Dear Friends and Supporters
It took me quite a while to get into gear and start to write this piece for our Anniversary Edition of Namaste, but once I got going, I’ve really enjoyed the task, as it has forced me to trawl back through 25 years on my computer C drive, and what a treasure trove I found there.
Punching well above our weight and magnificently supported by Rotary, Stichting Nepal and many others – for the last 25 years we have been making a real difference to the lives of the people in one of the most remote, most inaccessible and most impoverished corners of the world, the Humla district of Nepal – the region we all know as The Hidden Himalayas.
Though of course, following the earthquake in 2015 we’ve now widened our focus to several other districts of Nepal. We have had some special moments over the years: for example, back in the year 2000, I remember standing on the trail in the Karnali valley looking up at the first electric lights twinkling high above us at the newly built Kermi Health Post.
Whilst there are plenty of positives, one can end up wondering what holds the country back, in terms of development in Nepal. It is not a lack of knowledge or ability and certainly not a lack of energy or motivation. It is clearly a very complicated issue with many underlying drivers: but, there does seem to have developed a long-standing attitude of fatalism: “it has always been this way because it was always intended to be this way”.
But, as I say, there are still many positives: when we first engaged in Humla the headline message was that on average, it took over a day to walk to a government health post, only to find it either closed or that there were no medicines or healthcare workers there.
Today, with the 7 health posts we’ve built, it is now on average, half a day to walk to get to a health post that is not only open, but which is also well stocked with basic medicines. Other statistics also back up this picture: for example, with food or waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and enteritis, the number of cases has dropped annually by almost 50% between 2013 and 2016.
In 2007, we visited Sarkegad, where the Health Post was in a dire condition. With the help of Rotary, we have now renovated the building, and added a new Birthing Centre. It is now seeing over 300 patients a month.
From a basically desperate situation, Sarkegad has become a landmark model for the entire district. Away from health care, another big impact we have made is in renewable energy: supplying remote communities with the means to generate electricity is truly transformational.
Yes, we have made a difference over the past 25 years, but what will be our legacy in another 25 years’ time? We have plenty of examples of projects that will benefit people for a long time after we may have gone, for example, school buildings that are used by children on a daily basis, and that hopefully will last for at least 3 to 4 generations. However, I think that our real legacy will be in helping to effect change in people’s attitude and education. Slowly but surely attitudes are changing, the younger generation is challenging the attitude of fatalism; people are challenging the perceived lack of interest, inefficiency and corruption within administrative bodies and different groups are starting to talk and collaborate on community-wide needs.
Our forward projects have a strong element of empowerment and collaboration: the Hygiene for Girls, the Little Doctors and the Maternal Health Programmes all empowering the next generation through education to challenge traditional attitudes that hold communities back; and our 3 Clinics Project will challenge ourselves and the local District Health Office to collaborate on the delivery of primary healthcare.
Together we can be proud of what we have achieved: looking down, our founder, Alan Jacobsen, will surely be smiling as he surveys all and I’m sure that he’d be saying a big thank you to all our friends and supporters.