An article about my latest trip to Nepal has just been published in the Laguna Beach Independent.
Greetings to you again with more stories of our success in Nepal,
All our goat passing has been completed. We gave out 248 goats, 4 males in the gifting along with micro-financing. You have given so we can give. I do not have the count on how many goats were passed forward (pay it forward), during this trip, but well over a 250.
Our peace flags are about teaching peace to more than the children of our school. Some of you have joined us by making flags I bring with me, to immerse the kids with great peace quotes. Peace has not been in Kavre for nearing 20 years, so in truth, we are teaching the parents via their children by the lessons the children have in their daily school curriculum which they share at home as all children do. Nearby schools participate with us by making peace flags for me to bring home to share. All the teachers at the schools understand the purpose and the need for peace. You know we have them on our website streaming for you to see, right?
We also have also given Readers to our school, which were generously given to us by some of you. What totally surprised me was how no one in Nepal we have met even knows what a Reader is… a Kindle, a Nook. Often I have had to open the eyes of Rabin to understand my ideas, in this case the incredible LIBRARY we brought the children on the Readers. When I realized Rabin didn’t know a word of what I had been talking about for months on the great Readers, I Googled it while we were at the hotel; I left him to learn. I told him I wouldn’t release them to him for the school children until he understands. He actually had no interest, and I could tell he felt put upon with my request to learn about the Readers. When he was done, his eyes were big and wide in amazement; now he is anxious to work with the Readers; now he understands the innate value of these marvelous items for the children. He will teach the teachers how to use and protect them, gladly, I add. Daily reading will be done in English by the teachers initially. When we have enough Readers, each child will ‘earn’ the privilege to take one home for the night to read to her/his family. The Readers have the classics, (Moby Dick, Black Beauty and more, all in English to advance them in our world). Previously I stated nothing is easy in Nepal? Even great ideas like Readers! (Our youngest intern Tessa has uploaded our Readers under the guidance of her mom, Betsy, a teacher).
Cheryl Russell, not my relative beyond kindred spirits, gave us her wonderful book The Story of STARHEARTS where gratitude is taught clearly in her colorful book. We have gifted them to our school and other schools as the message is needed everywhere. Seldom do people say ‘thank you’ in Nepal. The book will step them up grandly to gratitude, kindness, even to peace. This is grand, local talent from Laguna… plus a goat she gifted us! Once again, our teachers are excited for the books as so of the children. See why our children are exceeding levels of education in the government schools? We do make a difference, a lasting difference.
Take a good look at the photo of a typical toy for a child in a village. This is actually creatively made from a discarded plastic bottle and other debris. It is ‘dump truck’ which the little one is filling with dirt from the path. There are no TOYS R US stores, let alone funds for toys as we know of the poverty stricken villages. Village children continue to use wheels and a stick to run with a rolling wheel. Are they deprived? Not a bit. They are glad for what they have; not sad for what they do not have; and they do not know what they do not have. We do.
Thanks for letting me share more with you on our incredible work in Nepal you support. By all means, share our stories and photos as you can. We need help to be visible to others who will join us to continue our great successes!
The weeks have gone by quickly. It has been a flurry of going in and out of villages to the point I can recall only how happy the villagers are as we arrive; the tons of malas placed around our necks so lovingly gifted and made; how they excitedly tell us of their successes and plans; how they give their fine smiles with willingness to allow me to photograph them with their goats to document what size and quality we gifted, or just record them; and the love I feel from each person, each village, enormous.
Without my notes, I’m not sure I can differentiate between each village as the days are quite packed by our fast pace to reach each and all our villages.
No luxury for much time to just be with the villagers as work consumes our time; we have grown to have so many villages. Then there is the travel in and out of new places even Rabindra doesn’t know how to reach without asking as we travel the narrow roads without signs.
We conclude each day ready to rest, refresh ourselves, evaluate what we need, what is needed in the villages, how we can do better and faster; who to engage to bring in help we do not give. We also make time to visit other fine charities, going to orphanages being #1, personally donating where we can, delighted to see the support in general to orphans. (An orphan here means to have only one parent, FYI). Other charity workers share their fine programs to assist students emotionally, which we know the need to be great. Many fine hearts work in Nepal. We are connecting where we can as we do our successful work too. Our work is done only when we sleep wherever we are.
Meantime Rabin’s own new business goes on by phone calls and some brief meetings while we are in Kathmandu to conduct our government support with our work from goats to agriculture to literacy classes and cottage industry collaborations. Know what we accomplished against all odds? With a single photo we created a post card to send to you. This took better than a week to complete. Firstly, service is not how businesses are run; secondly communication to get the quality of paper takes more than an hour since few refuse to listen to our requests even spoken in Nepali, telling us what we can have instead; and those in the business barely know the business! Bottom line, even post cards are challenging to get done as agreed. Nothing is easy in Nepal; everything arrives with a set of challenges beyond our imagination. But we did it!
Since arriving in December, we have been working on the school hanging garden only to be told time and again it is impossible for plants to grow while hanging. The bottles are collected; the soil is placed in the cut bottles and the stand to hold the plants from cord ready to go. The first hanging pots are on the school top deck. We couldn’t place them where I first thought… because goats would get them or other animals! For those we need a fence. That was not in my thinking, but it is now.
If we listened to the plant nay Sayers, we would have quit weeks back on this great project. Rabin was ready to quit… I encouraged by stressing how the children will enjoy it; and of course how the villagers will see it and copy us in time. Now he is joined in spirit with the energy to get it in place and managed for success to grow & go. He has the vision!
The school has the Peace Flags hanging inside the rooms for more immersion to teach peace; the Readers are placed; the awesome THANKOLOGY book gifted to the school….. But enough for now, more in the next story…. Thank you. Feel free to share our where possible, and direct others to our website too. www.RStarFoundation.org Oodles of blessings. Namaste, R*
Maya is the woman who was burned at 11 years old, pretty much tossed out of her home to survive on her own, as a child! She asked us several trips ago to get goats to her village as the women were exceptionally poor.
Her village was the first one gifted goats, you know, “play it forward”. They arrived from our first village of Ojetar. Now Maya with training in sewing and a machine, started a sewing cooperative for a few women who share her zeal for sewing too. The location for the sewing is far worse in appearance than the other I introduced you to… smaller, darker, but what an incredible difference it is making for these village woman. I have some video of the clothing Maya makes for children, her passion in sewing. She is one of our interviewed ladies featured on our web page ( www.RStarFoundation.org ) .
Is this not a time to rejoice with what we have collectively done to provide the collaborative for sewing with the great initiative of Maya and her village? It is. May you be inspired by the absolute difference we do make for ever so many to provide for their own lives regardless of the added difficulties in their path beyond what cast they are in or illnesses, etc. We have so much and all we have to do is remain aware and grateful. I am grateful for each of you! Yip, I am!
The 102 year old woman told us of her benefits with our program, even at her extremely advanced age in a most unlikely country. Had to share this touching story with the sweet woman who walked a long distance to see us, to thank us, only to have to walk back the same long distance. See how I am inspired regardless of the true harshness of existing here? Knew you would. WOW!
Off I fly to another village or 4 today.. not all 4 today, but village life for not short of that time.
My blessings to each of you,
The 23rd and Christmas Eve Day to Christmas…. The magic of the Season, even in Nepal
Some of the life I have while in Nepal is also around other things than goats. I feel sharing a touch of my life here with you might be of interest.
I spent the 23rd with my Nepali family. Yoga Maya, Rabin’s mom and Ram, his dad were on their way that evening to Houston to see their other son Santosh, and meet their granddaughter recently birthed. Other family members arrived to join in the departure activities to honor them and wish them well. When we arrived at the house in Chabel, the ‘burbs’ of Kathmandu, I went to the sun deck where the 3 grandchildren jumped and crawled all over me. What fun for me to just be kissed and loved as only children can do from their sweet hearts. Ratik, the eldest boy, 8, son of Radha, sister of Rabin, then Rabiyani, Rabin’s 6 year old; then Sneha, a 3 year old large bully of a girl, of Rabin’s baby sister, Saraswati, were delightful. For all the kisses and hugs I have missed these past near 3 years, they sure made up for it in the hours we were together. Language was not necessary for any of us as playing is known by all humans. The adults watched me. They are sure someone in cargo pants and so white couldn’t possibly know a thing about children. Ha! I noted how rough the children are with each other, the adults too for that matter, so I invented the gentle touching game of tickle-tickle. They were delighted as I would reach out and softly stroke their faces and then lightly tickle them. Soon I realized how much English Ratik does speak, so he could translate for me as Rabin was elsewhere.
I was dazzled by them, all of them; and pleased I passed with the adults who found my playing to be most excellent. I also noted how any adult does reprimand the child if out of order… the joint effort to teach the children is something to behold. I gave them each some stickers and for a while they were busy with them, then back to all 3 being on my lap, back, in my face. It couldn’t have been better! I always wanted grandchildren… and now I have them. They do not question my being their own Granny-mother as I am called. They played with my pale hair compared to their rich, shinny black hair, the different texture and compared our skin color. I like the innocence without the judgment; I felt the love and reveled in it. Meantime, food arrived in small amounts… beans of a spicy taste, then fresh and dried coconut; tea. This was a day of celebration.
The evening concluded with Rabin and I taking off to follow the taxi to the airport to say farewell to the parents. They were neither looking forward to the long trip. I understood that well. Interestingly, they can take water with them… their TSA is not the same as ours.
Rabin was chocked up with the parents leaving as it will be a year for them to be gone. He brought me to the hotel, but not before asking me to stay at the family home. I declined as communal living with usually half of them sniffling is not logical for me to keep my health. We rode silently to the hotel, then agreed to the departure time for the morrow.
On the 24th, Rabin arrived for us to depart to “Fred & Paravati’s home in the northern end of Kathmandu on the top of a mountain. The view is utterly amazing of the Kathmandu Valley. Fred is an X-Pat who moved to Nepal in the ‘70’s, fully taken by the beauty, the peace and the people, eventually marrying a saintly woman and adopting her son. With only a couple of exceptions, I have spent Christmas Eve at my new friends home for TURKEY dinner when in Nepal in the finest ways of preparation by Paravati who is a great, cook beyond the usual Nepali fare. To add to it, Fred is Jewish, but all the same, he honors my time in Nepal knowing I will not be doing what would otherwise be common to me in celebration. Extraordinary hospitality, always delightful to me and to Rabin as well. Turkey is not found here… usually Fred gets one on a trip back from Thailand and cooks it the next day, but Paravati heard of an organic turkey farm, and voila, we had a very fine turkey to bless our evening. (I hope to get a photo of our turkey up to share).
Another esteemed guest of theirs was there, Dominique, a once rich woman who was a pilot and many other fine things, who took her vows as a Buddhist nun a decade back. The son Keyshor (spelling incorrect to be sure) was in from Florida where he is now a qualified flight instructor. We all spoke of our flying past and passions with but Keyshor is the only one still flying.
What a dinner and conversation we had. I was regretful to leave, but off we went to Dhulikhel where we stayed for the night, staged to get to the villages for the long and full day ahead to pass the goats to our newest village on Christmas day. Now is that the Spirit of Christmas or what?
Because of the fine meal I had had, I didn’t need another meal, so I just relaxed until Rabin returned from his meal out with friends. Once he hit the covers, there was no silence as he snored like a herd of buffalos, sneezing and coughing as well. Yes, in Nepal, sleeping in the same room is common as well as expected… family style.
Rabin slept fine, I can’t say I did based on the decibel level. He got up at sunrise, wiped the bike down as it re-iced itself . I looked at sunrise over the Himalaya’s, a beautiful sight to behold time and again.
Off we went once we heard by phone from Som, my executive goat gatherer all these years. We stopped in Ojetar to join in the Christmas celebration at the only Christian Church in our villages. To be a bit more proper for the day, I removed my combat pants which under I had some red velour clothing as after all it was Christmas . We were warmly greeted by my ‘girlfriend’, Sumitra, an untouchable, and her fine family. I told Rabin he needn’t remain there, but he said he would be glad to see how the Christian’s of his own village celebrate such a fine day. Celebrate they do. There were over 95 members present, mostly the Dalits, untouchables with some Tamang and Dunwars also. The women were seated on one side, the men on the other. We were brought stools as customary for special guests, which we were considered. I noted how all the women and children were dressed exceptionally well, in their best and newest, with such happiness in their eyes and faces.
The singing was nothing I recognized, but the songs per Rabin were beautiful praises of Jesus, of gratitude and thanksgiving for his birth to arrive as the Prince of Peace, their Savior. As I listened, some children gathered around us, looking at us, checking out the camera. I noted that there were 3 men dressed as Santa Claus; then I saw Santa on a flag like string decorating the church, and a cute Christmas tree. This is the third building in 8 years to expand as membership continues to grow.
We were announced and brought to the podium where I presented them a Bible in English, in a redwood box to present to the church members. Without an invitation, I would not go or gift as I am not on a religious quest in the work we do. However….
I was invited and glad to have a gift they would value.
I had 5 small candy canes which I told them is what Western people generally have at Christmas time, but hardly would that be enough for everyone to taste unless they divided it like the ‘loaves and fishes’, which they said eagerly they would do. We thanked them for their invite for the feasting they would have following the Christmas program. Rabin gently declined stating my foods must be prepared differently or I will surely die. Really. We had to head to Shara village where 60 women awaited us for the goat distribution.
Rabin stated he felt jubilant with seeing the celebration of the little church in his village, and I concurred as it was sweet.
We got another call from Som. The truck was stuck… the goats were okay, but they were delayed. We went to the village to visit with the women and see to easing the gifting. There were a few women who I hadn’t gotten a photo, so I took their photos as they giggled. We were gifted with many malas, fruits and flowers. Again, chairs were brought to us.
Another call arrived from Som. He didn’t know the exact location of Shara Village, so off Rabin went. I hung with the children and wrote notes of my observations, took video shots of the women waiting. Rabin returned… he said something and my gracious, the noise level increased suddenly as so of their movement. Some women ran to get the food they were requested to bring and the water; and then Som’s trucks came around the corner and the noise factor increased enormously. Excitement was obvious. Once the 2 trucks were parked, more preparation began with Som giving directions, Rabin repeating them, and another coordinator Lexi,in her small high voice spoke out to direct the women. I just filmed and enjoyed the activities…. For a while.
I was going to get in the truck bed with the goats to help get them down as I have done before. The truck bed was a manure factory. Those poor goats had been there all day. I chose not to get in with them after all.
I then saw the son of Som, Acthut whom I know well from each trip. I didn’t realize I would see him, but it sure made me smile as we worked. Slowly the goats were off loaded. We had beautiful goats other than some were pretty dirty from the conditions of their day.
The ladies spread leaves out, put out the water, and the goats acted as if it was just another day. The goats already had their ribbons on, so a step was covered which spared us time. Then the slowest part of the gifting took place. With the villagers trusting nothing even though they know the agreements and how we preformed elsewhere, would not release the paired and numbered goats in fear they wouldn’t get their own. It took more time than necessary because of their fear factor to pass the goats which I noted irritated me enough to state we would not do this again in their style, but in mine. My style: the goats would be lined up by number, and 5 women would be called at a time, sign their documents unless we could get them to sign ahead of time. 3 hours to do what could be done in 45 minutes, well… gracious me! They were told time and again where to stand, what to do and they failed 99% of the time. I fully understand why this country hasn’t gone ahead, but backward since their attention span is less than a cat seeing a mouse on her path!
The crowding of the villagers made it near impossible to get photos shot or to get the women gifted while recording the size and quality of the goats given. So again and again I would remind Rabin to move them back as I couldn’t shoot nor move them on quickly for the sake of the animals, us and the villagers. Some of the women beyond their fears not to be gifted can’t read a number, so that too hindered us. A young boy engaged in helping us, and what a grand help it was. I asked some older boys, but they giggled, yes, giggled and wouldn’t help. I rewarded the young boy and told him he had the heart of a leader, even as a young boy. My did he smile at the acknowledgment.
When we finally passed the last set of goats, one woman came up to me gesturing to me how happy she was, how it made her want to dance. Rabin translated, but before he did, I understood her dance movement and joined with her. The villagers reacted to my playing with them in dance. The laughter took the sting of the long hours fully away. They were truly pleased, ready to advance with their new gifts toward prosperity. Primarily they are the middle casts, Dunuwars with some Tamangs too, getting the goats .
We waved farewell to them after a short talk as I get to do each time for blessing them all, goats included; to thank them for their good work to feed the animals as they arrived; to pet them each night and morning being the only requirement for them by me. (We continue to have only a 5% death rate from delivery to the birthing, and I am convinced that a touch to the animals is the reason why we do not have the national average of 35% death rate).
Along the journey out of the village, we stopped as we saw those Rabindra knew to talk lightly of our efforts, where and of course how many goats being passed, 120 to 60 women with 5 males to arrive once Som locates the premium males. Some men of other villages begged us to bring our program to their women. We listened and thanked them telling them we would do our best but it depends on donors to help us to help them.
It was dark by the time we reached Dhulikhel where we picked up our back packs and supplies we didn’t need to carry. Then another 1.5 hours we drove straight to my hotel where I was glad to arrive for my butt was truly tired after the 3 hour ride on roads motor cross riders would find challenging.
My hope was to get a story out immediately as what a story to share on Christmas Day with the gifting we had done, truly what the season represents in gifts… but a little email, then a long hot soak in my deep tub with some hot coco and Trader Joe’s chocolate chip cookies similar to what my Mom bakes is how I celebrated in my room, filled with the joy of the hard work, the efforts of so many combined to make this gifting day and exceptional one. A Christmas blessing unlike any I have experienced in Nepal before.
Days before she was scheduled to fly off to Nepal, Rosalind Russell received a desperate plea from R Star Foundation’s manager on the ground, Rabindra Situala. While 200 pregnant goats have already been ordered/purchased, more women than expected signed up to receive the income producing animals and Situala is 50 animals short. Was there any possibility, Situala asked, that additional funds could be raised so that the extra women could be accommodated?
Russell recently received a grant from Impact Giving to provide 50 women in two rural villages with goats. By selling the offspring, the women have the chance to earn income which they use to help provide their families with food, medicine and often tuition so that their children can attend school. Each goat, which comes with necessary vaccinations plus training on how to care for them, costs $200.
Also, R Star, a registered charity, is seeking $250 to install a hanging garden at the school the foundation built. Since arable land is at a premium, the vertical gardens, which would be new to the area, will be used to grow vegetables and flowers and to showcase a space saving gardening method to the community.
Anyone interested in giving a goat for Christmas or funding the vertical garden can send checks to R Star Foundation, P.O. Box 4183, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652 or donate online with the link to the right.
Recently, we’ve interviewed women in Nepal that are involved in our projects. Enjoy!
Yes, of course you know that. After you people started goat groups and gave us goat we have been always gaining so many things.
Ah…First change is we are now united and can solve our problems with the help of our own group. We have our own fund for the needs that overcomes at times such as sickness, delivery cases, you know.. two wemen in our village died at the delivery time suffering because their husband didn’t took them to the hospital due to lack of money. Not only that we can now also fight other accidental cases, such as fire and falling down from the trees. We can purchase seeds & fertilizers on time lending money from our group fund that makes our agricultural product better. Most important improvement is we have our own property as goats and we have made such a good income by selling the products. This year only I have 5 male goats ready for the market. I hope to make about 11 hundred dollars this year. So that means I make nearly one hundred dollars a month. Yahoo! We do not have any landlords who made a fortune by lending money to us with 70-90% interest and free labor. Thank you Rabin and our beloved sister Rosalind.
I joined the goat project in the year 2003/4 and cottage and literacy in 2008 and 2010. I think when we talked about goat project to be established, you had not started it anywhere..aha..haa.. So I think I am among the first.
At first not all the members liked the Idea of being mixed- in but later on they came to realize that , the truth is we are women and we have same problems so we must consider ourselves as one cast “WOMEN!”, I think we are more comfortable with each other now then..ever before.
Yes, I have great respect to you and your mother , you know how I suffered when my dad passed away in an accident (fireburn) when I was just 15 years old. I had to take care of two younger brothers and two younger sisters , as being the eldest I had a huge responsibility, I know the cruelty of poverty and the cruelty of our society, I use to think that my time will never change but thank you again , not only mine everybody’s changed in our village as I can see … NO MORE STARVATION!