An Update From 2017-2018 Operations Fellow, Sarah Helms
Hello hello from Oda. My name is Sarah Helms, and I am the 2017-2018 Health+Operations Fellow. I heard about the Oda Foundation via Professor Hess' Social Entrepreneurship class at Washington & Lee - as a French/pre-medicine major, it was the only business class I took! After working in marketing+operations in Washington DC for two years, the Oda Foundation had stayed on my mind - such an impactful and community-driven organization, and the chance to be involved in community health as I was redirecting towards med school. Now here I am, in Nepal.
So far, I wear a few different hats - helping John (Oda Foundation's founder) and Karan (Oda Foundation's Nepali director) with expense and operations updates, teaching health class and the six-year- old class at our tuition school, and working on a research project that can combine with one of our preventative health programs. For a first blog post, though, here is a window into some moments in Oda...
Wild kids!! Those smiles!! I've been teaching Rainbow Class, which is just three days a week (compared to the other tuition classes, which are 6 days a week), and mostly 6 year-olds just learning English. Rainbow Class captures more kids at a younger age into our tuition program, and also helps them get used to being in a respectful classroom. I integrate music, movement, and real objects - anything that holds a 6-year-old attention span. We've been working on "green" and "leaf," and I always bring a leaf into the classroom for us to look at. The other day one of the boys, Sudesh, came up to me with a pretty substantial foliaged twig and said, "Gahween weef!" I was like, "Yeah!!"
When helping in the pharmacy, or talking with the clinicians, there have been so many times I've thought to myself, "What would this patient have done without our medical clinic here??," especially with something that would be so worrisome in the States - continued bleeding after a pregnancy, or a child's recurrent high fever. And then I recall - the medical clinic is here, and so this community does receive care. At least for 40,000+ individuals, there is a dependable place where they can be assured of relief and fair treatment. But this photo in the medical hall also captures a common sight in Oda - the boy at the end of the hall, carrying his younger brother
back out of the clinic. Oda's population is 45% children (under age of 18), and as soon as kids here are able, they help take care of their younger siblings.
I love the feeling of working side-by- side with someone to prepare a meal, so helping out in the Oda kitchen has meant a lot to me. I taught Narendra, one of the CMAs (Community Medical Assistant), how to make banana pancakes (bananas are precious here!), and in turn he taught me how to cook a chicken, complete with plucking the feathers. Everything cooks together - feet, head, nothing wasted. We saved the blood, letting it congeal with rice, then grinding them together into a fine paste to add to the cooking chicken. Sani Kanchi, one of the staff cooks, has also been teaching me how to make roti (Nepali flatbread).
This photo may not look like much, but this was the moment right before we hiked around an active landslide that was blocking the road to Oda. We'd stopped alongside a line of buses and trucks pulled alongside the road, and stood with everyone watching astonishing sections of the mountainside crumble and crack down onto the road. I remember that moment we looked at each other - ok, we're hiking all the way around this, then! We bolstered ourselves with peanut butter and raisins, and got moving. It was an adventure, of course, but also the reality of a developing country. The landslide blocked the Karnali Highway for 10 days, preventing our medical clinic from receiving needed shipments of medicines, and preventing buses full of people, trucks full of supplies, from reaching their destinations. Luckily we were able to meet up with Karan Singh, Oda Foundation's Nepali Director, and make our way to the other side.
We go to bed around ten and all wake up around six. This is the view out my window, every morning. There aren't really words for a few minutes with this view every day. And then quickly the day is full - teaching, writing grants, meeting with women in the community, running down to the river with students... but there are, of course, moments to recharge. I am reading a few books, but especially I have listened to David Whyte's "On Being" podcast a few times. So much that he says applies to being in Oda, but one thing that describes Oda itself - "Human genius lies in the geography of the body and its conversation with the world, the meeting between inheritance and horizon. In the ancient world, the word genius was not so much used about individual people, it was used about places, and almost always with the word loci, so genius loci meant 'the spirit of a place.' And we all know what the intuitively means, we all have favorite places in the world...it's this weatherfront of all of these qualities that meet."
All in all, being a part of the Oda Foundation's work is amazing. So many projects are just getting off the ground - health classes, Aaron teaching at the government school, clinician-patient dialogues, more women's community groups - we (the three Fellows) are all excited to share more on the Foundation Blog as it all develops. All my best from Oda!! Thank you for reading.