Where the Goat Lady of Laguna Beach Spreads Goodwill

By Liz Goldner

When artist Gary Simpson was introduced to philanthropist/spiritual counselor Rosalind Russell, he met a soul-mate. Both Simpson and Russell, Laguna Beach residents, are striving to improve the world through their work.

Simpson, as founder of the Common Ground 191 project is conceptually raising awareness of diverse people, places and cultures through panting frescoes, incorporating soil from the current 192 countries in the United Nations. He is also educating others about these countries through journal entries on

Russell, known as the goat lady, has been traveling to Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, delivering goats (now numbering more than 8,000) to impoverished inhabitants of the village, Kavre. She works with a native Nepalese man and adopted son, Rabin Sitaula, under the auspices of her R STAR Foundation. Traveling to Kavre from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is an arduous journey, often on foot and motorcycle.

According to Russell’s promotional literature, her foundation provides “two pregnant goats to each woman who in turn must pass on two goats within two years to another village, all done within the communist areas of the Kavre district, the hotbed of Nepal…Within one of the poorest villages she has created hospital care and dental care as well as running water for a village of 600 people. She is currently building a school for the children begun in 2005 conceptually, and started with the building in 2006, for 200 children… She trains the women in livestock care with other educators, some from the Nepali government, even while they remain in a civil war; educates both the men and women with gender training… has brought social change to the villages, by having all five castes working together, something never done successfully before. This is teaching tolerance in truth to a country, which is in a civil war now and for the past 12 years. Traditionally they all fight with each other and steal from one another needlessly. Teaching tolerance is teaching diplomacy in how to get along successfully with each other.”

When Simpson met Russell through artist Jessica Destefano, he asked the goat lady to collect Nepalese soil for his Common Ground project. Russell enthusiastically agreed, and in January, 2008, she and Rabin collected soil on the grounds of the Hotel Clarion in Patan, near Kathmandu. The area features many exquisite temples, including the ancient Krishna Temple with 21 spires, and four Buddhist stupas, created by King Ashoka in 250 B.C.

The area is also filled with small shops selling colorful goods and trinkets, including brass, copper, jade, bone, and carved wood figurines, carpets, woven fabrics, and stones of turquoise, lapis lazuli, tiger eye, citron, and amber. There are street vendors selling tiger balm, hunting knives, bracelets, handmade violins, as well as touring and travel offices offering treks, kayaking, rafting, rock climbing in canyons, wildlife safaris, and expeditions to Tibet and Bhutan.


Nepal is home to Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth, 29,028 feet above sea level. Mountain climbers pay a significant fee to scale the mountain and thereby help to support the country. Everest, part of the Himalayan range, is located on the border of Nepal, near Tibet

The landlocked country of 28 million people borders India and China. Its diverse geography ranges from plains to mountainous regions, which include eight of the world's 10 highest peaks.

In spite of the physical beauty and diversity, the Nepalese suffer from poor infrastructure, unemployment and extreme poverty. The hilly terrain in the northern region has made road building very difficult, and almost one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. People depend primarily on subsistence agriculture -- growing rice, corn, wheat, sugar cane and root crops, and raising water buffalo.

In addition, the difficult political situation in recent years – some call it a civil war – has stifled tourism.

Flag of Nepal

Emblem of Nepal

Culturally, Nepal has many similarities in food, clothing and religion with neighboring India and Tibet. Nepal, however, is the only official Hindu state in the world, with about 80 percent of the population practicing that religion and 2,700 religious shrines in the Kathmandu Valley alone. The remaining 20 percent is primarily Buddhist and Muslim. Animistic practices of old indigenous religions also survive.

Nepali is the official language, although a dozen different languages and 30 major dialects are spoken throughout the country. Nepali, derived from Sanskrit, is related to the Indian language, Hindi, and is spoken by about 90% of the population. Many Nepalese in government and business speak Hindi and English. The Nepalese word for “peace” is “Saanti.”

Recent History

In 1996, Maoist rebels took up arms against a regime they accused of causing Nepal's political problems and rural poverty. Although the Maoists said they wanted to revamp the multiparty democratic system, human rights groups accused them of carrying out executions and torture. Civil war between the Maoist rebels and government forces killed more than 12,000 people and displaced up to 200,000 more.

In 2001, Eton-educated Crown Prince Dipendra went on a drunken shooting rampage after his parents rejected his choice of a wife. He killed 10 members of the royal family, including King Dipendra and his queen, and then shot himself.

Dipendra's uncle Gyanendra, who was absent from the royal palace on the night of the shooting, took the throne. In February 2005, Gyanendra overthrew the government, assumed absolute power and appointed a pro-monarchist cabinet. He issued a ban on all news broadcasts, criminalizing press offences and preventing coverage of politically sensitive topics.

After the royal coup, the seven parliamentary parties, with support from the Maoists, organized a mass uprising against the king's direct rule. Thousands of Nepalese protested in the streets and demanded that he relinquish power. King Gyanendra reinstated the parliament in April 2006. Weeks later, the parliament voted unanimously to limit the monarch's political powers, relegating Gyanendra to a ceremonial role.

The conflicting groups signed a peace accord, allowing the Maoists to join the interim government and share ministerial posts with the other main parties. Still, the Nepali congress keeps the largest number of parliamentary seats.

The arid and barren Himalayan landscape.
A DHL Office in Nepal


Nepal ranks among the world's poorest countries, with a per capita income of around $322. Nepal entered the modern era in 1951 without schools, hospitals, roads, telecommunications, electric power, industry, or a civil service. The country has, however, made progress toward sustainable economic growth since the 1950s.

Since 2002, the Government of Nepal has shown an increasing commitment to fiscal transparency, good governance, and accountability, while prioritizing development projects and eliminating wasteful spending.

Agriculture is Nepal's principal economic activity, employing more than 71% of the population. Only about 25% of the country is cultivable; another 33% is forested; most of the rest of the country is mountainous. Rice and wheat are the main food crops. The lowland Terai region produces an agricultural surplus, part of which supplies the food-deficient hill areas. Because of Nepal's dependence on agriculture, the annual monsoon rain, or lack of it, strongly influences economic growth.





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