A Library and Village Relationships

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In seven weeks I will be leaving Nepal and I’m starting to say my good byes.  From June 2014-May 2015 I worked as the Health Administrator/Community Outreach Specialist for Phul Kumari Mahato Memorial Hospital (PKMMH) in Karjanha, Siraha.  Although I faced many challenges, ultimately this was a job and place that I really loved.  While in Karjanha, I established a  library at the Hospital with the help of numerous partners but mostly with the children who live in the area.  I recently spent four days in Karjanha reconnecting with the Hospital staff but mostly the children. 

A friend who has spent a lot of time in Nepal said to me that, “people are not going to remember you for the work that you are doing, but for the relationships that you’ve built”.  I’ve taken this to heart and want to cement my relationships as much as possible.  It’s not that I won’t come back to Nepal because the country is forever in my heart, but it will be different.

In the year that it took me to visit Karjanha, there were some changes.  A new school has been constructed and some of the children who used to live in Karjanha are now attending schools in Janakpur, where I also visited.  The teenage boys looked more mature and were taller.  There were many tempos running from Bastipur to Karjanha. A few people told me that Karjanha would become part of a new municipallity and there was a new police station. There were also changes at PKMMH, rooms shifted, more doctors, the patient census seemed higher.

I wasn’t sure what the state of the library would be.  Before I left Karjanha in May 2015 I had the children sign an agreement with two organisations who said that they would maintain the library.  However, when I entered the library there were cobwebs and dust everywhere, as well as some hospital beds in boxes that were being stored.  Most of the posters and other decorations were gone, some items had been taken and there was a wasp’s nest under one of the book shelfs. 

Some of the children and I spent the next two hours cleaning and arranging books.  One of my friends had donated a parachute and after we finished cleaning, more children came to the library and we started playing.  I bought some playing cards to continue our games of Go Fish and 1, 2, 3 go, which I had taught the children when I lived in Karjanha. One parent said, “Why are you playing cards, that isn’t good”.   I countered by stating that this is only for fun and was about sitting together and learning how to count and use one’s memory.  Other children flapped the parachute in the wind, while others played with legos, played cards and chess and with the stuff animals donated by a friend from Connecticut.

Nepal is always full of surprises for me.  I talked with a young very bright village man who had been working in the middle-east, earning money so that he could eventually come back and make positive changes in Karjanha.  I met another young Nepali who has been living in the UK for the past 13 years and was visiting Karjanha. 

But mostly this visit was about meeting “my children”, those who I had developed relationships with while creating and running a library during the time I lived in Karjanha.  While hanging out at the library I had spent a lot of time with the children talking and paying a great deal of attention to them which is vital to any child’s development.  At times in the village it seems difficult for children to just be children as parents require their help from a very young age.  Additionally with marriages occurring at a very young age, childhood can often be short-lived. 

As with my good friends, whenever we are able to meet, we pick up where we left off as though time has stood still.  This was also the case with my children.  Although some have grown up and weren’t really interested in hanging out, others took their place.  An entirely new group of children interested in holding my hand as we took evening walks, talking and enjoying one another.  I know that this won’t happen in the US as people are paranoid of unrelated adults who talk to their children.  We have a lot to learn in my birth country from Nepalis and how children are raised by a village. 

As I said my good byes, one of my friends, Rubi handed me a note, “You are the best uncle in the world”, your lovely Rubi.  I told her and many of the other children that I loved them.  Rubi said, “I love you too Mike uncle”.  

Position: Programme Manager

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