Monday, October 10, 2011
Celebrating The Nepalese Community As A Guest At Dashain Festival
I have the honor to be the Ambassador to the Nepalese Community for a Leprosy Mission organization.
As such I get to attend the communities festivals and National Day celebrations where I get unwarranted fuss made over me by these gentle and delightful people, and even better, get to be fed till bursting-I had my first taste of goat curry and it was spectacular.
I attended the Nepalese national day some months ago which had a substantial turnout and a large group of civic dignitaries were in attendance which reflected the high regard the Nepali community is held in. To my mind the, as the invitation described it "celebration of the greatest annual festival of "DASHAIN" outdid even the National Day for color and intensity.
The ethnic dances were delightful and, although the country borders India, the dancing was clearly separate fro what I have seen of Indian cultural dances from across that great continent which reflects Nepal's isolation and distinctiveness.
On the serious side the inter-action with the Nepalese community is highly valued on a number of levels. The Leprosy Mission contributes about a quarter of a million dollars to leprosy work in Nepal. this includes the support of the leprosy hospital where reconstructive surgery is carried on to ameliorate the tragic effects of this easily curable disease being left untreated to the point of irreversible nerve damage.
The other aspect, and perhaps just as important, is our work in education as far as showing communities that leprosy is not a curse but is a simple bacterial caused and treated disease like any other. If the stigma (people used to be burned alive in leprosy affected communities in some countries) is overcome people will seek treatment and wives will not be deserted and the current 5 million leprosy affected individuals world-wide, and their families, will be the last people so affected.
The other grand aspect of my role is that through the Nepali community interaction the immigrant community becomes part of the wider community. For many from those countries where charity giving is not part of the mainstream, to become involved in such outreach assist in the citizenship process. This is not my concept but has been stressed to me repeatedly by community leaders (especially from the Chinese community).
Tomorrow I will be part of the interview process where eleven young college students will be met and talked to about our upcoming scholars trip to Nepal. Every year we choose 6 outstanding young people who have raised $500 and submitted an essay on why they would like to spend two weeks in Nepal visiting our projects and the country. Upon their return they will talk to high schools and community groups about their experiences
We escorted an initial group last year and they found the experience to be not only life enhancing but life changing. With all the bad news constantly hitting us from seeming all quarters it is a delight to meet and assist such wonderful youth who hold such promise for the future.
Nepali cultural dance and costume
The Master of ceremonies at the Dashain Festival and my wife (I must have done something right in life)