Humla

The children are just six years old, some of them maybe seven or eight. These shabby little figures with dirty faces, some of them barefoot or in worn-out shoes, run for their lives. They are on their way to the big city, Katmandu. They have left their homes in the Nepalese mountain region, Humla and have been on the move for weeks. Some had left on their own initiative, others were sent away, just like that, by their own parents. The families have about five children, at best only two or three of whom survive or even reach the age of 15 years. They die either from hunger or from illness, because there is no medical care available, or because Nepalese Maoists have abducted them to place them into boot camps where they are drilled to become child soldiers only to be slaughtered later in pointless guerrilla wars.

“When I first heard about the children of Humla, I was appalled”, said Gabi Steiner, without doubt one of the most successful network marketers in the world. Number one in the international network marketing company Life Plus, the very popular and credible Gabi Steiner has been engaged in charity projects for many years. She is convinced that “as successful networkers we have to share our happiness”. This is why she is involved in many projects where people are in need, together with as well as for, the association, “Networker for Humanity” e.V. (www.nfh.de). Together with the NfH, whose motto is “helping people to help themselves”, she flew to Nepal in October 2008 “to make sure that the donations for the Humla children arrived where they should”.

The idea was born during a meeting with the NfH back in 2008. It just slipped out of her mouth while they sat together in the evening: “Let´s fly to Nepal to see the children!” In October, the director and 17 other networkers and friends left for Nepal. Their first contact with Humla´s forgotten children came in Katmandu, where the German Astrid Vöhringer had built a children´s home for homeless boys and girls, and where she gives them food and an education. This first encounter was both moving and sad. “I was touched about how shy and quiet these children were. These little people are not born as children. They have to be adults from the very beginning and fight for their lives”, she says gravely. The next stop during their trip was the Yalbang children’s refugee camp, a small, dusty place, nestled deep in the Humla region, a hard to reach district in the Northwest of the country. Reaching Humla is no easy task as it is situated in the North of the main Himalayan mountain range surrounded to the South by 6,000 and 7,000 metre mountains. Access was only possible from the Western Nepalese city of Nepalganj using a plane that had definitely seen better days. They landed in Simikot on a grit “runway”, to use the term loosely.

Not entirely free from her fear of flying, although she is a frequent flyer, Gabi Steiner laughed bravely about it. Together with friends and colleagues of the NfH, among them leaders from Nikken, Unicity and Petfit, she brought dozens of hand-knitted woollen socks to Katmandu. “They were made by hand in weeklong work done by one of my Bavarian downlines during their coffee parties”, she said happily. Of course the networkers also had loads of presents in their backpacks for the kids at the Yalbang camp, for example bright purple jogging suits for the girls and orange ones for the boys.

Gabi´s voice adopts a compassionate tone when she speaks about Humla. She is known for her big heart, but this experience has been very special. You notice that in her right away. The group was hiking for three days from Simikot to Yalbang, which was quite an adventure. Proper roads? “They don´t exist. Maybe gravel roads and rocky paths. Water? “Nowhere to be seen”. Sanitary facilities? “Forget them” says Gabi. During their journey they slept in tents on the bare ground. The camping mats they left in Katmandu. There was just too much luggage for the 35 mules and yaks to carry up the uneven mountain terrain. After three days of “walking until your feet hurt” and three nights under “the most wonderful starry sky you can imagine” – but unfortunately without sleep – the NfH group reached their destination: Yalbang, where they were awaited by 80 destitute boys and girls. A mixed bunch of little people from the rearmost mountainous area of Humla. “For these children the camp is a home, kindergarten, school and training facility at the same time”, explains Gabi Steiner. The families of these children often live a two, three or four day´s march away. “If they want to go to school, they have to leave their homes. There is no other solution”, explains Gabi Steiner. “But at least now we can prevent them from going to Katmandu from where they will never come back”, she continues. And she wants to do everything in her power to encourage the “NfH” to keep on donating to Yalbang to make sure that this project continues. The children, in any case, were delighted about these strangers who came scrambling up their mountain that one day at the end of October 2008. They gently greeted them with a mumbled “Namaste”, a sign of honour and deep respect.

“This was an incomparable experience,” summarized Gabi Steiner of her trip. It shows how happy she is to be a part of this project and to make sure that the “Humla kids” will not be sent to an uncertain future in Katmandu because, with the help of the NfH, this children´s home in Yalbang could be supported with 15,000 euros to protect these children from starvation, expulsion, poverty and illiteracy. By the way, besides Nepalese and English the “Humla school” teaches traditional dance and music to promote and preserve their culture and to encourage the people to preserve their own identity in the face of their silent resistance to the Maoist rebels who have been roaming the country for years with their civil war.

“These children don´t even know their own birth date so their guardians actually invent birthdays for the children in their care which are celebrated with a small party and cookies”, continues Gabi Steiner, talking about her travel adventures but she also experienced some very special and personal moments. She remembers, for example, when the whole group reached some hot springs after five days without being able to wash. “I sat in the warm water until I almost had webbed feet”. Afterwards, she crawled into the tent where she enjoyed the warmth of the sun’s rays whilst her partner, Manfred Wissman, handed her three pieces of chocolate he had saved for them. Says Gabi in her inimitable Swabian dialect, “Rarely in my life have I been so happy”.

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