In 2011, Julie and I traveled to Nepal with my two girls Hillary, 10 and Noel, 18. This was not a vacation.
The village of Chyamrangbensi is very hard to get to. It can be hard to find on a map. (Ask google maps!) We trekked to the village after spending time with the families in Pachkhal where we toured the incredible organic maize fields and gardens. These exist thanks to the hard work of our partner Eco Organic Nepal.
After a long drive through treacherous mountain dirt roads we hiked hours down the mountainside into a deep valley. We were there during the monsoon season. There were leeches, brooks that turned into raging rivers, and landslides. Two days earlier, a young boy died in a landslide. The rural families here are no strangers to hardship or disasters.
We arrived to rain and the sound of music. While there, we stayed with one of the families. We slept on simple wood boards and ate food cooked over open fire.
Family, culture, and community mean everything to the women we work with. To be hosted and embraced by this community allowed us to experience this without it having to be explained.
Hours were spent listening to the intimate details they shared about the needs of their community, their children, and themselves. Throughout our visit the younger girls would play with my daughter and together they would often dance. I loved to watch them, but had not yet realized the significance of it.
Prior to the end of our stay, women from all over the village — more than I even realized lived there — came to meet with us in a small building. We were packed in tightly but everyone seemed so comfortable. Children piled in and climbed on laps. We talked. Then they sang. Then they danced.
The women danced for us.
To have each woman stand up, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs and dance for us was incredible. It is what I call a “forever memory”.
This one picture I have is blurry, but I don’t care. The room was dark, lit only by what outside light came in. There is no electricity there.
This picture is of me and Noel, as my youngest, Hillary, along with the women of the village look on as we danced for them.
As I sit here and write this, my heart is aching knowing that the women of Kathmandu, Panchkhal and Chyamrangbensi who have already endured so much after years of civil unrest and annual monsoons, are now facing untold losses after the earthquake.
My personal commitment is to our communities for the long-term. We will help them rebuild and recover. The gardens will grow again. Health clinics will be restored.
And the women will dance.
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