A huge, heartfelt thank you to all of our donors who participated in our donation drive!

A scene from our visit to Bhaktapur on June 9th.

A scene from our visit to Bhaktapur on June 9th.

BJ and I left Nepal on April 12th for our Spring Indonesian tours, just two weeks before the earthquake. When we completed those tours, we knew we had to return to our beloved Nepal to visit friends, gauge damage and its effect on our future tours, and really, just to see it with our own eyes. We had the idea to run a quick donation drive on our Facebook pages and newsletter and we were overwhelmed by your generous response!

Every dime collected is going straight to people that need it (we’re taking care of the PayPal fees). Thank you for the opportunity to serve on your behalf; I don’t have to tell you how good it feels to hand someone a stack of money, knowing it is going to have such an enormous impact during challenging times. In a country where the average income is $730 USD a year, even a couple dollars goes a long way.

We chose a few avenues for donation recipients: a blend of local organizations, international organizations (with roots in Kathmandu), and local families. Each recipient has their own specific set of needs and goals, and we feel dispersing it in such a way casts a wide net of assistance.  Here are some highlights about where your generous donations went.

(Note: In case you’re wondering…you should go visit Nepal! Although some precious temples have been damaged, there are plenty of beautiful monuments to visit in Kathmandu; plus, Pokhara and the trekking trails are virtually untouched, as well as the national parks. Please, if you were thinking about it—go! They need your tourist dollars and support more than ever!)

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Dr. Pranav Joshi & Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society

Donation Purpose: Farmer aid in Okharpauwa, in the Nuwakot district of Nepal.

Dr. Pranav Joshi

Dr. Pranav Joshi

We first met Dr Pranav in March 2015 on advice of Jasmine over at Street Dog Care in Boudhanath (Kathmandu, Nepal). We were enamored with a street puppy that we suspected had distemper, but we wanted to know for sure and Dr. Pranav was the man to tell us. We bundled her up and took the 35 minute taxi ride out to Bhaktapur where he has operated his Vet for Your Pet clinic and headquarters of Bhaktapur Animal Wellness Society (BAWS) since 2009.

His expertise & passion were apparent when we met him. We couldn’t help but notice the framed articles and accolades lining the clinic walls. Although his primary focus is on easing the suffering of local street dogs, we chose Dr. Pranav as a donation recipient specifically because of his work in the villages with farmers and their cattle.

During the earthquake, key rural districts lost one in five cattle. That might not sound like a lot, but when you have one cow and that cow’s milk is your entire income, that can be the difference between life and death. In addition, these cows still provide valuable work in the fields, not to mention the fact that the cow is sacred in Hinduism, Nepal’s major religion.

Cattle medications in Nepal

Some of the medication that Dr. Pranav has purchased for cattle with this donation.

Pranav has been visiting rural areas and rescuing cattle that have been injured in the quake, even single-handedly performing necessary amputations to save lives. Pranav also supplies vitamins, antibiotics & dewormers to support the animals, helping to restore calm & productivity. This is no small feat when livestock are sometimes a farmer’s only asset.

He also consults with the farmers about sustainability, allowing agriculture to be a longterm, profitable business for them. Their success means Nepal’s success. Too often, struggling Nepalis leave their home country in droves to find work in order to send money back to their families. You may be hearing about such a situation now, with Nepalis dying in droves in Qatar while building the 2022 World Cup stadium (there are currently 400,000 Nepalis working in Qatar). It’s not just the Middle East, though, as Nepalis are spread far and wide across the globe, seeking a paycheck to send home. Pranav works tirelessly to strengthen local Nepali businesses because, he says, “I want all Nepalis to be in Nepal.”

Dr. Pranav in his operating room in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Dr. Pranav in his operating room in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

We showed up to talk with Pranav around lunchtime for the dozens of dogs who currently call BAWS home. A tasty blend of carrots, pumpkin, rice, and meat make a hearty lunch for this lovable band of canine characters. He lovingly ticks off their names—Queen, Snowy, Brad Pitt (this particular dog needed an ego boost!)—and it’s obvious that Pranav is living his dream. “I am happy because I know the reason of my life—I’m here for animals.”

As Pranav is one of the only veterinarian surgeons in the area, most amputation cases land at his door, hence so many “darling “tripods” running around the BAWA yard. Even more impressive, Pranav taught himself how to perform surgery on these dogs. “YouTube is my school,” he says, expressing gratitude for the how-to videos he found online, as dogs were never even covered in his professional veterinarian training.

pranav, emily, snoopy

Dr. Pranav, his volunteer intern Emily, and Snoopy.

Dr. Pranav is a man of compassion and action, for Nepali animals and people alike. To read more about him, please see this Republica article or this LA Times article. 

To help BAWS directly, please see their Go Fund Me link at http://www.gofundme.com/nepalstreetdogs; all donations through this link are tax deductible in the U.S. as it is a 501(c)3.   

 

 

 

 


Direct Donations to Local Families

hunter ozaswi prioz

Prithivi, Prioz, and Ozaswi

We met Prithivi in Bhaktapur in early 2014, when he was just 18 years old but one heck of a presence. A local tour guide, Prithivi impressed me with not only the depth of his knowledge about Bhaktapur, but the wisdom to know what information was actually interesting to our guests and how to deliver it in an engaging, fun way. We’ve used his services every time we’ve brought groups to Bhaktapur since then, and we keep in touch while we’re away.

Earlier this spring, we were delighted to receive news of his engagement and marriage to the beautiful Ozaswi and the upcoming birth of their first child.  Baby Prioz was born less than 2 weeks after the April 25th earthquake.   

Their home was damaged in the earthquake and they have been forced to rent another apartment in the meantime. Given that his primary job was in the tourism industry of Bhaktapur, you can imagine that work has come to a screeching halt for Prithivi. In addition, little Prioz has just been diagnosed with a hole in his heart (which will hopefully heal naturally, but we’ll know more in 6 weeks). We were happy to finally meet little Prioz and we know that, even though these are tough times, his industrious papa is going to find a way to make it work!

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bishnu

Bishnu

Over the years we have come to know one of the amazing staff members at a restaurant on Boudha Circle. Bishnu always has a smile on his face and all of our guests have enjoyed his presence and service at Roadhouse Cafe. Bishnu even invited us to his newborn son’s naming ceremony, just 2 weeks before the earthquake (unfortunately, we were leaving for Pokhara that day and could not attend!)

After news of the earthquake, I reached out to Bishnu to see if he and his family were safe. The pictures he sent back from his family’s place in Fulpingdanda were devastating. His family’s houses have been leveled, although no one was harmed.  This money will go towards immediate help with groceries and shelter and care of his newborn.


Community Organizer Kailash Dhaubanjar

Purpose: Aid to rural village in the form of groceries, mosquito coils, corrugated metal sheets, and other aid transportation. 

Kailash, his father Suresh, and his wife Monika

Kailash, his father Suresh, and his wife Monika

BJ met Kailash Dhaubanjar in late 2011, although he had stayed in Kailash’s family guesthouse on Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square years before. Shiva Guesthouse has always been BJ’s favorite place to stay in Bhaktapur since it was the closest to all of the old temples in the square (not to mention the amazing restaurant downstairs!)  Kailash’s family actually owns 2 guesthouses in Bhaktapur and are very active in their community. 

When the earthquake hit just before noon on April 25th, Kailash had just parked his motorcycle outside Shiva Guesthouse 2 and was walking across Durbar Square to the original guesthouse. After the shaking subsided, he ran back to Shiva Guesthouse 2 to check on his family and staff, and immediately started pulling people from the rubble of the facing building; no one was hurt in that building or in either guesthouse (although the debris did crush his motorcycle).

In the days come, Kailash put his passion, skill, and connections to work at organizing aid runs around Bhaktapur and out to the villages. For weeks he was making daily runs, but he also has a business to manage and a family (including an 8-month-old baby) to care for, so now he goes on runs one to two times a week. From groceries and tents to transportation and corrugated metal for housing, Kailash has done his research and he knows how to get the right materials into the correct hands in the proper way. This is why we trust him fully to disperse a portion of the donations we’ve received. In addition, Kailash has been wonderful at keeping records and taking pictures of donation recipients, so we can follow along on his public Facebook page as he posts their stories. We’ll share more pictures here of activities specific to our donation as they roll in.


ROKPA International

Purpose: Emergency aid in villages

Lea Wyler & Rashmila

Lea Wyler & Rashmila (photo courtesy of ROKPA International Facebook page)

We have supported ROKPA International since we found them (or rather, they found us!) in February 2013.  What began as one woman’s effort to help a homeless boy in Kathmandu blossomed into an international charity, founded by Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche, Lea Wyler and her father, Dr. Veit Wyler. Although started in Nepal, Rokpa’s headquarters are in Zurich and their program helps the underserved in Nepal, Tibet, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with organization branches in 17 countries around the world.

We are always fans of giving donations to ROKPA, both directly and through staying at their gorgeous guesthouse, eating at their fabulous cafe, and buying handicrafts at their women’s workshop. Typical donations go toward funding their Children’s Home, soup kitchen, and women’s workshop. (Click here to learn about their core projects.)

However, after the earthquake, ROKPA really stepped up to the plate. With their own children and staff safe and taken care of, they broadened their scope. ROKPA has organized many aid trips to remote villages, bringing food, shelter, and medical care. ROKPA’s work has just begun, and Lea has just returned to Kathmandu, her focus and dedication sharper than ever.

rokpa meeting

Here are the notes from a candlelight meeting with Lea last night at Rokpa, outlining the lama’s needs to support his village and its neighbors.

A serendipitous opportunity presented itself the very day that we presented Lea with your donations. A Tibetan Buddhist monk from a nearby monastery had approached her with a request that almost matched, to the dollar, the amount we presented. This monk’s village was in the Sindhupalchowk District, one of the hardest hit in Nepal. His sister was one of the many tragic casualties of the quake. His village was directly across a small valley from another small village that was damaged even more severely, and they carefully but quickly built a makeshift bridge across this valley and evacuated everyone.

Now, in addition to having to support itself and find the necessary resources, his village took in 35 additional families! To that end, he requested 815 kg of rice, 35 liters of cooking oil, 125 kg of dal (lentils), 35 kg of salt, 50 kg of soybeans, in addition to the vehicle delivery charge. With your help, Lea was able to fund that request, along with sending 8 temporary shelters for the approaching monsoon season.  We like Lea’s, and ROKPA’s, approach to donation money; “Other people’s money is holy!” she remembers her father telling her. That’s why we always trust ROKPA to do the right thing!


Community Organizer Chris Limburg

Purpose: Rebuilding in Yolmo

Chris and Mingmar after her Kathmandu tetanus shot adventure.

Chris and Mingmar after her Kathmandu tetanus shot adventure. (Image borrowed from Chris’s Facebook page.)

How fortuitous that I would personally know someone on the ground during these challenging times. Chris Limburg and I both started at New College of Florida in 1997; I remember reading his senior thesis on Buddhism with awe. Fast-forward nearly 20 years and his interest and dedication to Buddhism is apparent, as he has spent a number of years since New College in remote areas of Nepal with various teachers. His connections have proved invaluable in times of crisis.

As a program manager for the Helambu Project, Chris’s ties to the rural communities have only deepened. He was in Nepal during the earthquake, leading a group of students on a hike. “Look,” their guide said, “a monkey!” The shaking tree, which the guide thought indicated a monkey’s presence, soon turned into a shaking forest and trembling ground. As soon as he got his students to safety, Chris started in on his own project, heading to remote Yolmo to assess the damage and offer help. Please see two Facebook albums of his Yolmo expeditions here and here

Chris will be continuing his work in Yolmo, not only rebuilding structures crucial to local culture and religion, but also sponsoring individual children to attend school. Chris’s talent lies not only in seeing the big picture and playing the long game, but knowing when immediate help is needed (such as his self-funded trip back to Kathmandu with young Mingmar when she stepped on a nail in Yolmo and needed a tetanus shot ASAP).

I’m grateful to have such an old friend that I trust getting your money into the right projects!

Chris even made his hometown news! Click this link to watch.


Street Dog Care

Purpose: Clinic repair

street dog care nepal kathmandu boudha

Program manager and general saint Jasmine outside SDC HQ.

If you know me, you know that my soft spot is the street dogs in our travels. Enough of you earmarked (dare I say dog earmarked?) the dogs in your donation notes that I felt comfortable giving Street Dog Care some well-deserved help. That’s not to say there’s not a human element in their work: by vaccinating the area’s dogs against rabies annually since 2011, they are building herd immunity and keeping the residents of Boudha (and beyond) safe from what would otherwise be a fatal disease.

In fact, the Street Dog Care (SDC) crew was on vaccination run during the April 25th earthquake. Two of the four groups immediately took refuge in an open field for a couple hours before carefully making their way back to the center, just a few minutes walk from Boudhanath Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The other two groups were further out by Pashupatinath, not around any structures that really gave them a sense of how devastating this earthquake was—and they kept right on vaccinating dogs! That’s dedication!

Your donation will go toward repair of their center. Several walls were damaged, including the primary kennel wall (picture below). Their quarantine area suffered damage, as well as some of their concrete flooring which now floods.  The money they need to repair their center is the same money they so desperately need to help the street dogs. SDC is most visible in their weekly Saturday ‘camp’ at the stupa, attending to wounded dogs that residents and tourists alike bring to their attention. However, the majority of their good work is behind the scenes, providing vaccinations, sterilization, medication, local and international adoption aid, and even surgery and chemotherapy to dogs that otherwise would have no hope. All this on a shoestring budget!

Since tourism has fallen in Kathmandu, no one is around to donate during their Saturday camps, and you can imagine that most post-earthquake funding is being directed to other non-profits. However, by helping the street dogs of Boudha and beyond, they are unequivocally helping the general population.


THANK YOU!  We are leaving Nepal tomorrow (June 15th) and so we won’t be able to personally hand your donations to worthy recipients. But you can still help! Here are four links to four of the recipients above who will be more than happy and able to put your continued donations to good use. 

 

ROKPA International

 

Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society

 

Helambu Project

 

Street Dog Care

 

Lauren

Lauren

Co-pilot at RetreaTours
Current motto: "I'd rather be feeding street dogs."
Lauren

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