Mothers swop Primrose Hill for aid mission in Nepal
Robyn Rosen A PRIMROSE Hill mother has ditched her peaceful north London lifestyle to help improve lives in poverty-stricken Nepal. Bella Bird, 42, remained in the country last month during the most turbulent time in Nepalese history when the 240-year-old
A PRIMROSE Hill mother has ditched her peaceful north London lifestyle to help improve lives in poverty-stricken Nepal.
Bella Bird, 42, remained in the country last month during the most turbulent time in Nepalese history when the 240-year-old monarchy was overthrown and the country made a republic.
Mrs Bird, her husband and her two children, aged three and six, left their Prince Albert Road home two years ago to work in Nepal, the 12th poorest country in the world, as director of the government's Department for International Development (DFID) programme.
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"I make sure that the resources and money we spend is used to best effect to help reduce poverty in Nepal," she said.
In 2006, the 10-year civil war between the government and Maoist guerrillas ended and, on April 10 this year, the Constituent Assembly was formed with the Maoists in the majority.
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Mrs Bird, who is based in the capital Kathmandu until next year, described the moment on June 11 when King Gyanendra left his palace as "surprisingly calm".
"I think it had grown to a point where the king no longer had a role in society. There was hardly any protest. They just accepted that it was the end for the monarchy and let him go," she said.
One of DFID's four main objectives in Nepal is to help implement the peace agreement and create a stable government. Mrs Bird's role during the time of the elections was crucial.
"We contributed money to fund the elections because the government didn't have enough," she said.
"I was one of the observers out there watching the elections to make sure they were free and fair, and that they came up with a result which everyone trusted and would help move the country towards a peaceful situation away from war."
The three other objectives of her team are to reduce the number of women and children who die in childbirth and from preventable diseases, increase the amount of children atten-ding schools and build more roads.
Mrs Bird has accomplished much during her time there. The number of women who die in childbirth has been reduced by almost 50 per cent, while the number of children under five who die from preventative diseases has also halved. The number of children who enter primary school has risen to 90 per cent and one million people have been connected to roads.
She first became involved in development work on her gap year after school, when she volunteered in Indonesia.
"I saw rich people living next to people in the most extreme poverty I'd ever seen," she said. "I decided that if I did anything in my life, it was to make a contribution to decrease poverty."
Following this, she worked at various NGOs before joining DFID 12 years ago. Mrs Bird then spent seven years in Africa and three years in Vietnam.
Nepal certainly holds a soft spot in Mrs Bird's heart. "The people are so warm and friendly and the culture is fascinating," she said. "This country is so beautiful, the Himalayas are on my doorstep and, on a clear day, I can see some of the highest peaks of the world."