I had the opportunity last month (Nov. of ’09) to travel to Nepal to see what Helen Keller International was doing to help the people there. I thought it might be worthwhile to do a short post here, to give you a quick idea of what HKI is doing, what I’ve seen, and the programs I hope to see this Sept. and Oct.
It was so beautiful flying into Kathmandu. We flew east along the southern edge of the Himalaya’s along the terai, from New Delhi, then turned north to Kathmandu. As we were flying north, we didn’t descend, the Himalaya’s just rose up to meet the plane. The ruggedness of the ‘foothills’ all lush from the earlier monsoon season, were just beautiful. What hit me first as I stepped out of the plane onto the tarmac was the smog. Kathmandu, being in a valley and having a thermal inversion similar to Denver’s, has a major problem with it. The smog settles in and it might just sit for days. Of course burning everything including plastic water bottles, 2 stroke motorbikes, and clay kilns, doesn’t help the situation either. Then the drive from the airport to the city, well the driving patterns of the Nepalese can leave you white knuckled? Let’s just say, it seems like total controlled chaos. I do not know how they do it, but they do make it work. I remember four of us went out walking that day; we stopped and looked both ways before crossing the street? When can we go? We just laughed.
(All blog photos: ©Bartay)
We were going out to the Kailali district in the far west, staying in Dungadhi for 3 or 4 nights then driving to the surrounding areas during the days. I thought flying into Kathmandu from the south was beautiful, but this was a flight half way across Nepal flying due west. We paralleled the peaks of the Himalaya’s all covered with snow the entire way… It was beautiful. We were the only flight into the airport that day and as soon as we all got off the plane, it was loaded with people going back to Kathmandu and took off. Then they closed the airport. One flight in and one out, that’s it.
HKI has programs in place there to help with vitamin A supplementation along with their Homestead Food Production program. It works on improving food enrichment and diversification, which without, has been a major cause of malnutrition and stunted growth. They are also working with Nepal’s Female Community Health Volunteer program to promote the education and importance of infant and child nutrition, diarrheal diseases, and maternal and neonatal care.
These Female Community Health volunteer’s hold teaching/discussion groups in their community, where most women bring their infants and might walk for hours just to attend. I heard that some of the local women are so worried they don’t produce enough milk, that they’ll feed their babies goat’s milk. Who knows where that goat was grazing … you wouldn’t want the ones I saw!
Following are some of those group meetings taking place. Also there’s a visit to an elementary school where HKI’s programs are helping to teach children the importance of a variety of foods as well as personal hygiene habits. Trachoma is a problem there and just washing can prevent the transmission.
We also visited an elementary school where HKI’s programs are helping to teach children the importance of eating a variety of foods, for nutritional value, as well as personal hygiene habits. Trachoma is a problem there and just washing can prevent the transmission.
After returning to Kathmandu, the Maoist’s had decided to have a ‘peaceful’ protest the day we were to visit the largest slum there. So we put it off for a day. The Maoist’s are still having protests against the government; they feel they’re not equitably represented within the government. Usually it ends up being a blockade of major roads in and out of Kathmandu creating a total shutdown of the city. There does seem to be some indifference from the locals. I think they’re tired of these protests shutting the city down and making life harder for them. The YCL (Youth Communist League) is a small splinter group that does get a bit more rowdy and sets tire fires and has caused physical damage.
We did get into the slum the next morning to do a follow-up on a previous HKI Vitamin A Supplementation program. Checking to see how women, their infants, and everyone else was doing. What caught my eye were the kids.
I hope this gives you an quick idea of some of the programs HKI is doing and what I hope to see in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. There is a huge food shortage going on in Niger and I know that is a major concern for HKI. I look forward to showing you what I see. I hope you enjoy it.