How it all started...
Marla's story, by Marla
In the autumn of 1989 I was traveling back to Canada from a year in Australia when I realized I was in need of some soul searching. A friend told me about Nepal and I booked a flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu on Bangladesh Airlines (via an overnight stay in Daka). Once on the flight it appeared that there was only one other Caucasian on the flight named Peter, a retired school principle from Australia. Peter knew a great deal about Nepal and all I knew was that it was similar to India and home to Mount Everest. Peter talked continuously and passionately about the little village he visits during his 5 month stay each year in Nepal. I was immediately enthralled and I must admit a tad nervous about going to a country I really didn't know anything about, so I put my trust in Peter and he "took me under his wing." Once we landed in Kathmandu we hopped on a Nepali night bus to the village of Naudanda. We arrived at 3 in the morning to a dark village without any lights and only a trail through the town to the guest house. Dogs barking, chicken clucking underfoot, and a light drizzle falling.
The next morning I awoke to the most beautiful site out of my window. The Annapurna Mountains had decided to show themselves despite the monsoon clouds. Then.... the village arrived at Peters' door. There were children, dads, moms, and grandparents eager to see him, and to see who he had brought with him this time. With Peter's Australian accent I was introduced as Malla Didi, which literally means Necklace big sister and needless to say, it stuck. I met all the children and their parents, learned about the caste culture and the plight of the Dalit (low caste) community.
Dalits have also been referred to as the untouchables. Not long ago Dalits used to have to walk backwards and wipe away their footprints so the higher castes wouldn't have to know they were there. They do the jobs that are low paying and usually the ones that no one else wants to do. Yet they are some of the happiest people I have ever met. They are always smiling, laughing and playing with whatever there is to play with. They have the attitude that as long as they have a roof over their heads, and food to feed their families they are OK.
Peter is adding to that attitude and helping to educate the children. He has found sponors literally all over the world.