How did I get here?

I have quite the few new followers of this blog, so I thought I would give you some background on how I ended up in Nepal.

It all began in 2008, when I came to Nepal for the first time, realizing one of my lifelong dreams to trek to Everest Base Camp.  It was an epic trip and one that changed me forever.  I fell in love with Nepal – it’s people and the resilience they displayed living day to day in such a challenging country, it’s beauty, it’s ruggedness and sparseness of landscape, the feeling of being close to some kind of higher being that reawakened my spiritual self.  I got far more than I bargained for on that first visit, let me tell you.  I was determined to return.

Taken above the village of Loboche, Khumbu Valley

Taken above the village of Loboche, Khumbu Valley

That first trek in 2008 was arranged by Peak Freaks.  Based out of Nelson BC, Tim and Becky Rippel had lead trekking and climbing expeditions in Nepal, Tibet, Tanzania and Argentina for decades and knew what they were doing.  It was my trust in their expedition capabilities plus their encouragement for me to climb, that I returned in 2011 to summit Imje Tse also known as Island Peak to English speakers.  It is the littlest of the Himalayan peaks at 20,300ft but it may as well have been Everest to me!

Imje Tse (Island Peak) looking not so little to me

Imje Tse (Island Peak) looking not so little to me

It was during this climb that I met Mingmar Sherpa who cajoled me up the mountain to the summit, he is a dear friend to this day.  In fact, many of the people I met on those expeditions remain stalwart friends still.

Jangbu Sherpa (l), Mingmar Sherpa (r) and me ... on the summit of Imje Tse

Jangbu Sherpa (l), Mingmar Sherpa (r) and me … on the summit of Imje Tse

Scroll forward to 2013 when I was contemplating leaving my good paying permanent job in investment management and taking a year out to do something different.  You have to understand, Bowen Island where I live is brimming with an eclectic group of people, all with their own quirks and quarks and stories who chose to live their lives on what was called The Happy Isle in the early 1900s.  I put the word out that I was looking to return to Nepal and spend some time there volunteering.  Low and behold my friend Betty from the Arts Council introduced me to fellow Bowen Islanders Drs Peter Wing and Claire Weeks.

Peter and Claire have been involved with SIRC for many years now, including regular coaching and mentoring of the medical staff at SIRC during last year’s earthquakes, and have also raised funds to educate two Nepali doctors – Dr Prakash Poudel (neurosurgery) and Dr Raju Dhakal (who will become Nepal’s first PM&R doctor in 2017 – wow!).  You can check out their blog here and keep up to date on how Drs Prakash and Raju are doing.

Drs Peter & Claire with Dr Prakash (l) and Dr Raju (r).  Photo credit Dr Peter Wing

Drs Peter & Claire with Dr Prakash (l) and Dr Raju (r). Photo credit Dr Peter Wing

After a good conversation with Peter & Claire, and further discussions with Esha Thapa Dhungana, SIRC’s Executive Director, I spent 5 months working at SIRC and living in Banepa, about 1.5 hours east of Kathmandu.

I loved it! Staying with Lok and his family in Bhinsen Marg, yoga pretty much daily, walks, attending multiple pasni ceremonies and weddings, listening to live music in the local bar and oh the food (coz everyone who knows me know I have a love affair with food and cooking).  All these stories and more are written on this blog.

I did some good and valuable work at SIRC with the help of three MBA interns from ACE School of Management – Nikita, Binay and Rozina.  It was a real pleasure and honour to work with these young professionals who really are Nepal’s future.  Rozina is now in the US with her husband and I am blessed to be such close friends with Nikita and Binay and the Kayastha family today.

The Dream Team!  All those who worked on Ram's Wheelchair Yaatra. Back row from left: Rozina, Nikita, myself, Binay, Aarjit.  The infamous Ram is front row on your left.

The Dream Team! All those who worked on Ram’s Wheelchair Yaatra. Back row from left: Rozina, Nikita, myself, Binay, Aarjit. The infamous Ram is front row on your left.  April 2014

Sangeeta Kayastha and I

Sangeeta Kayastha and I

In case you are interested, check out this posting for full details of the final report to SIRC’s Board outlining my achievements including my career highlight (yes career!) Ram’s Wheelchair Yaatra. 

I have been in regular contact with Esha and SIRC since I left end April 2014 and became deeply involved in SIRC’s response to last year’s two devastating earthquakes, providing much needed assistance and support from Bowen Island.  I have to say, you just gotta love how technology makes it so easy to connect the three of us on Bowen Island with folks in Ireland, Belgium and Nepal – all in support of SIRC.

I followed my time in SIRC with 3 months in Bangladesh working with BRAC’s microfinance programs and then visited friends & family all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, Spain, England and Ireland.  A really awesome year and I returned to Bowen Island re-energized, knowing for sure Bowen Island is indeed my home where I treasure my family of friends and the eclectic community there.  I am fortunate.

I called 2014 my Year of Enlightenment as it did not feel like one of those mid-life crisis years – I swear!  Since then, I have been splitting my time between working as an Independent Contractor in Vancouver, BC and coming to Nepal.

I just can’t shake it.

Nepal will always be near and dear to my heart.

I am always smiling when I am in Nepal.

I am always smiling when I am in Nepal.

All photos taken by me and used with permission unless otherwise noted.

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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10 Responses to How did I get here?

  1. Peter Wing says:

    Great “reintroduction”, Kate! Please say hello from Peter and Claire to all our friends at SIRC!

  2. Mick Canning says:

    Always interesting to hear about backgrounds. I walked the Everest Base Camp trail twice in 2008 – we probably passed each other!

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