foxit_acrobat (foxit_acrobat) wrote,

The positive vibrations from Kathmandu.

Оригинал взят у chaika_stal в The positive vibrations from Kathmandu.
I was introduced to Neel Shahi by a Bulgarian named Violetta. I met Violetta at Kopan’s dining room just before breakfast. The night before that I was participating in the practice of Chod in the Monastery of Lama Wangdu Rinpoche near Boddhanath in Kathmandu. I had been frequenting his monastery several times throughout the few weeks. Each time I visited, significant events occurred. Lama Wangdu is the holder of one of the rare Buddhists shamanistic traditions, which is rooted in the Bon school of Tibetan Buddhism (one of the oldest lineages). His monastery was founded and financially supported by the Dalai Lama. In my third visit, I received the Chod puja, the basic practice of Lama Wangdu Rinpoche. The next day is when I met Violetta and we went to Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, to Neel Shahi’s Thangka shop. Thangkas are highly detailed and symbolic Tibetan paintings.

Just before arriving to Neel’s shop, the Rainbow Thangka Gallery, a loyal customer had just donated several thousand dollars to Neels’ own NGO, TEAM Nepal. Last month his NGO was busy providing humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims. Neel’s customers know him very well and many will drive three hours outside Kathmandu to visit his village home. Donation offers for Neel’s TEAM Nepal is not uncommon. While I was in the shop, another donation of solar panels and water filters arrived for Neel to deliver to a neighboring village in the mountains that was nearly completely destroyed. He invited us to go with him to deliver the aid the following day.
Early next morning, Violetta and I squeezed into a jeep packed to the ceiling with aid goods. There was another volunteer from Belgium with us. Neel himself was leading on a motorcycle in front. We were headed towards his home district, Sindhupalchok district, which was marked on our map in maroon.


We first took a rest at TEAM Nepal’s newly build house, before going to the village. It was a big place with two huge houses, huts, cows, goats, a dog, cat and a large vegetable garden and 20 children. Neel has a son studying in USA and other two sons helping him for business, thus he is able to give some extra time to the projects. He mate with an Irish girl eight years ago, she was 18-year-old Irish girl Melanie Hennessey who was studying medicine in Ireland, and volunteering in Kathmandu with homeless kids between her studies. When she first arrived to Kathmandu she was surprised to find the children’s home had no roof (it was monsoon season too) and there was no supervising adult on premises. Thankfully, she found that the orphaned children were smart and independent: they had taken care of themselves, found food, and were taking care of the little ones. Melanie met Neel at his shop, who at the time was supporting to build a community school for the children of his village called Talamarang. Melanie struck up a deal with him; she will help Neel gather donations for building the community schools and run a children’s home in his village and he would be responsible organizing the orphanage. school and health programs done by TEAM Nepal. This was the birth of TEAM Nepal.


Melanie sought funding in Ireland for TEAM Nepal by speaking with investors, sponsors, and collaborating with her university in Dublin to offer a volunteer program for the construction of the buildings. Since Neel was a citizen of Nepal, the NGO could be officially registered with the government, and completed all the paperwork. Within a few years their efforts led to the comprehensive support in buildings, classrooms, computers and other materials in many community schools, houses for children, as well as a two-story building of Terse Higher Secondary School dedicated to the commercial use and the rental income covers the cost of teachers' salaries in that community school. This is how Neel came to have 20 children living in his NGO. Some of children came by way of police dropping them off, either as street kids or victims of domestic violence.

Melanie says the cost of maintaining the orphanage is low, only ~6,000 euros per year. Their funds are mainly provided by the stream of volunteers who come from the University of Dublin, her alma mater. Neither Melanie nor Neel reside live at the village year round. Melanie, a doctor now, visits every year for a few months and Neel works mostly full time in Kathmandu at his shop. The children are under the care of the four women who came to work at the orphanage on their own. Two of these women were mothers with newborn babies when their husbands left them. Another was exiled by her parents when she became pregnant out of wedlock. Another young girl is university graduate and looking after the management of the home.

Melanie believes it’s actually easier to care for 20 children, than just 2-3. In a group of 20 children, there is already autonomy. The elders naturally take care of the youngest, the youngest doesn’t disturb adults, and they can act together in the kitchen or garden. Although I didn’t see any children working (aside from a few of the oldest girls who helped cook and wash dishes) I was told they sometimes do. Of the children I saw, most were playing.


"Neel is an ideal partner,” says Melanie. “Of course, sometimes it’s not easy to work with him because he thinks he is always right. But it does not matter, he still gives everything he has to the children." Melanie laughs as she says this.

His most common phrase said is, “No problem” and “I am very happy,” He repeats this regularly, in any situation, as if it was his own main mantra. I feel as though I received the direct transmission of his encouraging mantra on May 12th, 2015, the same day we met his 20 children and started up to the mountains to bring water filters and solar panels to the earthquake victims.


"The boys in the truck, girls in a jeep," Neel orders as we begin the trip up to the village. I went to the jeep, and Monika, a Polish girl, jumped into the truck, shouting, "I am a boy!" Neel pulled her off the truck and invited her to ride with him on the motorcycle. But only one girl who finally went with the boys was Melanie, because she is a doctor and her help was needed up to the mountain village. We had not gotten even half way, when a new earthquake started. We stopped the caravan of volunteers up the hill, and Melanie switched seats with Milena. The trip just became dangerous.

In the evening, when Neel and Melanie finally returned, they related that the 2nd earthquake in fact toppled the remaining buildings in the village, but the effect was that the village was now more safe. There was no more threat of buildings falling on people.

The orphanage and surrounding huts were untouched, but the village school had collapsed almost entirely. All the children were safe.

This is where Neel’s mantra "No problem" shone bright. Not one building on the territory of TEAM Nepal collapsed, although many other buildings in the village did.

Since TEAM Nepal budgets their money wisely and use only what they need, they have had enough resources to help the people from his village, and surrounding villages as well. They do not have enough money to entirely rebuild the school however, but they will have willing volunteers from the village. One of the main reasons for this is that TEAM Nepal has a scholarship program which has been providing school uniforms and all the necessary textbooks for children from poor families in the surrounding areas for the whole academic year. His neighbors will never refuse to bring a child from the orphanage to the hospital, at any time. His neighbors will be willing volunteers in helping rebuild the community school.

After spending the night, I went back to the city. It was clear that neither the orphanage nor the villages in this unique community need my physical help. They already know how to help each other. They are organized at the highest level as a community of mutual respect and collaboration. Food is cooked, animals and garden watch, clothes for children, though not new, but always clean, all are fed and sheltered. Children drinking juices, eating fruits and sometimes chips, playing board games, football and badminton. Even the youngest kids speaking English, foreigners are frequent visitors here. It seemed to me as the ideal community. The volunteers simply need to speak English and play with the kids to help develop their social skills and positive psychology. Communication and tactile contact in an orphanage is never too much. TEAM Nepal has managed to create a genuine, though not luxurious, Himalayan resort with limited resources.


Neel himself eats little, sleeps little. His bed at children’s home is at the edge near the corridor, since he has given all the rooms away to the kids and volunteers. He lives most often in the Rainbow Thangka gallery, next to a corner supermarket in Thamel, Kathmandu. He rides a motorcycle and says that he needs nothing from life for himself. And I believe him somehow.


A few days after the second earthquake in Kathmandu, I went to Neel’s shop to bring him some donation money raised from writing these articles about Nepal. I also bought one of his terrific thangka pieces of the image of my main deities of Buddhist practice of Vajrasattva. The painting is rare, not just because it illustrates the feminine aspect of the white Buddha in red, but because it came from Neel Shahi, the Bodhisattva who owns a thangka shop.

Larissa Matteyssen, Kathmandu, Nepal
The English editing by Julies Pearne
fotos by Neel Shahi, Melanie Henessy, Ravi Thakur and friends
Tags: earthquake, homeless children, humanitarian aid, kathmandu, nepal, ngo, team nepal, thanka
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