Hi Everyone. Today's post was written by our new community health fellow, Safira. She will be working with us for the next 7 months, focused predominately on early childhood and maternal health and nutrition programs. Expect to see updates from her work in the weeks and months to come!
I have been living in Oda for six days now, and I am starting to settle into the pace of life here in the western mountains of Nepal. John’s descriptions and pictures have not done this place justice – not for a lack of trying, but it is truly impossible to accurately capture the many nuances that make this place special. BUT, in spite of this impossibility, I will try my best.
My arrival in Kalikot was greeted by a welcoming party of what seemed to me to be the entire village of Oda. The road to Kalikot is long and winding, and just when you think the journey is over, you arrive in the town of Sarabada where you must then leave the road for a narrow walking path and 2 and half hours of hiking. John and I were met at the road by about 25 people, all ready to make the trek with us and help carry the supplies and medicine that we had brought with us. John and I spent the entirety of the walk surrounded by a group of the sweetest 12-15 year olds, who kept trying out English phrases like “please walk slowly” and “don’t slip!” – phrases that John had clearly taught them after making this same journey countless times.
The village of Oda is situated on the top of a steep slope, and one of the first sites that you see as you make it over the hill is the Oda Clinic. The little compound is nestled into the side of the hill, blending in with the green backdrop of the village behind it. One of John and Karan’s priorities during the construction phase of the building was to ensure that the final product did not stand out too much in comparison to the structures that surround it. They succeeded – creating what feels to me like a little sanctuary in the middle of the mountains.
The village rhythm here in Oda moves slowly, and I feel like after only a few days I have fallen in sync with relative ease. My first week in Oda has been dedicated to getting to know the team and the surrounding community – and internally taking stock of the way that things work in this remote part of the country. The Oda Foundation team has shown me endless levels of warmth and patience, always willing to talk me through things that I do not understand, waiting without complaint as I slowly and ungracefully translate my thoughts into Nepali words. John and Karan have truly done an amazing job in choosing a group of people who not only have been very successful in their specific roles, but also seem to be incredibly supportive of one and other. How lucky I am to be team member number 10.
Working with the medical staff this week has renewed my energy for the work that I will be doing while I am here. In the district of Kalikot a striking 54% of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth as a result of poor nutrition. A year ago, I was fortunate enough to work with the US based nutrition NGO 1,000 Days, and ever since have been fascinated by the impact that certain seemingly basic behavior changes can have on the life span and quality of life of young children, specifically in the context of developing countries. This has inspired the direction of my work this year, which will be to design a maternal and early childhood nutrition program, with the goal of reaching mothers and babies throughout the surrounding community. This project is still in the very early stages of development, but I think I have successfully accomplished the most important step, which is to surround myself with unbelievably bright and passionate people. More updates to come!