This is the journey of a girl who felt a calling to make an impact on the world, to immerse herself in an unfamiliar culture, to be a minority for the first time in her life, to see the children who need us and to feel in my soul a deeper sense of meaning and responsibility for my actions and they way I choose to move forward in my life after this experience.
So my journey started with a lot of bumps along the way: including I got sick, my dog got sick, car broke down, visa application was returned incomplete, the visa application with my passport was lost and I had to start a 10 hour sit in protest to retrieve it in Atlanta, missed all my connections due to weather, my bags were lost and gone for 10 days including all my hoola hoops (graciously donated by a partner organization Hoola for Happiness) and my art supplies (donated by my wonderful friends).
Three hours after my arrival in Delhi I headed with Khusi Hona founder Matthew van Rooyen to Kathmandu, Nepal with nothing, but the clothes on my back, my lesson plans, and 1 lone hoola hoop all the while Matthew looking at me suspiciously triple checking if I was ok. “Part of the Journey” I kept telling myself “I want to be pushed to the limit and challenge myself” I kept repeating. The next day after retrieving a few personal items from a local market and taking my last hot shower for a while, things were starting to look up and I was ready to see something other than the inside of an airport.
We jumped in a jeep and headed on a 5 hour drive to Hetauda through the Himalayan mountains: this hands down was the most eye opening and life changing 5 hours of my life! I could not open my eyes wide enough to absorb everything that now surrounded me. Life as I knew it was no longer, the people, the environment, the children & animals running wild through the streets, the vibrant colors, the smells, the food, the places people call home I saw all of it and felt such a rush of emotion. I have never needed for anything, how could I have ever complained in my life about anything, ever?! I grew up in country clubs! Good Lord this is what I needed a good smack in the face!
Khusi Hona had raised money a few months prior to my arrival for Educanepal a girl’s home outside of Hetauda for art supplies, books, games and activites to help create cherished childhood memories and that is exactly what we did! In Nepal it was the annual Dashain Festival, so we distributed all the supplies and held an art workshop for the girls and helped them create spiral streamer decorations that they could use to make their home festive & a little more colorful! Most of these kids have never even used scissors, glue or glitter before…it was such a treat to be able to teach the girls how to use them. It was incredible to see how timid the girls were at first, then after a while you could see their confidence build and their creativity was endless!
After that we decided to head outside to play with their new games and I brought out my hoop and taught the girls how to hoola, we even had all the girls participate in a fun team building exercise. To end the day the girls performed a traditional Nepalese song and dance for the Khusi Hona Ambassadors and even had us join in it was an incredible afternoon had by all, but the day was not over yet.
Khusi Hona had previously raised money for the Mamaghar children by providing them with blankets and sweaters to keep them warm for the winter, as well as funds for a new computer for the kids. It was very rewarding experience to see how the funds are raised and then directly distributed to the organization, seeing how much of an impact these funds- no matter how small have on the well being of these amazing children.
Khusi Hona founder Matthew van Rooyen and I were invited to spend the evening celebrating the Dashain Festival at the Mamaghar home for boys that have been rescued from a life on the streets. The founder Arpan was an amazing host, when we arrived he had all the boys lined up in rows with flowers in hand to greet us, we received Tikka, and a silk scarf to welcome us into their loving home. These boys are full of energy and it is contagious you immediately have a smile from ear to ear. Before dinner the boys wanted to put on a breakdancing show for us- it was incredible, all the boys work together to create really amazing routines we were speechless! Then I brought out my hoop and taught the boys how to hoola, they were naturals and surpassed my hoop skills within a matter of minutes. For dinner we were honored with a traditional Dashain dinner of goat and it was delicious!
So the next day Khusi Hona founder Matthew van Rooyen sponsored a field trip to take the kids to a local park & zoo. The kids had so much fun, they danced, hooped, went swimming, played games and we spoiled them with special treats too. We had such an amazing day. All the boys wanted to hold our hands as we walked around the park so eager for our attention, it was so sweet! We were told this would be one of their greatest childhood memories and it is so incredible that we get to be a part of that.
Dashain festival has a tradition where an elder wishes family members good luck for the year to come, Matthew offered each of the children Tikka and surprised them with 20 rupees each (their eyes lit up!). Arpan then took us to his home where we met his parents, brother, sister in law, wife and son. Matthew and I were offered tikka by the family patriarch. It was an absolute honor to be welcomed into his parents home, and a treat to be able to experience a traditional family style holiday here in Nepal. We enjoyed spending time with Arpan and his whole family, we were even invited to share a meal with them, it was delicious.
This is only the start of my journey it has been the most motivating, humbling, joyful, heartwarming time of my life. These experiences demonstrate exactly why I saved for months on end, left my incredible beautiful life, and loved ones. The world is so big & so amazingly different then one can possibly imagine. I have seen more eye openings things then I ever thought possible. This is real and this is life and I will carry the story of these children with me, spreading awareness to all who will listen, that I am now forever changed.