16 climbers, 10 sherpas and six rope leaders set out on Thursday morning to kick off our three-day Climb for Himalaya Children of Mt. Rainier, Wa. Led by board members Ambrose Bittner and Len Kannapell and sponsored by Red Lantern Journeys and Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance. Three days roundtrip to the 14,411 ft. summit of the highest mountain of the Cascade range in the Pacific Northwest and the highest mountain in Washington State.
On Saturday I went along with Yogesh and his children for a day of hiking at Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. I was very excited to join them on this hike in hopes of seeing some animals unique to Nepal. The Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park offers a somewhat challenging trail due to the changing altitude throughout the hike. I was relieved to reach the top of the trail because I was excited to look over the entire Kathmandu Valley. Looking over the valley was very peaceful, despite the hectic buzz of the city down below. On our hike back down was nothing out of the ordinary until we ran into a tribe of Asamese Monkeys.
After a wonderful week in Kathmandu learning about all that Mitrata is doing there, it was time for me to move on and make room for volunteer Larissa. I took a fairly harrowing bus ride along a winding river in a rainstorm to reach Chitwan, where I met Sudan and Sushmita. Sudan is a medical student here, and Sushmita is a dental student. Chitwan Medical College is attached to a teaching hospital, and I wandered through the very large, rather modern-looking hospital atrium while I waited for Sushmita and Sudan to finish class. They very graciously met me for lunch and patiently answered my many questions about their schooling process.
During my time in Nepal I'm spending my days at the Contact Center. On normal days (Sunday - Thursday) the children sharpen their skills in math, English, Nepali and more, but on Fridays Mina and Sarita plan a fun program for the children. On Friday mornings the children come in and eat breakfast, like they normally do, but after that, they practice their dancing and singing skills. After lunch we continued our fun day by watching cartoons and eating popcorn.
We are so excited to share our new video. It shares our story, the beauty and hardships of Nepal, the hope and hard work of our children, and the dedication of our child sponsors, staff, board members and volunteers. We made it with our friends and child sponsors, Amy Benson and Scott Squire, documentary filmmakers and the creative team behind Nonfiction Media. Amy and Scott created a beautifully intimate portrait of what's important to us, to our children and their families.
I finished nursing school recently enough that it's still very fresh in my mind, so I was curious about how the Nepali nursing school system works. First, I traveled to Dhulikel to visit Rabina, a second-year nursing student at a university there. Then I met with Arju, who is a third-year nursing student at a college in Kathmandu. Both Rabina and Arju had to compete with thousands of prospective students for one of about thirty spots in their classes. (I thought getting into nursing school in the U.S. was hard!)
Hello! My name is Larissa and I just finished my senior year at Kirkwood High School and plan to study psychology and education at Canisius College next year. I have volunteered for Mitrata for many years at trivia nights and mouse races. I had my first opportunity to travel to Nepal in 2015 on the sponsor trip, and absolutely loved my experience. After returning home I knew I wanted to go back, so in the summer of 2016, I traveled back to Nepal to volunteer in the Contact Center. I decided to travel back to Nepal this year to volunteer in the Contact Center because I enjoy working and spending time with the kids. It amazes me how strong all of the kids are despite the challenges they have to face on a daily basis. In my time here I'm excited to make new friends and learn even more about the Nepali culture.
This morning I arrived at the Contact Center to find it was the one day each month when the students have their BMI measured. What luck! Every month, each student is carefully measured and weighed, and then their BMI is calculated and recorded. If a student falls below the minimum BMI expected for their age, their diet at the Contact Center is adjusted to help bring them up to a normal weight for their age and height. Malnutrition is an issue for many of the students at the Contact Center, but the Contact Center staff has several approaches to help. Breakfast and lunch are prepared each school day by a wonderful staff cook.
Today I visited the Contact Center to see what a typical day is like for the students there. Our day began as children filtered in and ate breakfast, and then we started the morning routine by singing and dancing together, in both Nepali and English. After a brief mediation session to focus our minds, we were ready to learn! The younger kids practiced writing numbers in Nepali, while older kids worked on English words for colors and multiplication tables. We also had breaks for play time, of course -- puzzles proved especially popular with all ages.