We are so excited to let you, our friends and family know, that as of July we are off to work in Nepal with the country’s longest serving international NGO, the International Nepal Fellowship (INF).
For Britt and I this marks the beginning of a long awaited dream of both of ours, to live and serve directly alongside some of the most resilient yet impoverished communities in our world, to learn from their strength and participate in their way of life.
Whilst the incredible peaks of the Himalayas can give Nepal an often magical other-wordly feel, day to day life for the majority of Nepali people is a far harsher reality. I’ll never forget during my last trip to Nepal, our van rounded a corner to find a group of desperate men who had laid the body of an injured woman directly across the road in order to force the next passing vehicle to help. As we hastily made room for the stretcher, I saw one of the men raise the blanket covering the face of the badly injured woman, who I now realized was his wife. Her chest was rising and falling slowly yet she was making next to no sound at all. As we sat silent and shaken, the interpreter explained to me that she had been struck several hours earlier by a falling rock whilst out gathering firewood and that sadly, this was a common occurrence here in Jumla, which sits perched over 2300m above sea level in Nepal’s mountainous Western region.
I had been on assignment with a film crew for World Vision capturing just some of what life was like for the local children. It wasn’t easy. Earlier that week we had met Lalu, who at just 7 years of age, looked more like he was 4 years old thanks to the effects of malnutrition on his tiny body (you can watch his full story below). His grandfather spoke with remarkable strength and dignity about how Lalu had come to live with them after his father had been killed during recent conflict between the Maoists and the government. Now he too feared for their lives. He pointed out his two small fields which both lay barren and the one measly bag of grain remaining that would need to get them through the winter.
(In the next few weeks I’ll tell you about a young girl named Sarita, whose story has also been a source of inspiration to return to this country.)
Why Nepal? And why INF?
Nepal has some of the worst poverty indicators in the world, with 50% of Nepali children under five malnourished. Nationwide, one in twenty children don’t make it to their firth birthday and in remote areas this number is as high as one in eight. Education and issues of gender inequality mean that only 48.3% of women over the age of 15 can read and write.
Yet INF is an organization with a plan. Its mission is to;
Live out the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed by serving Nepali people through promoting health, fighting poverty and social injustice, working with and encouraging churches, and caring for creation.
It does this through a range of health and development programs aimed at helping people suffering from malnutrition, TB, leprosy, disability, HIV / AIDS and drug abuse, whilst facilitating greater overall development amongst poor communities in a way which, ‘helps them to help themselves’. It is INF’s commitment to helping the nation stand on its own two feet that has most strongly drawn us to their work.
What exactly will we be doing?
INF is staffed and run almost entirely by local Nepali workers. International workers with highly specific skill sets make up only a small number of the total staff. Brittany will be the one working full time for INF as their Community Health and Development Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. The development of appropriate and effective monitoring and evaluation tools will help to ensure that INF can deliver the very best outcomes for Nepali people whilst maximizing the efficiency of their resources.
For myself personally, I will be studying as part of the Arrow Leadership Program, whilst working intently on a few dreams of my own around how to best engage and inspire Australian young adults in finding ways to use the skills and opportunities they have been given to help the poorest of the poor.
We would love you to join us
We don’t go alone. We would love you to ‘come on the journey with us to Nepal’ and there are a couple of ways that you can be involved:
1. Take the time to watch the video below introducing the work of INF so that you can share in our excitement and passion for this incredible country
2. With their efforts focused squarely on helping the people of Nepal, INF does not have large teams dedicated to raising awareness and support in countries like Australia. In order to help fund the programs and contribute to the wages of the 320 local Nepali workers, the small handful of international workers like us are required to raise our own support through family, friends and the church. If you are interested in supporting us financially, we would love to provide you with some further information that will help you understand how you can do that. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Get behind us with prayer (if that’s your thing) and encouragement, in just being out mates and checking in on how we’re going. You might even like to come visit us sometime! We would love to have you!
We look forward to keeping you up to date with our progress in the coming months. I’ll be wrapping up work in March and then we are off for 2 months on a whirlwind round the world trip. First to the Middle East, and then Africa to work with our overseas partners on a number of projects for our church, The Grainery Christian Network, and finally onto the USA to undertake a training course on working cross-culturally. We will return mid-May for 6 weeks before departing for Nepal late June.
Matt and Britt