Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A New Dawn

It seems too good to be true! This is my first "shot" in Spain, taken from our bedroom window at our new house, when I woke up the morning after I arrived last Thursday. Only a 10 minute car ride away from Pamplona, we're living in the middle of a valley where the only thing you see is farm land. After being in polluted Kathmandu for the last 3 months, where even a short walk to the grocery store involved the risk of getting run down by murderous traffic, I feel like I'm in heaven....

Monday, October 13, 2008

Namaste Nepal

My time in Kathmandu is coming to a close, and I'll be heading to Spain tomorrow to start a new adventure. I've spent the last few weeks photographing like crazy, and the editing will take me forever (plus I've run out of memory on my computer, and need to spend hours "backing up" before I can do anything else.) Here's a sample of the most recent work from the last few days in and around Shanti Sewa Griha.






Asha again....

Of all of the people that I met and photographed at Shanti Sewa Griha, 10 year old Asha touched me the most. Deaf and blind, she is also likely retarded from the neglect and malnutrition that she suffered before she was left on Shanti's doorstep 4 years ago. Like so many of Nepal's severely disabled children, her diagnosis has not been clearly determined. She remains isolated, even while the community of Shanti includes her to the best of its potential. With little resources to provide the kind of full-time care that she needs, she is often left alone.

Killing Dinner

Shanti's cook, Gyan Bahadur, prepared 20 chickens for a feast on the last night of Dashain. The prohibitive cost of meat leaves many of Nepal's poor to subsist on a vegetarian diet, and meat is only eaten on special occasions.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shanti Dancers

Students at Shanti Sewa Griha's eco village gave a performance of traditional Nepali dances to kick off the Dashain holiday. I took this one while the girls were waiting for their call to go on stage.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mijar Family

Makhmali Mijar and four of her five children came to live at Shanti Sewa Griha about 5 years ago. The kids- Santos,16; Sangita, 14; Sanju, 10; and Surez, 5 all have Xeroderma, a genetic skin disorder that causes freckling and puts them at a high risk for developing skin cancer.
The Mijars are one of the families that I plan to focus on more intensely for this project, as they are dealing so much with the compounded issues of poverty that effect so many families in Nepal.
This was my first day photographing them- there was a lot of chaos, people coming in and out of the room... a typical day at Shanti. These are 2 of the portraits that I liked.


Surez

It's hard to calm this boy down, and his demand to be photographed is pretty high!

I don't think that this quite works... but am posting it anyway just to get a feel for the process of photographing.... I'm definitely meeting my challenges in terms of finding that everyone thinks that they should pose for the camera. This is exacerbated even more by the immediacy of digital (as all of the kids especially want to see the back of the camera as soon as the shutter's clicked.)
Wanting to be a little more invisible and just present for everyday life... I think it's a hard thing to communicate, even when you speak the same language, but in this case I don't have words to express what I'm trying to do...

Sanju

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sangita and Asmita

Sangita Mijar, 14, and Asmita Thapa, 17, are like teenagers anywhere- they are concerned with having friends, being fashionable, and keeping connected by cell phone to an expanding world that they hope will accept and include them.

Both girls are dealing with the realities of having disabilities that impact their lives. Sangita, like her siblings, has xeroderma, an autosomal recessive genetic disorder of DNA repair in which the ability to repair damage caused by ultraviolet light is deficient. The skin is severely freckled, and the vulnerability to skin cancer is dangerously heightened.
Asmita has trouble walking (I'm not sure if it's musculur dystrophy or something else.) She lives at Shanti and works in their workshop sewing.



Asha in her own world

I keep finding myself drawn to Asha.. trying to imagine what it must be like to be both deaf and blind- aware of energies and sensations, but with a very different experience of reality than the one most of us share.

Family Visit

It is holiday season here in Nepal- complete with the requisite visits from family. Bimala Devi's granddaughters came by to bring her gifts and braid her hair. It was nice to see her getting some well deserved love and attention.

Affordable Health Care

Serving one of the poorest communities in Kathmandu, the pharmacy at Shanti Sewa Griha makes sure that everyone can get the medicine that they need. For 50 rupis (less than a U.S. dollar) patients get a ticket that they can exchange for their prescription from Shanti's free clinic. While this may sound like the work of a socialist utopia, it is no thanks to the Nepali government- a German NGO donates the medicines.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Waiting....

Payday

Employees of Shanti Sewa Griha gathered outside the pharmacy window there to get paid on Friday, October 3. Workers received an additional bonus for Dashain, one of the most important Nepali holidays of the year, which started this week.
While many signed for their wages, others opted to ink their thumb. The literacy rate in Nepal is one of the worst in the world. While things are improving somewhat, there is still a strong discrepancy between men and women. In 2000, the overall literacy was 55% for adult males, but only 22% for adult females.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Asha

Shanti Sewa Griha accepts everyone... even the 'hopeless' cases.
Asha was literally left on their doorstep 4 years ago. She is deaf and blind, and though she seems to have other disabilities, no one knows for certain what they are. With only one children's hospital in all of Nepal, these kinds of kids get forgotten about- there are simply too many to help.
Asha means "Hope"- the name that Shanti gave her. She relates through touch, and can seem simultaneously in a far-away dream world, a state of sadness, pain, or some other complex emotion, and a state of hungry need for affection. She seems to have the development of an infant, though I'll have to ask Krishna to tell me more to know for sure Asha's situation. I was told that she's 10 years old.
Asha came to visit in Prem Thapa's room as he was getting his catheter changed. As she came near, he held her while the procedure was being done- I'm not sure if to ease his pain, or hers.



Portraits...

Everybody at Shanti asks to have their picture taken, and so sometimes it leaves me little opportunity to get their story, or even their name. This little boy was on his way out to attend a holiday celebration... saying that yes, he lived there, and I'd see him again... so hopefully I'll have the chance to get to know him.

Emergency

Shanti's clinic was closed yesterday because of a holiday, but I accompanied Nama, who was on call for the day, while he was changing the catheters for a few residents with spinal injuries- something he does about once monthly. In the middle of his routine duties he got called down for an emergency- 35-year-old Prem Maya Dhungal had come in badly dehydrated from a bad case of diarrhea- a condition that can quickly become life threatening if not treated in time.
Prem's 11-year-old daughter Kasma came with her. The medical clinic facilities at Shanti are less than state-of-the-art, and when I asked Nama why she didn't go to the hospital instead, he answered, "Because she's poor. She would have had to pay 2,000 rupis (about $30 US) at the hospital, which she doesn't have. They would have turned her away." Nama said that she had arrived just in time- in another hour she would have collapsed.

Nama's assistant in all of this was 13-year-old Narez,who he called to... "Nurse"... when he wanted him to come help. Narez came to live at Shanti with his brother after they were orphaned by the Maoist insurgency.





The Lama Family

3 generations of the Lama family live at Shanti Sewa Griha: Fulmaya, 57, her daughter Sarsuti, 22, and Sarsuti's son Amid, 10.
Fulmaya has been at Shanti for a long time, but Sarsuti and Amid arrived about 6 months ago.
When I met them I thought that Sarsuti was a little girl. She looks like she's about 12, and is very small in stature. Sitting on the ground, she pointed to her legs and said "I have a problem with my legs... I used to be in a wheelchair but now I can walk."
It will take me some time to flesh out this family's story... where they came from, why they are at Shanti, etc. I know that Sarsuti became a mother when she was 12 and that her husband left her and married another woman, but no more detail than that...