by Nathan Burns
Founder, Backpacker Medics
It’s probably the most common question we get asked here at Backpacker Medics. The short answer, of course, is “Why not…?”.
Nepal is a rich tapestry of diverse geography, fervent religion, engrossing culture, continual adventure, smiling faces and peerless hospitality. It is the kind of country that embraces you at the border and never lets you leave. It gets into your soul, under you skin and- before too long- engraves itself onto your heart. Indeed, there is much to love about Nepal and the Nepalese.
So much, in fact, that it’s easy to forget Nepal is the 41st most populous country in the world and is ranked the 18th poorest (based on GDP). 50 children in every 1000 die before the age of five, only 50% of women receive any kind of antenatal care and less than 36% of births are attended by skilled personel. Female infanticide remains a common practice (as does female sale into slavery), and more than 40% of children are married before the age of 18. The adult literacy rate is only 60.3% and of that group the average time in school is a terribly low 3.2 years. There are constant power and labour shortages, regular nationwide bandhas (strikes), rife corruption and political turmoil at every turn. Not to mention a brutal civil war that lasted 10 years, constant bullying from powerful neighbours and a complete lack of natural resources.
Oh, and let’s not forget the massive 7.8 richter earthquake that tore the heart right out of the nation in 2015.
However, the answer to the question “Why Nepal…?” is not a drawn-out sob story. It isn’t an attempt to make anyone feel sorry for Nepal because, quite frankly, the Nepalese don’t feel sorry for themselves.
Nepal is a proud, pious and deeply respectful nation, universally supported by strong family units with even stronger moral intent. They wear their natural and cultural heritage with pride for all to see. Their hospitality and kindness of heart is unparalleled, as is their desire and ability to make the best of a bad lot. In Nepal, as the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal”.
And therein lies the answer, because you’d be very hard-pressed to find a nation of people less afraid of hard work and more adaptable, eager to learn and inherently talented than the Nepalese.
In the beginning, Backpacker Medics started working in Nepal because we believed we would be able to ‘give back’ more than we could ever receive. Oh, how wrong we were!
The true fact of the matter is that with humility, kindheartedness, hospitality and grace, the Nepalese people have enriched our souls. They’ve taught us the true meaning of gratitude, the unshakeable fidelity of kin, the value of hard work and the strength of combined purpose. From them we have learned respect, acceptance, simplicity and love. And above all else we have learned the true essence of life: to enjoy each and every moment and to contribute only positivity to the world.
So now, when we get asked the inevitable question “Why Nepal…?”, the answer is simple: because they are our family, they make us happy and we love them.