As most of you know, I am currently in Nepal evaluating our projects and determining what to do next.  Today I flew from Kathmandu to Bharatpur.

I am currently in my hotel in Sauraha, the gateway to Chitwan National Park, and our staging location for going to the Chepong village called Kaule, our destination.  Believe it or not, it’s quite hot here right now.  Sauaraha lies on a subtropical plain between the Himalayas and Nepal’s border with India.  Summer will be here soon.

It was a difficult decision whether to drive or fly from Kathmandu to Sauraha.  On the one hand, driving in Nepal is nuts.  The roads are horrible, the drivers are truly crazy, and fatal accidents occur like clockwork.  The distance from Kathmandu is around 100 miles and the drive takes six hours

On the other hand, flying in Nepal has a danger factor that is roughly the same as driving.  Nepal stands alone as the most dangerous place to fly in the world, bar none.  The regional airlines are known for having old and dilapidated equipment.  The terrain and weather make flying especially treacherous.  One airline called Yeti Air has had several horrific accidents in the last few years.  I refuse to fly Yeti.  Buddha Air is another regional carrier with a better, but not perfect safety record.

Ultimately, I decided to fly on Buddha Air.  Even though the pilot appeared to be a 12-year-old boy and the co-pilot an 11-year-old girl, the flight on the good ole’ Himalayan death tube was uneventful.

Earlier today, I had a very interesting and profoundly sad conversation with a young indigenous Nepali.  Let’s call him Mike since I cannot reveal his identity.  I also cannot show you his picture or reveal his location.  He could face prison time for telling me the things he told me this afternoon.

It turns out that Mike is 24 years old.  He is married and has two young kids.  He does not live in his village with his wife and kids.  The average ANNUAL wage for a Nepali is $1,300 US.  However, indigenous Nepalis make considerably less.  Mike told me that in his village, he can only hope to make about $500 per year.  So, Mike lives in the city where he can make around $1,000 US for his family.  It’s still not enough to bring the family above Nepal’s poverty threshold, but it’s much more than he could make in his village.

Here’s the shocking part of Mike’s story.  He told me that the Russian and Ukrainian Embassies are recruiting Nepalis to serve as mercenaries in their respective militaries.  At least 10,000 to 15,000 Nepalis have gone to fight in Russia.  Fewer have gone to Ukraine, because Ukraine pays less and, unlike Russia, Ukraine does not offer citizenship to Nepali mercenaries who fight in its military.

Mike is leaving for Russia in one week.  Although he fully expects to be sent to the front line as infantry, the pay is $2,200 per month.  This comes out to more than 2,400 percent more than he is currently making.  Russia has said it will compensate the families of Nepalis killed in battle.  Mike fully expects that he could die, but consoles himself with the thought that his wife and kids likely will receive compensation if he is killed.  Also, if he manages to survive his year term, he and his family will be fast-tracked for Russian citizenship.

The reason all of this is top secret is that Nepal recently banned Nepali citizens from signing up as mercenaries in the Russian or Ukrainian militaries.  As a result, the hundreds of Nepalis still wanting to sign up are having to get forged work permits that purport to allow them to leave the country.  Mike said his documents allow him to go to Turkey.  He will make his way to Russia from there.

Nepal is a sad case.  So many working-age Nepalis and those who are well-educated are fleeing the country.  The country is one of the most corrupt in the world and there is very little opportunity.  However, this drain is destroying families and depleting the country of its intelligentsia.  At the same time, political tensions are reaching a boiling point.  There are violent anti-government demonstrations in Kathmandu almost every day.  Many want the old monarchy to be restored.

If you have never donated to support our work around the world, or if you have not donated in a while, today is a great day to get on board and help us make a difference in the lives of people like Mike and his family.



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