DR. SUSANNE VON DER HEIDE: Relentless Service

Working to protect and promote Nepal’s cultural and heritage sites, Dr. Susanne von der Heide has proved that she is a true friend of Nepal

June 26, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -2 June. 20- 2014 (Ashar 6, 2071)

By birth one can claim a citizenship of a particular country. However, one can be a true citizen of a country on the basis of work he or she pursues for the betterment of people, cultures and values.

Land and people are not enough to make the country but what is important is its culture, values and heritage to identify the country’s image. With the existence of diversity of culture and beauty of mighty Himalayas, Nepal is also known for its beauty.

There are over 28 million Nepalese who naturally claim Nepalese citizenship by birth even without making any meaningful contribution to motherland. However, there are certain people who were born outside Nepal but they have made significant contributions to introduce Nepal in the global arena.

Late Sir Edmund Hillary was born in New Zeeland and Tony Hagen was born in Switzerland but their contribution to this country is immense and more than many of those who were born in Nepal. They introduced Nepal around the world and even died taking Nepal in their heart and mind.  

Along with a number of such foreigners, Dr. Susanne von der Heide, a German by birth, too is a true lover of Nepal and its culture and heritage. Working almost 30 years to protect and preserve the nature and heritage of Himalayas, Dr.Susanne has a one point mission to protect the heritage and culture of Himalayas and help the people living there.   

German Prince Waldremar’s, the first German to visit to Nepal, had shown his attachment to the snow peaked mountains of northern Nepal which he saw from Kathmandu.

From first visitor Prince Waldremmars (1844), German people have shown interest to see the beauty of mighty Himalayas. However, Dr. Susanne von der Heide has not only narrated this through various books and write ups but she has spent almost all her time in Nepal studying and working to preserve he culture and heritage of  Himalayas and people living there.

It does not matter where one is born but what matters is where he or she serves. Although Susanne was a German, she loved Nepal and Nepalese culture more than anyone else.  This is the reason Susanne dedicated her life to preserve the Himalayan culture and heritage.

Whether it is in Mustang or Humla or any other Himalayas, Dr. Susanne has been making all kinds of efforts to preserve the cultures and heritages. She organized an international workshop a year ago in Kathmandu on the heritage of Mustang.

Over the last thirty five years, Dr. Susanne shared her time living in Nepal and Germany. However, her mind and heart is with Nepal and Bhutan all the time wherever she lives.

As the director and vice president of HimalAsia Foundation, an organization established to protect the heritage and culture of Himalayas, Dr. Susanne has been initiating and pursuing socio-economical development projects cooperatively with local people in the Himalayan region.

The activities cover the field of education and health care promotion as well as cultural and natural heritage protection with emphasis on traditional cultures that are under threat and environment protection. In particular HimalAsia tries to promote income generating measures for women.

She is supporting sustainable livelihoods, schools and manual training centers, restoring heritage sites, children’s daycare centers and preschools, orphanage houses in supportive surroundings, houses for old people and health centers.

Professionally, Dr. Susanne is an art historian and cultural anthropologist and she has been doing extensive research studies in the Himalayan areas in Central and Southeast Asia in last 35 years.

She worked with UNESCO in 1996 and invested a greater part of her energy into protecting and promoting cultural and natural heritage of the same areas. Especially she has developed a great passion in the field of early photography of Nepal and general history of Nepal, particularly from the 18th century until today. She has been appointed as the Vice-Chairman of HimalAsia Cultural Heritage and Educational Foundation.

Like many foreigners who never claim and demand anything for their contribution and sacrifice for the cause of the country, it is high time Nepal government should take initiative to recognize those foreigners who gave heart and minds to this country.

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