Emily Steele discovers the humble magic happening in the mountains of Nepal.
How do I even begin to describe where I am?
Her Farm is located approximately 3000 feet above sea level, tucked away in the mountains outside of Kathmandu; mountains too small to be given names. Well, it didn’t feel like a small mountain when I was standing at the bottom looking up, facing a two hour hike in the midday heat.
I arrived at the concrete house drenched in sweat, desperate for water and more exhausted than I have ever been in my life. I was already thinking about the walk down and thinking I had made a grave mistake. Then I turned around and was faced with the most breathtaking view. Although the picture doesn’t nearly hold the beauty of my surroundings, you’ll get the idea.
It is the perfect location for Her Farm. Her Farm is an initiative run by the Mountain Fund. It is home to women who have been the victims of domestic violence and abuse. Essentially, it is a safe house, a home in the clouds where no one can find them.
These women work the farm and look after the house, some living here with their children. They cook three meals a day, from scratch, using ingredients they have harvested or bought from other farms.
During the day, to the left of the farmhouse, the Mountain Fund school operates. During school time, the children come at 6am before making the two hour trek down the mountain for school and return again after classes.
In the holidays, which mark the beginning of the planting season, older children are required to help their families farm. Students attend class for four hours during the day, ending the day with a movie and lunch, then farm in the afternoon.
Currently, the school is run by a volunteer who has dedicated eight months of the last year to the school and children. She teaches them English and helps them the best she can with their other school homework.
From time-to-time, other volunteers like myself make the trip from Kathmandu to experience the culture up here and give a lending hand. They can be up here from two days to three weeks but, mostly, she’s on her own.
With anywhere up to 40 children, class time is loud and busy. The children are all extremely eager to get one-on-one time with their English teachers and are intrigued to know your name, where you are from and, in my case, why I have two toe nails on the one toe.
These children awed me. Working diligently on their Nepali homework, their English vocabulary or learning new games from us, they soaked in everything, excited and genuinely happy to be at school.
After school and dinner I would play with the two young girls currently living here with their mothers. One was recently kidnapped from her violent father and brought to the safely of the farm. You would never know the troublesome past of the toddler as she runs around in the fresh air, yelling and playing with her new didi*.
10,000km away from home, these little girls acutely reminded me of my younger cousins. They wanted to be thrown up in the air, chased, and thoroughly enjoyed a game (or 10) of peek-a-boo. Their English isn’t very good yet but they were happy when they could say my name and communication from then on wasn’t a problem.
It reminded me that despite some superficial differences, we are all built from the same needs.