Westerners To The Rescue? (Lessons from Nepal)

After an amazing trip to Nepal, I can’t help but think, was it me the Westerner doing the saving? Or perhaps was I the one being saved?
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Words fail me. Seriously, every day my breath is taken away by this culture. But it’s the young girls who I have fallen in love with. I see so much in them, but with a caste system in place (no judgement, it’s their culture) and most living in extreme poverty, their beauty very rarely sees the light. But don’t we, the world, need more of this shiny feminine in the world? Hell yeh! Around 90% of these girls will not make it to year 11 and 12, let alone University. I am in discussions with the local representatives to see how we can break this lineage of their caste and see these girls graduate from University. The first girl Binisha who is dancing and in the second photo with me, is in year 10, comes from the lowest caste level, yet she is the President of the local Junior Red Cross. I mean, come on, she doesn’t care about her rank in society! She is just making it happen! What a goddess! Yes, the world needs to see her light. I can’t wait to be a part of her journey. Practica and Menccho are in year 7 and also living in extreme poverty. But look at their smiles! Can we not learn something from these angels? I am so grateful to have met them. 🙏🏻💙🌷 . . . . . #nepaligirl #gratitudeattitude #opportunityawaits #givingbackfeelsgood #beofservice #culturetrip #girlsrock #divinefeminine

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That song you were listening to Etherglow Remix Part 1 of Open Wide. I chose this because it has the same expansive feeling that I felt on my recent trip to Nepal. Are you holding on to something ain’t real. So relax let go, let it all feel. So come back to the middle, come back to the middle come back to the middle of you. In those lyrics is the message I received from Nepal. More on that in a minute.

If you have been watching my social media, you would have seen that I have just got back from a trip to Nepal where I was working alongside the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation, CHOICE Humanitarian and Days For Girls. I got to be part of the inauguration of a new health centre funded by the Healing Hands Foundation which will service a population of 100,000 people in the Makwanpur region. I also got to witness first hand the impact that the incredible organisation Days For Girls has on young women, educating them about menstruation. 

Chhaupadi is a social tradition associated with the menstrual taboo in the western part of Nepal. The tradition prohibits Hindu women from taking part in normal family activities while menstruating, as they are considered “impure”.

The women and young girls are kept out of the house and have to live in a cattle shed or a makeshift hut. This period of time lasts between ten and eleven days when an adolescent girl has her first period; thereafter, the duration is between four and seven days each month. Women are forbidden to touch men or even to enter the courtyard of their own homes. They are barred from consuming milk, yogurt, butter, meat, and other nutritious foods, for fear they will forever mar those goods. The women must survive on a diet of dry foods, salt, and rice. They cannot use warm blankets and are allowed only a small rug. They are also restricted from going to school or performing daily functions like taking a bath.

Women have died while performing the practice, including two young women in late 2016 who died from smoke inhalation and “carbon monoxide poisoning” from lighting fires to heat secluded makeshift shelters, huts and sheds during cold weather, which is a common cause of death in poorly ventilated huts. Rape, snakebites and wild animal attacks are also common causes of death of banished women practising Chhaupadi.

In this superstitious practice, if a menstruating woman touches a tree, it will never again bear fruit; if she consumes milk, the cow will not give any more milk; if she reads a book, Saraswati, the goddess of education, will become angry; if she touches a man, he will be ill.

Now my part in this was really incredible. I was chosen to be the male who spoke to a classroom of young girls aged 10 to 15 about why women matter. For them to have a man tell them hey are beautiful, tell them that menstruation is beautiful, and to teach them the simple phrase, which we teach our son, “My Body My Rules”. You should have seen them shouting this out. It was so cute! And to see their faces lit up by learning about their body, their ovaries, how babies are made. Many were diligently sitting their taking notes. It was the sweetest thing I have ever seen!

And amongst all this, no matter where I went in Nepal, but especially with these children in the remote hilltop village of the Makwanpur region, what I saw was happiness. I wasn’t sure at first if the smiles were just from the fact that a group of Westerners had come to visit them, but no matter where I went, I saw happiness. To some degree this made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be that white guy from another world who came to save the day. Don’t get me wrong, the work that is being done by these organisations is mind blowing. CHOICE Humanitarian is run in Nepal by locals. That’s their model. They don’t give handouts, they empower the locals to rise up and get things done themselves rather than doing it for them. Perhaps that’s why a small team of 15 people have been able to decrease the extreme poverty in the region from 20% to just 5%… in 3 years. Yep.. 3 years. Crazy huh?  

As I wondered the landscape, I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to be in their homes, see how they lived. See what was important to them. This is a region where the majority of the population live in poverty, if not extreme poverty which is less than $1.25 per day. But… they were happy. I mean not a little bit… but like, really happy.

I was also stunned by the supposed malnourishment, yet these children have wide faces, wide jaws with plenty of space for all their teeth (I bet they don’t even know what wisdom teeth removal is), symmetrical beautiful faces and wide noses. If you know anything about Westen A Price’s work or the meaning of Deep Nutrition, an amazing book of the same name actually, you will know that these aesthetics are actually a sign of generational nourishment. There are no braces in this culture, not because they can’t afford it, but because they don’t need it. I am sure we could learn a thing or two about their simple anti-ego, whole food diets. The paleo community can turn their noses up at grains and legumes, but clearly this simple diet is doing something rather magical for their health, otherwise they simply would not look the way they do.

Being a dad I have spent time with children before, but there was something about these kids. It was like they had mystical powers of being able to crack the heart open. Whenever I was with the girls I could feel emotions welling up. It all started when I had my first strong connection with a girl called Practica Rumba. I was sitting in during their Days For Girls class, she would look across the room at me, make eye contact, and give me the most incredible smile. She so effortlessly could spread her light across the room. I felt it like a real force that hit me in the chest. 

I knew that Practica was here to teach me something. In my own way I was being of service to this community, but they were teaching me how to unconditionally love. That a simple life can be a life of love and happiness. It’s not normal in this culture for a young girl, Practica is 11, to hug a man. Especially a foreign man. But you can only imagine when Practica gave me the first hug. In her smile, in her eyes, in her hug, she had so much to give.

It was the same when I met Menchho Rumba and Binisha Ghimire. Three girls that I am determined to support all the way through to university and beyond, because without that support, their light won’t be seen beyond their village. Around 25% of girls in this region won’t make it to years 11 and 12, while a very small percentage will actually go on to university. There is still a caste system in place which is an aspect of the Hindu religion. There are four main castes… the Brahmins who are the priests and teachers, the Kshatriyas who are the warriors and rulers, the Vaishyas who are the farmers traders and merchants, and the Shudras who are the labourers. There is actually a fifth caste that I had not heard of which is the Dalits, or outcastes. These are the street sweepers and latrine cleaners. … These main four castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation. So in a nutshell, you get told what you will become in life.

But I didn’t want this for these girls. If they don’t get to high school or university, they will be married off very young and left to repeat the life of their parents. And round and round we go, the cycle unbroken. I am not here to say what they are doing is wrong. After all, there is no such thing as right or wrong, there just is, what is. But that doesn’t mean things can’t be better for these girls. What I saw in these girls was the type of light that needs to be shone more on humanity. The world needs to see them. They are the model of what is coming in the feminine rising. 

Binisha, despite being in the 4th caste, is the President of the local Junior Red Cross. She doesn’t see herself as others see her based on her caste! Perhaps with a little bit of unexpected support from a strange man she danced with, she may even become the next female President of Nepal. Yes, despite how women are seen as being impure every month, and despite their normally taking a back seat to the boys who get more education, Nepal already has a female President in Bidhya Devi Bhandari. Something not even the USA has managed to achieve, and only once in Australia.

So, did the Westerners save the day? Perhaps to some extent yes. But really, what greater lesson is there than to be happy. With one in six Americans and one in 10 Australians taking some form of psychiatric drug, mostly antidepressants, can we really say we have it better? What has all this affluence really done for us? It has given us all the choices in the world. But do we have too many? Is it the choices we can make that have become our downfall? When Menchho and Practica walk to school, anywhere between 1 to 3 hours a day, each way, their main focus is to just be. Nowhere else. Just be, right where they are in that moment. It’s this presence that stunned me. You can’t have a smile like Practica’s without being fully present.

I will never forget walking little Practica and her 4 year old sister halfway home on our last day with them. It was a moment I had been dreading. I didn’t want to say goodbye. And as we departed, we didn’t know what to do. We had no common language to express what we were feeling. Practica gave me a hug. Then she gave me, one last time, her impossibly light filled smile, and we walked off. No further than 10 metres had we walked, when we both turned around simultaneously, and she blew me some kisses. I melted. Practica, despite her supposedly poor existence, was richer than I had ever been. 

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