Can you imagine taking 32 children camping? In Nepal?? With wheelchairs, walkers and crutches??? Well, we did just that several weeks ago in the scenic town of Dhulikhel, about 45 minutes outside Kathmandu!
These 32 children are from DNC- Disabled Newlife Center. They are children Gina and I have known for so many years. Their physical disabilities are varied and challenging but their warmth and love is like a warm hug every time we visit. Seeing them grow up is both meaningful and frustrating in that we are only able to visit them in-person once a year. However, Nepal Rotary and Rotaract have made a lasting impact in their lives with both grant funding and ‘hands-on’ guidance and personal involvement.
Our Rotary volunteer group arrived at the park just slightly ahead of the rented bus that brought the kids and staff. Our Sherpa helpers and Everest Express Travel staff had already set up the tents and were busy cooking lunch for all. We had such a nice group of Rotaract volunteers from the Rotaract Club of Kopundol and the Rotaract Club of Dhulikhel helping with games and logistics.
As the children and staff piled off the bus our volunteer group immediately got busy helping, playing and doing whatever was needed. No parks are disability-friendly in Nepal, but this park wasn’t too bad once you got the kids up the stairs onto the flat area on top. The wheelchairs and walkers were able to negotiate the paths around the park but getting down the stairs to the bathroom required helped from adults, volunteers and staff.
We brought balls and games but what was an immediate ‘hit’ was the face painting set that Doug and Sonja Kyes (from Renton Rotary Club) brought and set up! Doug is an artist by trade. He set up his paints and within about 5 minutes there was a long line of kids awaiting his talented brushes.
He worked quickly and soon many children were parading around like living artwork! Within a couple of hours, most of the children had something whimsical, fun or beautiful painted on their faces or arms. After Doug got tired, 15 year-old DNC resident Puskar Magar took over and lent his substantial artistic talents to decorate the remaining children. Puskar was born without a right hip and leg. He is also missing two fingers on his right hand but he is a true artist in every sense of the word. He typically paints in watercolor, but he also dabbles oils and other media. He has been having great fun trying out different artists’ styles as he experiments and grows.
After a delicious Sherpa-prepared Nepali lunch we started another project that Rotarian Donna Eggen had thought up: “sit-upon pillows”. What you do is take two pieces of colorful fabric about 18 inches square, cut strips all around the outside, insert a piece of foam (for padding), then tie each top and bottom strip together in a double knot. You work your way, tying knots all around the fabric and…..voila! You have a nifty pillow that is both useful and a is great souvenir of the trip. The Sherpa staff got busy cutting the foam and the kids all grabbed their fabric and began working. This is a fun and easy project for any group of kids and it was a great success.
The Rotaractors managed to find a sound system so that we could play some Nepali dance music and then….everyone was dancing…kids in wheelchairs, walkers, young, old, volunteers and DNC staff! The dancing lasted until dinnertime. After dinner the sun began to set and the children got ready to head to their tents. It was another emotional, yet inspirational day for our entire group. Memories were created that none of us will ever forget, not the kids, not the volunteers and not the staff.
Special thanks go to my Rotarian mentor & friend- RR Pandey and his company, Everest Express Tours & Travel who arranged all of the logistics and transportation. Our thanks go to Tapan (from Everest Express) and our hard-working and caring Sherpa staff who set up the tents and arranged for hot meals cooked on-site. Also, special thanks to our TRIFC supporters whose generous donations funded this trip.
Some of the group right after arrival at the park.
Tika (on right) has fun pushing Bishnu (on left) around the park!
Saraswati (on left) and Sushma (on right) experience tents and sleeping bags for the first time!
Muna (my nickname for her is little mosquito) carefully chooses her tent.
Doug Kyes paints Muna’s face with a beautiful motif!
Sabina patiently awaits her face painting
Muna looking pretty!
Tika with his ‘sit-upon’ pillow
Sandi helping with the knots on the pillows
From the left: Suramaya, Bishnu, RR and Brittany staying in the shade…
Pushkar at work creating art on kids!
Babulal (on left) and Aiok (on right)
Gina and Rose dancing to the Nepali beat!
Rajiv and Eric having a quiet moment…
Rajiv and Rob
Our volunteers get into the dancing action!
Laxmi loves to pose….
Babulal wearing Brittany’s hat!
Bikash and his beautiful flower…
Gina with many ‘well-wishers’.