Postcard from the Field #3

Richard Blum, our legendary Chairman, wrote a lovely memoir, An Accident of Geography. AHF was featured in the book, so his co-author, Thomas Hayes, interviewed and researched to learn about Nepal and AHF.

This spring, nine years later, Tom finally came to Nepal with the AHF team. We asked him to share his thoughts as someone who knew a lot about a country he had never set foot in. This is the third in a series about his adventures. - Erica Stone, President


The Kids Are Safe Here

Riding into this small village on horseback, a bright mid-day sun overhead, we could see meditation caves carved high into the red cliffs a few hundred yards off to our right* and green fields seeded with buckwheat and barley off to the left. 

AHF supports 15 day care centers across Upper Mustang, protecting and educating more than a hundred young kids now, a commitment that began here… in Dhakmar. 

More than two decades ago, Richard was nearby when he heard the awful news that four small children had recently drowned in a stream when a bridge washed out. Typical of these isolated villages, children often were left untended as both their parents worked the fields. 

“We’re going to fix that bridge,” he said immediately, turning to Erica. “And we’re going to make sure these kids are safe.” 

On this day, three generations of Dhakmar families welcomed us—khatas, smiles, palms pressed together beneath the chin— into a courtyard where we could escape stiff winds blowing from the south… but not the cold air at an elevation above 12,500 feet. 

Many of the adults, their faces reddened, dry, and leathery from lifetimes in the high desert climate, crowded round as we settled in with cookies and cups of Tibetan tea. 

Six toddlers, quickly gathered by mothers or fathers along a long wooden bench across from us, were adorable in navy blue track suits with white striping, courtesy of AHF’s partner in Mustang, the Lo Gyalpo Jigme Foundation. 


One exuberant little showman, I’ll call him Tashi (photo above), charmed us—rolling and clapping his hands, tossing his arms, and singing happily. Check out Tashi’s Tibetan dance moves in this short video. What fun!

The pre-school room inside was decorated with a colorful “Happy Birthday” drawing, illustrations of teeth-brushing and hand-washing, and cartoon-style characters demonstrating active group learning. A mothers’ committee schedules three or four women to be supervisors for the kids and aides for their teacher, rotating the roles to provide extra income from AHF funds for village families.
Moments before we mounted up again, two women on the committee asked if AHF might help with a stipend for a volunteer who teaches traditional Tibetan language to many of the village adults each evening. Erica and Norbu exchanged a quick glance. Absolutely.
The kids are safe here. They are learning to count, the basic lettering and grammar of Nepali, English, and Tibetan, and traditional songs and dances of their Loba cultural heritage. And they’re happy.

* That’s Charu, AHF’s country director in Nepal, on horseback in the top photo.   

Tom Hayes