Editor’s note: This is another in a series of columns about Palmer Lake resident Jay Heinlein’s work and adventures in Nepal. Heinlein went there with Five14Nepal, which combines trekking adventures with humanitarian projects in the earthquake-stricken country.
By Jay Heinlein | Guest columnist
PATAN, Nepal – In January, some friends and I began an art project that we hoped would benefit a local charitable organization, while also highlighting the talents of Nepali artists. In the process, it benefited me, expanding my heart and broadening my perspective about our world, on many levels.
The idea grew out of conversations with like-minded expatriates, who came to Nepal with goals similar to my own: to find adventure and contribute to the humanitarian efforts of rebuilding Nepal after the earthquakes a year ago.
During my service adventure in Nepal, I have been based and living in Lalitpur - Patan, an area known for its artisans. Here I met Dutch artists Danielle and Sudarshan, who shared my agenda, including my own desire to publish works highlighting “inspiring doers” in the Nepali community.
Together, we hatched the idea of an art project. Another friend, Stephani, a star snowboarder from Switzerland, suggested we partner with a children’s home she had visited. Thus began, our heart-expanding adventure.
The four of us, and two Kathmandu artists, Loxman & Sundar, boarded a local commuter bus for the relatively short ride to the Newar village of Bungamanti, on the edge of the Lalitpur District.
We had hoped to have the children do rough sketches, which the adult artists could collaborate on. Then we would send the best ones to a special showing at a gallery in Mons, Belgium, for a fundraising exhibit to benefit the Disabled Service Association home.
The home exists “to support and take care of children with disabilities, generate public awareness about their needs and rights, and works to remove existing social and cultural barriers.”
It certainly had that effect on me. Upon arriving, we were greeted excitedly by several children and the director of the home, a humble man named Daya, who exudes a disarming spirit of compassion and loving, visionary enthusiasm.
The special needs of the children ranged from hearing and sight impairment, to physical and mental disabilities, both minor and quite severe. It was apparent that their physical challenges were certainly no impediment to their artistic and creative abilities.
After a brief tour and introduction, we passed out art supplies and the children went to work. Much to our surprise, the children were already talented artists. They all regularly participate in life-skills training, art and music classes as part of their overall educational experience both at the home and the village school, which is just across the road.
I was moved to tears watching the children create their masterpieces. Emotions filled my heart and then stretched it beyond words. Life’s impairments cannot block the creative, fiery human spirit, having once been kindled by nurturing and patient kindness.
I also realized that these special needs children, perhaps see and hear far more than many.
Jay Heinlein is a lifelong writer, a publishing professional for over 25 years and principal of Heinlein Publishing Services. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org