Sunday, September 20, 2009

Farewell Kathmandu

David and Julian arrived from their ADVENTURE yesterday, two days early, brimming with great stories. I am thrilled that I get two extra days with Julian before he departs for Seattle.

I spent 3 days with Rita Thapa, a feminist peace and social activist here in Kathmandu. I had the good fortune to hear of and then meet her through our dear Nepali friend, Sarita, who lives in Seattle. Rita has created two NGO's in Nepal. TEWA, an organization that fundraises to provide grants to women's organizations mostly in rural areas of Nepal. The benefits of one small grant are very impressive.  $500 trained 15 women in pre-natatal care and midwifery in a district many miles from any health care with only one aging woman to handle birthing needs. This turned around infant and maternal mortality rates. Five years after creating this organization, which has served as a model for Funds for Women all over the world, she transitioned out of leadership.
Rita then turned her attention to peace building due to the conflict that Nepal was in at the time. Various military factions were drafting young people at gunpoint to serve and people who were fleeing rural villages to the Kathmandu valley in search of safety.  The result has been displacement of many conflict affected youth, and the breakdown of the family and village life as the safety net of rural life. Nagarik Aawaz has created a year-long program for displaced youth from varying geographic areas, ethnic, class and political backgrounds. The team assists healing from the psychological/emotional results of having lived through such trauma.
Many of these youth eventually go back to their homes as peace ambassadors, sharing the skills they have developed during the year with Nagarik Aawas. Every Thursday, these young people gather at the Peace Kitchen and cook and serve a meal to Kathmandu's homeless.  As difficult as their life has been, they expressed gratitude for the learning that comes from serving others. During a nonviolent communication workshop I facilitated, one lovely young woman expressed constant fear for her life she experienced as a Maoist, while others spoke of being caught in the crossfire between opposing factions. The sense of compassion for one another they are already learning is very impressive and gives a sense of hope for Nepal's future. Rita has been able to take intention and vision and deeply held values and with strong organizational skills, she has invited others to join in creating NGOs that are models for the rest of the world.  It was a huge gift to share time with her and her family and Edwina, a wonderful young woman and peace activist from Australia who made her way to Nagarik Aawas via Naropa in Boulder, CO. 
It was farewell to Julian today after a couple of days to sharing stories. Off to Bhutan tomorrow for David and I. 


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