Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
From beggars to givers



ALL PICS: SALLY BIERMAN
The Nepali word 'Shanti' is not just about the absence of war, but also about inner, spiritual peace. And that is what one finds at the Shanti Sewa Griha, a leprosy clinic set up 15 years ago in Pashupatinath by Krishna Gurung and Rameshwar Singh, and Marianne Gro?pietsch of its German sister charity, Shanti Leprahilfe.

Leprosy patients from across Nepal come to the clinic at the temple in Kathmandu seeking solace from the stigma associated with the disease. The ashram is a hothouse of Nepali traditions. It runs a farm near Budhanilkantha where an elderly Newari patient, Jiri Bhai, produces organic vegetables. At the workshops in Gaushala, sisters Rekha and Sita draw Maithili-style patterns for carpets woven by women whose leprosy-damaged fingers can still remember skills learned long ago.

Shanti, like life, is a destroyer of rigid categorisations. It defies the grim, traditional 'leper colony'. It is a place of colour, laughter and cleanliness, and a hub of activity. Instead of being just a leprosy centre, it is home to those suffering from any social disability and also runs an outpatient clinic.

While taking a short cut to the airport one day, Gurung noticed a plot of derelict government land in Tilganga, squatted by drug addicts and alcoholics. He convinced the government to let him plant the land with organically grown vegetables, and persuaded the addicts to become gardeners. Today, reformed alcoholic Hari Ram tends the garden with his fellow-workers.

The centre's artisans create fabulous quilt covers from discarded scraps of silk, and a biogas-fuelled power plant produces light from human waste and cow dung. What spare money it has, the centre invests mostly in its own Steiner-Waldorf school in Budhanilkantha.

"We are not looking to educate university students," Gro?pietsch says." We need good farmers and good craftspeople."

While plenty of people in the Kathmandu Valley have never heard of Shanti Sewa Griha, it has nevertheless caught the attention of World Challenge 08, a global competition run by BBC World News, Newsweek and Shell, to find small businesses or projects that have shown innovation and enterprise at a grass roots level. Shanti is one of 12 finalists selected by the judges.

Balazs Szasz

Voting for World Challenge 08 will be open to the public from 1 October to 21 November at www.theworldchallenge.co.uk



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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