A farm in the foothills of the Himalayas

s cornWhat do you do when you’re in a car and suddenly four lorries are heading towards you? We were driving from Delhi in India, towards Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas. In the distance a very slow, overladen lorry was being overtaken gradually by another lorry on our side of the road. Now we were on a normal highway with one lane in each direction but at the sides of the road there was packed earth. As the two lorries got nearer to us, a third lorry getting impatient with the other two started to overtake on the earth at the other side of the road. Then a fourth lorry appeared, and started to overtake on the hard earth on our side of the road. So we were in a situation where all four lorries were heading towards us, and we had nowhere to go. The driver pulled to the side and somehow, all four lorries passed us!

We were heading for Atak farm in the village of Selakui where Yip and Frieda McRae ran a farm, boy’s home, school and training centre.

Some of the boys harvesting wheatLeprosy background

Leprosy has been the scourge of mankind for thousands of years. In all cultures, people who caught the disease would have to live separate lives from other members of the community. Through modern drugs, leprosy is now curable, but nothing can restore the damaged hands and feet of those ravaged by the disease. If parents caught leprosy their children would be effectively orphaned. It is from this sort of background that the boys at Yip and Frieda’s home would have come from.

Yip, Frieda and family
Yip, Frieda and family

Yip and Frieda acted as mum and dad to the boys at the Home and Yip told me that there were young men all over India who would call him, “Dad”. But the boys are taught independence. The older boys cook for themselves and for the younger ones. When I was there, I saw them making chapatis on an open fire, and later enjoyed eating some of these.

They receive an education at a school run by Frieda, and they work on the farm which aims to make the enterprise self-sufficient in food. They also receive training in various skills. When I was there I watched a boy being taught the skill of welding.

Yip and Frieda are a Canadian couple, with children of their own, and had been in India for many years with “social work” visas. I first met them 25 years ago, and they are still working in India.

The well and farm water projectThe Well

The land seemed quite dry, but there is plenty of water a long way down in the earth. They had a very deep well and a pump funded by the Canadian Embassy in Delhi. I watched with interest how they irrigated their land, using water from deep within the earth. The well was on the edge of their property and the neighbouring population was welcome to use the well.  In the early evening I saw local people come to the well to drink, and water their animals.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, (Matthew 25:35 NIV)

s cow shedThe Cow Shed

To help the home in its desire to be self-sufficient, this cow shed housed a few cows to provide fresh milk. The shed was built by a young man we sent out, who also was able to advise on farming methods.

The School

The school is run by Frieda, and provides education for the boys at the home, and local village children. The children are taught in English. Yip and Frieda are very keen to get volunteers involved and many young people have visited, for up to 6 months at a time, to teach at the school.

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

5 thoughts on “A farm in the foothills of the Himalayas”

  1. Yip and Freda would be the first to admit that they too have succeeded because of the many other unsung hero’s who have served with them be it a many weeks or a many years.
    Great to see these photos of their early beginnings and to know their children ( Some married with children) continue to advance the work that give children a hope.


  2. Loved being there, even if only for ten days. The boys curry was interesting as it depended who was cooking how many chillis were added!


  3. Great post. Lovely picture of Yip, Frieda and family 🙂 It’s great to learn about different cultures and their habits, especially when it comes to such basic activities, like farming. It’s sad though, that indians have so much trouble with agliculture lately. I read some articles about the huge reduction of guar gum export to the US – http://blog.pulawy.com/en/problems-of-indian-farming I wonder how this situation affects the farmers of the Himalayan foothills.


  4. Fascinating story, George. I wonder how many unsung heroes there are around the world doing work like Yip & Frieda?


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