Story

A Glimpse of Heaven

Nepal

Interview by Paul Hansen.

Krishna Man Shakya, Executive Director with TEAR’s partner Shanti Nepal, sees glimpses of God’s Kingdom in the transformation of communities living in poverty. He sees it not only through the dramatic church growth in Nepal, but also through glimpses in unexpected places. Here, he shares the extraordinary story of a village achieving health and harmony through the humblest of means, their toilets.

“This story brings me immense pleasure. It is when a village in Muralibhanjyang1 was declared ‘ODF’ (Open Defecation Free)2.

In this village, families are Kumhal, traditionally pottery makers by their caste. But in this community they are not working as potters but are all farmers, so they are very poor. It’s a very densely populated community. We (Shanti) went there for the first time at the recommendation from the local church.

A Glimpse of Heaven

But when we went there, the community was totally indifferent to us. They had had very bad experiences working with other NGOs. These other NGOs, they came and worked for a short time but were not regular. One of the organisation’s staff members ran away with the community fund – some 100,000 rupees they took! They had many bitter experiences like that with other NGOs.

But we kept going. We started building trust. They found that Shanti Nepal was different. We talked to them, we respected them.

So when we said: “We come from Shanti Nepal and we want to work with you to help your communities”, they said: “We don’t need any NGOs. Go away”. They would not even ask us to sit in their homes.

But we kept going. We started building trust. They found that Shanti Nepal was different. We talked to them, we respected them.

Our staff member became a resident in the community. She did not live in the marketplace or in the city and just visited once in a while. She lived amongst them. We organised a group meeting and all the community came.

We asked them: “What is the first thing you want to do in your community?” And they said: “Our community is very dirty.” There were 154 households and only six had a toilet. It was very smelly.

So we started a sanitation campaign. We also started Self-Help Groups. Within five months all the households in that village had built toilets. Everything went very fast very rapidly. They cleaned the paths, organised the piggeries and the chicken coops. They cleaned their house yards.

The community totally changed. They became the first village in Dhading District to be declared ODF.

Now, the people are proud. They are united. There is a health impact, economic impact, social harmony. Everything.

Once, this village was like the Samaritan village in the bible. There was a community path that ran from the village to other villages, but travelers would not pass through. They used to take a longer way around.

But this changed after we organised an ODF ceremony. We invited the government officials, social leaders and high caste people from other villages. They were amazed to see the transformation of this community. And the community themselves were so proud to be the first village to be declared ODF in the whole district! Now they are considered worthy people.

Later on, people from other villages wanted to buy land in that village and the price of land went up because it was a clean, nice village. The staff at the district hospital, a half hour walk away, were amazed. They asked: “What happened in this village? Nobody is coming for diarrhoea treatment anymore!”

Now, the people are proud. They are united. There is a health impact, economic impact, social harmony. Everything.

We have many such stories. But always, the most effective transformation is observed in the neediest communities, not in the marketplace or near the highways.”

Who is Shanti Nepal?

A Christian organisation for holistic transformation in Nepal.

Krishna says: “God’s Kingdom is in our midst, so what we do is help people so they feel God’s love and abundant life on this earth. So they have good health, fulfilment of basic physical needs, and harmony. That is how God’s Kingdom will be done in our community.”

TEAR Australia supports Shanti’s Community Health and Empowerment Project, focusing on improving health and livelihoods in ‘ultra-poor’ communities, as well as with people living with disabilities.

Krishna is the Executive Director and one of the founding members of Shanti Nepal.

Paul Hansen is TEAR's International Program Officer for Nepal.



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