The latest stories from Nepal

It’s been a rather busy few weeks for me this past while (on the work and life front).  That explains why I have not posted in over two weeks!  But I am here now.

Firstly since the fundraiser on January 30 to support the ongoing needs of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC), a few more donations have come in, bringing the total raised to a remarkable CAD$4,300 | Nr. 340,000.  Not bad for a little community like Bowen Island with a population of ~3,500 given there is some sort of fundraising underway every week.  Heartfelt thanks one and all.

Myself along with young volunteer Bowen Wright were featured in the local Bowen Island Undercurrent newspaper last week.  I’m sure that helped with the extra donations since the event, thank you Louise Loik, Editor of the Undercurrent!  You’ll remember Bowen Wright’s generosity to the kids at SIRC, just click the link to be reminded.

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On the evening of February 2nd, I volunteered at a Child Haven fundraiser at the Vancouver Rowing Club – a night of fantastic music performed by Canadian singer-songwriters, wonderful food, raffle and silent auction.  The night was put on as a partnership between Synergy Collective led by Yvonne McSkimming and Child Haven‘s Vancouver group of volunteers led by Katherine Doyle.  A great turnout even on a Tuesday night!  Unsure what the final total raised actually was but Katherine and team seemed pretty pleased with themselves.

Marsang (l), Katherine (m) and myself (r). All wearing Nepali made clothes including Marsang in traditional Tamang dress. We were a colourful lot that evening!

Marsang (l), Katherine (m) and myself (r). All wearing Nepali-made clothes including Marsang in traditional Tamang dress. We were a colourful lot that evening!  Photo credit:  Ian Cameron

There has been some significant news from Nepal too.

Blockade.  The five-month old border blockade is finally over ….. and as this article shows, no one really won except the smugglers.  Tis true, costs of cooking gas and fuel were nearly 4 times the usual price.  Young men who used to walk for miles or ride their bicycles are now driving around on brand new motorbikes and flashing wads of money while their compatriots starved.  The supply of dry goods was very low and if available, expensive.  Medical supplies were tricky to source.

The Nepali Times called the blockage a humanitarian crisis which pushed a further 700,000 people below the poverty line.  Over a quarter of the 28 million population in Nepal now live in poverty.  The country is divided along ethnic lines and the unrest is paused rather than over to my mind.

According to today’s Kathmandu Post, Nepal Oil Corporation (state owned) has started to distribute fuel at regular prices, so that should start to alleviate a little, the harshness of living under the blockade.  The supply of cooking gas however continues to be in short demand despite the lifting of the blockade.

On a personal level, I was rather relieved to hear international carriers can now refuel their airplanes at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International effective February 16 – I may not have to endure a 25+ hour flight to KTM when I return in July afterall!

Sushil Koirala RIP.  Former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala passed away on February 9th at the age of 76 years old.  Known for his simplistic lifestyle and support for a democractic system of government, he will probably be remembered the most for his contribution to the constitution making process in Nepal.  No matter the party line, it seems Nepal mourned his loss.

Earthquakes.  The aftershocks continue and are felt on a regular basis.  The aftershocks currently being felt measure between 4 to 5+ on the Richter scale and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Sindhupalchowk last week was felt hundreds of kilometers away, strong enough to drive people out of their homes in Bhaktapur and Banepa.  In fact, the seismic activity in this district has been fairly active in the past couple of weeks:

seismic activity

International media don’t report such things, they have moved onto other and newer issues around the world.  But it’s still a reality of everyday life for many.

There is a team from SIRC currently in Sindhupalchowk, delivering training on spinal cord injury (SCI) care to primarily nurses in the district hospital and health posts.  Their final day of training is today so I hope to get a report on how it went fairly soon, so stay tuned.

I’ll end this post with my thoughts on being grateful for all I have in my life – family, friends, good health, community, love and laughter.  In the few weeks gone by, some of those I love have experienced incidences that have challenged them to the core.  It reminded me to be grateful for this life I love living.


About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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