Another two days have whisked by of being on the road, visiting INF projects and meeting some very interesting and inspiring people. It’s amazing to think about how much we’re getting through each day and I think we’re all looking forward to our break in Chitwan National Park, finally giving us an opportunity to reflect upon all that we’ve learnt and see over the past nine days.
Sunday morning strangely didn’t begin at church, as we’d already doing that on the Nepali church day – Saturday – although that totally put us all out in determining what day it was! Instead, we spent the morning at INF’s TB, Leprosy and HIV clinic, specializing in TB (tuberculosis) referrals. We were given the opportunity to visit the various wards, and meet all the staff that contribute to this wonderful work – from the counsellors, scientists, pharmacists, nurses and doctors, it certainly isn’t an easy environment to be around for very long, so we really admired the perseverance of the staff.
INF has made some huge changes in the sector since beginning their work here in the last couple of decades – now the cure rate of using the initial medicine prescription has jumped from 50% to 80%. They are also doing very meaningful work in providing spiritual care and Counselling for patients, employing ex-patients to encourage current patients with hope of cure, and salvation in Jesus. Peggy, that we meant yesterday, has been quite instrumental in encouraging this spiritual care, and does this alongside her role as nursing advisor. There is also a rehabilitation section, teaching the patients new skills such as sewing for when they go back home.
After our very moving morning, we piled into our van to hit the road for the much anticipated Surkhet, talked about often by Andy and Judy who worked there in the 1990s. As we drove around the sharp corners, overlooking the mountains and forests, we praised our driver for his sheer ability of keeping us safely on the roads! After a short stop for lunch – some very spicy daal bhat, and a quick walk to a bridge overlooking the river, or lack there of, we continued along the road to Surket, greeted by beautiful fields and fields of yellow – mustard plants that we haven seen anywhere else.
Surkhet is again, very different to the other places we’ve been, within a valley, it is much quieter and thus a lot more peaceful part of Nepal. We enjoyed a dinner with Tamara and Leigh, an INF couple working here in Surkhet with their two young daughters (so impressive!!)As with all our INF dinners, it was great to gain insight into their lives as they serve God with INF. We were particularly inspired by their ability to raise their daughters here, amidst the different culture, language and food!
Up bright and early (as usual!) for a jam packed day with INF Surkhet, we walked eagerly to the office, keen to learn about some new areas of INF work – especially in community development. After an introduction from both our team and theirs, we were split into 2 groups and giving a tour of the office and clinics by Alan and Megan, working in administration and occupational therapy from the UK. Similar to the other projects we’ve seen, Surkhet is a hub for leprosy referrals, as well as disability such as spinal cord injury. We were particularly impressed by the simulation houses that have been built for patients before they go home, to train them and their families to move around the kitchen and the general home with their disabled bodies, or in a wheelchair. Megan has pioneered a lot of this work, and it’s making a difference in the lives of ex patients, who’s houses are then modified by INF upon their return to their villages, appropriate to their situation. You can see a young husband (in wheelchair) and wife in this simulation home below.
Following our tour, we piled into our van ready to see some of the community development projects of INF in the districts – a sector of INF that we hadn’t seen before, and something I was really looking forward to. INF particularly works with displaced people, whether from climate change or political conflict, and goes into these communities, helping them with their biggest needs, whether it be toilets, water supply, or microfinsnce businesses to name a few. Our first stop was at the ‘Hallelujah river bed’, a place where women cut up rocks all day to sell to cement companies. A small pile below, a day’s work, provides 200 rupees, or just enough to feed a small family. INF has begun working with a self set up NGO, PIEC, photo below, to help them support these groups of women and communities with small start up loans so they are able to better provide for their communities. This NGO is run by a 28 year old and they are mostly self sufficient, with quite minimal direction from INF now which is great! We also had brought over some safety goggles for women working in the rock cutting industry, and is was great to finally see the reasons for this, and the new safety it would provide them.
With a lunch of samosas en route, we headed to the next project – the Phupra village, by the river, about 20 minutes away from Surkhet. This is a group of displaced people, that are Dalits, the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system, and thus completely ostracized by other people and communities. We heard the amazing story of how this village had come to be Christians – somehow the children had heard about Jesus, told their families and most of the village was converted. There is now a small church by the river, and it is really transforming lives – before the income was through prostitution, now they are making money through the rock cutting. See below for pictures, including by new friend Nehemiah, she changed her name after becoming a Christian. This afternoon was particularly powerful as Liz was told by a woman, “I’m surprised you’d even say hello to me.” It was moving to be able to break down these barriers, and extended our friendship and prayers to these people that are looked so down upon by everyone else in society. There are some faces in life that you will never forget, and for me, Nehemiah was one of those. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.
Following our project visits, we headed back to the office for a presentation and Q&A answer time, able to help us further piece together everything we experienced. After a busy day we were treated to a couple of hours of down time, giving us time to process and reflect on the day, followed by a dinner with some friends of Andy and Judy, giving us time to further learn about Surkhet and the growth of the church here.
Today we’re back to Nepalgunj, before spending the next few days at Chitwan, canoeing down a crocodile infested river, and bathing with elephants. We can’t wait! Thanks for keeping us in your prayers and thoughts, we hope you are enjoying reading our experiences! Remember you can follow this blog by hitting the ‘follow’ button on the top left of this page.
Photos to come with better Internet connection sorry!