travels soon after.
Universe; I am so grateful and blessed that I am attracting volunteers who will help me continue painting the barn, and oh yeah, I'm grateful that I'm attracting an artist too, I found myself saying again after Dustin and Asha parted ways.
This time, not only did I need someone to help with the 3rd coat, but I needed an artist to paint the logo.
That evening, as some friends and I were sitting at the local hippie hangout, Freedom Cafe, with the smokers, free spirits, and wandering vagabonds, I happened to choose a seat next to two quiet but amusing French girls, Leïlita and Pauline, from Lyon.
English was minimal and my French was pretty much non-existent. After telling them briefly about the farm, Pauline asked with a strong French accent, "So we come to school?"
"Sure why not," I replied. The girls glanced at each other then back at me.
"So we rent mo-tor-bike?" Pauline queried.
"Sure why not," I offered with a smirk. Their accents were cute. The girls looked at each other again.
"So we have homestay?" Pauline inquired again after a moment's pause.
"Sure of course! You can have it all."
And the very next morning, this is how two happy French girls joined us in finishing the school. Because communication was taxing, I decided to just roll with it, not realizing until their arrival that Leïlita was an artist! She so eloquently drew our logo with ease. I again knew, these girls were sent for me.
The final beautiful soul sent into my life was Babiche. An 18-year-old lively, beautiful, and vibrant girl from Holland.
Having just finished school, she was on an 8-month trip through Asia exploring life, discovering cultures, and self-actualizing. She was the final piece of the puzzle.
I was in desperate need of a photojournalist to help document the farm project and most importantly, photograph the ceremony at the end of the week. As the project director, I simply could not be both the host and take the photos. A traveling friend whom I assumed would help, fell through in the last hour. Fate had pulled him in another direction. I understood his decision to continue on his path, but it left me feeling anxious about the situation.
Universe; I am so grateful and blessed that I am attracting a photographer who will help with the project, I thought out loud with Leigh one evening. Leigh and I were driving back from the school site to Pokhara on motorbike. I told him about the Laws of Attraction and the technique for it to be successful. We both made it our mission that evening to attract a photographer.
Babiche was Leigh's friend from the Greenline volunteering placement the month prior. At the time, he did not know Babiche was a photographer, but happened to invite her along to the school one day. She had been asking to come up to the site. But it was only after she arrived, that we both discovered her ability.
I was in tears at this realization.
Not just because we found the missing piece of the puzzle, but rather because the entire project and all the beautiful souls that were meant to help had arrived and delivered. It was if I was jolted into the collective conscious, stepping out of the 3D, and leaving me with profound clarity.
I've always said that people will come together for the common good; they always do. And no matter where in the world I travel, I see this time and time again.
From my darkest hour when I feel alone and as if no one actually cares about the world, I find these pockets of people both abroad (and at home) who show support, and love, and kindness, and it is at these times I realize I don't have to do it alone.
I've never had to.
The finishing touches on the trim as the sun sets.
The barn from on top of the bluff.
By Katie Hilborn Picking out the perfect cow.
I'm constantly wondering why I fail to roll up my pants before entering the cow shed.
We're cow shopping.
Krish, Narayan (the headmaster), and I have been hopping around from farm to farm in search of the perfect cow. We want the most litres produced for the cheapest sale price. Currently, most farms are asking $1,000 per cow and we need six.
The bottoms of my trousers are resting in mud, hay, and water and I'm wearing my $6 pink loafers I bought from Old Navy. My trekking boots unfortunately disintegrated after my Himalayan trek the other week. So this is all I got left; pink polka dotted loafers.
Spray from one cow's urine is splashing up onto my thigh. I take higher ground on a large pile of dirt.
I'm taller than everyone anyway, and my stuffed backpack from the day's excursion doesn't help the situation any. I'm in constant search of a parcel of dry pavement to stay clear as farmers, Krish, and Narayan make their way about the cows; inspecting, gathering information, and taking photos. The dirt pile seems safe.
After a moment though, the pile begins sinking.
Oh wait, it's manure.
I quickly hop off and notice the men have been conversing in Nepali with the boss of the cow farm.
"Katie come," Krish says quietly.
He pulls me aside foar from the ear of the farmer to discuss price. Some cows are more or less depending on size and milk production. Though since cow is considered Godmother here and thus will never be eaten, size seems irrelevant. I'm still confused on pricing.
Krish also informs me that all the farms in the area have been warned of our intention. Through a clever game of "telephone", it appears each farmer knows exactly what we want even before our arrival! They know how many cows we want, what prices we've already been quoted, and how much money we have to play with! Cheeky farmers!
Price has now inflated $200. Krish suggests we back off for a few days to appear disinterested.
I (and my shoes) have decided to leave the cow shopping to the men.
A Day at the Office The children peeking in the window as I work.
Later on, back at the school, I decide to get some work done in the office while Krish and Narayan continue in search of that perfect cow.
There seems to be an audience gathering as I create an official milk production spreadsheet. There are giggles and pointing, and children asking me questions in Nepali!
Laughing with a large smile, I reply, "I don't know what you are asking! Me... no Nepali... Tora Tora (meaning little little in their native tongue)!"
They giggle again and run off.
The teacher's work desk is piled high with papers, notebooks, and textbooks. I wonder how anyone can find anything around here. It reminds me of certain American teachers I worked with back in Colorado and Saigon. Perhaps a future investment of a filing cabinet could be useful.
One smiley female teacher in a pink churidar kurta comes walking into the office. She begins to speak with me in Nepali and again I grin with a I don't know expression. I hear the word tea mixed into the conversation and reply, "Ma cāhanchu" meaning I want. Now this is something I understand.
She begins making tea on the double gas burner in the far corner of the room. Slowly four more teachers come into the room and sit down besides me as I continue to create my spreadsheets. I have two teachers looking over my left shoulder and one looking over my right. They seem very interested in what I am doing.
I am amused by the situation, knowing very well that I couldn't work in these conditions back in the States. But for some strange reason, I'm not bothered at all! I giggle at this realization and am happy to show the crowd my project.
I suppose my 5 days of Reiki training this week have allowed me to become much more relaxed.
An audience gathers while attempting to finish my spreadsheets.
Though, there is this underlying pressing concern to get your computer/internet work done as quickly as possible. It can create somewhat anxiety.
The power goes out for up to 9 hours a day due to load shedding (meaning Nepal turns off it's power to sell to India) and internet speed is hugely intermittent. One hour, it can be fast(er) and upload photos and emails with ease, then without a moment's notice, it will turn into dial-up speed from the 90s.
This is one of those moments.
Power has ceased and my computer battery is at 5%. I'm racing against time to finish these spreadsheets, audience and all.
I decide it's not worth the headache, and shut down my computer to socialize with the teachers. And by socializing I mean various head nods, hand signals, and confused looks of expression. I take a bowl of lentils provided by the smiley teacher.
Passing our construction supplies
By Katie Hilborn Tea break with the workers
I never quite imagined myself as a foreman. Engineering, buying construction material, gathering workers, making measurements... It feels good to build something, starting from nothing.
"Thank God for Krish!" I found myself saying.
My trusty Nepalese field manager! He's confident, assertive, caring, and gets things done! Not to mention, we share the same vision for our project. I rarely have to tell him what I want or how I see things going. It's truly synchronicity.
My eyes wander back to the digging. Organized piles of stone and dirt are in an outline of an L-shaped structure. Krish is yelling at one man as he digs. It looks heated; something is up. Their voices, in a language I cannot comprehend rise up over the top of each other at a rapid pace.
"Krish? Everything okay?" I ask apprehensively.
He looks at me quizzically.
"So you're not angry?" I chime in after a moments stare-off.
"No of course not!" Krish replies nonchalantly.
Ah the Nepali. I'm laughing on the inside for my mistake. I will never quite understand their tone. I frequently find myself wondering why everyone sounds like they are Kung Fuing a cinder block when they converse! It causes great confusion.
"No worry, I manage everything," he adds as my worry wrinkle on my forehead fades away.
It's been a busy few days. I've been tirelessly trying to sort out our banking woes - transferring money into Nepal by avoiding the exuberant fees and exchange rate commissions! Nepal government laws forbid money departing Nepal; though will gladly allow it to flow in.
To further the headache, American laws make it egregious as well.
There is a perpetual fear of money laundering. Thus, opening a business account here is a long and tedious process involving a lawyer and authorizing a local Nepalese as a grantor to our holdings. Humph.
In the end, we've sorted a bank-to-bank transfer, but I'm convinced Wells Fargo should donate their wire fees to nonprofits. Come on Capitalism!
Tea has just arrived.
Brought down from the cliff-top from a shop next to the school. The men take their drink and cookies and sit fervently in a circle, sweaty from their labors. We exchange smiles and they share their tea with me.
We're paying them a fair-trade wage, but my mind starts to wander to the national average. Factory workers, for example, earn a meager $2/day in this country.
I often think about how hard people work in this country and it still saddens me. I wish I could ease their back pains, assuming they have one. Having just trekked into the high himalaya to visit some schools, back disintegrating under the weight of my pack, and knees swelling to a balloon from the 6,000+ steps daily, I can sympathise with their hard labor.
I think I will buy them lunch and bring some coca-cola for them tomorrow. Not that I'd ever support people drinking this, but it is a luxury here. Besides, I hear the best way to men's hearts are through their bellies :)
After tea, the men get back to work. Two are digging a ditch in the outline of the shed while another is hacking a round white stone brought up from the gorge bed. The tool of choice, similar to an axe, is swung high above his small frame then allowing gravity to take care of the rest, slams down onto the stone.
Only a small piece of rock breaks away. He laboriously begins the process again.
Once broken into smaller bits, the rock will be used to fill the ditch, then hand-tossed cement will be poured into the cravasses to form the foundation.
Seems like it should hold.
But then again, when you live in country where most concrete construction is done my hand, one hopes for the best. Luckily they are skilled in cow shed construction.
Left: Our tractor from the bluff, stuck in the bush.
Right: Seeming like clouds in the distance, the mighty Annapurna peeks out from amongst the haze.
The high sun is now beginning to fade in the distance. My Mac is about to crash because electricity is scarce up on this bluff overlooking the river. Internet has been slower than a turtle and is sometimes out for days. Loading a picture could take more or less 20 minutes each go.
I take this as my cue to head home and stop yelling at the computer. Besides, who could be frustrated when the mighty Annapurna decided to show her face amongst the haze? It allows one to take a moment's pause to be present and mindful.
Tomorrow will be another day on the construction site afterall.
Poor parents routinely duped into sending children to homes where owners use them to extract money from foreign visitors
A child is driven away after being rescued by police from the Happy Home orphanage in Kathmandu. Photograph: Peter Pattisson
By Pete Pattisson
Like an increasing number of tourists visiting Nepal's mountain peaks, colourful markets and lush national parks, Marina Argeisa wanted to experience the latest must-do activity on the tourist trail: a volunteering stint at an orphanage.
What the 26-year-old Spaniard did not know was that her good intentions were unwittingly feeding an industry that dupes poor parents into sending their children to bogus orphanages in order to extract money from well-meaning foreigners.
It is a business model built on a double deception: the exploitation of poor families in rural Nepal and the manipulation of wealthy foreigners. In the worst cases, tourists may be unwittingly complicit in child trafficking.
Nepal's tourist sector comprises nearly 3% of its gross domestic product, and in 2012 more than 600,000 foreigners visited the tiny country.
Volunteering, or voluntourism as it is sometimes known, is a rapidly expanding industry. There are dozens of agencies offering the chance to spend weeks, or months, working at some of the country's 800 orphanages.
| | POKHARA, NEPAL -- We are pleased to announce the launch of a new campaign to create a more sustainable world. In November of this year, we are building farms for low-caste schools in Nepal. This will help generate income to support continuing educational advances and progress.
- Low-caste (Dalit) children endure harsh discrimination: To be a Dalit means that you are "lower than livestock" in the eyes of others. Landlords won't rent to you, employers won't hire you, and the very little money families earn will not buy adequate education for their children.
- Low-caste (Dalit) children are denied equal access to education: Dalits have a 33% literacy rate while high-castes have between 60-83% ("Comparative Study of Dalit Education in Nepal"), meaning they can never rise up from their social class.
- Low-caste schools need a better system to fund themselves: Government funding is minimal and outside charity is not sustainable.
Each farm requires a 1-time initial investment of $13,000 USD to get it up and running, and generating income! That means, that for only 13K, you can make an entire school self-sustained. Our long-term goal is to replicate this program for 10 schools in 5 years. Imagine the possibilities!
Have you ever wanted to "Change the World" but didn't know how? Global Orphan Prevention's founder Katie Hilborn is a snowboarder turned philanthropist who one day realized she could do just this, and that it's easier than you think! In this inspirational speech, Katie explains why it's in our own best interest to take care of others, citing that the natural self-confidence which develops allows us to achieve great things.
Chronicling her own story and pathway to 'changing the world' affirms that anything is possible. Katie now runs her non-profit, Global Orphan Prevention. Her humanitarian work extends to Nepal, Vietnam, and various other developing nations.
First visit to Shree Shriva Puri Primary School in Nepal. Here, we are fact finding and researching our next project; to make the schools themselves sustained via income generation! What kind of income generation can Global Orphan Prevention
provide so that this low-caste school can thrive independently from charity?
Katie and her team finally arrive at their school site in Koshi Tappu; the jungle lowlands of Nepal on the Indian border. In episode 1, they trudged through two barricades and roadblocks as the country was in a nationwide strike. Now in the conclusion, they meet with villagers to check up on the school project, deliver educational material, and work with the village advisers to create a future action plan.
Five-minute movie asking the viewers of Give TV to help a Nepalese child that has been abandoned by his father.
Aunil is being supported by his Grandfather and Uncle, but they are running out of money to continue helping him. Nepalese children in these situations are often sent to the orphan homes. Grandfather has been in the hospital while the Uncle has his own family to support - including recent hospital fees for his sick wife and daughter.
The family buffalo has also just died, which resulted in ten-month's loss of income. The family is in risk of losing everything.