Former Breckenridge woman’s nonprofit benefits post-earthquake Nepal
Like many in recent months, Katie Hilborn’s mind has been on Nepal. The country is still reeling from the fallout of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake — that struck April 25, killing thousands — and from further, large-scale aftershocks.
Since then, hundreds of foreign-aid workers have flooded the borders, bringing food, water and supplies to the thousands of displaced people. Tent camps have sprung up to provide at least minimal shelter to those who lost their homes.
Summit County has already reached out to the Nepalese people. The Summit County chapter of Rotary Club did a matching fundraiser with ShelterBox, an organization that provides tents and supplies to disaster victims, and local philanthropist C.L. ‘Doc PJ’ Perrinjaquet held a benefit for his Doctors to the World fund to provide assistance to survivors from the hard-hit Langtang valley.
Hilborn is no stranger to the Summit penchant for giving. She lived in Breckenridge for seven years, during which she founded her own nonprofit organization, Global Orphan Prevention. In 2012, she organized a musical night in Breckenridge to raise funds to build a school for children in a small Nepal village.
Now, she is increasing her organization’s efforts in Nepal. Previously, the nonprofit was working to build a dairy farm to support the building of another school for low-caste children. Her new project mission is to rebuild eight maternity centers that were leveled by the earthquake.
GLOBAL ORPHAN PREVENTION
She first traveled to Nepal in 2011. Already an experienced world traveler, she often did one-month volunteer trips to developing countries, including several in Africa.
“In 2011, I wanted to do something bigger,” she said recently from Melbourne, Australia, the place she currently calls home. “So, I collected about $3,000 from friends and family, and then I went to Nepal with the purpose of just doing something amazing, like waiting till I got there to decide how to spend the money.”
Once on the ground, Hilborn kept her eyes and ears open as she got to know the country, its people, its needs and problems.
One of these problems, in particular, that gripped her was prevalence of Nepalese “orphans,” who in fact still had living parents. After some research into the subject, she learned that, according to UNICEF, 62 percent of orphans in third world countries have parents.
One of the reasons for this, she found, is that women, especially those of lower castes in places like India and Nepal, have great difficulty supporting their children if their husbands die or abandon them. So, they send them to orphanages. In other instances, parents might believe their child will have a better chance at an education at an orphanage. Unfortunately, a number of orphanages in these places have been uncovered as frauds, using orphan children anddeceiving well-meaning foreigners for profit.
Her experiences in India and Nepal sparked an idea, and she decided to start a nonprofit organization called Global Orphan Prevention, with a mission of keeping mothers and children together.
While the 501(c)3 nonprofit certification would finally come in 2014, Hilborn started her work in Nepal during her 2011 trip. While looking for people to help on her trip, she connected with a small village in the southern part of the country.
Under the impression that she would use the last of her money to buy a cow to help the village income, she made the long trek to the remote location. When she arrived, however, she learned that the villagers had something else on their mind — a school.
Though at first taken aback, she soon embraced the challenge and, when she returned to Breckenridge, got to work organizing a fundraiser — Musicians for Nepal — to build the school.
“The Breckenridge community came together. We raised $10,000 in one night,” she said. “It was awesome.”
She continued to develop her Global Orphan Prevention idea, and the school was built. She considers Summit County a large part in the success so far of her organization.
“Everywhere I go in the world, my heart is always with the Summit community because their willingness to come together for the greater good is unprecedented,” she said. “Nowhere in the Western world have I seen that kind of community involvement. People really do live like we’re all family, and you just won’t find that in many other cities across the country.
“Summit has the highest percentage of consciously awake people in any of the places I’ve lived.”
AFTER THE QUAKE
Since then, Hilborn spent two years in Vietnam, teaching at the American School of Vietnam and working on small projects with Global Orphan Prevention, then moved to Melbourne, Australia. Now she splits her time between Melbourne, Nepal — which she visits about twice a year — and Breckenridge when possible.
The news of the earthquake, however, changed her usual plans.
“After the earthquake hit, it just brought tears to my eyes. I could feel their pain. I could feel it from Australia,” she said. “And, at that time, I couldn’t fly there … and it was killing me. I wanted to give anything to just leave everything behind and jump on a plane.”
Instead, she sent her Global Orphan Prevention colleague Eric Moffet to do a needs assessment of issues related to the organization’s mission.
Moffet reported back with news of medical centers needed for pregnant women.
“We heard that in the village of Rautesbi, in northern Nuwakot District, the birthing center had been leveled, leaving 78 pregnant women without a place to deliver,” he said in a press release. “The village is so isolated that only limited relief has reached them.”
Hilborn said that he further reported the 78 women had only one attendant — an “absolutely terrified” 19-year-old boy.
Hilborn’s plan is for Global Orphan Prevention to help rebuild eight maternity health centers in various locations near the earthquake’s epicenter that were destroyed. She’s hoping her organization can quickly get buildings in place of the current makeshift tent set-up. The centers will be stocked with supplies, including birth kits, which include items such as soap, gloves and gauze.
“The entire kit is $2 to make, and it literally saves lives,” she said.
A donation from an individual in Canada is funding the first part of Hilborn’s maternity-center plan. She hopes that further donations will help her to finish the eight centers. She herself is planning to travel to Nepal this week.
Her plan extends beyond merely building walls, however. Her passion is sustainable charity – two words she doesn’t like to divorce.
“It’s not just building the structure; it’s providing delivery and labor training,” she said. “We’ll be working with local doctors and nurses and foreign-aid workers (who) have medical training to provide (education).”
THE DRAW OF NEPAL
Hilborn says there are two things that consistently draw her back to Nepal — the people and the environment.
“First of all, the Nepalese people have the most kindred soul, they really do. They’re really beautiful on the inside. They have nothing, yet they’re just happy, they’re happy people and they’re good. They’re really kind to others,” she said. “I just always find them so welcoming, and it’s easy to want to do nice things for people who show gratitude and love in response.”
As for the countryside, she appreciates it every time she returns.
“If anyone has been to Nepal, I’m sure they will agree, but Nepal vibrates on a higher frequency than most parts of the world,” she said. “Nepal is very spiritual, and you can really feel that the second you get off the plane.”
Nepal has become a large part of Hilborn’s life, and she hopes to give back in the country’s time of need. She hopes others around the world are willing to do the same.
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