Thursday, March 10, 2011

Changing gears in Kathmandu

When we set out from Delhi to Kathmandu, we not only had in mind a ride through a kaleidoscope of sights and terrain, but a mission to support a cause that Alison is involved with, namely to raise funds for a program to help kids in various parts of the world have educational supplies. Alison calls her mission Kinder Kit Fundraiser: B.I.K.E = Bicycling In Aid of Kids Education and thus far she has raised more than $3000 but I am sure she would be delighted by additional contributions, which can be made by following the link

After a couple of days of sightseeing, being in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we shifted into a neutral gear an became tourists. There are in Katmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur literally thousands of temples, stupas, monasteries scattered around narrow alley ways and the famous Durbar Square which dates back many centuries. Besides the Nepalese Buddhist and Hindu temples, there are a large number of beautiful Tibetan temples with lamas in Burdgundy robes, all in a setting of east meets west and everything in between. As might be expected there are countless shopping and eating opportunities and the gamut of places from simple rooms in guest houses to five star hotels, all in a valley that on a clear day seems magical and on others, it’s easy to see, or should it be not seen why it’s one of the most polluted cities in the world.

While we did a lot walking, riding buses and taking an occasional taxi, we changed gears, not that of bicycles, but immersing ourselves in a humanitarian organization from Israel, called Tevel B’Tzedek that is doing some marvelous work here. We have literally moved in with them over the last six nights, since Alison in particular wanted to learn about the organization and to participate in trips that started very early in the morning to see firsthand in the field the fruits of their labour which indeed are impressive. Alison also had some meaningful input into some organization development issues with TbT, which is one area of her expertise.

Their achievements to date are substantial in terms of empowering youth and women, education, agriculture and early child development which can be seen from the numerous school and extra-curricular programs, arts activities, women’s groups, farming, bio gas, sanitation, water supply and health education programs which they have established.

TbT adopts a holistic approach by working closely with established community leaders and partners, and has 23 Nepali staff who manage and operate programs throughout the year. Each year, TbT operates both long and short term volunteer programs. The four month ‘’Full Program’’ operates twice a year with two cohorts and the 5 week ‘’Backpackers’’ program consists of 6 cohorts between October and May. TbT conducts extensive orientation sessions for the volunteers to prepare them for their placements including Nepali language, culture, history, site visits, workshops and discussions on Jewish values and responsible volunteerism.

During our field visits we saw terraced fields of various crops that only a couple of years ago were dormant. TbT brought water from nearly a half kilometer, introduced wells, toilets that are linked to a system to produce bio-gas for cooking year around, concrete enclosures for animals, and a new fishpond. We met with various youth, womens ‘groups, saw programs for blind kids, day care centers, school programs and much more that were TbT’s initiatives. Perhaps most moving was our living and at times participating with 20 young very energetic and enthusiastic Israeli’s who are going through a one month intensive training program, that includes learning Nepalese, prior to them going into the field for three months.
After a couple of days’ delay, which in large measure was due to the need to get an extension of our Indian visas, an entirely unpleasant bureaucratic experience, as of the time of writing, we are planning to leave from Daman, a hill town at an elevation of 2,300 meters, unless we continue in neutral gear at the urging of our hosts and stay for Shabbat.


agesnumbers said...

Reading your stuff. Slushing our stuff.

Laura Jacob said...

Sounds amazing. I'm also glad you got your visas! you could be a guide to bureaucracies!