It’s difficult to know how to help another culture and even though I’ve been here for 12 years now, I still let my co-dependency tendencies get in the way
sometimes. Sometimes it isn’t so easy.
Here are some funny attempts I’ve had in helping people here in Nepal. Rather than talk about how many shelters we helped to build after the earthquakes, book drives and things, the following stories will give you more insight into life here and how we’ve tried to help.
These two experiences were during the pandemic. Someone told us about a
teenage boy with two club feet. We went to meet the family and it was so sad to
see a family in such shape. The father was literally lying outside on a bench
just moaning. He died a week or so later without medical intervention.
Thinking back, it was probably liver disease. The local alcohol can be very
poisonous due to the way it can be made. Anyway, I was really troubled by the
family’s conditions and wanted to help. It doesn’t take much to support a
family from a western prospective.
Well, I had given a monthly stipend of something like $50 or so during the pandemic and each month they would come for the money, the mother walking with son crawling behind on all fours. She came in and went straight to the kitchen to talk with our cook/housekeeper. ‘I know that woman took our pictures and put them on the internet and collected a lot of money and is keeping it,’she said. She had also told the neighbors that I’d been cheating her by keeping her money. I recalled that she told me the same thing about her last donor. I was so angry that I gave her one more time her little bit of money and asked her not to ever come back. I had been supporting them for over 6 months, of course from my own pocket. I had given them warm clothing, a used computer for the boy, a bag of rice, cooking oil and such in addition to the monthly stipend and whatever I could find around the house that I thought they could use. That particular month they came back to take some cooking oil she couldn’t carry from the month before.
Sadly, I decided to help someone else and that was the end of that relationship. It wasn’t that the woman was evil or greedy. She just got it in her head that people give money to people they see on the internet who need help and she didn’t understand what it would take to launch a crowdfunder. It’s a lot of work and I had never asked anyone to help. I was so sad that it ended like that. I just
wanted to help someone during that horrible time of the pandemic. I have so much more than so many have, and my money goes so much further here in Nepal. How can I not help?
Additionally, during that same time, someone told me there was a man who was feeding the rickshaw drivers, elderly and blind people every Friday. I was excited to help and started a crowdfunding campaign to help. Everyone seemed to be putting up crowdfunding campaigns for Nepal, but a lot of people were keeping most of the money for themselves so the government made everyone stop. I had raised about $1,500 on the campaign before I had to stop it. I thought we could put a post up for local, Nepali to support the campaign by putting a local bank account number. Well, the man in charge of the agency thought I was going to keep the money. Again, I felt like I was being accused of having some kind of ill intent. Then I realized why anyone would accuse me of trying to make money off people’s suffering. The man is Islamic; I am American. Enough said?
I’ve struggled with sinus infections from the pollution in Kathmandu for all these years and really wanted to do something to help. But what? Well, we lived next to a lovely bit of forest at the edge of Kathmandu, a bit above the pollution line during this pandemic time. If you had to be locked in your home, it wasn’t so bad, at all.
One day I kept hearing hammering. When I looked out my heart sank. They were chopping down my beautiful forest. I was losing my trees, birds, chipmunks and so much more. I had to do something. But what? The truth is that my home was once part of this forest. That’s the way things go in Kathmandu. Every meter is so valuable they actually measure land in blocks about the size of your bedroom. Six to eight anna make a home just big enough to park a small car. You could buy a home in many place in the US for less than what Nepali pay for a home in Kathmandu.
That was the problem staring at me. Who am I to limit what a person can do with their land? I couldn’t even raise enough money for a small park if I wanted to; how could I create a project to actually create enough change to really improve the air quality enough to impact the health of the local people and bring clean air up to the Himalayas?
Rather than reinvent the wheel, we are going with the ‘t-shirt for a donation’ type of project. Our project provides a 3-4 foot tree in a large enough pot for the tree to grow for many years. I see many projects that provide a sapling for a 50 euro donation and many don’t even give anything of value. Our management fees are so much less we can create the change we need within our budget. One t-shirt will put one tree on a rooftop in a nice, big, made in Nepal, clay pot. It will also help children understand how they have a place in this issue and they can create the change we need.
We estimate each partner school in the west should yield 500-1,000 trees. We need at least 10,000 trees in our first year or about 20 partner schools. We humbly ask for your help and support to make Kathmandu’s rooftop forest happen. We are so grateful for your support.