"A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." Joseph Smith

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wheelchairs in Pokhara, Nepal

We had the opportunity of being part of a wheelchair assessment team to Pokhara, Nepal, November 22 - 29, 2014. Specialists flew in from Utah to train physicians, therapists and other medical workers from several of Pokhara's medical clinics, and we were fortunate to be included as some of the students.
The wheelchair assessment team in Kathmandu airport on the way to Pokhara
During the three day training we learned how to assemble wheelchairs, how to assess the needs of the recipients, and how to get around safely in a wheelchair in a variety of situations.

        Learning what it is like to move about on
rough terrain

Elder Coffey preparing the wheelchairs

Sitting in on a wheelchair assessment for a
spinal cord injury patient

Then on day three, the recipients came, hoping to qualify for a wheelchair of their own. Their stories were ones of courage and hope.
Rosan Karti is 12 years old and loves going to school where he can see his friends.  About 6 years ago he began to experience muscle weakness, which has slowly begun getting worse, his parents told us.  They brought him to the wheelchair distribution by LDS Charities in hopes that he might qualify for a chair. The assessors checked him out - “Muscular Dystrophy”, his diagnosis sheet read. They would give him a chair that day.

When I caught up with him he was in a Rough Rider wheelchair, in the field practicing moving around in his new chair.  I sat in the grass, basking in the sun, with his parents sitting nearby.  He stopped, exhausted, unable to move his chair any further.  While getting around on grass is hard, it was evident to me that Rosan’s problem was more than just the terrain.  His father kneeled beside the chair, Rosan very haltingly grabbed onto his father's shoulder, and slowly, slowly pulled himself onto his dad’s back.  His dad gently lowered him to the grass.  Then the dad learned over and gave him a hug and a kiss to his forehead.

The parents looked so happy for this day.  Rosan beamed with delight. But I realized the long and arduous journey yet ahead for this boy and his family.  My mind flashed to other young boys I have known who also watch their childhood pass with increasing weakness and greater dependence from this dreaded disease.  I looked at the family again, the dad tousling Rosan’s hair in the sunlight.  I had to turn away so they wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

Sushma Bhundari (20 years old) was only 3 years old when an accident with a vehicle left her with a spinal chord injury, unable to walk.  She is a bright, intelligent young woman and is studying to become a software engineer.  Sushma lives fifteen minutes from school and had a standard wheelchair which her family members pushed through the rugged roads and rough terrain to get her around.  Before, she always let others push her chair, but now with the Rough Rider chair from LDS Charities, she is excited to become more self-reliant and independent.  

Sushma Bhundari in her new wheelchair

“I hope having this chair will make it easier for me to get around.  I hope I can get myself around now by myself,” she said.  Achieving a greater level of self-reliance is an important goal for Sushma. 

For so many, having a wheelchair is a transforming experience, an opportunity of restoring a measure of dignity to their lives.

 The woman beside me is 80 years old and suffered a stroke several years ago.
For some, the wheelchair is their life.

Kim and Gaye Brown were the wheelchair specialists from Utah who came to oversee the wheelchair training.   Elder Brown told me of his first assignment as a wheelchair specialist for LDS Charities years earlier in Sierra Leone.  One woman in an old wheelchair came requesting a new one.  He noticed her seat, nothing more than a wooden slat, was rotting from exposure to the elements.  He suggested to her that she take care of her wheelchair when she was not using it by keeping it in a protected place, like a garage. She didn't know what that was. 
Kim Brown discusses wheelchair assessments
with one of the students

“Carport?” he asked.  No idea. “Some kind of an overhang, or even in your house?” 

Wide eyed, and with tears streaming down her cheeks she said, looking down at her chair, “Mr. Brown, this is my house.” It was all she had to her name.

Tears flooded his face. Kim Brown was forever a changed man and would never look at life the same way again.

Patrick Cheuk, Asia Area Welfare Manager (center),
helps assess a wheelchair recipient
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  

Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee?  or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?  or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  
Matthew 25: 35-40

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sunrise on the Himalaya Mountains

On November 22nd we traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal.  We have two humanitarian couples living there, and we visited them to see the projects they are doing and how things are going. Elder and Sister Wasuita and Elder and Sister Valentine love living in Nepal and are doing amazing things there. They are the ones who actually do the real humanitarian work – we just play with computers back in Hong Kong!  They are amazing people.  Also going with us was the Area Welfare Manager, Patrick Cheuk.  And we met up with Elder and Sister Brown from Utah.  They are Asia Area wheel chair specialists, and fly out to Asia often to train people in proper wheelchair assessments and fittings before the wheelchairs are delivered to recipients. We were among those to be trained.

Our humanitarian team on the way to Pokhara
Once we all met up in Kathmandu, we flew to Pokhara, Nepal where the wheelchair training was to take place.  This sweet grandpa and grandma were flying with their children to Pokhara, and joined us for a photo.

I loved her nose rings!

Early in the morning before our first day of training, we took a van up the mountain as far as it would go, then hiked a very longs ways up a steep winding dirt path through a mountain village, till we came to a look out point  with a small shelter. 

The steep trail up the mountain
The steep village road to the Annapurna Viewpoint

At the Annapurna Viewpoint

Here a small group of early morning hikers gathered to watch for the sunrise on the Himalaya Mountains.

The snow capped Himalaya Mountains come into view as the sun burns away the morning clouds and mists.

This woman offered tea and snacks to those who came to watch the sunrise

The clouds were thick in the distance at first, obscuring our view, but as the sun rose it melted away the mists and slowly the majestic Himalaya Mountains came into view.

Kathmandu and Pokhara rarely get snow.  They are down in the valleys and are a very moderate temperature.  People usually think Nepal is all cold and snow-covered, but many parts are green and fertile with relatively mild temperatures year round.  

Nepal is a vacationers paradise.  People come from all over the world for trekking, climbing, para sailing, rafting, or enjoying the zip-lines, jungle safari's, and gorgeous mountain views. The streets of Pokhara are brimming with everything you need to outfit you for a successful experience. 

Welcome sign at Pokhara airport

Jackets, walking sticks, backpacks, hats, gloves - they have it all.

All the fun places you can go!

Silk, wool, pashmina and cashmere scarves and sweaters 

This woman lives in the Tibet Refugee Camp 13 kilometers from Pokhara and comes here daily
 to sell her jewelry on the street.

Next post - the giving out of wheelchairs to those in need.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Now we have enough water."

In the small mountain village of Ramkot, Nepal, a family now has clean water enough to expand their garden and give water to their animals.  Rajesh Khanal lives with his family in a small home on the side of the mountain.  To get to his house we had to leave the rocky dirt road and trek up and down winding dirt trails, around the village holy place and past goats and water buffalo.  Along the way, I found his sister, age 20, watering the family garden by hand with a watering can. 

Beets, cabbage, spinach, radishes, corn grow abundantly in their garden

I asked her where her water came from.  She proudly led me around the small humble home to an outdoor faucet – the family’s only water source.  Her grandmother used to walk 3-4 kilometers each day to bring fresh water for her family.  Now, clean water is right outside their door. 

This is one of LDS Charities' water projects.  In order to bring ample drinking water to this village of 1000 people, LDS Charities partnered with a local charity to drill a well, build a large cement storage unit for the water, and pipe water to individual homes via gravity feed.  The pump brings up 12 liters of water per second, and provides ample water to everyone in the village. This is a huge blessing to a village that struggled to have enough water for their needs.

“We didn't have enough water for our animals,” Rajesh said. “Now, because we have fresh water right at our house, we can not only give plenty of water for our animals, we can also expand our garden.”  With the larger garden they can not only eat enough food, but occasionally sell some vegetables to make a little extra money.

Their animals are a vital part of their existence.  The water buffalo and cows help with the garden and provide fresh milk. 

                                      But they are not eaten.  Cows are sacred in Nepal.  

This cow has been given a blessing by the family – a “Tikka” - the red paint mark on its head.  It's a thank you for blessing them with milk.

I asked Rajesh about their goats.  “We do not drink their milk,” he said.  “We raise baby goats.  We eat many of the boy goats and raise the girl goats for more babies.”  I asked him if they eat the “boy goats” as part of their animal sacrifices in Hindu worship.  He said yes, that is why they are so important.  

Goats and haystack on the edge of  town

Village children
Manjana uses the water from her new tap to wash dishes outside her home.
Before the tap, she had to walk to the top of the village mountain to get water. 

Corn drying in the sun

Village home

Village family enjoying fresh water for hand washing

New Freedom for Sandyya

Elder Coffey and I recently returned from a week in Nepal to view some of our humanitarian projects being done there.  We met amazing people.  We would like to share some of their stories with you.

Sandyya Subedi of Pokhara, Nepal, was born completely healthy.  But just two weeks later she developed a fever, then went into convulsions.  The illness left her partially paralyzed and spasmodic.  Doctors today say it was probably meningitis, and it left in its wake damage to the developing brain that affected her ability to control her muscles. She now has cerebral palsy. 

Sandyya Subedi, age 15, being steadied by the wheelchair specialist.

Now 15 years old, Sandyya is a bright and intelligent young woman. She lives with her parents and 12 year old sister. Sandyya tries to go to school as often as possible, by wheelchair. She loves school, and loves being with her friends. When her previous wheelchair became damaged and was no longer usable, the family did not have the money to replace it.  They tried to find one she could borrow from friends. Sometimes she was able to use the borrowed wheelchair and make it to school.  But often the wheelchair was not available, and she missed many classes. 

Sandyya’s parents brought her to the LDS Charities wheelchair distribution in Pokhara, Nepal to get a wheelchair of her very own.  She was an absolute delight - beaming with happiness to have her own chair which will give her greater freedom.  Someone will still have to push the wheelchair for her, but at least now she can go to school regularly.

“With her new chair, she will be able to be with her friends and not miss anymore classes,” her father told me with joy in his eyes.  He proudly told me she knows some English, and she shared the names of some major US cities and a few other English words.

With her new chair, Sandyya will now be able to be with her friends and continue her education without interruption.  The determination in her eyes says it all. Thank you, everyone, for your humanitarian contributions worldwide.  Those contributions have made a huge difference in the life of this young woman.