I’d like to take this self-indulgent opportunity to say my thanks and farewells so *Spoiler Alert* do excuse me as things may get a little cheesey!
Four years ago, I arrived bright eyed and bushy-tailed in Nepal as an Umbrella volunteer – not really knowing what was ahead of me, not understanding the complexity of the issues in Nepal, the difficulties faced by the children and youths, the challenges faced by the team in Nepal and the monstrous fundraising efforts going on overseas to keep the organisation afloat. What was supposed to be a 3-month altruistic stint in Nepal turned into 5 months and eventually 2 and a half years!
So, it’s safe to say it’s been a pretty formative time for me with many, MANY lessons learned – a couple of which I wanted to share.
1) “Always be happy, never be sad” – a favourite saying of the kids and perhaps it’s a bit over-simplified but the unbeatable spirit of the children and youth of Umbrella is summed up in that phrase and it’s something we can all learn from. Choosing to keep a positive outlook rather than dwell on the hard times – it’s echoed in Umbrella’s tag line “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” 2) I learnt how vital everyone is in the running of Umbrella. Every single one of you plays a crucial role in keeping Umbrella going whether through fundraising, raising awareness, donating your time and energy or whatever – it is you, the supporters, who are the backbone of Umbrella, who are essentially ‘lighting the candles’. Of course, the organisation would never have started without the wonderfully deserving children and young adults, it couldn’t function without the trustworthy and dedicated team of Nepali and international staff but it truly wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers who give their time so generously in Nepal, nor the sponsors who donate and write regularly, nor the supporters who spread the word, share, like and comment, nor the exhausted but tireless ‘UmBeggars’ who are always out plaguing their friends & family to take part in events, to sponsor, to donate, to shake buckets and get involved. It is thanks to all of you that Umbrella is here today. Please continue to light candles – so many futures are already brightened because of you and so many more can be helped out of the dark. 3) Be careful of cashew nuts, sometimes there are maggots inside. I learnt this one the hard way!
I’ve often told people that it was interesting to have such a unique perspective in seeing the worst in humanity – the corruption, the trafficking and its ugly aftermath of broken families, child abuse etc. – and seeing the best in humanity – generous people coming forward to support, help when it was totally unasked for – it truly restores the faith on the hard days! There are countless examples of this but one or two I remember was an 8 year old girl, Dervla Nealon, who sent her Communion money to ‘help the poor people in Nepal’ or Harry Pender who sent his 10th birthday party money over so we could get calculators for the kids in the homes! Just wow!
On those hard days, it is also important to remember what it’s all about, who it’s all for. One boy in Annapurna recently told me “I know I am lucky sister. I have got the chance to live in good environment and go to good school because my family cannot support. I know I can’t waste that chance. I have to work hard and achieve my dream.” These are exactly the kind of kids your support is reaching – to say they are deserving, is a grand understatement!
So thanks to the volunteers for all the laughs, but mostly for the great work you’ve done in schools, at the homes and for the organisation – I feel so grateful to have met so many incredible individuals – you all totally nailed it! To the sponsors, some new, some on board for donkeys years – thank you all for your continuous support and kind words! To the international supporters who attend, participate and coordinate all sorts of clever and creative events worldwide to raise awareness and funds – thanks colossal amounts!!
Finally, I want to quickly thank my lovely friends in Nepal, my incredible friends back home for the countless ‘care packages’, M and my ridiculously supportive family – putting the ‘close’ back in, eh…well, Close! It has been an absolute pleasure to work for this charity and I look forward to staying involved for many years to come. Don’t hesitate to drop me a line for any reason – [email protected].