Krishna's School Mates /Nepal Disaster Relief For Blind Kids
Organized by: Vincent DeLorenzo
Blind children I just met in Nepal are homeless from the quake, and freezing due to inadequate clothing. Feel free to read my long short story below for more information and how I can send a friend back to this school to provide clothing for the blind children who are sleeping in a tent.
- I've been in Nepal for almost two weeks. For those of you that do not know Nepal is a developing country that is charming and rich with culture and in need of support. It is the birth place of the Buddha, home to the tallest mountains in the world, and it is often said your first visit to Nepal will not be your last. After the earthquake 9 months ago I felt it is important to come back and support the country and the people. Upon arriving I was greeted by a friend named Hira that I met on a previous visit 2 years ago. We smiled and laughed the second we saw each other. He is from a rural mountainous region outside of Kathmandu, both of these areas were hit hard by the quakes. Since the quake the people of Nepal are facing difficult times. The money contributed by foreign governments and large organizations to Nepalese government have not made it to the people. An issue compounding Nepal's disaster relief is a trade blockade with India that has stopped the flow of gas and oil into the country. The gas and oil are desperately needed not only to transport supplies but to provide energy to the country. Even in the capitol city the power is out typically 12 hours a day. Hira explained to me that people in his village are in need of shelter and rice. Within minutes of our joyful reunion in Kathmandu we planned a harsh adventure by motorbike to Hira's remote village near the Tibetan border so I could take a look for myself. Hira wants me to share this story with you.
- We rode for 3 days 2up on a motorcycle over mountains and more mountains until the road were no longer rideable. The roads were curvy and dangerous. We rode so high we looked down on the clouds at times. We would buy fuel on the black market because the lines for gas were days or weeks long. The roads were full of farms animals, trucks, buses stacked with people, and motorbikes coming from all directions and all honking their horns. There was danger around every blind curve wether it be a huge cliff, goat, truck, child, or even a blind person in the bind curve. There was something about the danger that would make us laugh occasionally. Hira had two mantras he would say on the trip. Slow drive, long life and om mani padme hum. We often discussed poverty and the most likely way we would die on this trip. Either by a quake in a building collapse or in a crash. After all there was just a 3.2 quake the day before and the traffic was just a crap shoot every meter that went by. This lead to Hira's other expression that I heard often, "We come into this world naked and we leave the world naked." His 32 years of Buddhist inspired wisdom is refreshing sometimes.
- For some reason I did not take a lot of photos. I am not sure if it was because it was cold, sad, or just that I thought the poverty and despair would never end. It was quite shocking especially in the beginning. Many homes were just rubble or a tent. As we rode past the villagers would be performing chores in brightly colored, sometimes beautiful clothing. Many only had light clothing or sandals in the cold weather and the temperature is really starting to drop now. You can see life is hard and certainly a struggle to just live. Collecting water, preparing food, tending to children, and maintaining the livestock is the common activities. There is nothing else to do in these areas. Sometimes it was tough to distinguish between quake damage or sheer poverty. Seeing such sites makes with think about my family a lot and how lucky the majority of us in America are.
- Before we started the journey Hira discussed a few things we would try to do on the trip. Some of them I was not so clear about. Namely the stop to find the blind Krishna and help him. For a day and a half I thought I was on my way to meet a blind holy man. At first I was a little reluctant but I decided to cast my foreign preconceptions aside and see where this goes. After all who couldn't use a blessing from a holy man in Nepal? Later Hira and I had a good laugh about this. It turned out Krishna was a blind 12 year old boy from Hira's village who was attending a special school a couple mountains away from his village. Krishna needed help and Hira knew I could provide it. We arrived at the school but it was badly damaged by the quake and closed. We inquired with some of the villagers and we were told the dozen children attending the school for the blind were relocated to a tent a few hills away. After finding the tent Krishna emerged with several other students. That tent was their school and home. They were all thin and under dressed for the cold weather. He did not immediately recognize Hira's voice but soon smiled as we made introductions and he was obviously surprised to see us. We brought food and school supplies to the children. Additionally I was able to provide Krishna with winter clothing and pay his tuition for the following year. Hira nudged me to take their photo before we departed so I did and we said our goodbyes. Krishna said goodbye in English as we walked up the hill to our bike. I thanked Hira for exposing me to this experience and it was obviously rewarding as I've never done anything like it. Hira told me that helping Krishna is very good karma. I have a feeling I will me talking to Krishna more in the future.
- We rode down the mountain and into the river valley a short distance from the Tibetan border. It was getting dark and cold and we needed to find a place to sleep soon. After crossing the river we inspected the least dilapidated place we could find for quake damaged and determined we'd risk it. My room was moldy, leaky, dark, and had no heat. We stepped outside and reflected upon the day. Hira shared his experience with me about being provided the opportunity for a better life when a foreigner sponsored him. He was able to get a better education and make a better life for himself out of the village. After discussing the surrounding poverty, Krishna, and our possible fate here, Hira once again told me we come into this world naked, and leave this world naked. It was getting very cold so we walked to the market to buy a $15 Chinese knock off North Face jacket and a dust mask for me to wear.
- I was dirty, cold, confused, and exhausted as we waited for dinner. It was no longer possible to keep my head up. Soon I was hunched over the table with my head in my arms. A tv played obnoxiously loud in the background. It disturbed me more than any tv should be able to disturb a person. The people around me did not mind. Maybe is was blaring language I could not understand reminding me of how far away I am from what is familiar. Inevitably when I travel alone sometimes I ask myself what am I doing here? Why am I in the strange place so far from home? Certainly fear of the unfamiliar was creeping in. For a moment I debated if I could press a button and be in the comfort of my home, would I do it? Before I could come to a decision the food and hot water to drink arrived at the table and I was notably glad that train of thought was interrupted. I mustered my head up to shovel some rice into my mouth. Soon after I signaled to Hira and the lady hovering about the tables that I'm going to regress to my room. She cleaned my table place and put the left over hard boiled egg into her dress pocket. When I arrived to my room I put on every piece of clothing that I had to stay warm. I knew a wandering mind in a scary place can make for a sleepless night but the exhaustion set in and I was fast asleep before the candle went out. The morning sun dispersed my fears and we both eagerly jumped on the bike and continued the journey.
- For a couple days after writing this story I've felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach like one would have after a teenage breakup. What about the other eleven blind students? They don't have clothing for the winter and the temperatures are really dropping. In fact in the news here today, a story highlighted people freezing to death in their tents. It would only take $300-400 dollars to buy Krishna's school mates jackets, shoes, and basic supplies. If you are not currently donating your time or money at home and would like to help Krishna's school mates please help. Hira is willing to go back and buy clothing for the children and send us photos.