The Oda Project

Essential healthcare and education - giving Nepali communities in extreme poverty a fighting chance

1 month

Today marks my one month anniversary at Kopila…I jokingly suggested that we should all gather around, and have everyone share what their favorite thing about having me here is.  So far I don’t think there are many takers, always the two month anniversary to look forwards to though.
The past month has been filled with its fair share of ups and downs, whether experiencing the opulence of Dubai or the poverty in Surkhet, this journey has been an eye opening experience.  As the fifth poorest country in the world (in terms of imports and exports) Nepal is right there with Somalia with regards to wealth.  This desperate poverty presents itself daily, and for some reason I’ve reflected on this a good bit today.  I went for a long walk yesterday, and got some real thinking about what I’ve seen thus far, and the impressions it had on me.  While, Maggie has not arrived yet, I actually spent much of my morning observing a site that brought her to Nepal in the first place.  Just down the street from where we live, there is a dried out river bed.  It is in this dried out riverbed that Maggie met a young girl toiling for hours on end breaking stones to make ends meet.  While I’ve heard this story, the reality of this situation hit me today while I was one my walk.  I stopped at a bridge over the riverbed, where I saw about 15 girls no more than 15 years old down amongst the rocks.  It is here where they work every day for 10-12 hours breaking stones in the hot sun.  After a long day’s work these girls will collect there stones, and put them into a large pile.  Ultimately, they fill up a large bag with their stones and bring them into town where they can hope to fetch as much as 70 rupees.  For those of you don’t feel like jumping on Google to see the conversion rate that is roughly 70 cents.  Then I took time to think about what I was doing when I was 10 or 11 years old…things like going to soccer practice, playing video games, and hanging out at Chucky Cheese.   I have never been one to reward laziness, or endorse handouts, but at this moment I finally experienced what Maggie felt 7 years ago.  Maybe everyone isn’t destined for a six figure salary and a corner office, but at the very least I would like to think that we can provide a basic education and quality of life for some of the worlds most vulnerable and at risk individuals.  That we still live in a world where children are forced to work in a dry riverbed for 10 hours a day to achieve their most basic needs is an extremely sobering reality.  At the very least, Kopila Valley is providing hope for the 300 children involved, that they can escape this life that many of their peers are forced to endure…I know the likelihood of eradicating childhood poverty sounds a bit idealistic, but for the lives of these children it has become a reality.  Which triggered thoughts of a story I’m sure many of you have heard, but seems very fitting to me in this situation:
"One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, "I'm saving these starfish, Sir".
The old man chuckled aloud, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, "It made a difference to that one!"
Dry Riverbed with Piles of Stone
Stone Pile...Sold for 70 rupees
I was asked before I left whether I thought this experience would change, me, and having been here for a month I can say with certainty that the answer is yes.  In addition to providing a perspective that I would never see in the United States, I’ve also been forced to grow into this role quickly.  As I sit here typing, I’m looking down from the third floor of the home at a young girl (probably 5 or 6).  Just the other day, I was playing Frisbee at the school with her during the afternoon.  I usually go over from 4-6 and the kids all know that I will be there eagerly waiting.  Unfortunately, a couple of days ago, the girl I was playing with decided to take a few seconds away from Frisbee to go on the monkey bars.  Thinking nothing of it, I tossed the Frisbee to another child and continued on with my afternoon.  That was until about 30 seconds later, when I heard the most unbelievable scream. …Since my arrival I’ve learned that some children are criers, and some are not.  Well, this girl is not a crier, and immediately I knew something was wrong.  Hearing the scream, I sprinted to the monkey bars to see what was wrong.  One of the older boys kept telling me: “she broke her arm, she broke her arm”.  Not knowing exactly what to do, I ran through some basic checks that I learned while wrestling to examine for injuries.  Initially, I couldn’t really identify an issue until I turned her arm over, and reality hit.  She had completely snapped the bone in her forearm.   It was then, that I sent one of the older boys racing for help back at the house.  Thankfully, Tope (the co-director of the house) was available to drive to the hospital.  2.5 hours and 4,500 rupees later she had a cast on and was taken home.  Her parents are both HIV positive, and did not have the means to pay for the cast, which was paid for my Tope.  Not to say, I’ve become some extremely mature or wise, person, however, having been here it is easy to see how and why the children are forced to grow up so fast.  Amazingly just one day after this fall, she was back playing in a little sewage stream around the corner from the home.
I feel like my blog posts typically begin with one sobering item, followed by a more uplifting piece of information so I will do my best not to disappoint today!  As I mentioned during my last post, exams are done!  To celebrate we really had the dance party to end all dance parties on Saturday night.  We just acquired some awesome new speakers which made for the best dance party ever.  On top of that we Safira and Kelly picked up cookies, juice, and decorations for the big fiesta.  We literally danced for two hours straight, and by the time it ended I was spent.  I learned some killer new moves, which were great for the Hindi songs.  In addition, I introduced some spins and some of my moves to the group.  While they may have been learned in the frat basement, the kids loved them, and we spun the night away.  Also, I know Gangnam style has been big for a while now, and people are probably getting sick of it…but we just heard it for the first time over here and it was superb.  After a day of practicing the horse dance, we chose that song to conclude with for the night.
End of Exams Dance Party!
Hope all is well at home…and that the next month is as rewarding as the first (ideally with a few less illnesses and bugbites!)