From our donor - Justin Chang shares his experience of visiting Heifer project area
The soothing hum of tires on asphalt, so common in Korea, was absent. In its stead was a cacophony of terrible noises— the rain beating on the roof of the Toyota Highlander, the tires splashing the viscous sludge of mud and rocks, and the car’s mainframe shrieking as it labored to retain its shape. I tumbled within this rolling death trap, growing nauseated by the second, praying only for it to cease.
At the end of the road lay my destination, one of Heifer International Nepal’s project villages nestled in the mountains of Kewalpur, 37.5 km outside of Kathmandu. There I hoped to see firsthand how Heifer uses its donations and become an eyewitness to Heifer’s works in Nepal.
The driver suddenly stomped on the brakes, propelling me forwards. He shouted a few indecipherable words in Nepali and exited the vehicle. I turned to Alina Karki, Heifer Nepal’s Communication Officer, and asked, “What’s going on?”
My answer lay in front of the car in the form of a sizable mound of sediment obstructing the path to the village. Apparently, the earth that lay ahead was once part of the mountainside, but the vicious vibrations from the earthquake last year and the downpours of the July monsoon season loosened and washed the dirt, causing sporadic landslides throughout the region. The dilapidated state of these roads prevented easy travel to the villages in the mountainsides and practically isolates them. With the absence of paved roads, this was tragically inevitable.
Down the road, a grouping of houses materialized in front of us. We had arrived at the project site where Heifer had been implementing their Strengthening Livestock Value Chain (SLVC) with a dozen or so female farmers. SLVC relies on the concept of passing on: a family who receives a goat or any other livestock will pass on their offspring to their neighbors, thereby sustaining the village as a whole.
As we entered the village, women in multicolored dresses of vibrant red and green received us with the utmost kindness. Their children scurried in between their legs, ecstatic, no doubt, because of the sweets they saw on us.
The women farmers were among the many recipients of Heifer’s gifts of goats. These goats enabled the women and their communities to thrive over the years. Sadly, however, this good fortune was destroyed with the devastating earthquake that shook Nepal in April 2015. Many of the women lost their homes and all suffered great losses.
One of the elders of the village recalls that terrible day. She was in the middle of her daily tasks when the earth shook beneath her. Instinct dictated that she leave the house immediately because of the threat that the walls may give way. Frantically, she grabbed the children in the house and fled to the open. They felt the frightful tremors throughout their bodies, and it seemed as if the whole Earth was trembling. For hours they stayed huddled together in that green field, waiting for the destruction to pass.
As I ran my hands across one of the mud brick walls, I could feel the cracks of those more fortuitous houses that survived. In one of the clearings lay the ruins of a house that once was, its bare foundation exposed to the elements. The destruction was distressing; I doubt I could have continued after facing so much pain.
But the women remained strong. I could feel their strength, for underneath their garb lived the courage and the passion of a lion. Their inspiring stories verified this strong will and serve as the paradigm of Heifer International’s mission. Supported by Heifer’s giving hand, the women are rebuilding their hopes and their lives. And though the past year for Nepal was devastating, the work of Heifer International and other volunteers is an auspicious sign of better days to come.
It is through stories of people like these women farmers that we donors can truly witness the empowerment of women and the betterment of the lives of countless children, which is Heifer’s mission.