Adventures, Races, Kit and Life
The trip started with a highly anticipated 3 day race, majestically situated high up in the remote mountains near Ghurkha (famous for the soldiers with the curvy knives). It was a fantastic race. The refreshingly clean air tasted wonderful! The delightful cool mountain temperatures were ideal for pleasurable running. The trails themselves were perfect. They were nestled deep amongst snow capped mountains, often very remote and seemingly miles from any form of civilisation, then they would wind back into one of the tiny villages.
These villages in themselves were a delight. They were well off the beaten track, the villagers rarely see outsiders, especially outsiders clad in bright coloured lycra and running for no apparent reason! We were enthusiastically greeted with huge smiles, cheers and heart-warming generosity, even garlands in one of the tiny 15 house villages high up in the mountains. Little ladies living in nothing more than shacks offered us fresh fruit to help us along. The village folk lined the streets applauding and probably enjoying the unusual show. It was incredibly motivating and certainly helped one to get up some of the monster climbs. Admittedly the children that pinched the pink ribbons marking the race didn’t help quite as much but when a kid needs something to tie their hair in bunches and there are prefect pink ribbons almost growing on trees and bushes …what do you expect?? Overall a fantastic 3 days of trail running and I was fortunate to meet a great bunch of people on the race too.
With the excitement of the race behind us, it was back into the hustle and bustle of dusty, dirty Kathmandu for a celebration dinner and a beer or two. This is often the best part of the event!
We were then incredibly lucky to have the privilege of tagging onto Joan and John Poulston’s trip to visit the orphanage they have been sponsoring for a number of years. Both from San Fran, John is a keen cyclist and Joan has bagged 100’s of the great ultra marathons through time . Together they somehow found this little orphanage. The visit to the orphanage gave the whole weekend a little extra special experience that made a great trip even more memorable.
After a short drive we arrived at a fairly basic 3 storey building nestled in the backstreets of Kathmandu. The orphanage opened its doors to us and treated us as if they had known us forever. We were literally overwhelmed by the masses of energy, warmth and excitement at having foreign visitors to play with.
The modest grounds had space allocated for table tennis and badminton/soccer. The lads (adult lads, Nick, Mod and I) were ushered outside so that the boys could demonstrate their skills and wherever possible challenge the adults (who all pretty much lost). Meanwhile indoors the girls had dusted off the ghetto blasters and loaded the latest tunes (recorded from the radio) and the dance off started! Boy, could they dance! My fondest memory was a little cross-eyed tomboy doing a combination of robot and Bollywood dancing to Gangham style. The kids and we danced so much and so hard that dust (Kathmandu’s infamous dust) belched out from the seemingly clean carpets filling the room. It was incredible! The best disco I’ve been to for many a year!
Exhausted by the dance offs, it was time to slow the pace down a little, so we dished out handfuls of sweets. The highlight of the gifts was the polystyrene aeroplanes and balloons that Mod and Elina had brought which went down fantastically. The energy levels rose again but this time the very little kids and the older kids stepped back and watched and chatted in a surprisingly mature fashion, giving an insight into the family dynamics of the orphanage.
After several hours of heart-warming fun, we were all treated to a delightful lunch with the kids. We were genuinely touched by the incredible and unnecessary generosity that was shown towards us by a group that had so few material things to give. The homemade food was simple yet delicious. We, as esteemed guests, were each given a small gift consisting of a woolly hat, tea cosy style, that they had knitted themselves so that we didn’t forget them!
A little about the orphanage. It is a small setup, run by one lady, Kamala, who actually started by taking street children into her own home to live with her kids. With the support of Julie Seynaeve from The Netherlands, it developed into something more structured. Currently there is a combination of about 30 lads and lasses, ranging from 6 to 16 years of age.
The objective is to educate the kids and then ease them back into society. The circle of support will ideally continue with the kids that are integrated coming back to contribute to fundraising and the ongoing education, support and development of the kids younger than themselves. There are several examples of success including seamstresses and mechanics who were heavily involved in the kids’ development.
The importance of orphanages has increased significantly in the last few years. Recent changes in Nepali law relating to adoption, has resulted in the kids not having anywhere else to go. Adoption was curtailed as too many adopted kids were being taken out of the country and being abused. In some ways the new law protects kids but it also means that the orphans of Nepal now have very limited options except the generosity of a few.
External funds obviously help support the orphanage. I was pleased to see that fully auditable accounts are kept and that it is 100% run on the basis of integrity. It’s actually possible to see how some of these funds have been used effectively. The management are incredibly proud of their new water filtration system, housed on the roof that gives them ready access to nature’s free supply of water.
Remote product donations are a great idea but unfortunately don’t actually work very well. As with manythird world countries, there are problems with corruption. In Nepal the customs officers like to take their share and have first pickings of anything posted to help the orphanage. Even worse they will then try to charge the orphanage import taxes to release any goods that are left over. Unfortunately the orphanage cannot afford to pay these, so the goods don’t actually get to the kids
The most effective opportunity for individuals to help is simple. When you visit Nepal bring stuff with you and visit the orphanage yourself, so that the orphanage can avoid customs and taxes and your gifts will directly benefit the kids. An extra few hours of your trip to Nepal could not only make a difference to the kids but give your Nepal visit a different, more meaningful perspective overall.
If this appeals then contact Pancha who works closely with the home and can help get you there. His business card is attached below.
The kids, looking cute in traditional dancing costumes and soccer kit donated by another sponsor of the orphanage.
Action Asia Nepal 100km Ultra Marathon November 2013