From little things, big things grow…

Namaste from Kathmandu!

I thought that in today’s post I might take the opportunity to introduce everyone to a truly remarkable individual: Santosh Koirala- the 29 year-old founder of the Moonlight Foundation and school, driving force behind the project we are currently working on (The Moonlight Healthcare Center), highly-experienced trekking guide and one of the most genuine, kind people I have ever met.

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Santosh Koirala outside his Kathmandu home

Growing up in the small village of Kerausawagara (roughly 300km east of Nepal, pron:kair-ra-oo-sa-ga-ra) in the district of Okhaldhunga (if you wish to find it on Google Maps, locate Mt Everest, then head south-southwest halfway to the Nepal/Indian border), Santosh and his brother Subash (who is now Headmaster of the Moonlight School) were born into a devoutly Hindu farming family. Each day began with a scout into the surrounding forest for timber with which to cook, after which the boys would hoist their backpacks and walk two hours to school.

Needless to say, this gave them plenty of time to contemplate their plight and what their future may hold. During the four hours he spent trudging back-and-forth to school each day, Santosh recalls entertaining dreams of helping his family create a better life. They lived a tough existence known to the majority in this land- one of no electricity, no healthcare, bitterly cold winters, limited schooling and complete reliance on whatever they could grow to eat. It didn’t take too much persuasion for the boys to further their education in Kathmandu.

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Subash Koirala whipping up the morning meal

One thing I’ve come to realise when speaking with Santosh is that when he tells you that his greatest desire is to help the poorest people in his country, he really means it. This is not a man that speaks of grand ideas and then sits on his hands waiting for them to happen. When he had finally worked his family into a position where they could support themselves in the ‘big city’, the first thing Santosh did was begin harbouring support for the Moonlight School. By 2008 he had it up and running and the school now boasts 65 students.

Now, his focus is entirely on working with Backpacker Medics to establish the healthcare centre in his village. Every morning he bounds out of bed with an enthusiasm for work only matched by the energy of his ever-present smile. He spends the day organising groups for his trekking company (check it out: www.moonlightnepaladventuretours.com), from which he funnels all profits back into his humanitarian work. Late into the evening we sit and discuss his dreams for the future, what the healthcare centre will mean to his people and his desire to become a “CNN Hero”

I had never heard of the CNN Hero project- but after hearing how passionate Santosh is about it, I decided to investigate. Sponsored by the huge American television network- this is a yearly prize that rewards ‘ordinary people changing the world’. There are 10 finalists each year, each receiving US$50,000. There is then one ‘worldwide winner’ who is granted a further US$250,000 towards their work. As it turns out, the 2012 winner is a Nepalese lady working to rescue children of incarceration (check out her story at: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/15/world/cnnheroes-basnet-nepal-prisons/index.html).

I guess, in this day-and-age, everyone needs some kind of motivation for what they do. Whilst I’ve no doubt that Santosh’s motivation to help his people comes directly from the heart, becoming a CNN Hero is one tangible, day-to-day goal that he has. He openly states that- should he win the ultimate prize- every single last cent of the money would be used to realise all his humanitarian dreams.

And I have absolutely no doubt that he means exactly what he says.

Nathan@backpackermedics

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