Nepal Journal: The importance of seeming local.
Special guest blog by Dr. Nikhil Joshi, currently on the ground in Nepal for Team Broken Earth.
I just came down from the village of Tukucha. The village is utterly destroyed. There is not a single standing structure. Women had wept holding me, men quietly stifled their grief. The devastation was heartbreaking and real. We had spent the day talking to local people to determine what their needs are and what they are going to be. Shelter seems high on everyone’s list with monsoon season quickly approaching. There was some food in the village but it was being rationed carefully.
On the way back to the car we pass a military truck which parks next to us and begins to unload and walk up to the village. There are three of us, myself, my local partner Shyam, and Patrick Boyhan, an American businessman interested in helping Nepal. The military is astounded to see Patrick, who is white, so far from the city. I start speaking to them excitedly, telling them I’ve heard about all the help they’ve given.
They’re not looking at me the same way they are Patrick. Two of the men behind the commanding officer I’m speaking to have their hands on their guns. I keep on talking to the officer, trying to appear amiable, but the officer himself is speaking slowly and looking back between myself and Shyam. Shyam tells them that he’s known me for years, that I’m part of an organization who is looking to help. The officer brightens a bit, but his fellow soldiers keep their hands comfortably on their weapons. Patrick looks at the situation and blurts out “He’s a Canadian!” The officers laugh and the guards take their hands off their weapons and give me a hug. I wanted to ask them who they thought I was or why I could have been a threat, but instead I just accepted the hugs, grabbed Patrick and headed to the cab.
I feel I just aged a year.
The true importance this experience has given to me is the importance of seeming local. There are many NGO’s all over the world who strive to do good. Being integrated in the local community, having local partners, and being liked by the people you are helping are simple things that create a huge impact on the success of the endeavor. Life is not always about dollars and cents- sometimes getting work done in a developing country is less about what you have and more about how much you are loved. I was reminded of that as I came home from another long journey.
The town of Nuwakot is 4.5 hours from Kathmandu through frankly dangerous terrain. The roads were awful. There had been landslides the night before after a monsoon rain. One route was completely blocked so we had to back up and try another one. We travelled there to meet to a group called “Eek Eek Paila” (translated roughly to Step-by-step). This is a local group of about 11 Nepalese physicians and dentists of various subspecialty’s with 40 volunteers who travel to remote villages and offer medical care. They collect all the medications, dressings and minor instruments before arriving to the village. I spent a day with them, learning about their organization and speaking about Team Broken Earth. It’s interesting to me how many like-minded people there are around the world. So many people do genuinely care. I find it helps counter the daily negativity we see in the world. Knowing people want to do good is what makes this life brighter.
We were finally on the way home. We looked at the stretch of road before us. Terribly muddy road with half of the right side cracked off. The driver started the journey, but we quickly became stuck. Really stuck. A few local villagers came with some tools and tried to dig us out while toiling in the blistering sun. We were digging with our hands at one point and trying to make a plan together while not fully speaking the same languages. Eventually more people from the village came and we actually pushed the scorching hot car through the mud to the other side. We were so thankful to them. We attempted to give them gifts, but they accepted only our thanks. They said they knew that we had come all that way to help them and they were happy they could do something for us in return.
I’m in my room with a touch of heat stroke, drinking water underneath a fan. And despite the day’s difficulties, I remain happily optimistic about this world. Because some people just choose to care about it.