Focus on Culture: Nepal
Krishna Gurung of the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco-Foundation (KRMEF) is creating a buzz around Nepal and around the world. Like the world's tallest peak a little over a hundred miles to the northeast, Krishna is a towering leader. Krishna’s accomplishments lie in creating social change. The programs of the KRMEF include: an orphanage, a children’s center, recycling, natural building, a biodynamic farm, a community center, health clinic with alternative medicine, alternative fuel for cooking, education and empowerment workshops, crafts and jewelry making and sales, and permaculture and biodynamic training for farmers.
There is ample information about the KRMEF and its amazing accomplishments in modern media, but what about Krishna himself? What sort of childhood formed this remarkable, capable and inspired man? What can we, as educators glean from this childhood? Is there something in it applicable to farm-based education?
As a child, Krishna was encouraged by his parents to develop creativity and responsibility. He worked hard: cleaning the kitchen, caring for animals, and tending the garden every day. During winter vacation in January and February he traveled about 7 kilometers to gather dry firewood from a forest. Krishna especially enjoyed making traditional Nepali ropes: damlo, for tying animals, and namlo, for carrying large loads in a bundle. The ropes are made out of long leaves of a local variety of cactus. The leaves are allowed to rot and the remaining fiber is then used to make ropes of many different sizes.
When Krishna was asked if he had more chores to do than was typical in other families, he replied “Yes, I was to do more than in any other families.”
Krishna was instructed to work. His father, as a working man, modeled work. Krishna learned to do what he saw. Krishna has now learned to admire and appreciate the regularity and rhythmicity of his father’s work, eating habits, and life.
From his childhood, Krishna learned skills, self reliance, and how to be productive. As an adult, Krishna recognizes that all people benefit from these qualities, and suffer without them.
One of the many projects of the KRMEF is its work with people with leprosy. Krishna himself was raised in a Leproserium in Khokana, Nepal until the age of nine. In Nepal, people with leprosy are regarded as a curse of God. These people are socially ostracized and have been neglected for many centuries. The women are especially traumatized emotionally. The ostracism, psychological, and social problems are actually worse for leprosy sufferers than the disease itself which is now curable.
KRMEF has responded to this crisis by giving productive work to leprosy sufferers. Making handicrafts, working in the biodynamic garden, and in the community center are all jobs that these people can do. They then realize they are able to work just like other people. By being productive they prove their own value to themselves and to the community. The result is a great benefit to both.
The chores and work in Krishna’s childhood cultivated his will. Today Krishna’s will in turn cultivates both the surrounding society as a whole, and the wills of others.
Although in many places people have spent generations trying to get away from hard work. In the end work, skills, and productivity are essential to our source of strength and to our humanity.