As a few of you personally know, and as I am positive many of you might imagine, Oda is a beautiful place. It is nestled among towering, yet forgiving, green hills; a calm and welcoming river runs just below it, and every night the Milky Way struts its stuff from above it. At no moment are you without a panoramic view of unfettered beauty, the kind of beauty so rare to find living in the same quarters as mankind. Oda’s pure and natural magnificence, however, is not the reason that I am here; nor is it the reason, without wanting to speak for him, that John created The Oda Foundation in the first place.
In my humble and still very early-on-opinion, it seems as though there is a beauty in Oda that far surpasses the eye; a beauty that remains present on the foggiest of days and the cloudiest of nights. In this village there is a radiance that glows from its very own people; an internal beauty so far surpassing its enviable environs that words can only hope to crack the surface.
In August I spoke with John over the phone about the prospects of joining his team in Oda. In the midst of our conversation I asked him a question to the tune of, “How did you end up in this particular village?” His answer was, paraphrasing, “It was an emotional connection.” Now, those of you who know John know there is no way his answer capped off at five words. And you’re certainly right; his answer was nothing shy of a short novel, but when he summed it up as, “an emotional connection,” it was those five words that stuck with me.
I am just now starting to see the depth behind those five words. I’d like to say that I am becoming attune to the swirling personalities and endearing characters that are to be listed as first and second in Oda’s ingredient list. What follows them are ingredients of great importance: the medical facility, the classroom, the office - and of physical description: the hills, the river, the jungle and sky; yet they are not Oda’s defining ingredients.
I’ve only had a short 35 days to meet and appreciate the personalities and characters that define Oda. In that time we’ve shared meals, gone on a camping trip, spent many hours in the classroom together, walked around the village, shook hands, held hands, played games. We’ve engaged in hundreds of choppy conversations, going back and forth from English to Nepali, this facial expression to that, confusion to comprehension. We’ve shared laughs and tea and gum that goes dry too quickly. We’ve shared knowledge of one another’s language and culture and we ultimately share an enthusiasm to cultivate that emotional connection.
Don’t we all want to see happiness, health and success brought to those with whom we share that emotional connection? It has appeared to me that, yes, take out the context and the fluffy stuff and you have an INGO working in an extremely remote and extremely poor region of Nepal, a region that so perfectly qualifies for such work.
But, push aside the black and white assessment and you have one man who was captivated by the human spirit that could be found in such a region’s village. You have an INGO that from the top down, from its founder to its fellows, continues to develop (both consciously and subliminally) an emotional connection with the inhabitants of that village. And it seems as though it was inevitable.
Out here we are driven by a force that is hard to define, a transcendental energy if I had to give it a try; for a human connection is a human connection, no matter where you are on this tiny, pale blue dot.
Nick, Jade and I arrived in Kathmandu a little more than a month ago—how time has flown! Our stay in Kathmandu provided a much needed introduction to Nepali language and culture but I have to admit that Kathmandu is very different than I expected. The city’s pollution is oppressive—from noise to physical to water to air—and I found that walks around the city were almost unbearable. It was also really sad to see the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in their current state of disrepair. However, it is hard to tease out how much of it is a result of the earthquake, if the overcrowding was mostly caused by the city’s population boom after the nation’s 10-year civil war and/or how much is engendered by governmental factors and Nepal’s place as one of the poorest countries on Earth. Despite the hurdle of confronting my expectations versus the reality of Kathmandu, the intensive Nepali classes made the time in the capital well worth it. Although I am far from fluent, my ability to understand the sentence structure of Nepali as well as individual word comprehension has paid serious dividends. So all in all, malaai kusi laggyo (I am happy) with our time spent in Kathmandu taking Nepali language classes.
So after finishing up three weeks of class in Kathmandu, Nick, Jade and I finally began our journey to meet John in Manma (the district capital of Kalikot) and then trek onto Oda. To reiterate the sentiment proposed in previous blog posts, the journey was long and at times frightening. My favorite part though was when we finally arrived in Sarabara and began our trek up to the site of the Oda Foundation. A smile didn’t leave my face the entire 2-hour hike as so much anticipation built up to this day—about a year of conversing with John in fact! After two suspension bridges, two steep uphill climbs, and a host of spectacular views, we reached Oda right around dusk. The first thing that struck me was that Oda is so peaceful. Three of Oda’s communities spread behind the health center (numbering to around 2,000 people) and the site lies on flat ground amidst a sea of towering and vibrantly green mountains. It was all I hoped for and more.
The first thing I did the next morning, and continue to do every morning, is open my windows wide to some incredible views (see photos above). I truly do feel “off the grid” here but in the best possible way. Nick, Jade and I are some of the only people in the world to behold these sights—how ridiculous is that?! The company of the Oda staff and the relationships I am beginning to build with the people, this place is really starting to feel like a second (or third, as Nick and Jade can attest to John and my endless talking about the great Washington and Lee University) home. Despite witnessing a lot of hardship this year working in the health clinic, it is easy to see the love, gentleness and tenacity of the people who work day in and day out to shape the mountains to provide for their families. The fact that the roads that transported us here are carved out of the highest mountain range in the world and that people are able to toil among the rocks and carry back-breaking loads to survive makes me wonder what people can’t accomplish. Hopefully in the next 50 years, we can add eradicating extreme poverty to the list!
So far in Oda my days have been devoted to shadowing the various CMA (Community Medical Assistants) in the clinic, hiking, maintaining Sean T’s Insanity workout regimen in the most unlikely of places, hand-washing clothes, entering patient data into a massive spreadsheet, reading and most of all, getting to know and practicing Nepali with the Oda staff. After shadowing Surita in the pharmacy, I got a sense for just how many patients the Oda Foundation serves everyday—an unbelievable 70+ appointments! Since then, I have seen patients and helped fill prescriptions for diseases we only read about in textbooks in the U.S. such as ringworm, scabies and dysentery to name a few. My most impactful experience thus far was watching Nerendra stitch up a woman’s ear after a painful bout of domestic abuse. Despite how heart-wrenching working in the health center can be, I only have to think about the 15,000 patients that the Oda Foundation has served to turn my mood around. I also only have to walk about 50 steps to the classroom to witness dozens of smiling Oda kids learning English and shouting “hi, how are you?” along my path.
From the breathtaking environment to the shyly friendly people, I am enjoying my time at Oda immensely. The relationship that John has built with the community is inspiring and every conversation with him seeps with his love of the people of Kalikot. Our “workplace environment,” if you can call it that, is marked by laughter and compassion; I have to say that although people may call me crazy, I haven’t missed the Internet or home at all (sorry mom and dad!). In the next week or so I look forward to beginning my various projects on preventative health strategies, creating an Oda Women’s Health pilot program and researching traditional medicine as well as continuing my ongoing project in the Monitoring and Evaluation arm of the organization. Stay tuned for more on those projects in the near future!
It is very fitting that I’m writing this brief update from a rock known by everyone here as “Purka Dunga”. For anyone that has been to the project – arriving at Puka Dunga mean’s you’ve made it - it is a welcoming site on any trip to Oda, and marks the end to the final ascent into the village.
Just moments ago, as I was finally sitting down to reflect on my first week back two of my favorite students, Jowla and Kalasha stopped to say hello. They were on their way up the Mountain with sugar and salt for their family, and were very excited to catch up. It was a conversation similar to many others that I’ve had this week –like reconnecting with an old friend– and while four months have gone by since I was last here I feel like I haven’t missed a beat. Despite the many big differences between my life in Nepal and my life in the US I feel blessed that I am able to seamlessly transition back and forth between the two - and am thrilled to be back on the ground.
I often equate these two parallel lives to books on a shelf. You can put down one book to start an entirely different story, and for the most part as you move from one to the other, things will remain where you left them – There are obvious exceptions to this rule, including major milestones in the lives of family and friends, both happy and sad. But after four years in these very different worlds, both feel like home.
While I miss everyone back home, I am eager to turn my attention back to my Nepali life as we work to expand our reach and impact in the months ahead. We have a number of exciting initiatives planned for the fall, in addition to three new fellows who will arrive later this week. On behalf of our students, patients, and everyone else here – Thank you to everyone at home and abroad who continues to make this progress possible.
Interested in teaching some of the world’s most incredible kids in one of the world’s most beautiful places? We’re looking for an English Fellow to join our team in Nepal and help our “OdaKids” take the next step forward in their education journey. An ideal candidate would be willing to join our team for 5-8 months starting this September. If you or anyone you know is interested use the link below to get more information!
Sarah Wells, Annie Masterson and myself (Tanuja Devaraj) came to Oda, Nepal as part of a global health elective, to complete our four year medical education at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, USA. We had worked with refugees from Nepal in Philadelphia for the past four years providing health care, education and advocacy through a student run organization, Refugee Health Partners. We loved the people from Nepal that we worked with and were eager to see Nepal, come full circle to understanding the culture, background and health challenges of Nepal.
We reached Oda and were immediately welcomed into the Oda Family. For the next three weeks we were at home away from home with Karan Singh and John (founders of Oda) going out of their way to ensure our comfort, Tulki Aunty making sure we were well fed, and the entire Oda community including us in their daily lives.
We shared family style meals in the dining area, took walks around the village, enjoyed our saturdays bathing and doing laundry riverside and had many memorable playtimes with the kids.
We were also fluidly incorporated into the incredible medical work at Oda by the current staff, two doctors Dr. Mim and Dr. Narendra and one pharmacist Sarita. The medical clinic is a 24/7 urgent care facility with a fully stocked pharmacy, two examination rooms, and four hospital beds for short term admissions.
We teamed up Dr.Mim and Dr. Narendra to deliver care to 40-50 patients a day. We took care of a range of clinical presentations from urinary tract infections, lacerations, malnutrition, anemia, gastritis, diarrhea, viral infections, pneumonia to COPD exacerbations. Prior to Oda Foundation, members of Oda and surrounding villages had to travel hours to days on foot to get to the nearest hospital, delaying care and leading to preventable health adversity. With the establishment of Oda Foundation, an infant with pneumonia, a disease that is deadly if not treated early, has timely access to the required antibiotic and a woman with diarrhea which can cause severe ehydration, sepsis and death can now receive the needed IV hydration and IV antibiotics.
We were inspired and impressed by the health care that Oda Foundation is accomplishing. The trust the community and patients place in the organization is palpable and the health outcomes have improved significantly. In addition, Oda Foundation goes beyond providing medicine, whether it is providing eggs (beyond the reach of most individuals) to a severely anemic and malnourished patient, providing funds to support more advanced testing and treatment or making home visits to follow up on a severely ill patient.
Thank you to the entire Oda Family for inviting us and giving us this incredible opportunity to work at Oda Foundation.
After two hours walking from Oda and another two hours on a bus, our team begins our ascent. Up into the mountains - passed herds of pack mules carrying rice, beans and oil, passed communities of mud homes nestled into hillsides, passed children tasked with collecting firewood – and up we climb. The team is not quite as enthusiastic as I am. For most Nepalis that live in this part of the country, walking is a necessity – rarely a leisure activity.
Our research team is hiking to the remote area of Kheen (pronounced “khee-naa”). The journey is long and requires two full days of hiking up and down mountains to reach our destination. The walk to Kheen is breath taking, walking for hours with the snow-capped Himalayan Range as our backdrop. Hiking for 16 hours provides much time for reflection, and I can’t help but feel guilty for enjoying the walk - I will walk into this community once, and walk out once. I will never know the burden of making this journey regularly to survive - or perhaps, even more unfathomable, the idea of never leaving this remote community at all (a reality for many of Kalikot’s girls and women).
When we arrive in Kheen, it seems other worldly. After having spent the previous month interviewing in areas of the district that are either touching the road or are only a few hours from the road, we realize very quickly the difference that this little bit of infrastructure can make. After only a few interviews, the extreme conditions that define this area come into focus – poor/nonexistence healthcare, cultural practices that even in other areas of Kalikot are considered to be “outdated,” and most strikingly, a persistent and debilitating food security crisis.
In an area where the nearest market is two days away, growing food locally becomes a priority. This is the case for the people of Kheen, and yet a subsistence lifestyle is not viable for most families. Some of the survey questions that we ask the women in our study touch on subsistence farming, and the general sentiment is that they just don’t have enough land to grow food on. Even for the few families that have enough land to grow on, Kheen is situated in an area where water is scarce for just about eight months out of the year. The shortage of both water and land leaves most families having to walk the four-day round trip journey to the market to carry the food that their family needs to survive. To break it down a little bit further – this means that an individual has to spend four days walking to carry a bag of rice that will likely only last between one to two weeks. Put simply: it is almost impossible for a family in Kheen to get the food that they need to be healthy.
The children of Kheen show a clear depiction of the problem. In Kheen, I had to stop trying to guess the ages of the children that we met – the one year old that looks like a two month old baby is all too common. Stunted growth and severe nutrient deficiencies of both mother and baby is the norm in Kheen, and contributes to a cycle of malnutrition within households.
Looking back on my experience in Kheen, there is so much more that I want to say – and even more that I am still processing. We recently had a visitor who came to visit Kalikot from Europe, who expressed his surprise by how many people were living in the mountains – “rural density,” he called it. He had expected to see most of the country’s population living in the cities and plain areas, with a few houses scattered throughout the rest of Nepal’s mountain terrain. He was right to be surprised – it is incredible that people can survive out here, and have been doing it for generations. The word remote takes on a new meaning – just using that word alone does not do the reality justice.
Our research team at the conclusion of our trip to Kheen!
The data collection phase of the project is just about complete – next is getting it all organized and analyzed. The goal is with the information that we have collected to create an easily digestible overview of the status of health throughout Kalikot- which will hopefully be used as a tool for groups working in development throughout the district. More to come soon as I chronicle the process and my experiences!
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.
For those of you who don’t know, 2015 was a year unlike any on record for Nepal. While most people know about the April earthquakes that devastated Kathmandu and the surrounding areas, Nepal continues to suffer a more silent emergency due to civil unrest and an unofficial blockade on the Indian border. It was during this year of immense challenges for Nepal that I received an email from Jason Chernock and the incredible team at MedShare. They explained to me that in response to the devastation that Nepal has sustained, the MedShare community united in an effort to provide relief through the donation of medical supplies and equipment. From the very first call with the MedShare team I was impressed by their enthusiasm, candor, and desire to help Nepal. During the summer of 2015 the Oda team worked hand in hand with MedShare to assemble a packing list, facilitate logistics, and deal with regulatory hurdles in order to bring vital medical supplies and equipment to Kalikot.
In November 2015 the hard work put in by the Oda and MedShare team culminated with the arrival of a 40 ft. container of donated medical supplies and equipment. The shipment was greeted with enthusiasm by our team and many of the area’s top district government officials. After several days of distribution, the supplies were almost immediately put to use – both by our health team at the Oda Foundation and by our partners in the local health posts. Since the arrival of the shipment in November, supplies have been distributed to 2 hospitals and 30 partner health posts, which serve over 150,000 Nepali people.
On behalf of everyone in Oda & Kalikot thank you so much for your incredible support. It could not have come at a better time and will continue to provide relief in rural Nepal for months and years to come!
In the remote mountains of Kalikot, an area that faces serious transportation issues due to geographical and infrastructural challenges, the availability of feminine hygiene products is limited, if not totally lacking. This coupled with the low socio-economic status of many of Kalikot’s families, means that the options available for many girls and women to manage their period each month is restricted. Furthermore, in a remote area like Kalikot, methods like disposable pads and tampons become less viable when you consider how waste is disposed of. In Kalikot (and in much of Nepal) there is no landfill or mainstream method of garbage collection and disposal – meaning that all waste that is collected is either discarded around the village - or if there is a more significant amount of waste, set on fire near the home. In a setting such as this for both economical and environment reasons, reusable is better.
The organization Days For Girls is working to address this problem and has developed a reusable maxi-pad kit that has proven to be very effective. With the help of Mia Amicas Globally, and local women’s centers here in Nepal we have been able to bring over 3,000 kits to Oda. In each kit there are two moisture barrier shields which snap around the underwear and hold the pads in place, eight absorbent pads, one pair of underwear, and a cloth drawstring bag to transport your kit.
Over the past year we have distributed nearly 700 kits throughout our area, and just recently traveled to the neighboring community of Pakha to distribute an additional 200. In our most recent disbursement, we travelled to Pakha school and had a 20 minute meeting with the girls in each grade to discuss how to use the kits, and good hygiene practices during menstruation. So far the feedback that we have received has been incredibly positive, and we hope that through continued distribution of these kits communities will begin to see more confident girls and women, and better school attendance.
The Pakha girls with their new kits.
Our team has recently begun to conduct a health survey throughout the district, and a few of the questions that we ask mothers in our interviews pertain to menstruation. While the study has just begun, thus far none of the mothers that we have spoken with use anything to manage blood flow during menstruation. Moreover, almost every mother documented that she does not sleep inside her home during her period. We recognize that we cannot uproot deep-seeded cultural practices and local stigmas overnight – but we hope that our efforts will be a small part of the solution to help girls and women feel more healthy and confident.
One of the most defining characteristics of our community in Kalikot, Nepal is the remoteness of our area. With only one seasonal road passing through the district, the only mode of transportation for many people is on their own two feet. The village of Oda is nestled on a hillside located about 2 hours walking from the main road. This means that in order to bring supplies to the village, family members must make this 4-hour round trip journey with regularity (not to mention that about 75% of our community walk EVERYWHERE in flipflops).
The obvious next question is… how do you run a health clinic in a community that faces such accessibility challenges? This is one of the greatest struggles that the Oda Foundation team has to deal with almost daily – and yet is exactly the reason that it is so critical that we are working where we are. The remoteness of our district and immediate community means that many of the aid organizations that work throughout Nepal, are absent in our region. This in conjunction with the reality that the local government faces issues surrounding accountability and an extremely limited budget, means that there are MASSIVE holes in the services and opportunities that all Nepali people need to maintain their health and well-being.
With regular medicinal, euipment, and food demands, our team works really hard to ensure that we have everything that we need to care for our team and for every patient who passes through our doors. Needless to say – our team and community members have some pretty insane leg muscles!
I just returned from London where we had an incredibly productive week. We garnered a tremendous amount of support for initiatives we are planning to kick off in the coming year and made some great new friends.
The week was highlighted by an event hosted by The Funding Network on Monday evening. The crowd was tremendous, and we received positive support and feedback surrounding an education and outreach program we plan to kick off this month. The Funding Network is an incredible organization, focused on providing necessary funds to get young Non-Profits like Oda off the ground. The support we received, in addition to support from the International Foundation puts us in incredible position to more than double our reach in the coming year. For more information on this program, please see the video below which discusses Oda, where we were, where are are today, and where we are going in the next 12 to 18 months.
In addition to the event, I had the opportunity to meet with some other people and organizations doing amazing work in Nepal including Tobyn Thomas of CAIRN and Kate Yarrow, a good friend and founder of Doctors for Nepal. We’ve been very fortunate to meet and work with some incredible people along the way, and are looking forward to future collaboration!
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!
In addition to spending time with family and friends, while I was home I spent a great deal of time working with a number of people and soliciting advice about the future of our work in Oda. We have a lot of exciting new plans in the works for the organization this coming year. In a couple of weeks we will be kicking off a district-wide outreach and education campaign focused on health education and nutrition for girls and women. We will be monitoring the success of our programs very closely, and hope to see a corresponding reduction in school absenteeism among post-pubescent girls and lower rates of childhood stunting in our community. Through close partnerships with the local government and our local community of amazing women we hope to reach thousands of girls and women across the district!
Special thank you to Oda’s Board and Advisory Board for their continued support, Safira Amsili who will be running point on the outreach program, Cheryl Strauss Einhorn for her guidance, MIAMICA’S Globally for their incredible in-kind contribution of reusable maxi pad kits, and Dr. Shankhar Lohana of the Kalikot District Health Office for his buy-in and support.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful team of supporters - none of this work would be possible without your continued support!
I am getting settled into Kathmandu, but I wanted to pass along a quick personnel update. 2 weeks ago we hired Jagat Thapa, and so far he has been a superstar. Jagat is an HA (Health Assistant), which required 3 years of medical training and is the highest certification short of a full doctor in Nepal. Not only does he speak incredible English, but he really takes the mission to heart and is already making a huge difference. Just the other day, a young girl came in with meningitis, and Jagat monitored her vigorously, making sure that we were doing everything we could to help her. That included visits to her home and phone calls to her parents to make sure she was progressing as expected. In addition to strong report with the people, Jagat has also been invaluable to me. He has taken the lead on data collection and monitoring, and recently accompanied me to the district health office, where he met with Government Officials on Oda’s behalf. In the future we expect Jagat to run point on a community health outreach and education campaign which we are planning in coordination with the district government, I will update more on that soon!
We are thrilled to welcome Jagat to our team, and feel extremely fortunate to have added another piece to an incredible puzzle. I’d also like to thank all of you, without your continued support we would not be able to make hires like this…which are imperative to our work in Nepal. Thank you!
I’ve been meaning to type up more about the people that we work with on a daily basis. To date, I’ve spent so much time looking at per patient costs, the number of avoidable deaths reduced, and the sheer number of patients our little project has been able to take care of… that I have glossed over the stories that make this place so special, it is the people of this place that are so inspiring and it is these people that continually inspire me…much more than any data point could! In light of this, one of my major goals is to better chronicle the people of Oda and their stories.
A great place to start is with a family, and specifically a 20 year old mother, next door that continually inspire me. Usha Malla, is a beautiful, intelligent, and kind hearted neighbor of ours in Oda. When I first arrived in Oda, Usha and her brothers Yaga, Hansa, and Hikmat were 3 of the first people I met. Their warmth, smiles, and dance moves created an instant connection and Hansa, the middle brother is a major reason behind why the project turned towards health. When I first met him, he was a delight despite the scabbies all over his body…And at that time there was next to nothing he could do beyond smile and bear the pain. It was after this first interaction, that I knew we had to focus on health.
Hikmat, Hansa, and Yaga below:
During my first trip I also learned that just a couple months earlier, Usha’s mother had died from an unexpected aneurysm. It wasn’t until a few months later that I learned that their father was dying of COPD, and had just a few more months to live. Despite caring for her brothers, her father, and her young daughter, Usha always took time to come over say hello and help out in our early months.
Following the death of her Father, Usha became the head of the household watching over her daughter Ramita, and her brothers. In the months following the death of her father, she facilitated Hikmat’s move to Kathmandu and Hansa’s move to Kohlpur where they are currently studying. In the face of these challenges, Usha doubled down on her desire to contribute to her community and support our mission.
When we first decided to move to our new facility, Usha was the first person to come forward and immediately offered a portion of her families land for the project. In a community of subsistence farmers, land is an enormous gift. While they did not have much, she wanted to contribute to what was going on in Oda, and gave a significant chuck of land left behind by her father. In response to this act of generosity, we told Usha that she could use some of this land to move her small shop near the hospital. This would allow her take advantage of the people travelling long distances to reach Oda. On a daily basis, when she’s not working the fields or taking care of her daughter Ramita, Usha is cooking chow chow, making tea, and running her small shop to support her family.
Her entrepreneurial spirit, positive attitude, and willingness to help not just her family but the project are just a few of the reasons I admire and respect her and her family so much. Despite such enormous personal loss, Usha continues to be a source of optimism and perseverance and whenever I’m feeling discouraged I can look to her.
It has been a busy couple of days, but it is so great to be back in Oda! I am currently stuck in the district capital due to rain, so I wanted to take this time to pass along a few quick updates from the trip out here. The transition to Oda has been one of the easiest yet, as I was accompanied by my good friend Peter Lawrence who also happens to be the chair of the Oda Foundation Advisory Board. The trip from Kathmandu to Oda was a little bit hectic due to a huge shutdown in Western Nepal, but with a little help from some friends, we were able to move through the country with relative ease.
To deal with the shutdown we were helped at every step of the journey by Police Escorts in the Surkhet, Dailekh, and Kalikot Districts. Fortunately after a couple of years on the ground, our relationships are strong enough to call in favors when we need them!
Upon arriving in Manma we went directly to the district Hospital, where Karan was waiting with his wife (one of our CMA’s) Sarita and their new baby boy. The timing could not have worked out better, as their son was born just hours before my arrival… I am so happy that I was able to be there with my Partner on such a special day!
After a day in Manma we made the Journey to Oda where we worked our way up the mountain slowly with Sarita, Karan, and a gaggle of other well wishers tagging along to greet Peter and Karan’s new baby. Upon arriving in Oda we were met with another army of people - I was flooded with happiness seeing everyone again after several months away in the US.
As for Oda Medical, things are running better than when I left! On our first day in Oda, Peter spent the day in the clinic with Mim Karki, and saw as 48 people came in through our doors over the course of the day, coming from near and far to receive care from our team.
I plan to organize my thoughts and takeaways from the return trip in much more cogent fashion when I return to Oda after this storm! I will also be including a big update about what was accomplished over the last 4 months in America, and the exciting things we have planned for the coming year.
Thank you all for your continued support of our work…without you none of this would be possible. Until then, Hi from Oda!