When the first snowflakes start falling, Dhoka knows it is time to bring the yaks closer to home and time to store large wood logs in the shed that will keep her and her 78-year-old mother warm in preparation for the harsh winter that is about to begin.

From November to March, Dhoka will only leave her small thatched-roofed house to collect ice as the only source of drinking water available during winter.

Dhoka’s village, in the old Kingdom of Upper-Mustang, sits on the border between Nepal and Tibet. This high-altitude land is one of the remotest habited places on the planet, and home to close to 15,000 people scattered across small farming communities along the central Himalayan range.

Dhoka is a farmer and shepherd, as well as a Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV) – a community worker who, on a voluntary basis, offers help and support to her local community. She helps pregnant women, new mothers and babies, older people who live on their own, and anyone who is ill and in need of help, including people experiencing a mental health problem.

She and eight other FCHVs and Health Assistants (HAs) are the only form of health care available to local communities in this region. No matter what health problem, large or small, minor, or serious, Dhoka and her colleagues are the ones to turn to for help. This is despite Dhoka and many of her colleagues not receiving any training in mental health care.

Alcoholism, depression, and domestic violence are common amongst high Himalayan communities, and so is the stigma around mental illness. Local faith healers, together with women like Dhoka do their best to fight against these and many other health and social problems, but resources are limited in this impoverished, harsh mountainous land:

We go door to door to deliver health information and ensure everyone is ok, we are the messengers of our communities. But we need more training and support, so we know better how we can help people and stop those who are most vulnerable from being abused and ending their lives,” says Dhoka.

Jaya Mental Health is committed to bringing mental health care to some of the world’s remotest communities. We do so by creating walk-in clinics open to everyone in need, and by offering training to women like Dhoka, who’s heart and soul is dedicated entirely to her community. We also advocate for these community workers, pushing for local authorities to recognise their value to society, and to pay them for the vital support they provide to their communities.

This Christmas, your support will help people like Dhoka receive more training and give people suffering from mental illness and living in rural areas a chance to be listened to.

You will be changing many lives, forever.

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From all of us,
thank you for your support and Merry Christmas.