There are 16 women living and working at Her Farm right now. Though they were also badly shaken by the April 25th earthquake, and Her Farm had sustained considerable damage as well, they jumped into action for the entire Mankhu community. Teams were sent out to assess damages in the village and phone calls were made to arrange to bring truckloads of food and tarpulins for the immediate needs of the entire village. Within a day these women had arranged for food and temporary shelter supplies for the entire village. Her Farm quickly became the hub of support and information for the entire community. A solar system was obtained and put to use for villagers to charge cell phones so they could contact relatives in other villages. An inventory of who needed what was compiled and all arrangements made to get the most necessary items to the village asap. Six families moved into housing at Her Farm as they'd lost their homes and a number of young girls from the village were brought to Her Farm with a request from the parents to look after them until they could arrange for shelter. These women were the rock of the community and selflessly gave their all to secure the needs of everyone in the village.
Be sure to visit the link below for video of the earthquake and the women of Her Farm in action providing help. You may also visit www.herfarmnepal.org and meet the women of Her Farm.
The village where Her Farm is located has a population of roughly 300 people. The village, Mankhu, sits at the midpoint between the town of Madav Besi and the larger village of Goganpani. Both Madav Besi and Goganpani have government health posts, Mankhu does not. The residents of Mankhu must walk to one of these locations for any healthcare needs. What's important to know about that is the conditions of the walk itself. If you are a strong, fit hiker with only a daypack, you can walk the rough and rocky trails either one hour uphill to Goganpani or one hour downhill to Madavbesi without much difficulity. However, if you are sick, elderly, injured or pregnant, that's an entirely different matter. Suddenly a brisk walk turns into an ordeal, one that in for the very ill, seriously injured, elderly or women in their third trimester are simply unable to make. No one in Mankhu owns a vehicle and there are no ambulances capable of making it up the rough farm road that leads to these villages. In the summer, the rainy season, the road is completely closed in any event so even if there were a vehicle, Mankhu is not accessible by road at all from late May through early to mid-September. One of the photos attached to this report, from google, gives some idea of the terrain involved.
With the financial help of our donors, and the hard labor of many volunteers, we now have a well equipped health clinic at Her Farm to serve the needs of the people of Mankhu. I'm including a link to short film that's hosted on Vimeo called "The Making of Her Clinic" and urge you to watch it. It's short, but compelling. In just under two minutes you can witness the birth of this health facility as well as the instant success it's become. For the grand opening we held a health camp and in two days over 200 people came for routine health screening. Before we could even fully finish the clinic, villagers were coming for care. One man had cut his finger badly while harvesting rice, an elderly woman was suffering with respiratory distress from an upper respiratory infection and another man had injured his leg. Our local staff and a volunteer doctor who was visiting Her Farm attended to their needs even before the paint was dry on the wall.
The clinic was designed with the help of an OBGYN doctor and has many educational tools for teaching local women about health issues that are specific to them as well as training materials for pregnant women to help them prepare for childbirth and childcare.
I've attached some photos, but they don't do this project justice so again, please view the video. Thank you for helping us bring this clinic to Mankhu. Her Farm is now growing hope, and healthcare in the Himalaya.
A recent volunteer posted the contents of this report and the photographs on her blog. I was moved and inspired by what this young woman had to say and hope you will be as well.
“Look! Look!” Sagun called out as she was pulling me by the wrists. Sagun, one of the little girls on the farm wanted me to watch her as she swayed and twirled to the Nepali pop music that was blasting from the speakers. She giggled as I tried to mimic her moves. Under a blanket of inky blackness stars flirted with us, winking and twinkling light years away while our bodies feverishly moved to catchy local beats…the nightly power outage took effect but priorities are priorities on the farm, and the girls have their iPhones hooked up to large speakers which are then hooked up to a back-up generator. Everyday there are intermittent power outages as a way to conserve energy. Between 7:00pm-8:00pm in the evening the electricity goes out and the generator kicks in. That’s when the music gets turned up to 11 and we dance as though our lives depend on it.
I remember looking up at the night sky, music pumping while everyone on the farm was dancing, feeling like I was on top of the world. I told myself to always remember this moment.
The music eventually slowed down and I felt Kanchan, *Samita’s 4 year old daughter, hug my thighs. She reached her arms up signaling she wanted to be lifted. As she nestled her head against my shoulder, her soft hair brushed against my cheek. I felt myself melt. Her mother was married to a Nepalese police officer that would beat her frequently. I imagine his being an officer gave him a level of power and immunity, though it seems abusers are seldom brought to justice in Nepal anyway. When the good people of the Mountain Fund heard about *Samita’s story they took her and Kanchan in. Since they’ve arrived on the farm I’ve been told they’ve been thriving. When *Samita first arrived on the farm, she was rail thin, shy, and hardly made eye contact. But you would never know that now as she walks tall, yelling in jest, and joyfully dancing. Her body is strong and compact, muscular from having worked on the farm. Put a sickle in her hand and you would not want to mess with this Nepali woman. She embodies strength to me. It’s amazing to hear her story and see how far she’s come in such a short period of time…
There aren’t many possessions these women of the farm have but one of the many things they’re abundant in is love- love for one another, for us clueless volunteers, for their fellow neighbors. The way they play, laugh, and delight in each other’s presence is heartwarming. And we, the lucky volunteers get to soak in and participate in this beautiful exchange. The way they affectionately screech “Didiiiiiiii!!!!”- sister in Nepali, the way they sing in the kitchen together bopping in unison, the way they quietly look at you and give a knowing smile. Their generosity, their kindness, their warmth. It’s impossible not to be touched by it and be ultimately changed somehow.
I woke up early on the 28th, my last day on the farm. I was up on the rooftop taking in the view one last time when I heard the pitter-patter of small feet. It was Sagun with her book bag and homework in hand. She saddled up beside me and I put my arms around her. It’s hard for me to explain but this particular little girl has a direct line to my heart. At 11 she’s the oldest child on the farm. Her father died when she was a baby and her mother is currently working somewhere in the middle east. In essence she is an orphan that has been adopted by The Mountain Fund- her education, food, all of her needs taken care of by the organization. I can only imagine what it feels like to be separated by your mother at such a young age, and then be witness to daily mother-daughter interactions among the other girls and women of the farm…She is well taken care of by the workers of the organization- she is loved, cared for, included in every way. But your mother’s love is something that can never be replicated or substituted…
I felt like in the short time I was at the farm I developed a connection with Sagun that I can’t quite explain. Later I would whisper in her ear that she was my favorite little girl on the farm. She would giggle sheepishly.That morning on the roof I was feeling particularly emotional considering it was my last day. As I had my arms around Sagun I was trying to find the words to let her know how much I’d miss her…but I felt my throat close up and my eyes well. And I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t say it- for her sake. I couldn’t say goodbye or tell her it was my last day. Last thing she needed is a grown up losing it on her. So I looked at her and proceeded to tell her that she was so incredibly intelligent and that she could do anything she wanted to when she got older. I told her to keep up with her studies, to finish school, and keep going. I told her that no matter what people tell her that she had to believe in herself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have enough or that you’re not smart enough- not even yourself. I asked her to promise me this. I know it sounds cheesy, but I meant every word…She nodded her head solemnly. She knew I was leaving…sometimes I felt she was too smart for her own good.
It’s difficult to sum up my experience on the Farm. I finished my volunteering on the 28th, riding a local bus back to Kathmandu with, literally, a chicken on it. I’ve been sitting here in a coffee shop in Thamel trying to find the words…typing and deleting, typing and deleting…sitting in a Nepali version of Starbucks I feel worlds away from the farm- missing my new friends…but I tuck the memories in my heart and know all these connections we make along the journey, no matter how short or long, is what makes life so sweet.
I’ve been trying to allow experiences to come and go and appreciate them for what they are. And when it’s time to let them go understand that it was never for me to own anyway…people, experiences, opportunities they’re all gifts that are part of a greater whole that I’m blessed to experience. It’s like desperately reaching for a feather- in our attempt to seize the feather, in our grasping, we create wind that can push it further away from us. The more grasping done in fear of losing that moment, experience, person, whatever- the further we push that which was never ours to own anyway.Oh, non-attachment, you are a tricky one…
Life is but a practice, I suppose. I find dress rehearsals far more interesting than the actual play, anyway…
Forever grateful for The Mountain Fund and the beautiful people I met along the way. Love you sisters (and brother! Prem-bi!).
(*name has been changed to protect the identity and anonymity of the individual)
photos by the volunteer
The community center at Her Farm is officially open, though we've still some painting and decorating to do. The electronic learning lab is a smash hit. For the first time ever, youth in the village can learn how to use a computer. Teachers from the local school are coming every day to learn as well. We have four regular computers at the moment and the most interest thus far is learning to type and using painting programs. Our fifth computer is a MacMini connected to a large screen TV that is used as part of the English language teaching at the farm and has grammar programs, word programs and teaching tools for classroom use. So far about 12 young people come every morning before school and a similar number after school each day to use the computers. Five teachers from the local school as well.
In addition to being a great learning resource the community space has been extremely popular for FIFA World Cup. Everyone in Nepal is crazy about the game and the 42 inch LED TV has been getting a nightly workout as our neighbors gather to watch the world cup.
I've mentioned in prior reports how Her Farm needs to replace an entire family support structure. For a woman to leave even a bad relationship means cutting all family ties and the support that comes from those ties. Take our newest addition to the Her Farm family, Kalpana. Kalpana is 23 years old and has a three, almost four year old daughter. She married a man who happens to be in the army when she was quite young. She gave birth to a daughter, which is a problem for a Nepali woman, so much so that in fact her husband arrived home one day with a "second wife." While technically not legal in Nepal, the second wife business still takes place quite often. As Kalpana had not produced a male heir, the man asserted his "right" to take another wife in the expecation that she would produce a boy-child. That relagates Kalpana to being more-or-less a servant to the new wife, a domestic employee in her own home. She had the good sense to reject that arrangement and move to Her Farm. To do so however meant giving up family ties and support. To that end, our community center is an integral part of creating a new family for her. When complete, which it will be in the next month, it will have a large kitchen on the first floor (right side of photo) that will serve up hot meals to the many chldren who come daily for English classes and tutoring at Her Farm plus additional classrooms and including a large meeting hall for community events.
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