Nov 4, 2014

"Now I can walk to school with my sisters!" -Rojina

Rojina and Kanchi
Rojina and Kanchi

Each of the huts clustered on the banks of the Malekhu River in Dhading (west of Kathmandu), has something in common: they are all inhabited by Dalits, a marginalized caste formerly considered ‘untouchable’. It was in one of these huts that little Rojina was born with her feet bent inward.

“We thought her problem would correct as she grew, but even at two my daughter could not stand or walk on her own, she would just crawl around on all fours,” remembers her mother Kanchi Pariyar. “We were so worried that our child will never be able to walk upright. How will she go to school? Will she be able to play with her friends? How will she support herself when she grows up?”

Fortunately, when Rojina was about three years old, a community worker from the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC) came across her while doing outreach for a mobile clinic in nearby Gajuri. “I will never forget the day I took Rojina to the health camp. I was surprised to see so many children with physical disabilities, many more severe than my daughter,” says Kanchi.

“When the doctor examined Rojina and assured her feet would be straight in just a few months, my joy knew no bounds,” she adds. “I returned home with the feeling that I was finally able to do something for my daughter. My biggest wish was about to come true. Rojina would soon be able to walk on her own.”

A month later, Rojina started ‘Ponseti’ treatment: a non-surgical method for correcting clubfoot by applying a series of plaster casts. Since the inception of their own Ponseti program in 2004, HRDC has successfully treated over 3,000 children with the revolutionary technique. Within a few weeks, Rojina was able to start slowly walking in a pair of orthotic shoes that were specially created at HRDC.

"We were all so happy to see Rojina healed in just a few months. It was really a dream come true for all of us," says Kanchi as she hugs her daughter and gives her a warm smile.

Asked how she feels about her corrected feet, Rojina says, “I am happy my feet are not bent anymore. I can stand and walk, and play easily with my friends. And now I can walk to school with my sisters!” As we say goodbye to the family, Rojina shyly hugs a wooden beam and waves – a bright smile from a wonderful young girl with a new lease on life. 

Physical therapy exercises with Sumitra
Physical therapy exercises with Sumitra
Goodbye until the next visit
Goodbye until the next visit

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Sep 11, 2014

What happens after school?

This young girl is part of our Stop Girl Trafficking partnership. She’s one of 10,500 girls in 519 schools across Nepal who’s no longer at terrible risk of being sold, forced into slavery or child marriage. What will her life be like after graduation?

We have been sending at-risk girls to school long enough now that we are seeing many of them finish and graduate – and that’s very exciting. So I was curious to spend time with some of the new grads and girls in their last year. They came into Kathmandu by bus from all around and we gathered for a few hours to drink tea, eat sweets (very important!) and talk about their lives. 

I was knocked out by their knowledge and their confidence. They were not afraid to speak up, they knew the fate they had avoided and they were volubly thankful. About half wanted to teach, to turn their education into something that could help other girls; some wanted to be nurses; and a surprising number would opt for being entrepreneurs if they could manage it. It was interesting to hear their hopes and dreams, and what the shadows were in their lives. 

Their lives are still not easy. But they have skills and they are not afraid of the future. They understand that, as almost always the first generation of girls in their villages to be educated, they are at the leading edge of change for women in Nepal.  And they take that responsibility, and that chance, seriously.

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Jul 15, 2014

The Spirit of Chomolungma

Each spring for the past 21 years I have been going to Nepal. And each spring since the 1920's mountaineers have made their way to the Himalaya to climb, discover and test the limits of their abilities – each with his or her own hopes and motivations.

The Sherpa expedition climbers first visit monasteries to do divinations and obstacle-removing prayers ahead of the precarious journey they are preparing to undertake. It is a spring rite which takes place in Sherpa households across the Himalaya and now the world – sometimes by Skype in New York and California. If their prayers are answered, the men will return in mid-May, smiling broad faces burnt from exposure to the sun, with the spoils of their hard work. They're home safe and will replenish physically and spiritually until the fall when they must go back to work again.

On my trip this year, however, the entire Himalayan range, including Everest, was shrouded in clouds. Below, I could not begin to imagine the magnitude of the sorrow, the angst, the pain felt at the funerals of the 16 who died in this year's avalanche.

AHF is committed to helping the families of these brave climbers through the challenges they will face in the coming years. They have lost their primary bread-winner, and their futures would be uncertain without our help. Whether making sure the 31 children can go to school or covering basic living expenses for the families, we are going to make sure their needs are taken care of now and into the future.

I assure you that the comfort the families will receive as a result of your kindness will give them some peace that their loved one is not forgotten and they are not abandoned. Thank you so much for your caring and concern.

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