American Himalayan Foundation

AHF was founded over 30 years ago to help people in the Himalaya who were in need and had no one else, and that principle still guides us every day. What we do is basic: we make change - positive, tangible change - happen. We build and support schools and students; train doctors and fund hospitals; care for children and elders; plant trees and restore sacred sites. We help Tibetans rebuild and sustain their culture both in exile and in Tibet.
Jul 28, 2016

Hope for the future of Nepal

School continues, despite everything
School continues, despite everything

We walked under big mango trees through the courtyard of what had been the most beautiful school in all of Kavre. But no more. 26 of the 32 classrooms had been demolished by the earthquake, and bricks were still, a year later, piled up alongside stacks of window frames and debris.

The students were still coming, though, to learn in temporary bamboo and tin-sheet classrooms. We headed to one of the few rooms still standing to meet with 20 SGT students in senior high school and college. Stories poured out of them about the uncertainty of their lives in the past year—living in makeshift shelters, lost family members, little food. But we could hear their resolve as they described staying in school, despite the challenges.

I asked each of the girls around my table to think about what they would like to change about their country. One said: so many women have children over and over because they must bear a son. I’d like to change that. The next said: I’d like to change the caste system. Another: I would like to build good schools for all the children in Nepal. And one of the alums: I want to pass the test so I can work in government and change it from the inside.

One girl asked if she could sing us a song she had written. She had a lovely voice, and as she sang the room fell silent. Aruna was teary. I asked her to translate, and she said the song was about labor migration. Nepali people are poor and they go far away in planes under blue skies to work, but they come home in black coffins. That’s what this girl wanted to change.

Big questions for teenagers. And thoughtful answers. It gave us hope for the future of Nepal, even as it broke our hearts about the present. 

Dr. Aruna Uprety, moved to tears by the song
Dr. Aruna Uprety, moved to tears by the song
May 17, 2016

Syabru: rebuilding a village

Pasang weaving baskets before the earthquakes
Pasang weaving baskets before the earthquakes

Pasang and his wife, Lhakpa, have lived as refugees in the border settlement of Syabru for over 50 years—just 20 minutes away from the Rasuwa/Kyirong border. It has never been an easy life, but the last year has been one of the most challenging.

In February 2015, during my visit to Syabru, Pasang could not keep up with the demands for his hand woven baskets. “Tibetan Losar is near and so everyone wants my baskets to decorate,” he said. I was lucky to get one for my mother, who was pleased for this and my safe return.

But the two earthquakes of April 25 and May 12 last year brought down every home in the settlement, including Pasang and Lhakpa’s. When I revisited them in November, they, like many, were living in a shelter in the fields.

Thankfully, new earthquake-resistant homes are beginning to come up, one by one. We hope to complete rebuilding of these safer homes for Pasang and Lhakpa, and other families in the region, soon so they will not have to go through another monsoon and winter in the tents.

Lhakpa and Pasang inside their temporary shelter
Lhakpa and Pasang inside their temporary shelter
New earthquake-resistant homes being raised
New earthquake-resistant homes being raised
A new settlement of safer homes is coming together
A new settlement of safer homes is coming together
May 2, 2016

Far and wide: HRDC's network of amazing doctors

Bishal (far left) and his grateful family
Bishal (far left) and his grateful family

Three years ago, Bishal and some friends went swimming in the nearby river. In a freak accident, the riverbank collapsed and buried him. In the rush to free Bishal, his friends dragged him out, unknowingly dislocating his spine.

“I felt flushed, very scared and I couldn’t move my legs,” Bishal remembers. He was rushed to the local government hospital where he spent the night, only to be told by the doctors there was no treatment available for him; he was paralyzed from the waist down. For the next 20 days, Bishal remained bedridden.

A relative took Bishal to a nearby private hospital for a second opinion and, knowing its fees would be way beyond what they could pay, prayed for a miracle. Fortunately that hospital was partnered with the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC). The head of the orthopedics unit was Dr. Pramod Lamichhane, who studied under Dr. Ashok Banskota (HRDC's founder) with a residency scholarship from AHF.

He took on Bishal’s case at no cost to the family, operating on Bishal the next day and inserting a metal rod to run alongside his spine. It couldn’t reverse the damage, but at least enabled Bishal to sit upright in a wheel chair. Bishal remembers Dr. Pramod fondly. “He spoke kindly to me and was very compassionate,” unlike the doctors Bishal had seen initially.

Dr. Pramod then referred Bishal to HRDC’s field team in the area, who arranged for a wheelchair and visited Bishal’s home for rehabilitation sessions. Within a month, Bishal was able to lift himself out of his bed and into the chair, and generally had a modicum of independence.

For patients like Bishal, from a village near the jungles of southern Nepal, HRDC's network is able to provide life-changing treatment without him ever having to make the multi-day journey to the main hospital near Kathmandu. Critical to helping children across Nepal get the care they need and deserve.

Dr. Pramod has treated many children in need
Dr. Pramod has treated many children in need

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