Day 14th – Final day with our Courageous Girls…… for now…..
Today, Saturday, will be the last day with our Courageous Girls, before they head back into their normal lives. From our meeting yesterday we agreed on a 4- to 6-month development plan and this morning the girls shared their biggest personal learnings and inspirations they discovered during their Base Camp journey.
I was truly taken by the words each girl had to share. It really touched me to see their awareness and to hear their soulful openness, expressing in detail their transformation.
For each of my Courageous Girls, this journey has been the toughest mental and physical experience they had endured. They agreed that prior to the trek they felt they were all living in a “second stage” of their lives and that the Courageous Girls trek had given them the wings to start a third stage of transformation. Their words were such beautiful reaffirmation to the premise I had envisioned when I started Courageous Girls – nature is truly such the healer!
We then started writing out our mantras and sayings we had learned. The one that I loved most was:
“The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step…” – Lao Tsu
“The journey of 160 kilometers starts with the right foot…” – Courageous Girls
Our plan for the rest of the day was to visit one of the shelters from Shakti Samuha, the first transition home in which Nepali girls get placed once they have been rescued from overseas or locally. Trafficking in Nepal is a pretty complex issue, quite different from the US but with the same devastating impact on the victims. Many of the girls in Nepal that are trafficked get taken overseas (especially India and the Middle East) which makes their return a complex one once they have escaped from their nightmares or are rescued by the police. Their repatriation paperwork can be entangled in red tape, so by the time the girls are back in Nepal, their transition has already been burdensome and it adds to their trauma.
All my Courageous Girls had stayed at the shelter house we were going to visit. Shakti Samuha is pretty protective of the people who visit the shelter as many of the recently arrived girls are in a vulnerable state. In the year I’ve been working with them, this was the first time I was allowed to personally come to their shelter, and due to the trek both Amy and Petra were allowed to come as well.
My whole purpose of the visit was to simply acknowledge these beautiful young souls and if possible be able to personally do a Namaste salutation with them. As we were heading to this place, our Courageous Girls were really excited to show us their first home, the place where it all started for them.
While on the Taxi ride, Amy gave each of the girls a special gift and they were thrilled. Then again, who doesn’t enjoy a little bling to remember such a special journey?
Amy and Petra have gotten quite close to the girls. For Petra, our iRest instructor who currently lives in Nepal, she had the opportunity of frequently working with our Courageous Girls. During the trek, the iRest sessions allowed Petra to be an amazing mentor to them. Petra’s generous and gregarious personality, has helped the girls become really attached to her.
With Amy, the girls have enjoyed practicing their English and, more importantly, singing nonstop lyrics of various English songs, such as Puff the Magic Dragon (a new one for me), and My Heart will Go on (which made Tucka move really fast away from the group every time it was sung).
Together, Amy and Petra gave the girls a run for their money with their dance moves as they both rocked it during the frequent dance performances we had on the trek. This very special bond from afar was a tender experience to witness.
We met with the shelter manager who told us the story of the house. It’s been in operation since 2004 and is able to host up to 20 girls. Ideally, the newly-arrived girls stay in the shelter for about 3 to 6 months and then transition (based on their individual cases) to a more open “transitional hostel,” which can help them into an independent living situation. Giving that Nepal has a very strong sense of family connection, many of the girls are encouraged to try and get reconnected with their families as a way to regain their family identity and support. Certainly it’s a pretty long journey from being a rescue victim, to healing and becoming a strong survivor, to ultimately discovering their own empowerment.
Our Courageous Girls were excited to show us how far they have come. We were introduced to some of the staff they called their “mothers” who helped them when they first arrived. I was showered by so much affection from the “mothers” for proving our girls such a unique opportunity. For me though, this amazing journey has been a labor of love that has taken a whole community to make it happen.
The shelter manager then took us to the 2nd floor to meet all the girls living there. As Petra, Amy and I made our way, we found a room full of young little faces, with shy smiles, awkwardly gazing at us. Our Courageous Girls blended in with the new girls, beaming such confidence and pride as they proudly shared their experience to the amazement of the rest of the girls in the room.
As we made our introduction, I was really moved and saddened by the number of girls that had just arrived to the shelter within the last three days. Their shy demeanor and vulnerable emotions were so strong it was really hard for me to contain my tears. Amy earned the biggest cheers from all the girls as she had learned some Nepali over the last 2 weeks, and in a perfect accent told them where she was from what she had done and the work she did. It put my Namaste to shame.
As we answered many of the girls’ questions about our journey, a couple expressed being in awe of seeing live “white people.” A couple of girls mentioned that this was beyond exciting for them, as they had only seen “white people” on TV and never thought to have the chance of meeting them personally – to which I offered a hug. And so with that, the most special hug-a-thon started with the rest of the girls. One by one they kept running to us and getting a big hug and embrace – a truly emotion moment. We then proceeded to do a special circle, with Amy leading us on a bonding exercises and Petra, Amy and I doing a special acknowledgement to each of the girls, telling them how beautiful each one of them are. I asked how many would be interested in becoming Courageous Girls and ¾ of the room put their hands up. I promised that next April on my way to Everest, I would come back and do a special session with them and bring with me anything they wanted to me to take to Everest.
I offered to get lunch for the whole shelter and staff and and momos was the choice (momos are the traditional Nepali style dumplings that seem to be the favorite for anyone under age 23). While that was being ordered, our Courageous Girls took us a couple of blocks away to visit the Workshop/Store Shakti Samuha that has helped many of the girls heal by making jewelry and handicraft for sale. This very humble 2-story building is a healing workshop that teaches the girls weaving, sewing and jewelry making. Both Amy and Petra did all their Christmas shopping there W.thin an hour the momos had arrived and we headed back to the shelter.
As we walked back to the shelter, both Amy and I started feeling the sadness of having to say goodbye to our Courageous Girls. Once we arrived, Petra held a small iRest session. As we shared the connections we created over the last two weeks, I reflected on the amazing bond and sisterhood we now had which will endure the distance we were about to encounter. Though saying goodbye can be really hard, I felt a strong sense of peace, trusting that I’ll be seeing my girls again very soon.
It’s been both a very powerful day and a tough one, but with lots and lots of hope. After the shelter meeting, I went to meet and interview the company and guide potentially taking me to Everest for April 2016. Then I went to buy winter blankets, down jackets and gloves for the Tibetan nuns of the Debuche Monastery.
Treat for the nite: Mission accomplished in getting the nuns the right color jacket and gear. It only took two hours and multiple translators to get my point across that I was looking for a particular color for the Ani’s (nuns). Somehow I managed to convince one of the store owners to come into the heart of Kathmandu Chinatown and help me buy, and more importantly negotiate the price for, the very warm blankets. A 007 Bond/adventure style type of mission, but mission accomplished!