I was listening to the cover of the Cure’s “Love Song” sung by Adele. In her rich, deep, sultry, bluesy voice the song is an ode to love. While listening I was looking at photos of the PKMM Hospital Resource Center which I had shot that day; thinking how the establishment of the Center has been a labor of love and how much I’ve come to love the children living in the Karjanha VDC area.
When I was a VSO volunteer (June 2012-March 2014), through a partnership with Applied Medical, Inc. in Rancho Santa Margarita, and a number of libraries in California my father was able to ship more than 600 used library books for the establishment of school libraries by some of my former VSO colleagues. Contributions from Room to Read and the Asia Foundation supplemented these libraries.
Using an integrated development approach (health, education, livelihoods), and through a partnership with local children, Cathay Pacific (Los Angeles), Applied Medical, my father and numerous Orange County, California libraries we’ve established the very first Resource Center/Library in Karjanha VDC at the Phul Kumari Mahato Memorial Hospital.
This took a tremendous effort; a group of children who I’ve befriended did the bulk of the preparation work. We had to first move items from the Hospital store into another room, then thoroughly clean and paint to create a bright space. The children, ranging in age from 6-14 did most of the painting and decorating, always smiling and showing unlimited enthusiasm.
Two weeks after a soft opening we’ve served upwards of 1000 children with the numbers growing every day. One day there were more than 150 children who wanted to get into the Resource Center, however given space limitations we could only serve 25 inside while the others played outside. After we closed the library, the 150 children sat outside while I read them one of the books, Where the Wild Things Are, one of my favorite stories. After each library session ends, we gather the children in front of the Hospital and we read them a story which is translated by the Hospital’s Finance Officer. I’ve even noticed some adults listening, with huge smiles on their faces.
The Resource Center goes well beyond being only a library; this is a place where children “starving” for art and recognition can draw whatever they like and display their picture on the walls, something sorely lacking in the schools which I’ve visited. We provide the children with positive messages, helping to build their self-esteem. Prior to opening the Resource Center we clean up the area in front and throw garbage into trash cans, teaching children the value of cleanliness. Before entering the library everyone must wash their hands with soap and water providing valuable lessons in keeping oneself clean and free from germs. Most recently two Hospital interns have helped out at the Resource Center talking to children about the importance of seeing a doctor.
The Resource Center might become a place to provide opportunities to empower the children of this area, to teach them how to advocate for improving their village through campaigns, e.g. “Let’s Stop Open Defecation” and “Keeping Our Villages Free from Trash”. The Resource Center might come to provider great hope and a forum for discussions as to how to achieve one’s dreams, providing information about a much larger world outside of this area.
I’m learning about integrated development from the ground up; how to really make an impact and a difference through simple means such as being friendly and establishing a Resource Center. However, ultimately this isn’t about me; this is about serving others, being a facilitator. It’s about the receptiveness and curiosity of those living in rural Nepal. I’m so in love with Karjanha VDC and the surrounding areas of lush green rice fields. However, this is about the people who’ve taken me in and have shown me as much love and more as I’ve shown them.