Early in 2018, I made the decision to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal with Leo & Lotus.
My reasons for making the journey were two fold;
- I'd been following previous trips made by Melanie to Nepal, and wanted to see and feel the impact that a small Social Enterprise, when focussed and unrelenting, can have on a challenged community.
- I also wanted to meet the people, the artisans, responsible for the stunning homewares that are made in Nepal and brought to, and sold, in Australia by Leo & Lotus.
As most people following this blog would be aware, Leo & Lotus are involved in supporting business, communities and artisans in Nepal. Melanie is highly regarded because of her work in the region and our group was welcomed and embraced by everyone we met.
The Nepalese are a gracious and generous people and we were greeted with gifts of food and traditional costume items wherever we went; a humbling experience given how hard they work for the little they have.
The visit that had the most profound effect on me was the Deaf Mute Ashram that Leo & Lotus support by paying the rent and other essential items to make the women who are sheltered there as comfortable as possible.
Before we headed off to visit the Ashram, I had been told that it would be potentially confronting and upsetting but I was still on an emotional high from meeting all the beautiful children at the community school the day before; so didn’t register the warning.
What I experienced was an emotional rollercoaster that, in the space of an hour, had me feeling joy, incredible sadness and back again… I feel privileged to have met and heard the stories of three of the bravest women I think I will ever know.
They explained how they had come to be at the Ashram and their journeys thus far. Their stories affected me deeply, in a sense it broke my heart; that lives could be so riddled with betrayal, abuse and abandonment, complete despair and loneliness. If I’m honest, I found it profoundly difficult to contain my sadness for what these beautiful women had been through in their young lives; but there was a silver lining to their situations, together at the shelter they had found a sisterhood. They had found peace, safety and freedom, but most importantly, for the first time in their lives they had found their voices.
From where I was seated in the room, I could see the women in the hallway interacting with each other; chatting in sign and laughing amongst themselves. Then a joyous realisation on my part that, where they were now was the beginning of a new future; a fresh start and a chance to communicate for the first time using the sign language taught to them at the Ashram; their worlds may be silent but they themselves, would never be silenced again.
The Deaf Mute Ashram is a wonderful initiative; giving shelter, education and vocational training to women who would otherwise be homeless and at risk of the Human trafficking trade.
My time in Nepal this last November has made an indelible impression on my heart and my thoughts often turn to the women I met that day; my wish for them is that their life journey continues to be one full of peace, love and laugher.