Nepal is a place of geographical extremes. The land rises from the hot, low-lying Terai plains north of India to the peak of Mt. Everest on the border with Tibet (China), the highest point on the planet. A small, landlocked country, Nepal would fit six times into the province of British Columbia and holds eight of the world’s ten highest mountains.
Parts of Nepal have only recently been opened to Western visitors, and almost all parts of Nepal are difficult to reach – even for the Nepali people – where the average distance to the nearest road for rural villagers is 30 kilometers, and less than half those roads are open during the monsoon season.
Nepal is home to 28 million people, 2 million of whom live in foreign countries to earn money to send home to their families. Because 89% of the absentee population are men, many families are headed up by women struggling on their own to raise their children while their husbands are away in the Middle East to work.
Some of the challenges of the Nepalese people include:
- Infant mortality of 6.4% which is one of the highest rates in the world
- 50% of all Nepalese children under the age of 5 are malnourished
- 57% of Nepalis live below the poverty line which is less than US$2 per day
- 50% of the working-age population are unemployed or underemployed
- 66% of female adults and 33% of male adults are illiterate
Nepal is also a place of social extremes. We went to Nepal for two months, mainly to take in the scenery while hiking. But we were deeply moved by the poverty and scarcity in the country contrasted with the strength and spirit of the Nepali people that we encountered. We were struck by the unbelievable kindness and happiness of the people we met. We had been “warned” by our friends who have trekked in Nepal, that once we went, our lives would be forever changed and we would always want to return. Well, they were right: we want to return and want to help.
While we can’t help the entire country, we have chosen to assist one extended family. And so, Jackets for Jasper was born.
[Statistics and data from: The World Bank; The CIA Factbook]