Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: December 2010

Touching the Untouchables: An amazing story of achieving the impossible through hard work, determination, and a lot of love.

Rob Buckley was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, a country of extreme poverty. The caste system, although outlawed forty years ago, is still widely practiced in Nepal. At the bottom of society are the untouchables, or outcastes. They literally are forbidden to touch or come anywhere near someone in a higher caste. They are made to do only the lowest of jobs like cleaning toilets and carrying sewage. When one is born into a caste, whether wealthy or poverty-stricken, that's where they must remain for life.

When the Maoist rebels attacked, the Peace Corps was dismantled. Rob left Nepal and came to Los Angeles, where he went to school to become a massage therapist. On the last day of class, while students shared their dreams of working in a spa or a chiropractor's office, Rob decided to attempt the impossible: opening a massage school in Nepal for untouchables. And so he went back to Nepal to open his school, the Himalayan Healers, amongst civil war, armed uprisings, and shootings in the streets. To make matters more difficult, the word "massage" was commonly used by Nepalis as a front for prostitution. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali girls enter into the Indian sex industry by age 15. But this didn't deter Rob. He created his school in a couple of little rooms off of the lobby of the hotel he stayed at. The facilities were awful - small, hot, cramped, and next to a junk yard. But despite the pollution and congestion, he opened his massage school to anyone who wanted to come, regardless of race, ethnicity or caste.

Rob taught the untouchables how to touch. He gave them a life they never knew was possible. He runs his school as a social entrepreneurship, training students on loans, and with the promise of employment when they graduate. Rob opened a spa where his students can work after completing their training. Graduates earn 10 to 20 times the national average monthly income! The program grew popular and won the support of some liberal-minded Nepalis, who generously offered their support. Rob has now opened 5 spas and hopes to open 2 more soon. Former students have the opportunity for promotions to managers, mentors or trainers.

Ram Kuman was an untouchable in the first Himalayan healers class. Every day, he walked to class through riots, barricades and violence. Sabita, his trainer, was a war widow whose husband was murdered by the army. Rob gave her free massage training and employment and she worked her way up to assistant trainer. Sabita and Ram fell in love, but their love was forbidden since Sabita was not an untouchable. Her family threatened to kill Ram. The lovers left the country and are now married and have a baby boy!

Another massage graduate was once a victim of sex trafficking. She'd never gone to school. Today she's working full time as a massage therapist at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai, and teaching herself English at night. She recently earned a promotion, making her the fist Nepoli therapist to be promoted in the Four Seasons. She's thinking of transferring to Paris.

Rob Buckley has certainly worked miracles with his school. His students are now being hired at spas around the world. One graduate even made it into America and started her own clinic in Colorado! The Himalayan Healers are living lives that were once unimaginable. Rob's hope is to build a school in the village right outside of town where students can live onsite. He also intends to build facilities where international teachers, students and volunteers can go to teach, share and learn. One young untouchable who'd gone through the program said, "I'm 100% happy."

Find out how you can help support the Himalayan Healers by visiting their website.

Is the holiday rush giving you a headache?

Here are some tips for taking care of those achy tension headaches:

  • Deep, diaphragmatic breathing - great for reducing pain and stress.
  • Self massage your face and head to reduce tension.
  • Apply moist heat to neck and head to relax muscles.
  • Slow, pain-free stretches for your neck - especially before and after any activity.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this stresses the neck muscles.

What's new with me ...

Check out my new Facebook page and become a fan of Rachel Richards Massage! The purpose of this page to get a conversation going. So please share your comments or questions and let's talk!

I'm looking forward to family time during the holidays. I wish you all a terrific holiday season and a happy, healthy 2011!

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