Sunday, August 25, 2013

Living in Nepal

Today I'm very excited to share an interview with Katie Cook of Hope Engaged. Katie is a blogger, wife, and hero to several girls in Nepal. About six months ago, Katie and her husband accepted an opportunity to move from Orange County, California to Kathmandu, Nepal and help set up an aftercare home for girls rescued out of sex-trafficking. I had the lovely chance to interview Katie and ask her a few of my most burning questions. Read on to learn about her thoughts on moving to a new country, working with victims of sex-trafficking, and living in Nepal. Feel free to say hello to Katie and check out more amazing photos and inspiring stories at her blog, Hope Engaged.

FEST: Did you have any fears or reservations about moving abroad? If so, how did you overcome those concerns? 

KATIE: Honestly, from the minute Kevin and I got married two years ago, we had been praying for an opportunity to move and serve abroad. We absolutely love to travel, and our hearts desires were to immerse ourself in another country as a team before we had kids! However, moving to Nepal was a total surprise! In January we were approached and asked if we'd be interested in moving in April, and so with a few months to pack our bags we honestly couldn't have been more excited! The small logistical things like who will rent our apartment, and where do we put our stuff, was all worked out in such a beautiful way. It was evident to see that when the Lord calls you, he also works out the details!! 

F: What part of Nepal do you live in?

K: Kevin and I live in Kathmandu, which is the capital of Nepal. It is a dirty and polluted city, but there is an absolute synergy here that pumps at full speed and displays the most vivid hues at every turn....we LOVE it! The colors and people and food have all come together to make our experience amazing!  

F: Briefly explain what you're doing in Nepal. 

K: Kevin and I were asked to come and help build the core infastructure for the aftercare home. Kevin's background is in business and accounting, so he has been helping set up their financial systems. My background is in non-profits, so I have been working on creating policies and procedures, writing manuals, etc. Besides the structural work, we also get to spend time with the girls teaching English, playing games, and singing song. We love being with them!  

F: Can you provide some details about the home you work at? (i.e. What age are the girls you work with? How do they find the home? How many girls do you house at a time? How long do they stay at the home? Who started the home?, etc...) 

K: For security reasons, I cannot provide too many details. But I can say that this home was started almost 2 years ago, when an organization rescuing girls from India found that many of the girls had been trafficked from Nepal. Unfortunately, when a girl was repatriated back to Nepal, there were very few options for her to re-enter normal life. Often the girls own families were involved in trafficking, and so it was not safe to return home. This home was started to provide a safe and loving family for these girls. The girls are generally between 10-17. Essentially when they come to the home, it becomes their family and they are welcome to stay as long as they would like. They are enrolled in school, and encouraged in many activities. Being in the home was an incredible experience, as the staff loved these girls with a fierce love. It really was a family! 

F: Do you work in a volunteer capacity or is this a paying job?

K: The group that asked Kevin and I to move to Nepal are paying for all of our expenses. We feel so so tremendously thankful for this aspect, humbled that they would provide so much for us to be here!  

F: How does a young girl usually get caught up in prostitution?

K: None of these girls are prostitutes by choice. Most of them come from a vulnerable background and their circumstances make them an easy target for traffickers. Women are not valued in Nepal, and many times it is their family who is selling them or abusing them. Sometimes the girls are promised "work" in India (in a restaurant, etc), but then once they have crossed the border they are forced to become sex-slaves. 

F: Once a girl has been rescued, does she ever feel in danger that her perpetrator will seek her out again? 

K: Absolutely. Fear is one of the most powerful tools that a trafficker holds over a young girl. Some of our girls come to the home in a very fearful state. However, over time, and with counseling, many are able to let those fears go little by little. However, healing is a lifelong process.   

F: Tell me about your most inspiring or memorable moment in Nepal.

K: Oh goodness, there are SO many! However, one story that will always stay in my heart involves one of our sweet girls. Like most of the girls that come to the home, they are Hindu. Our home is full of staff who love Jesus and passionately love these girls. After this girl had been in the home for two weeks, she pulled our house mother to the side and curiously said "I've never felt more loved in my whole life than I have in these past few weeks. It's because you are Christian's, huh?" I was so overcome with emotion when I heard this story because this little one could feel the love of Jesus in her life. And isn't that what the Bible says..."they will know we are Christian by our love". So beautiful!  

F: What are your living conditions like? 

K: Like any big city, living conditions vary. The biggest living difference is that Nepal has something called "load shedding" which basically means you have a schedule for when your electricity is going to be on. During the months it doesn't rain, you may have no power for 12-14 hours a day. During the monsoon season, the electricity is only off about 2-4 hours a day. It makes SUCH a big difference to how you live and when you do certain activities!! I will never take power for granted again!! During our time in Nepal, we have lived in the bottom floor of an apartment building. It was very different than what we think of as an apartment building in the US, however many things were the same. The differences included that everything in the kitchen (counters, etc) were so short, because Nepali's are generally pretty short! Also, like many Asian countries, the shower is not separated from the rest of the bathroom. You just shower right onto the bathroom floor (which takes a bit to get used to! haha). Another item I had to get used to was always soaking and washing my vegetables/fruit in iodine or vinegar to kills the germs! 

F: What do you find most difficult about living abroad? 

K: While Nepal is seriously stunning when you get out of the capital, unfortunately Kathmandu is an extremely polluted city! It's hard to work out when you honestly fear that you will get the black lung if you go for a run! Another aspect is that their road system is pretty bad, with many dirt roads in the city. We lived on a dirt road for part of our stay here, and when it was dry season the roads were dusty and you couldn't talk when walking down it for fear of inhaling a cloud of dust. During the rainy season, the roads became one big mud puddle!! But honestly, these things are really not that hard to live with! I love this country!! 

F: What is the most satisfying part of living abroad?

K: There are so many! The first is just the simple pace of life! My husband and I feel so much more at peace having time to just "be". We get to be with each other 24/7 which we LOVE, and i'm already starting to grieve when we move back to California and both have separate jobs! I feel it has been an incredibly healing time for me, as I have so much time to reflect and process my life and listen to God. It is also fun to learn more about the culture, including the language and typical Nepali foods! We love exploring and discovering new things and there is plenty of that happening while living abroad! 

F: How much longer do you plan to be in Nepal and what are your plans after your time there is over? 

K: We are actually leaving at the end of this month (August). It has been really hard for us saying goodbye as we have LOVED Nepal. However, Nepal has sparked a special passion in me, and when we return to California, I will be starting grad school to study counseling. I would love to move back to Nepal or another country and work with girls who need counseling and healing! My husband and his family own a few restaurants in Orange County, so he will resume his work there!! 

F: What will you miss most about Nepal when it's time to leave?

K: The girls. Plain and simple! We had our going away party this past week, and I think I sobbed through most of it! They have touched my heart like nobody in the world ever has. The way they have loved Kevin and I is beyond belief. They have taught us the power of forgiveness, and given us more courage than I ever knew possible!  

Thanks so much, Katie! Click below to read some notable posts from Katie or head on over to her blog, Hope Engaged


Brendon said...

Love this post & her blog. Thanks for sharing.

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