Home' Aurora : Aurora July 2011 Contents 20
| Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle | www.mn.catholic.org.au
Hunter Valley residents Julie Maguire, her husband Paul and their daughter Eve trekked to a heal
centre in a remote Nepalese village in May to install solar lighting which they, along with friends,
family and students and staff from several Catholic primary and high schools, helped fund.
THE TRACK IS a thin slash of uneven
rocks and dirt wriggling around the most
breathtaking of mountain regions.
Trudging in mid morning heat we skirt a
ridge and suddenly there is Tari, a small,
weathered settlement in this craggy
eastern part of Nepal.
About 50 men, women and children plus
several chooks, a couple of dogs and
three piglets are out to welcome us.
Our guide and mentor, Yadav Gurung,
says locals heard three Australians were
coming to help install solar lights in the
Salyan Health Centre (about another hour's
walk) and the Tari community wanted to
show its gratitude.
Women rub a bright red powder on our
foreheads and soft white scarves and
garlands of fresh pink bougainvillea
flowers are draped round our necks.
We are seated on grass mats in a dusty
courtyard surrounded by thatch roofed
stone and mud homes. Everyone looks
on as a few youngsters try to catch the
piglets. Soon a man shoos the would-be
catchers and piglets away.
Men from Tari sit with us and a bowl of
oranges is offered on a metal plate. As the
fruit is shared Yadav says we're the first
foreigners to receive such a welcome from
these financially poor people.
Words stick in my throat as tears struggle
to be free and then a smile floats to my
lips on the hope of at least one little piglet
making good their escape.
Language cannot capture how humbling it
is to dwell in this silent moment.
It is no dream, we really have trekked into
a magical country and the wide-eyed gaze
of villagers and the unforgettable taste
of their oranges are something of what
we will take home with us. This feeling is
surely much more than we could possibly
Here and now has untethered our flimsy
Australian concepts of life, other cultures
and even ourselves.
How we came to this point remains a blur
for now we must move our weary bones
again, reactivate aching legs and walk
the last stretch to Salyan for rice and a
spoonful of lentils before beginning the job.
It's sobering to realise that worn, often
precarious, hillside foot trails are Salyan's
only access. The modern world must be
carried in on a person's back.
Yadav is the Kathmandu-based project
manager of a non government organisation
called the Himalayan Light Foundation
with whom we've corresponded for
almost two years.
For fourteen years he's been organising
overseas donations for a variety of
projects, helped install numerous remote
solar lighting systems, handed them
over to community committees and
ensured they continue to be maintained
Salyan's health centre is basically one
empty room after another. The main
ward has two beds, a desk, an old
wooden cupboard and an intravenous
drip stand. We have three 80 watt solar
panels, batteries, switches, cabling and
fluorescent lights for 24 rooms, including
three for what will one day become a
The centre's assistant and nurse provide
general medical care, pregnancy checks,
some health education, family planning
and vaccinations. City doctors, who visit
about once a month, have a four hour walk
to and from the nearest four-wheel-drive
Lights will open Salyan up to night-time
health care, enable the centre to be
used for evening community meetings
and education classes. They will also
strengthen a submission for increased
government equipment funding and may
help attract a doctor to stay and offer
more extended services.
When we three foreigners arrive with
Yadav and his two technicians, about 15
local men also pitch in and the lighting
work, commissioning and handover are
completed inside three days, one better
than initially expected.
It was an amazing time, not just doing the
job, but the entire Nepali experience.
Landing in the chaos of Kathmandu, wild
taxi and tuk tuk rides, beggars, vigorous
street vendors, stunning temples amid
seething humanity, thick vehicle fumes,
the noise, piles of city garbage, tiny shops,
some no bigger than an Australian home's
pantry and animals butchered (for meat)
for sale on old wooden footpath tables.
Beautiful, courteous people acknowledged
the divine in others through their constant
greeting of namaste and a sublime
mountainous landscape made a molehill
of any verbal description.
When the solar installation was finished
we all walked to the health centre's front
door. It was tranquil as we looked out,
listened to the distant, lofty snow-capped
vista and drew our last breaths of this
rarefied air. Unbelievably, flute music
began drifting up the slope.
As if scripted, about 100 metres below a
young man stood outside a little earth hut
playing the gentlest melody. Just the flute,
the clearest summit view, an incomparable
sensation and not a sound any of us
By PAUL MAGUIRE
Paul, Julie and Eve are welcomed
in the village of Tari.
Nepali technicians, Navendra and Indra (right)
testing a fluorescent light.
for Salyan residents
48, and Achuta Nand
Kaphle 43 (right).
Links Archive Aurora June 2011 Aurora August 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page