In a recent gathering at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Klein, Bishnu Adhikari – a Nepal in-country director for CHOICE Humanitarian — spoke to close to 800 people about his humanitarian work after the devastating earthquake. Bishnu, a 2010 CHOICE Humanitarian of the Year and featured in the film Meet the Mormons, spoke of his humble beginnings and his drive to help the people of Nepal.
Bishnu was 30 years old when he received his master’s degree in engineering from Russia and returned to visit his small rural village in Nepal. Bishnu became emotional when he witnessed his 60-year-old mother still having to carry water from a distant well.
“It broke my heart to see my mother still carrying water in a basket on her back,” Bishnu said. “I thought it was ironic that even though I had been gone for five years and received an education, my village had not changed at all.”
A recent convert to Christianity, joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia, he recognized that he had been given “an opportunity to grow in humanity.”
“I decided that this would be my first project.”
Bishnu spent the next four months developing a pipe project that brought water to the villagers. It was so well designed that it even withstood the recent Nepalese earthquake.
Anyone who meets Bishnu is immediately struck by his humility. Despite his rise in status, fame, and awards, he speaks only of his great love of work and striving to improve the quality of life of those around him.
“You can’t help but feel his heart,” remarked Al Haines, former Chief Administrator for the city of Houston and a member of CHOICE’s board of directors.
Bishnu joined CHOICE Humanitarian in 2007 as an in-country director for Nepal after working on development projects for the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and USAID. Since joining he has brought CHOICE’s sustainable development model to literally hundreds of villages in Nepal alone. Bishnu’s and CHOICE Humanitarian’s overall mission is to end extreme poverty around the world, and to date they have entered and had huge impacts in seven countries.
Despite his education Bishnu had to adjust some of his expectations.
“I had been trained in civil engineering and that meant working with large areas and heavy equipment,” Bishnu remembers. “But when I went back to Nepal there was no bulldozer – only pickaxes and shovels. I had to learn to work with what was available.”
After the devastating 7.9 scale earthquake in Nepal, Bishnu assisted with providing shelter using tents and other local materials. While his and the CHOICE model’s focus is on sustainability, Bishnu knew that immediate relief was necessary. But even in the midst of that country’s trauma, the model of ownership and using local leadership became invaluable in meeting the villagers’ immediate needs. Bishnu encouraged neighbors to help one another and witnessed as they worked side by side, Nepal’s government contributed aid, and local leaders helped identify specific villagers and their immediate necessities, including shelter. Bishnu believes strongly in working with the local people, understanding their culture, and teaching the people self-sufficiency.
“It is important to go to the people,” Bishnu reiterated. “The people learn how and they replicate it in other villages.”
Bishnu has since created Nepal rebuild designs for schools and housing, utilizing the CHOICE model of self-sufficiency while respecting Nepalese culture.
“Nepal will rise again,” he said in closing. “It will rise again because of the people’s desire.”
Click on photos to Enlarge.
Photo credit – Ramona Siddoway