Allan: Nepal Outreach Part 1 - from Kathmandu to Damak

MANY a time, it is in plenty and comfort that we see the lack. There is so much to share about the outreach to Nepal and this is the first part of a series.

The concept was a short term outreach of a Filipino team going out to Nepal for exposure while sharing God’s love and blessings. This was an optional requirement for those who finished the Lay Minister’s Training of 2016 in the Cathedral of the Resurrection.

Searching for a cross culture outreach brought out the countries of Nepal, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Prayers led us to consider Nepal since she is still experiencing internal displacement caused by the killer earthquake last April 25, 2015. Based on 2016 reports about 600,000 Nepalese are still in temporary shelters.

There were ten women in our team. Julia and Dorothy Pucay, Rose Marie Dulnuan, Rufina Balanon, Llamana Pio, Feliza Ronquillo, Rhoda Maguinsay, Nellie Diego, Sister Satty and myself. We raised our own travel funds, but the Soroptimist International gave the fund for the women’s conference, backpacks and scholarship grant.

The preparations were all done quickly and sudden decisions were made during the month before takeoff, leaving things at home and packing bags for the outreach. Unfortunately, two people who signed up were not able to come. Team took personal items including school supplies, dental kits, clothes, Cordillera tokens as part of the things to be given away.

The dawn of June 5, our team together with Pastor Lazarus left Kathmandu, passing through the winding mountain roads of Dhulikhel and the flat Terrai lands. The women sang songs, chatted and napped along the way. There was a time when the thunderstorm of cats, dogs and elephants came incessantly, rains and fog produced a zero visibility in the winding road and everyone became quiet. I was sleeping at that time and was awakened briefly when we hit a bump in the rain, before I went back to sleep. When I finally woke up, we were already near the place where lunch was served.

The rain was tempering, so one by one shielded by an umbrella, jumping over pools of water and running towards the restaurant where we had Nepali Khana. The place was a regular stop over where a plate of Dhal, Bhat, curry, subji and pickles was handed over. Lazarus, Dorothy, Aunty Julia and I decided to add mutton to the meal. Servers refill should one need more. It was a pleasant new experience to the team but Nellie decided not to eat and got a cucumber salad instead.

By late afternoon we reached our destination and the van owned by Ganesh, brought us to Kamakshya Hotel in Damak 10. The hotel is a four story building with air conditioned rooms and fan rooms. Hotel has restaurant on the ground floor, a 24 hour front desk service and a security guard during night time. I was amazed because what used to be open spaces 20 years ago have been filled with buildings of all sorts.

The summer project targeted the school children living in shelters in Bhaktaphur and the women of Jhapa District. Jhapa was where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees housed the eight refugee camps for over 100,000 displaced Bhutanese in the 1980s.

Refugees remained in the camps for more than two decades before they were assimilated in United States of America, Canada and Europe in the recent past. According to the locals, the refugee camps are no longer operational as there are merely 700 families living there.

Women in Nepal are still marginalized despite the reforms introduced by government and non-government organizations, basically because it challenges culture and belief systems. Poverty and ignorance led a sizable number of girls and women from Jhapa and Bardiya district of Nepal to be trafficked and sold into the white slavery, crossing the border to India. The small sleepy towns of Damak, Birtamode, Itahari have now become bustling towns with foreign influence.

No longer are they pure Nepali products and design but now we having hotels, restaurants, household appliances, electronic shops and many foreign influenced establishments. With mixed emotions, I beheld Damak after seventeen years; the progress is in leaps crushing boundaries.

Pastor Lazarus and I met with Tila, the woman leader who organized the women’s conference. I first met Pastor Lazarus in Damak in the late 1990’s; he became my translator and interpreter.

He came to study in International School of Theology Manila and when he finished went back to base in Kathmandu where he heads a church and a non-government organization.

The next part of the story will be the Women’s Conference in Damak.
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