In March 2015, I trekked to Everest Base Camp with an incredible group of supporters from World Vision Australia, raising more than $100,000 for women and children in Nepal. One month after I returned home to Australia, on 25 April 2017, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Now, two years and four months on, I’ve returned to Nepal and I’m overwhelmed with emotion.
This country I love so much has been through so much in the short few years since I last visited. It’s my fourth visit to Nepal and it certainly won’t be my last. Since my first trip in 2006, I fell in love with this naturally beautiful country. The passion of the people, the rich culture and the epic natural wonders keep me coming back. I don’t know what to expect returning.
Being a World Vision Blog Ambassador and a contracting stuff member to World Vision Australia, I’ve had a lot of information about the destruction of the earthquake and how it’s impacted the communities where World Vision works. Although there has been so much done to move on, and it’s certainly what the people want, I didn’t know what the state of affairs was now. I know the funds that have been raised, the work that has been done for health, water, education and child friendly spaces. But how does that look? What is day to day life going to be like.
My father and I will spend two weeks in Nepal. Our primary purpose for returning is to attend a conference. I’ve been going to these meetings to support my father since 2006 and this will be my 9th event. I’m also thrilled to be able to have time to visit World Vision’s office in Nepal.
Some of the key sites I would like to also visit during my time will be Bouddhanath, Swayambunath, PashupathiNath and Durbar Square Kathmandu. These all were impacted by the earthquake in various ways and are key cultural sites for the people here. They’re also busy tourist attractions and so I’ve seen them on a number of occasions.
I didn’t actually think much about my return to Nepal in the lead up. Busy with work and day to day life, I didn’t realise until I spoke at the Country Women’s Association of Australia in early July about Nepal, how much the trip meant. Perhaps I’ve been actively putting it out of my mind.
Finally, when the day came to head to Nepal, I felt excited. Nepali words were drifting into my mind and I couldn’t wait to enjoy some momos and dal bhat for dinner! On the plane ride into Kathmandu, I caught the first glimpse of those famous mountains and the steep hills at their base. The cloud cover shadowed the peaks but the valleys below were clear. I got choked up as memories rushed back into my mind and the differences I may encounter upon my return were rapidly approaching. It’s amazing how one scene can bring so much emotion. And this is before we’d even hit the ground!
I plan to write daily diaries of my time in Nepal. Reflections at the time of what I’m seeing and doing and the comparison to my past trips in the country I love so much.
You can also follow me on Instagram at @Lovellyem where I’ll be posting A LOT of photos of my experience there. I’ve created the #tag #Lovellynepaltrek for when Dad and I trek from Lukla to Namche Bazaar in the second week of our trek.
In a few weeks it will be my 28th birthday (eek) and as has become my tradition, I do not ask for personal gifts but instead reach out to my loved ones for their generosity.
As many of you know, I’m a passionate supporter of the work of World Vision Australia and have enjoyed my recent work with them, but also my ongoing role as a Blog Ambassador. A group of us ambassadors have come together with the goal of each raising $2015 in 2015 to support vulnerable street kids in Tanzania with education, care and protection.
Tanzania is close to my heart and I truly believe that education is a gift that keeps on giving. I’m asking for just $20.15 (yes, do you see what I’ve done there wink emoticon ) In order to reach my goal of $2015. So if 100 people give $20.15, I’ll be there in no time. That’s 5% of my Facebook friends (yes, a lot, i know!)
So please help me in celebrating my upcoming birthday by donating to the children of Tanzania and giving them the gift of education.
Join World Vision Blog Ambassadors’ $2015 in 2015 Challenge and support Tanzanian street kids with education, care and protection.
Financial hardship, family disintegration and abuse are driving more and more children to live alone on the streets in Morogoro, Tanzania. However life on the streets is dangerous and children have limited access to education, healthcare or income.
The Hope Street Children Project supports street kids in Morogoro with shelter, food, healthcare, education, counselling, and where possible reunites them with their families. Read more about the project on the World Vision Australia Blog.
I just know after seeing it all so recently … How hard the recovery is gonna be. The infrastructure and the lack of local government support for the people… It just makes it all so much harder. There are expected to be upward of 5000, approaching the 10,000 mark of deaths due to this disaster. A number to a country like Australia that is unfathomable. But when you have been there, seen the densely populated city and mass of life, you can understand.
I’m happy to know world vision are there now and doing good work. But they need our help! There is hope for those who have survived and for more to be rescued. Donate here to World Vision Australia.
Reading this article now about how critical the response efforts are in the first 24 hours from former Social Media Manager at World Vision Australia, Richenda Vermuelen, now Director of ntegrity!
“If you work at a not-for-profit you’re the voice of the people affected. A strong plan of action is measured in hours, not days. Donor attention follows media attention, so your window of opportunity is likely to last only one week (168 hours). Make it count.”
It’s so important we get behind these not for profits.
My friend Bishaka, I met her in Scotland in 2014, is currently in KAthmandu. She has a brother in hospital and her nephew (8 years old pictured below) is also receiving treatment for wounds. She has sent most of her family off to India for safety. She’s sending me photos of scenes and it’s hard to hold back the tears. I am being strong but I just cannot imagine the situation she is in. She’s trained in emergency situations and hopes to get out to more rural areas once they can find a way to travel their as access is the main issue. I will continue to share her stories. This morning she was messaging as 11 more aftershocks came… this is happening through the day and night.
I pray for all these people of Nepal. My memories are nothing but fondness, hope and beauty from this nation. It’s so sad to believe that they are currently living in such a state of terror.
It’s so surreal to have been standing in this spot, just a month ago, in the heart of a bustling ancient city… and for now it to be reduced to rubble. The rich cultural heritage of the city will be hard to repair… but the lives that have been lost are simply irreplaceable.
My beautiful friend Emma from Lovelly Communications! She had visited her sponsor child in Tanzania and this was the first time that I had heard that you could visit your sponsor child. After asking Emma some specifics, I decided to go ahead and request with World VIsion to visit my sponsor child, Velinda, in Honduras. WIthin 3 months, I was on my way for the trip.
World Vision had organised a translator for my day with Velinda. His english was perfect and he was quick with his translations too, which was amazing … (Even if Velinda whispered something in my ear, he would kneel down and listen too and then straight away translate). It was things like “Will you visit me again? I like your hair” All those little details that I would have missed, the translator made possible for me.
After the emotion of meeting my darling Kamala , a little girl in Nepal I have sponsored with my mother for 5.5 years, I was treated to a tour of the local area with the World Vision staff. It’s important with World Vision to not only learn about and meet the child you sponsor but the greater community which is also supported by our generous donations.
In the morning, my first stop was to the ADP office to meet with staff of World Vision. I was met at my hotel by child sponsorship manager, Kiran. He is a kind and sweet man who clearly has a passion for seeing children live a better life. Soon after I met the lovely Absara, a young intern at World Vision. I was the first child sponsor she had met and she was very excited to see my experience. We sat with the manager of the ADP, Mr Rajan and then met with the entire team. I always like this process with world vision. We are all introduced and each person tells their role. I also introduced myself and shared my many experiences with World Vision and my role now as a #WVAblogger for World Vision Australia. Most importantly, I thanked them for their efforts and tireless work. As a sponsor the best part is seeing the lives of our children in foreign countries and how our support helps.
Kiran showed me around and also showed me the folder of Kamala’s entire sponsorship history. It was magnificent to see her development over the time and the correspondence we had had over the years. I also got to see the computer system where they keep all the updates on the children. It’s meticulously detailed and I was so impressed and pleased to see that World Vision are so invested in the children’s lives.
After my visit to kamala’s school we went to another local office. This office was manned by two staff members and they explained their role in more of the nutrition and health side of the projects. They ran Early Childhood Development centres, mothers groups, Outreach Centres for immunizations and childs health and general nutition and health information for the wider community. They have a group called the Unity Society and again this main focus is health. Great to hear of so many programs being run and I would get the chance to see some today.
We went then on some very treacherous and bumpy roads and even had to stop short and walk due to mud and huge divots in the road. We were met by community volunteer, beautiful Padma and walked to amothers group. At the site, they were also building an Early Childhood Development Centre. This is where mothers could take small children and start their education and basic life skills.
Mothers and babies met under a tarp and sat on a mat to greet me. I don’t like to be so formal and separated so I asked to sit amongst them and chat. We talked about their monthly meetings and what they learnt. Some were also members of savings groups, one of my favourite programs run by world vision. Through being a member they can save their own funds into a large pool with other women and take out small loans from the group to fund business growth or help in times of need with chidlrens health and education. It provides financial empowerment and business skills to women in these communities.
The leader of the group was a Governemnt health worker and she was actually the mother of Padma. It was so lovely to see that the World Vision passion and support continues through the generations and really becomes a sustainable part of the community. I asked her questions about her role and what the group is able to achieve. She helps the mothers with health advice and they talk to them about nutrition and caring for their child. They meet once a month to share their stories and learn together. It was sucha pleasure to share time with them.
We next went to visit a school. I love schools!!! This school had 1100 children…. Ummmmm!! They swarmed towards me as we approached and I remembered it was the festival Holi. There was colour flying everywhere and cheeky boys were chasing girls to smudge bright colours to their cheeks. I saw one looking at me slyly so I patted my cheeks and he gladly walked over and smeared pink all over my face. I was inducted to holi and the children roared with laughter.
As I walked into the group and through the grounds, I was surrounded 360 degrees by fascinated children of all ages wanting to catch a glimpse. Another young man approached me, this time with handfuls of red dust. I welcomed him and he really got stuck into putting the colour all over me. Wow! If you’re going to do it, do it well. A few other boys came up and I now had a completely covered face and they found it very amusing. I smudged some colour off my face and patted it on the cheeks of the smaller children around me. I could have played all day. Except, when they started sparing water, we were outta there. My hosts led me upstairs to the teacher’s office to meet with staff.
We sat in a room with six teachers and were joined by another young volunteer for World Vision. We again did the introductions of ourselves and what our roles were. They told me about working with the children and that there were 1100 kids in the school. I was pleased to hear 600 are girls and 500 are boys. So many girls in school is so great. There are approximately 100 registered sponsor children through World Vision at the school. World Vision run teacher training programs as well as the “One Goal” program here. That’s a program for children to play soccer and then take part in other activities such as hygiene, sanitation, child protection and awareness and other such important life skills. It was so nice to see the teachers engaged in the program and working with World Vision to help the children.
Our final visit for the day was to the Outreach Centre, ORC. This is being built at the time and the community project manager was so proud to meet me and show me their work. I was one week too early as they plan on being finished and in business for the community next week. Governemnt health workers will come here and help with immunizations, weighing of children, health checks and running nuritiuon and basic care clinics for mothers nad children. Helath workers and volunteers will go around to the 300 households in the community and tell them about when they can go to the outreach centre. These are extremely important programs for World Vision as it gives people who would otherwise not have it, access to basic health and to education for a healthy child and family.
We returned to the office. A long drive along bumpy roads and then down a busy highway. I stared out the window and let my mind wander. The thing about these project visit days is that it puts you on a whole new plane of awareness. The world is so much bigger than all of us. There are people and places we will never see, there are issues we will never know about and our role in context is so small. But great things start from small beginnings. Through sponsoring one child in a village, you can be a part of a community of supporters that help them to grow and develop for a more quality life.
“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.
Do anything. Do SOMETHING!”
– Colleen Patrick – Goudeau
Thank you again World Vision Australia and World Vision Nepal for giving me this opportunity to meet my sponsor and child and see into her world.
This is rather scary, and does not put me at ease once again for my flight today, domestic small carrier, into Kathamandu. My flight in internationally was one of the worst of my life, terrible turbulence and an electrical storm, I really said my prayers.
I get a call this morning from a friend. International airport is closed but domestic seems to be ok – hope the flight goes. Soon after I get a knock at the door and reception have come to tell me that a call has come for me saying that my 1.30pm flight… is now at 10.30am (might I add it was 8.45am).
It’s a tiny town and tiny airport, but still, I would like to be there with some time before the plane actually leaves. I was told my taxi would come at 10am – to get me there by 10.15am as it’s only a 15 minute drive. Sorry… you want me to get to the airport 15 minutes before my flight. Nope. I said a car needs to be here asap. Ok 9.30. Still too late for me but it’s the best we’re going to do.
So then I went down for breakfast… nothing was there! I went into the restaurant and was informed due to Holi festival, there are only 3 guests in the entire hotel. I order to my room and proceed to inhale my delicious breakfast of cold coffee and Aloo Paratha (indian breads stuffed with curried potatoes, my favourite) with curd.
Hhaha oh Nepal. Ok. So bring on this flight and hope to see you soon Kathamandu. Oh… and just before I leave the hotel, I get a text saying “No worries. Flight time is 11.30. You will need to be at the airport at 10.30, so plenty of time.” What!! Was this not valuable information at the time I was running around my room packing and inhaling food? haha Oh Nepal!
It’s also HOLI Festival. So let’s see how we go with Taxis, getting through the streets etc when I reach!!!
Sitting in the car as we approached the school I felt a rush of emotion as the time was fast approaching. More than five years of sponsorship, close to a year of planning and hundreds of hours of travel and I’m only minutes from meeting my sponsor child Kamala.
I stayed in the car a minute longer as my hosts Kiran from the World Vision Nepal Dhanghadi Office and Intern Absara climbed out to wait for me. I took a short video of my nervous anticipation, braced myself for the hundreds of little faces that would greet me and prepared.
As we strolled into the schoolyard we were surrounded by children, they are fascinated by this tall blonde visitor at their place of learning. They giggle as I glance in their direction. I’m sweeping their faces, searching for my Kamala, my sponsor child. I don’t know how the meeting will happen or when, or what’s the next steps. I have so many photos of her, but she has grown up over the years and a person can look so different in the flesh, I hope and pray that I recognize her.
Standing and observing the playing children, a few come close to ogle me and I smile and make a face to them. Suddenly a girl strides toward me from my left and strikes out her hand “ Hello. Nice to meet you.” The girl is not wearing school clothes, and his followed by a woman in a sari and some others. Kiran approaches me from my right and I flick my head back and forth between them and ask quietly, still holding her hand “Is this her? Is this Kamala?” The mother takes my hand and shakes it and greets me in Namaste. I raise my hands to my face and take in a breath as I begin to shake and cry. I can’t help it. The emotion! I scoop up Kamala’s hand again and embrace her. I apologise for my crying and Kiran explains to her that I’m not sad, I’m happy.
The family soon come to join and there is now a gathering of close relatives. I walk to Kamala’s mother who has also been crying while watching the greeting. We do the Namaste greeting and I bow my head to show respect. She holds my hands tight and shakes them. She introduces then her Ama, her mother. The grandmother of Kamala. I begin to cry again as I move to greet not one, but both of Kamala’s grandmothers. These respected elders also greet me with a Namaste. I’m then introduced to her father, elder brother, younger brother and younger sister. I’m rapidly losing count of family members and before I know it, we’re huddled together for a family photo. Four or five cameras point at us and shoot off photo after photo as we pull together. Wow! So much emotion in such a short time.
I’m taken by the arm on my right by the mother of Kamala and on my left side gathered in by the two grandmothers. Kamala walks in front of me and I’m led to the meeting room where we can get to know each other and chat about their lives here. As we settle in, I ask a number of times “Tik sa?” “Are you ok?” to Kamala. This is overwhelming for me, but as a child of 12 with her entire school and family watching on, I can imagine this is extremely overwhelming. Kiran, our World Vision guide, also translates and asks her if she’s ok and assures her I’m a friend. She smiles faintly as her family begin the ritual of welcoming me and the other guests to the village.
After having a traditional welcome, it’s time for me to get to know Kamala. She is a little shy but was so bold when she first greeted me. I wanted to make her feel at ease and decided gifts and fun things were a good start. As I sponsor Kamala jointly with my mother Sarah, I had been loaded up with some amazing Australian gifts for her. Mumma loves to shop and she’d done a great job of finding education and fun things for Kamala to share. We gave her a game, books to read, puzzles of Australia, pencils and Australian colouring books and stickers. We also looked at a giant map of Australia together and a card filled with Australian animals. It was nice to share with her these things from my home.
I got to learn about the family and the siblings of Kamala. Her cheeky younger sister hovered between the two of us the whole time. I could feel her lounging on my arm and twirling my hair in her fingers. She was a funny little thing and seemed to adopt me right away. Kamala said thank you for the sponsorship and it meant a lot to her to receive the cards and letters. When I first got there, I had shown her the cards and drawings that we had received and that I had brought them with me. I also got to see our correspondence and the history of the sponsorship in her folder at the office, which was a beautiful walk down memory lane.
Kamala started to smile a little and I could see her watching me. She would just look up at me, I would smile at her or make a cheeky face and she would smile modestly. I told her “sundari” – it means beautiful in Nepali. I asked them to translate a story for me too. My friend in Nepal is called Sundar, meaning the male version of beautiful, handsome. He calls me sundari but he failed to mention that it also means female monkey. The girls laughed at this story and told the World Vision staff that I was definitely not a monkey. I felt at this moment closer to Kamala and I held her hand and squeezed it. She held my hand back and seemed much more at ease.
It was time for me to share some of my family. I took out the trusty iphone and showed pictures of my mother, father, brother and sister. In Nepal, family is very important. They want to know about your background, where you come from and what your family has been doing. Not so much about what happens next, it’s your history that’s important. They all agreed my family was beautiful and enjoyed comparing the pictures of them with me.
The parents and the World Vision staff engaged in conversation and I had some time to just sit with Kamala, her sister and another little friend. It was time for selfies!! I wanted to see the big beautiful smile of Kamala and so I showed her my big smile – she caught on and we both smiled together with the cheeky monkeys hanging behind us. It was so lovely to laugh and relax with these little sweeties.
After all to short a time, it was time to leave. I wanted to make a reason to stay. I wanted something else to see here or do here. I knew it wasn’t possible and felt our time coming to a close but I just couldn’t bare it. All this time, for what seemed like just a few minutes. Kamala took me by the hand and her sister launched onto me and grabbed my other arm. The girls walked me out and seemed to be leading me a bit astray. Kamala’s father had to yell out to her and direct her back to the driveway where the car was, I think they were trying to unsubtly kidnap me and keep me there.
Kamala looked up at me and had asked me before we left the meeting if I could come to her house. Due to child protection policy of this World Vision ADP there are no home visits allowed. I completely understand this and am happy to comply, but how does one explain this to a 12 year old girl who wants to invite you into her home and share her world with you? I left that for the staff to do in Nepalese and with my eyes said sorry. As we stood near the fence and the other children came rushing out to farewell us, I could feel the sadness mounting. Kamala gazed up at me and we held hands. I embraced her for a hug and touched her face and said be good.
There were tears and hugs with mum and the grandmothers. They kept holding my hands and touching my face and pulled me in for long big hugs. I think it’s important for them to meet the person who is involved in their child’s life from a distance. It’s certainly important for me to know them and have a connection with them. I’m so glad I could be there. The goodbyes seemed to drag on and on, none of us wanting to say goodbye. With each round of handshakes and hugs, I again went back to Kamala and pulled her in for another hug. I wanted her to know how much I cared.
My parting words to mum, dad and the World Vision staff were “School is so important. Her education is number one.” It was translated for them and I said it’s so so important that she remains in school and gets her education. It’s my wish for her and it’s something I believe so passionately. Every child should have access to quality education and the opportunity to learn. She’s a healthy girl and I hope for her a bright future.
I climbed in the car and it looked as though the entire village had come out to see us off. Amongst the hundreds of little faces I could only see Kamala’s staring straight back at me. She had a gentle smile and she seemed so calm and content. I waved and waved as we pulled away.
Usually I don’t like to turn back, I like to say goodbye and go. This time, I turned my head and I looked back to see her running after the car. She was running and running, powering her legs along. Her little brother joined her and they chased the car waving and smiling. It was breaking my heart but I couldn’t turn away. I was laughing and commentating their approach of the car and their running. They ran for as long as they could keep up and then stopped as they approached the turn off to their home. From there they stood and waved, the three little siblings waving until we were completely out of sight. What a moment, I’ll never forget seeing them run with such joy and warmth to bid us farewell.
The afternoon was a full program of local office visits, program observations and site visits. It was wonderful to see what the area was up to but my mind was awash with the warm memories of my meeting with this little girl I’ve known from afar for so long. I look forward to sharing the stories and things I’ve learned from this project in many more blogs.
It was an honour to have the opportunity to meet Kamala and now I can’t wait to share many stories of my visit with my friends and family back home. Especially my mum Sarah who I share the sponsorship of Kamala with. I wish more than anything she could have been there to experience the meeting. It’s proven to me once again how important child sponsorship is and how we really can make a difference to the lives of so many.
Thank you Kamala. Thank you for the joy you’ve brought me and for your beautiful smile.
Today I went to visit my fourth World Vision Country Office around the world. I was in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the head office and was met by the kind Anu. It never ceases to amaze me the kindness, dedication and passion of staff in this organisation, all around the World.
Anu has been emailing me, along with the lovely staff from the Australian office (shout out to gorgeous Clare) to help me arrange my sponsor child visit in Kailali District. I’ve been sponsoring little Kamala for more than 5 years now with my mother Sarah. I love Nepal and have visited twice in the past, I knew it was the place I wanted to have a sponsor child. I’ve now been sponsoring Kamala for 5 years and just can’t wait to meet her.
Speaking to Anu and learning about her work here with World Vision was so inspiring. She clearly has a passion for her job and has been working with World Vision for 10 years. She told me her favourite thing was hearing the stories of Australians and Canadians who come to visit their sponsor children here in Nepal. She didn’t realise that we were so connected, excited ad dedicated to our sponsor children. She was shocked to see so much emotion from the people and how much they cared about these children over the other side of the world. I smiled as I knew exactly what she was talking about. I shared with her my story about why I sponsor children and why I love what World Vision do and am now a #WVAblogger blog ambassador. Anu only cements my belief and trust in this organisation and the work they do around the world.
I’ve found a blog today that was written for World Vision Australia about saying farewell to my sponsor child in Tanzania in 2009. I had been sponsoring him for 5 years and at that time and in December 2008 I travelled to Arusha, Tanzania and met him. I can say without hesitation that it was the best day of my life. So naturally, saying goodbye to him in 2009 when the work in his village had finished, was not at all easy. These were my thoughts on the process:
“I still get teary thinking of him. I sent my final farewell card and cried with every word. Goodbye is always the hardest word to say. Lazaro, you are in my thoughts always, as you have been for so many of the past years. I teasure the gift you gave me when I came to visit you and it will continue to have pride of place in my room and my heart. You were an inspiration to me and you put my world in perspective. This world is so much bigger than we can ever imagine, it is so much greater than all of us and you are helping me to understand this.”
I’m so excited to again be able to have this experience of meeting a sponsor child, and here I am. In Kathmandu, days from meeting her. I even wrote about her in that blog at the time:
“I started sponsoring a Nepalese girl one year ago as I also have a close affinity to this country. I look forward to developing a relationship with her and her community and someday soon visiting her in Nepal.”
It’s taken another 5 years, but here I am! Ready to meet this gorgeous little lady. I love receiving her updates in the post and it’s a bond my mother and I can share. Knowing we are changing the life of a little girl, her family and her community. The process has been somewhat held up as my flight has today been cancelled due to bad weather. This is why I allowed one week before my #everestbasecamptrek2015 to come and meet her and get to see her village. We’ve re-scheduled for tomorrow and pushed the flight back another day. It may be busy due to two days of bad weather and cancellations, but we will get there! Worst comes to worst, I’ll drive over night by jeep. I have to get there!
Some of the wonderful things I receive from World Vision updating me about Kamala and her activities.
Last year I posted 93 blogs here. I’ve told a few people this statistic and they’ve said “wow! So many!” But in my eyes… This is not good enough. I thought it should be closer to 400.
For all the travel I do, places I go, people I meet and experiences I share, there should be a blog every day. It’s hard to do that every day… Things always come up… But there are also so many excuses.
I want to set a goal in 2015. To write more. To share more. To be more fluid with my writing. It’s a practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
I’ve been inspired by the magnificent Eden Riley who writes passionately from the heart & regularly. She writes with caution thrown into the wind and with a richness one simply cannot resist. I want just a taste of that when people come to browse this blog. We met on the #WVAblogger ambassador trip to Uganda and her blog prowess wowed me!
Less is more. So! I’m planning to stop writing epic essays to rival the likes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead opting for more of a “daily thoughts” style. Of course I will still share amazing places I go, reviews of activities and accommodation, profiles of travellers and events coming up. I will just be getting more writing practice.
Please do help me with my goal by interacting with this blog. I love feedback and would love to write what you want to read as well as sharing my own crazy sagas.