We are in the garden of the famous Kathmandu Guest House watching artist Binod Gautam engaged in slate mandala stone carving. This is an ancient Nepali art form. This particular carving depicts 5 different positions of the Buddha, along with the auspicious symbols. It is lovely to see and support this ancient art, which has been taught in its present form from one generation to the next.
From our friend Eileen Spillane's blog The Balanced Nurse, about her experiences during Anatta's trip to Nepal.
Two weeks in Nepal, two days of travel over 7,000 miles - I am happy to be home in San Francisco. As an outdoor enthusiast, I resonated with a quote from Lonely Planet's Nepal guide "while you first come to Nepal for the mountains, you return here for the people". I most certainly will be returning to Nepal for the people and I just might squeeze in a trek next time.
Exploring Nepal is not for the delicate traveler. The smog can do a number on the lungs, you need tissues for the encounter with the porcelain hole in the ground and you might be challenged with a stomach bug here and there. The flights aren't cheap and it takes a very long time to get there. Due to political challenges, India has placed a blockade on fuel coming into Nepal. This meant no heat in some of our hotels but for Nepalis it impacts their daily lives for cooking, heat and transport with outrageous lines at gas stations. We resorted to buying fuel on the black market, which can be up to three times the normal price
I had the added adventure of losing my luggage early in the trip. We literally watched it fly off the roof of the van while we in it. We turned around within minutes and it was scooped up by someone likely dealing with the economic hardship of post earthquake Nepal. I got a lesson in letting go and in return, I received a stylish wardrobe from my new friends.
I have never been surrounded by more productive people committed to improving the lives of others. As health care providers we often reap the benefits of feeling the impact we have with patients. Now imagine that ten fold. When I mentioned to Cornelia, the founder of Anatta that I climbed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, she had also done that but only after building toilets for the indigenous people. So it should be no surprise to me that in addition to working full time as a neuropsychologist, sometimes talking to patients during an awake craniotomy, she created a non-profit called Anatta World Health and Education Outreach. Anatta is like an octopus with tentacles reaching out and sending love to the people of Nepal.
When Cornelia's team at Anatta partners up with Bodhi Sakyadhita's team at CEBA and Venerable Metteyya, they are a serious force to be reckoned with. A monk usually lives a peaceful life meditating in a monastery supported by the community. Ven. Metteyya is part monk, part super hero. With a soft spoken voice, a smile as wide as Nepal and a gentle disposition, he ingratiates everyone he encounters. This dynamic trio is committed to improving the lives of the people of Nepal, with a strong emphasis on health and education. Many children complete school at grade 6 in Nepal. Traditional Nepal culture does not value education for girls, leaving few opportunities for girls, in which they are arranged to marry young while others are bought into human trafficking or prostitution. Through Anatta, these children have the opportunity to go to college.
This year, four young women will graduate as auxiliary Nurse Midwives. I had the honor to work with them and share stories of preeclampsia, hemorrhage and c-sections. I told them of a trend in San Francisco in which women eat the placenta and they shared that some villagers put cow dung on their babies umbilical cords - something they are educating the villagers to change and hopefully improve infant mortality.
In addition to the medical and dental clinic, CEBA sponsored a vet clinic and treated local street animals. We also had the opportunity to see the continued efforts of earthquake relief through Global Karuna during the catastrophic earthquake last April, which killed over 8,000 people. I learned how complicated rescue efforts were due to red tape created by the Nepali government, the UN and so called disaster relief experts as they debated over who would win the contract - all while people were dying under rubble.
While the quake was nine months ago, the rescue efforts are far from over. As a Westerner, we thought we were troopers wearing our wool hats to bed and snuggling up with a hot water bottle. An unheated hotel is quite a bit warmer than living on the side of the road in a tent village. There is much more work needed to be done and we can be part of that solution.
If you feel called to help in the continued earthquake relief, you can donate through Global Karuna here
If you are like me and appreciate the freedom your country affords you to be educated and marry who you want, when you want and if you want and you would like to support the work of Anatta through training nurses, building a community hospital, supporting education of boys and girls or supporting an orphanage, you can donate through Anatta here
Come join Anatta next year, make deep friendships and cry all the way home!
These nuns are from Bigu, located near earthquake epicenter. They were evacuated and relocated by our Global Karuna team when they could not receive any assistance. The two senior nuns walked for 2 days to access a bus to Kathmandu where they finally found the Global Karuna tent city. Here we are welcomed to their safe temporary home, and enjoy a special yak cheese treat - Chirpee! Stay tuned for details on rebuilding their Gompa Village.
Some of the faces from our 2 day medical clinic in the remote village of Purnihawa, near Lumbini Nepal. Our team treated 850 people in two busy days!
Venerable Metteyya explains the incredible relief efforts following the devastating earthquakes beginning in April 2015.
Cornelia, Rockey, and Donna in Thamel, Kathmandu - ready to head out!
Enjoying the beautiful sights, smells, and tastes of Kathmandu before we travel to Lumbini.
Dear Friends: Anatta is very excited to announce our first "reverse scholarship" recipient. Natalie will be joining our Nepal trip this December to fulfill a dream and begin a lifelong adventure. Learn more about her and help us pay it forward! You can donate here.
Natalie Hernandez is a born humanitarian. Raised in what most would consider a disadvantaged urban environment, she has been through a lot in her 17 years. Natalie nevertheless has a kind, joyful nature, and a deep rooted desire to help others. She has already taken on a leadership role as part of the "Leaders in Training" program at the Trail Blazers Camp in Northern New Jersey for the past three summers. The program has a long history rooted in tradition and value building. Next year Natalie hopes to be a counselor. While she has no material possessions to give, she is ready to wholeheartedly devote her time and energy to relieve the suffering of those less fortunate.
Natalie shares her story:
My name is Natalie and I’m a 17-year-old senior in high school from Elizabeth, New Jersey. I have always had the desire to travel; to experience a new world. And as someone who immensely cares for global welfare, I’ve always felt the need to travel with a purpose. Helping members of a disadvantaged community and making a difference in their lives has been a mission in my life that I would like to accomplish. Unfortunately, because of critical financial reasons, my family has not been able to support me in a dream like this. It is something that my family has convinced me to believe that would just have to happen “someday”, when I have my own career and make enough money.
But that day could be now.
I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to volunteer in Nepal with Anatta World Health and Education Outreach in December. When I met with the founder of Anatta, and learned about the various projects and programs that Anatta has started and supports, I was hooked. I was amazed that this small, non-profit organization has dedicated efforts focused on education and healthcare, the most important necessities that many communities in Nepal lack. Every community should have the right to receive an education despite gender. And every community deserves to be provided with adequate health care. Anatta helps bring these needs into communities and it would be dream come true for me to help in these efforts.
Going to Nepal will allow me to directly help in activities and projects with the Peace Grove Nunnery, Karuna’s Girls College, and more in Lumbini, Nepal. As well as help in the capital, Kathmandu, with supporting earthquake relief projects and the Dadagaun Orphange for children.
It’s very surreal to think that it can actually happen; my vision of traveling to a country and helping in any and every way I could is finally here. I am certain that with this trip to Nepal I will bring all of my dedication, love and kindness to every person I encounter.