My name is Kathy Reager and on February 18th, 2016, I traveled to Nepal as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity to help build houses in areas that had been devastated by the Megaquake of 2015. As I was preparing my bags and reading over the suggested packing list, they listed ideas for gifts to bring for the kids and adults in the village we would be working in. It got me thinking, as a retired dental assistant…toothbrushes! With that in mind, I reached out to my former dental office and they put me in touch with the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. Days before I left, boxes arrived filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. I was so thrilled that they were willing to help!
My first stop was a small government-run elementary school just outside the village of Pipaltar in Dhulikhel where we were building.We were greeted with smiling faces and lots of energy. As I looked around the classroom, I noticed that the one-room building had no indoor plumbing, electricity, and had very few school supplies, but there were a lot of happy children eager to practice their English with us. The afternoon was filled with singing and games and at the end of the day, dental goodie bags. I was able to give out 30 children’s toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.
The next morning, as we walked through the village to our building site, I was greeted with shouts of “thank you” in English and kids holding up their toothbrushes.
I finished up my time with Habitat for Humanity in March, but I wasn’t finished with my volunteering. At the end of March, I joined 14 other volunteers and headed to the Dolhaka region in Nepal. This area was one of the hardest hit areas by the second earthquake in May 2015. We were headed to a Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery in a place called Bigu. The journey there was an adventure in itself, a 10-hour bus ride from Kathmandu and a five-mile hike to a campsite along the river were we would camp for the night. The next morning was an 11-mile hike up a mountain to a total elevation of 8,200 feet.
The devastation was just about everywhere we looked as we passed through town after town, village after village, that were completely reduced to rubble. Not a house was left undamaged in most places. At the nunnery, all of the buildings were either completely destroyed, suffered so much damage that they needed to be demolished or were damaged to the extent that they were not safe to use. Our team of volunteers help demolish two living quarters, one of which was opened only a few months before the earthquake.The damage was too extensive to repair. As with the rest of Nepal, only minimal reconstruction has begun at the nunnery.
While we were there, most of the younger nuns who had relocated to Kathmandu since June moved back to Bigu to stay. The nuns are living in donated metal temporary shelters that they had been using in Kathmandu. It was a wonderful homecoming to watch as the nuns arrived. You could see it on their faces and hear it in their voices. They were so happy to be back to fresh air and countryside living. The homecoming celebration included a picnic, games and lots of laughter, and ended with the presentation of gifts from the volunteers. The nuns ranged in age from seven years old to a woman in her 80s. No matter their age, they all appreciated the oral health care gift bags and couldn’t wait to start using it. I can’t thank the Henry Schein Cares Foundation enough for their generous donation of the adult and child oral care kits. It left the people of Nepal with bigger and bright smiles and for me, one of the greatest feeling I have ever experienced. It is so true that you get more when you give.