Observations from Nepal
The remarks and observations below were written by Kirk Adamson following his recent trip to Nepal. Kirk is an Oda Board member and longtime friend of Oda Founder John Christopher.
I recently visited JC in Nepal with a friend of mine and wanted to send around some of my thoughts and observations. Despite being very familiar with the charity, seeing it first hand was really eye opening as it was a truly unique cultural experience.
Oda is very, very remote
After flying into Kathmandu, you stay in the City for the night. The next day, you need to take a 1.5 hour flight to Birendranagar, the capital of the Surkhet District (1 of 75 districts in Nepal). Then you need to drive 5-6 hours on a single lane, partially paved road without guard rails through the mountains where most of the time you drive along a steep cliff meandering along blind corners every 50 feet or so. It was terrifying. You then stay for the night in Manma, the capital of the Kalikot District, at a very basic hotel. The next morning, you drive for one more hour and arrive at a small village along the road. You then hike for 3 hours, with 2 river crossings and 2 mountain crossings to arrive in Oda. Saying Oda is remote doesn't do it justice. You are off the grid.
I was shocked to see JC's original accommodations the first year he lived in Oda
The size of the mud floored room John lived in was probably 35 square feet with <5 ft ceilings. He lived in the village among the c.2,000 inhabitants of Oda. While his current accommodations on the second floor of the health center are still very basic, it is infinitely better than what he first experienced.
JC and the Oda community have a strong affinity toward one another
There is a mutual respect, appreciation and friendship. The community is very grateful for JC's social impact on their community. JC clearly loves the community, knows literally everyone's name and has a unique connection with the c.1,200 children under the age of 10 that live in Oda (c.60% of the population).
The Oda Foundation is really a community development platform rather than just a health clinic
While the health clinic takes the lion share of the funding, JC has built the nicest classroom in the Kalikot District. The classroom has a computer specifically created for the developing world pre-loaded with everything on Wikipedia + various teaching tools so it doesn't require an internet connection. It has a local Nepali teacher (+ an American volunteer) who teach 3 sections of students in the mornings from 6-9am and 3 sections of students in the afternoons from 5-8pm (c.300 students per day, 6 days a week). Just before class starts, you see students running from all directions to make it to class on time. While the health clinic is more tangible and easier to quantify, the classroom helps with community buy-in and support for the Foundation as the local schools struggle with inadequate resources and teacher absenteeism.
Karan appears to be a great manager to run the projects in Oda
This transition is well underway and will help free up capacity for JC to plan out the next steps for the charity.
Hope that's a helpful summary of my thoughts on the trip.