Voluntarism in Jhumlawang


Academically, the word is understood as ‘religion’. However, in Jhumlawang, people use the word ‘dharma’ to mean ‘the good work’. It is specially used when the act is for greater good of the society and people.

These days, you can often hear village’s elders use a phrase “Dharma Garyachan!” They are using the phrase to express their joy and pride when they see new projects and programs in the village. Literally, the expression can be understood as ‘they have done good work’. Their pride outspreads as youths are getting more involved in volunteering for these projects.

Shyam Thapa, Sub-civil engineer, with Parshuram and Ajay
Shyam Thapa, Sub-civil engineer with Ajay and Parshuram

“Along with new projects and youths involvement in the village; voluntarism seems to be more organized and encouraging,” says Ram Bahadur Budha, Chairperson of JVF-Nepal.

Though new ways of voluntarism is being introduced in the village, the idea itself is not new to the society. In a small, closed society like Jhumlawang, the social voluntarism is of greatest need. Village people come together in almost every important events of life: in birth, in marriage, in death, in building houses, making roads, water taps, chautari and so on.

Voluntarism in Jhumlawang is generally done through ‘Jhara’. It is called for mainly in two different occasions; one is to assist individual and another is for the common purpose. Similar trend are being observed in volunteering. Generally, when calling for ‘jhara’, it is for everyone in the village (one member of the family is a must). But, recently, voluntarism is also done individually. The constant example has been the architect Ajay Magar.

Architect Ajay Magar in School Building Project
Architect Ajay Magar in School Building Project

Ajay, architect by profession, designer and supervisor of JVF-Nepal’s Community Health Center, Community Cultural Center and School Extension Project, has been spending long time supervising in the field. Recently, he was in Jhumlawang for 6 months, volunteering in the school project. His selfless act of serving the society has been highly admired. Among his admirers is Hom Jung Rana, Headmaster of Jhumlawang Primary School who likens him with the labourers of Dolpo.

“Not any Dolpo labour but the one who is most hardworking, most sincere, most dedicated and determined,” he emphasizes. Famous for using metaphors and similes, Rana’s comparison of Ajay to Dolpo laborer is wholly agreed upon by people who worked with him and people who saw him working.

“He worked more than anyone of us,” JVF-Nepal’s Field Co-ordinator Parshuram Budha seconds Rana, “He is a supervisor but he worked as a laborer, as a carpenter, as a collie, and what not!” He recalls working from 7 am to 7 pm, straight; sometimes.

“It is very difficult to keep up with him in work,” Laxman Budha, Field Sub-Engineer in the project says, “He gives his best and expects that from others as well.” Parshuram clarifies “Ajay believes in ‘If I do it, others will also do it’ motto.”

Jung Bahadur Kunwar, carpenter of the school project, says while it was a very demanding work, it was also a great learning experience for him and his team. “We knew only how to make square and triangle,” he states, “After working with him I have learned the possibilities of pentagon and even hexagon.”

Parshuram adds, “Ajay is an example for people who aspire to do something for their society.” He hopes slowly there will be more people who will follow his example in the village.

While individual voluntarism is a new trend in the village, group voluntarism has been of constant practice. Especially through Jhumlawang Youth Club (Laligurans Jana Yuva Club) group voluntarism has been prominent.

"United We Stand" ! Youth Members of Jhumlawang Youth Club
“United We Stand” ! Youth Members of Jhumlawang Youth Club

This year, youths spent 3 days for afforestation around the Jhumlawang Primary School. During Dashain, they collaborated with Jhumlawang Forest Committee in order to collect fund for upgrading school from Primary to Secondary level. Purna Gurung, a Youth Club member, was a Singaru (a dancer in a traditional dance Singaru which is only danced during Dashain). They collected Rs. 19,000 excluding the expenditure.

Again, in Tihar (Dipawali) – the festival of light, Youth Club led ‘Deusi-Bhailo’ program to collect financial support for school. Youths who had returned back to celebrate Dashain-Tihar joined the youths in village to go from house to house dancing, singing and making merriment while collecting ‘Daan-Dakshina’ (fund). In four days of Deusi-Bhailo they were able to collect the total of Rs 99,957.

“Through school we are working for our future,” Youth Club President Bhim Prasad Shrestha says, “Of course, wherever we are, we are coming together to work for betterment of our society, always.”

‘Deusi-Bhailo’ program to collect financial support for school
‘Deusi-Bhailo’ program to collect financial support for school

With time and the circumstances, Jhumlawangies have spread around the world; some in search of education, some in search of work and some in search of comfortable life. But, no matter where they are, through different means and medium they are coming together for betterment of the village. In their endeavor, like-minded organizations like Foghlaim, GRC Solidarity, Association Partages, and Association Humanitaire Partage et Soins have been supporting the community continuously.

Seeing new projects focused in education, health, culture and overall development of people in the village and full involvement of young generation along with assistance from different international organizations in these development works; it is no wonder older generation is full of joy and pride. However, their pride is not one sided. Well aware of elders’ contribution in establishing and sustaining school, acting as a bridge between generations to transfer traditional knowledge in the village, youths are equally grateful. And they say, ‘Dharma garyahun; gardaichhan!” – They did good work and they continue to do so!


Smita Magar,

Jhumlawang, Rukum

Nov 12, 2014


A Japani Dakdor in Our Door

Jhumlawang, Rukum:

Dr Ryukichi Ishida is a very quiet person. He does not make noise and rarely makes you feel his presence. And yet, whenever he makes his way through villages of mid-Western region of Nepal every eyes and ears are tuned to his footsteps. People from other neighbouring villages also walk for days to the Health Centre/health camp he is stationed at a time in hopes of being checked by the ‘Japani Dakdor’ from Thawang.

Dr Ishida in jhumlabang villageAnd their Japani Dakdor does not let them down. Unlike the ‘modern doctors’ of urban hospitals he is not only at their doorsteps but also charges not a penny for his services. In his aura of soft, gentle and caring personality the innocent village people seem to forget their usual ‘terror’ over the idea of seeing doctors or going to hospitals. His kind smile with slightly accented Nepali words ‘k bhayo?’, ‘dukchha?’, ‘kaha dukchha?’- (What happened? Does it pain? Where does it pain?) -instantly encourages patients to tell their stories of misfortune.

A 67-years old Orthopaedist intently listens to their stories, patiently, as if he has the time of the world. Only once a while does he look for local assistant’s interpretation. He uses few known Nepali words, sign languages and gestures to communicate with his patients. He doesn’t only check the patients but also gives consultancy and tries to help as much as possible through his expertise and network. His effort is to make the treatment as much reachable and affordable as possible to these village people.

japani doctor Ishida in jhumlabang“There is a very huge health inequity between Nepal, India and Japan,” a member of MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors without Border) Dr Ishida says with concern, “Here; good health care is only focused on the wealthy people.” He considers this situation as a new humanitarian crisis created by neo-liberalism and globalization.

It is to further understand this crisis that has led him to walk through the villages of mid-Western Nepal as a ‘Medical Anthropology’ researcher for CNAS (Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies) from his research base Thawang, Rolpa. His research topic “Integrative approach to the traditional healers and modern medical practices” focuses on finding ways to balance the health inequity prevalent in the country.

Dr Ishida in Thawang - health centerWhile pursuing his medical research, equally close observant of the social issues and situations, Kobe born Doctor Ishida says he is in a quest to find answers to the questions that have poked him throughout his life. The current one being “WHY and how to overcome these inequity?” other questions that had arose during his youth days continue to be unanswered. “The search continues,” he smiles.

It was this nature of searching for answers that had him ended up in Nepal in 1968. A third year student in Kyoto University, at the age of 21, had packed his rucksack for a year-long journey of Asia, Europe and Russia; alone. His purpose was to experience the true life of Asian people and to find out answers to questions such as: What is the truth of Vietnam War? Is American campaign correct or the Viet-Congs? What is the problem between Japan and other Asian countries?

In his one year journey, he spent 6 months in India and Nepal. In India, he volunteered in Leprosy Centre of Agra. He was a part of traveling clinic for street lepers around Agra. “I was shocked by the reality,” he shakes his head at the memory, “So much of street leper expelled from their villages.”

After his voluntary in India, he came to Nepal. The mountainous country was not new for him. He was a member of mountaineering club of the University and had heard from his seniors.

At that time, tourism was not so common, especially in Western Nepal. So when he walked all the way from Pokhara, Beni Bazaar, Kali Gandaki to Tansen, he took shelter in the houses of local villagers; ate what they offered and slept on what they provided.

One day, he happened to stay in a house of an ex-Gurkha army. “He was probably a Magar, very old and he knew Japanese,” Doctor Ishida remembers with smile, “He said he learned Japanese from a Japanese war prisoner who had become his friend during War”.

Alone in an unknown place where no one spoke his language, finding a man who could speak his tongue gave him immense happiness. When he was leaving he wanted to pay for the homestay and food but the man would not accept. “This intimacy, kindness and friendliness towards a stranger touched my heart.”

He also remembers his strange meeting with an eye patient while passing through Tansen Mission Hospital. The man had asked “Dabai Chha?” (Do you have medicine?) confusing young Ishida. After years, the Doctor is to learn what the person meant and be prompted to come back to Nepal.

It was in Nepal, during his journey, he met his mentor Dr Noboru Iwamura in Tansen Mission Hospital.community health in Nepal Dr Iwamura invited him to join on his BCG vaccination campaign in different villages around Tansen. Dr Ishida considers this meet as ‘the happiest and luckiest one chance’ where he learned how to approach to the reality of Nepal. In his 3 weeks of voluntary work with the prominent doctor he concludes, “I noticed the importance of traditional medicine.”

Carrying these experiences and memories the young Ishida had continued his journey to other Asian countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and to Europe to Russia to back home by hitch-hiking with hippies. After travelling through India and Nepal he had got confidence that he could survive anyway, anywhere. And it was in this journey he got the profound knowledge, “You see, a rich traveller does not know the reality of places he travels; a hitchhiker does.”

It was this knowledge of the reality he had garnered during his hitchhiking days that beckoned him to Nepal after a gap of nearly 4 decades. In that gap, he had become one of the renowned Orthopaedist in the country, had worked for reputed private hospitals such as Kyoto-Minami Hospital and Ueda-Shimotanabe Hospital of Japan and had not only done orthopaedics surgery but also operations of the brain surgery, chest surgery, gynaecology, urology and so on.

As his experiences and expertise increased so his age. It was when he crossed 60 his urge for continuing his quest for answers left him sleepless. “I remembered medical practices in Nepal, the words of my mentor, the friendly village people and the question, ‘Dabai chha?’” he adds, “And, I came back looking for answers.”

So, when he came back in 2006, 37 years had passed. Nepal had changed. It had gone through different political phases and some social changes and yet the health inequity had increased further.

Japanese Dr Ishida in hilli region NepalTo understand the ground reality of changed Nepal he immediately started voluntary work in Tansen Mission Hospital in 2006, Rukum/Chaurjhari Hospital in 2007 and in 2009 headed the “Primary Trauma Care Research Caravan” from Jumla to Baglung. After this Caravan, regular visit to Rolpa, Thawang started. Currently, he is spending 6 months in Nepal, goes back Japan to collect funds and returns back to help those in need. This way, his second life in Nepal, began.

When he came to Nepal it was not that there were no medical activities by NGOs/INGOs. But, as per his understanding most of these activities have charity mind which is one type of empire mentality and mission activity is another kind of ruling system. Criticizing these activities he says “They do not support sustainable development as they have top-down approach.” Western Medicine, alone, according to Dr Ishida, is not good activity for sustainability. To make it sustainable he states we should follow the mantra of Dr Iwamura, i.e. ‘Sangai Jiunako Lagi’ (to survive together).

“When I read Dr Iwamura, again, I realized, ‘the huge hidden human resources are there in the society.’ We must dig up them and integrate for the better result, making it sustainable.” He does not hesitate to accept the fact that he had not known the positive side of traditional healers/traditional bone settlers (TBS), in past days, himself. He says he is surprised time and again when he finds these TBS better than that of Kathmandu’s amateur doctors. “I look at them do their job and think ‘Oh! They have good skill!’ from time to time.”

He is now in contact with the TBSs of Dang, Salyan, Rukum and Rolpa whose knowledge have further strengthened his belief in utmost necessity of fusing these traditional and modern knowledge of medicine and practices.

In the present reality of Nepal where doctors do not want to come to rural parts of the country Dr Ishida feels it is basically necessary to integrate Western medicine and traditional medicinal practices for better outcome. “Without them in the picture sustainable development is impossible.”

Dr Ishida in jhumlabangGovernment of Nepal has unfortunately banned some traditional practices. There is an urgent need for Government policy to integrate them; taking the positive knowledge and skill from traditional healers while discouraging some negative practices. Else the knowledge is likely to disappear without being transferred to the new generation. “The traditional knowledge of these TBS can be taken as national dignity,” Dr Ishida strongly states “Nepal has important cultures within medicine.” As it is not influenced from colonial empire but of independent thinking and practice he believes it can be a national property, pride and traditional heritage as is in Japan.

At the same time, while speaking of integration, Dr Ishida feels that medicinal issues should not be looked separately from social issues. “Social issues and medical issues must be connected because medical issues cannot be solved without social change,” he emphasizes on fusing them for a healthy society.

For the creation of healthy society, not only physically but also psychologically, socio-culturally and economically, he states unity is a must among people. As he has observed for years, for rural development projects in the region different ideologies are prohibiting unity. Meanwhile, there is ‘refugee’ diaspora mind and local diaspora mind which conflict in the approaches to the development. “These things need to be overcome,” he says.

As he observes, gives his medicinal services for free while doing his research, helps financially to those who are in need and has almost gone native with his preference to dhido and ‘alikati raksi’; has he found answers to his questions? ‘Not yet,” he says, “These are continuous questions.” So, he says it will continue forever, throughout his second life, as he declares. So, how has his second life been going? “Till now, it has been interesting and very pleasant.”

-Smita Magar,

6th July 2014

Impatiently waiting to Return…


Welcoming Clarisse in Jhumlawang It is hard to describe this truly human experience I lived in Jhumlawang…Even before I arrived, I could feel the warmness and protection of the members of this community. The way I’ve been hosted is still in my mind, so much generosity and attention towards a stranger is precious, and very rare. I lived for 13 days in one of the houses of the village, with Kusum’s parents, who directly made me feel at home, and deeply faithful. I will always be grateful for the caring and the delicateness they treated me with. The first days, one or several persons took me to visit different places and projects; the community center, the health center, a school attached to the association’s network, the village’s school where I spent the most of my time, for my greatest pleasure.

I first witnessed what was happening there, it was the beginning of the national exams in Nepal. Then I taught fine arts and dance, one or two hours a day.

Children were really open and excited to discover a totally different way to learn, eager to try, experiment. Even if it was sometimes difficult to communicate, the spontaneity of the children and the presence of the teachers helped a lot and made these moments relaxed and constructive. Teaching Through Game-Clarisse Bachellier The team who works there surrounded me with kindness, humor, and a lot of curiosity. Some people I met became friends, substitution mothers, new brothers and sisters.

I had a particularly strong relationship with my little neighbors, four adorable children who surprised me with their extreme maturity. It was hard to leave this village behind me, I lived so many things during this few days that I felt as if I had stayed one month. On my way to Pokhara, they did their best to make my travel easier, arranging hosting for me in Khalanga, district head quarter, and Ghorahi, Dang, thanks to other members of the community.

I eventually met Purna in Kathmandu, to talk about this experience and share my feelings. I want to thank each person who made my stay in Jhumlawang so beautiful, I’m pretty sure I will come back, and I’m already impatient…

By Clarisse Bachellier

17th August 2013

Namaskar from Sara Kumari

Sara Gonzalez
June, 2013

“Greetings from 2070! I am back to the “wired” world with many more stories after another wonderful sharing time in the middle of the Nepalese mountains. This time only took us an unforgettable 24 hours ride from Kathmandu, 12 hrs jeep-truck ride and 4 relaxed hours up hill walking to arrive. Not to forget the 423 hindi-nepali love songs along . Arc. Magar, a nepali-english dictionary and I arrived safely to the village.

My adoptive Nepali family remembered me and I was truly happy to see them too. My three nieces/guides are growing fast and learning absolutely everything about the village activities, taking care of cattle, chickens, farming, cooking, picking fruits, dancing and singing of course.  Sara in Salle Airport, Rukum My “new” Nepali nephew (he was in the belly last time) was more into the last two activities plus eating. Parents, uncles, aunties looked the same; strong, healthy and happy. But there were some members of the family missing. They are now working and living outside Nepal. When I came here for the first time three years ago, it surprised me the large number of Nepali citizens that go abroad to work to the Golf countries, well the story hasn’t changed since then. Now the popular countries attracting workers are Malaysia and South Korea (or maybe I didn’t know before).

The true is that Mexico is not far from this migration story and the pattern keeps happening in so many places. The need, the separation, the hope for a better future, the lack of local job opportunities, immense love and the empathy is there again .

Skies were clear and next day we were all set to go to the school village, my new workplace for the next couple of weeks. Thirty of forty uphill minutes, we were there! Smiling and curious faces welcomed us. For the next three weeks, I got to know all those faces and we had so much fun. Sara Kumari (my new adorable Nepali title) was walking up hill every morning together with my little guides and students, teaching English with funny questions, reading story books, playing games, absorbing all the Nepali language, being eaten by the local tinny fauna, learning the names of the surroundings and admiring the mountains.

Sara's student

Almost at the end of the school day it was snack time, Haluwa time! Surprise, surprise! This not very good looking dish is being distributed in some rural schools all around the country. The big sack has huge USA letters and flag printed on it but the people from the village told me it is being distributed with the help of the Germans. Anyway, Haluwa is super popular even the parents of the children liked it. Which reminds me of a small detail, remember last time I told you about the parents at the school in China, here absolutely no parent was around. Every single child was going to the school alone or with friends or siblings, they were free (free from the city dangers as well), they know the mountains; they are confident souls at a very young age.

The language adventure was fun as usual, as a huge fan of languages I have a list of favourite words: Dhukur, Kukur, Khukuri, Kukhura, Kakra, Kamila, Kancha and Taliiiii meaning dove, dog, knife, chicken, cucumber, ant, loved one or smallest son and applausss. Extremely useful wordsSCHOLARSHIP DISTRIBUTION-JUN 2013-97! My dictionary and I spent some good times, I can almost read all the Sanskrit alphabet, now it has to make sense ha! So Indian restaurants without English menus, we’ll meet again!

It is rainy season there and my inner “comfortable” part of the mind was a bit sad. Luckily the other “reasonable” part of the mind understood that if it wasn’t because of the massive amounts of water, the fields wouldn’t be that green, the crops wouldn’t grow, the animals wouldn’t have enough food and I wouldn’t have eaten the sweetest plums from the family tree that were perfectly ripe after one rainy week.

Time passed and I had to prepare to leave. I knew that there was no vehicle waiting for me at the doorstep so I decided to start the way back with one of the cousins that was travelling too. We left the village a sunny morning, walked for around two hours downhill first then another three uphill and we reached the place where the jeep was running! . we just had ahead six more hours plus a couple of buses the next days. another goodbye full of new memories, new friends, lots of “Feri Aunus” (come back again) and a very happy heart.

Thanks Jhumlawang. Gracias Jhumlawang people. Dhanyebad Universe!”

The source of the article at my blog.