Today (June 15, 2014) I traveled far, possibly the most remote village I’ve ever visited – in Southern Nepal on the Indian border in the mountains (and it rained). The village is 100% illiterate, has 33% infant mortality, and still experiences starvation during the 9 months when nothing grows – it’s almost like a stone age existence. There is very little interaction with the outside world – but things changed today.
For the first time, the 85 families in this village (and this is a misnomer – the “homes” are spread out over a wide valley and side of a mountain) got access to reliable and clean light. Some homes are hours from others. Word got out that the lamps were coming today and everyone was there to greet us. They realized this was a monumental day for their village. As they approached the officials (us) to put their fingerprints on their acceptance form, they were so serious and nervous about the big step they were taking. Again, we changed lives today.
Also participating were Niraj Subedi, a friend of GBF’s and a former GSEP scholarship recipient who has been a great friend of GBF and who played a major role in making our project happen here. Another participant was Mr. Bishnu Gautam, a former tour operator in Nepal. Within 9 months in 2008-2009, Mr. Gautam lost his two sons in auto accidents – one 19 days after he graduated from the University of Oklahoma and the other in Nepal. Mr. Gautam decided then to change his life in order to honor the memory of his sons. He started a foundation to support the rural poor in Nepal. He chose the village where we were today, and his foundation has begun work to help the villagers build new homes for themselves. He’s a wonderful partner to have.
I know I use the word uplifting and gratifying quite a bit when I describe our work at GBF, but I don’t know how else to describe the impact we’re having and the feelings that impact generates. The look on a man’s face when, for the first time, he switches on light in his home for his family, and illuminates their faces – it just chokes you up. And then the family’s expression of appreciation is overwhelming, despite the language barrier. So it’s 5 hours back to Kathmandu tomorrow for meetings and then I start my journey home.