Saturday, 24 September 2016

Norvich Hospital, Kathmandu

Shock ,horror and utter disbelief ,I was hospitalised  recently. It was a life changing experience , one not to be repeated.

Having had a busy time prior to leaving UK, I was aware that my energy reserve was low. Then naively I thought that the pace in Kathmandu will be easier. I  will have a month to do all the visiting and shopping of winter clothings x40 etc. I did not legislate against the  fact that  my reserve is low, I am a year older  and that supply create  demand resulting more people wanting to see me/ KIKN. My feet did not touch the ground from the time I landed in Kathmandu .The rest was history.

It started with the odd giddy  spells which I experienced  from time to time. I paid no attention to it. I thought it was just a case of aging. Older people sometimes suffer from that, though I did not see myself in that category. Me ? old? never !๐Ÿ˜ฎ And so I  carried on....

10 days later, I was admitted  to the top private hospital with severe  vomiting and  vertigo. I resisted admission initially, but became so weak that I was wheel chaired into A&E the next morning. I was not aware nor care about the excellent medical care I was receiving. I was drifting in and out of consciousness   between bouts of severe vomiting..  My system was rejecting any food or fluid. I was at a very very low ebb.

Intravenous fluids was set up with multi vitamins and minerals added to  it.. In the first few days, I had to be supported on both sides to get off the bed to use the bathroom.I think I broke personal record for not washing my hair for a week! It was a sight to behold, each time I looked at myself in the mirror while washing my hands following a bathroom visit

At my lowest point, I did wonder if I would get back to UK in one piece or in ashes.I thought of my family and friends who are all so far away, bitterly blaming myself to end up in that  situation. I could not tolerate anything orally for about 3 days bar the Iv tube feedin.Thank god for the tube feeding... I was very weak but had no desire to eat.

It was through Uma's gentle insistence and bullying that I forced myself to have my first piece of toast.It tasted like cardboard, dry and floury,  but the hot black tea helped it down.   That was the crunch point. And I did not look back after that.The thing which both surprised and reassured me is the  power of recovery. I am so relieved that I am slowly  getting back to normal before  flying back to UK at the end of the month.

It was   extreme exhaustion which caused the Benign Positional Vertigo, the official diagnosis which the doctor came to , having undergone extensive investigations and tests with negative findings. I suppose I should  be grateful for that.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A Very Wet Day.

Having made an early start to get to Neel Barahi school by 7.30 am, I was feeling quite virtuous that I was breathing fresher and cooler air, just because there are not very many people about. In Kathmandu, rush hour starts @ 9 am, then it lasts the whole day......๐Ÿ˜•

The 6th formers, college and university students start their days @ 6am, finishing around 11.30 ish.  This is followed by the normal school hours  of @ 9.30/ 10  am for the private ( English speaking)/ state (Nepali speaking) schools.

The rainy season is continuing.The days are cooler than average which I quite enjoy. The heavy downpour has tended to be during the night when we are safely tucked in bed .It is really very convenient and suits me completely.

It was no different  yesterday morning.   The mountains around Kathmandu were shrouded in dense white cloud. So I thought' yes, it is going to rain later, better carry an umbrella !'

The heaven  opened while I was inside the school. I videoed the dancing class and also the  computer lab.Having also been fed, I was feeling quite smug that I have achieved what I came to do.There were lots of children standing on the balcony, sheltering from the rain. The time was 9  am, rather too early for 10am start. Then I discovered that it was my fault. ... the children were told to come early so I can video them dancing! And they were  then stuck in the school because of the rain.

I decided to make a run for it, to get back to Uma's which is half an hour walk away. I realised I had no small notes ( in 100/50  rupees). The big notes ( in 1000 rupees) are no good for local taxis.With the language barrier, it would be hopeless to try to give 1000 rupees (which is more than a day's wage for many) for a 200 rupees ride, as well as trying to bargain my way round in that rain!

I rolled my trousers up to mid calf, fully aware that I had to walk through some puddles.The ground is soden  wih the daily rain. What I did not anticipate was the speed and amount of debris that swept through the pavement like torrents of waves. I now realised the significance of the fearful look the teacher  gave me when she said' are you sure ?'. Only crazy people who are out of their mind would walk out into the rain, I now know.

The vegetable market was right next to the school. One could take a short cut to the main thoroughfare. I thought I would do that, recognising that the place would be muddy, strewyn with old vegetables and cluttered at the best of times.- a sight which I am familiar,  having been here for so many year..

I started purposefully into what I thought was the cut through. It was a a dead end where the lorries have parked for the day. And that was after I had  walked gingerly  over some gunge with filthy drain water swimming around my feet!. I had no choice but to turn round and walked out of that path, cursing myself....

I then started the journey home along the main road.I hugged my bag with my tablet  and phone closely to protect them from the rain, and I started the walk home.. The rain was so heavy that the umbrella  offered little protection. In no time, I was drenched from my head through to my back and down my legs. I had to negotiate   the uneven  pavement which had  submerged under several inches of black water. The piles and piles of litter which normally  lay on the road surface had  come alive with the heavy down pour. It was quite a sight to see the' rotting gunge ' floating with the other materials , sweeping down the road towards me as I tried to take ginger steps(safely) onto the next firm surface. All in all, it was a rather unpleasant experience, especially I could visualise the millions and millions of bacterias/ germs clinging onto my feet!!! Urghhhhhhh! !!!!

In all my years of coming to  Kathmandu, I have been fortunate not to have been caught out like this. This is the first and shall be the last time.....Uma was out at the time. That was part of the reson that I  did not call home. I had a telling off from Uma afterwards. I could have phoned. The school have her phone number. I know that now!

The sterilising process  on reaching home was laborious and time consuming. . After an hour of scrubbing etc, I eventually emerged from the bathroom feeling a little bit more human and cleaner.

I put all this down to experience, one not to be repeated!!


Saturday, 10 September 2016

A Rest Day

It has been a hectic week since my arrival in Kathmandu . For the first time , I have the luxury of lounging around doing not a lot today. It's amazing how easily one can start to enjoy lazing around.๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

Uma and I have done the bulk of home visiting, meeting up with most of our sponsored children. Admittedly we were having to travel to some far flung villages to see some of them.Most of the journey are not far by distance, but hard going because of the condition  of the rural roads. We were having to travel very slowly on uneven lumpy surface. It was quite an achievement  on Uma's part to schedule in the school visits because the schools were in the middle of the festive season.Many of the dates were not confirmed  literally till the day before.

Paying a visit to the Zinc family was quite an emotional  affair. Anita Rai, our 14 year-old sponsored child went out of her way to show her appreciation. The path leading to her zinc home  is made up of grassed over muddy  ground on a rise.With the constant  rain, it has reduced the upward path to a slippery mush. It was quite treacherous to walk up, let alone walking down on the way back. Some sturdy materials like bricks are needed to sink into the mud to make it more stable and safe.

Having met the family and exchanged pleasantries, we bade them goodbye.Without asking for help, Anita  offered to carry my things while I walked down..She looped her arm round mine to help me down. Meanwhile her aunt was walking behind me in case I slipped. They could obviously see that my shoes are not the most suitable for the muddy  surface. I was touched by such consideration and help.Once I negotiated my path down, Anita leaned across to me very quietly and said ' thank you for supporting me in my studies . Before I left UK, Anita's sponsor handed me an almost new lap top to give to Anita as well as additional sum of money to buy shoes and clothing for the whole family.Anita was overcome with emotion when the lap top was handed to her at the school. A very sensitive girl. And I do wish her every success.....

Anita comes from a family of 11.. The household includes the grandparents,the 3 mature aged sons, one of whom's wife is Anita's aunt and the other is her monther who has learning difficulties.  Both Anita's parents  are deaf and dumb. They are casual workers with erratic income. The only 2 regular  source of income are from the aunt and her husband. The other son does not work. He suffers from mental illness and does not receiving any help for it. All in all, this family of 11 are dependent on the income of the aunt  who works as a maid and her husband.

In addition,  there are 4 children in the family-Anita, her 2 siblings and  the aunt 's 8 year old son. Though KIKN has helped them to survive the first year post earthquake,  they are struggling to pay the rent. I was faced with a dilemma . A request from the aunt for help in rent,and /or sponsoring the 8 year old boy in education.

I am reminded of the decision made at the last meeting, that 40 is the maximum number of children KIKN can / should sponsor (realistically). I need to look at ways of helping the children in creative ways. I need to think..... This is part of the shopping list to the trustees on my return.

Ideas, anyone?





Sunday, 4 September 2016

Education, Education, Education

Meeting up with some of our  sponsored children has brought up many issues for me.While  it was heartening to see that all  the children have improved on their previous year's  exam results,I can't  help feeling that,for many of them, finishing their year 10 ( the fifth form) will be the furthest they will go . 

Uma and I talked  about parental interests and encouragement, the key in children achieving their gaols in life. Research have shown that children do achieve a lot more  and in turn fulfill their potential if parental encouragement and interests are present.

For many of our sponsored  children from Neel Barahi School, their parents are unskilled and in most cases casual labourers. They are too preoccupied  with earning a crust on a day tรฒ day basis.They are too exhausted to think of the big picture , let alone their daughters ongoing education. It is a double whammy when a female child is born into thhe family.This is particularly so in the Nepalese culture. From time to time, Uma had to step in  to  remind them of their parental responsibilities, to take good care of their daughters

The fact that many of the children have to work before and after school is a real problem.One of our children, a 16 year old girl who braves the cold and gets up  @4.30  each morning to go to the retail vegetable market. She would pick up the dregs and the cast offs and sell them by the road side before and after school. Words reached Uma that the poor girl has been touched and teased by the market traders. Father is too insensitive to act. Uma then had a word with him. Now he sends his 12 year old daughter instead .Uma and I despaired at the hopelessness of the situation.

With no evidence of parental interests and encouragement, we could not see how the 2 sisters whom KIKN sponsor will be able to go on to higher education.The girls will be expected to work to bring home some money after they have finished their year 10 class. Or worse still, be married off  with no  say in the matter! This scenario is played out across the board. Uma and I can identify the girls who are at risk  from our sponsorship program

Is there anything KIKN can do? No, absolutely nothing! It is with the hope that they will marry well. And that they valued the little opportunities that they have glimpsed through KIKN 's push for their education. And that they will become enlightened parents who will support  the next generation for better education. Who knows, they may prove Uma and I wrong. We fervently hope they do!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Namaste Kathmandu!

Well, another year, another  journey. I must admit that this has been one of the more  challenging  trip, but also one of the most successful  one in terms of projects achieved. I am immensely  proud of what KIKN has helped to achieve in the 2 schools , the 2 orphanages and the 38 children we sponsor for education

KIKN has seen  it's third University  student embarking on her journey -to become a teacher  in 3 years' time. We are so excited  and proud of  Apsara's achievement  so far, fully aware of  the battles she has faced and the hardship  endured before today.

Many of our sponsored  children are  reaching the teen age. For many years, I have noticed no change in height/ size of  the children. I did wonder whether this generation will be small like their parents. However, this year has seen many of them growing much taller and rounded. A most welcoming sight. The growth spurt has obviously been happening in the last 12 months. They are becoming  good looking young men and young ladies! So lovely to see!

The Open Day gave me the opportunity  to renew  my acquaintances  with the mums.Hopefully  they will take on board what Uma said about  their role in their children's education.  It is not enough that KIKN works to give them a life line. The  parents must play their part as well

A lot of of hard work has gone into this month long  visit, further consolidating KIKN's projects and it's profile in Kathmandu.  What is left now is the various  reports/ updates I need to produce to better  inform the trustees back at base. I can see lots of paper work ahead  on my return.

So, Namaste Kathmandu , till I see you again๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

Friday, 16 October 2015

2015 visit- KIKN Open Day

The time is fast approaching  when  I  will  be  saying goodbye to Uma and all the children. KIKN will hold our annual Open day this afternoon. It is our hope that as many parents  as possible  will come with their children. This is the only time when Uma and I  actually  meet most of the mums, and give them all a parcel of winter jacket, tracksuits,  underwear ,socks etc.. We then enjoy a good feast , something we all look forward to each year.

This trip has been fruitful, but challenging at times. Maybe the aging process  makes one more emotional  rather than pragmatic, an approach which has served me well over the  years. It is certainly  harder to stay  pragmatic  these days when one is faced with so much sorrow  and loss. I just feel grateful for what we have and enjoy in the west.

KIKN has achieved much, but so much more can be done ,resources  permitting.  As expected, I have received shopping lists from the schools, albeit not a long one for a change! The lists  of needs and wants will form the basis for discussion  and will guide the trustees to formulate  a project plan for 2016.

KIKN has been fortunate to have attracted several funding streams successfully since the earthquake.  These has helped us to provide more help to families than we originally planned. Onwards and Upwards for KIKN !


The Open Day

Uma and I prepared clothes parcels for 33 children plus 5 young ladies who are in year 12 (Upper 6)and university education. .The turn out was almost complete. It was my 8th year, therefore most of the mums know me well. They know we try to help  their children to  go on to have  better lives through education, and they are grateful. However some are unable to look beyond the urgent need  of putting the next meals at the table. I empathised with that. Uma and I do accept that we cannot win them all, but to support where we can until such time when they finish their secondary education

 Uma said some of the mums  have been asking when will KIKN  start the sponsorship program again. It would appear that they have been asking  since last year's Open Day , and again today. It is something that I will take back to the trustees for discussion. KIKN just about manage the 38 children now. It will largely dependent on Uma and myself in how we see ourselves  managing the sponsoring process with  additional children.

As part of Child protection procedure, I am duty bound to read all the letters the children have written to their sponsors and vice versa. Many of them wanted to say thank you for the £100 KIKN have given them following the earthquake- a very wise counsel from Uma at the time  even though it went against the grain. KIKN has never handed cash to individual families until then. It was always in kind, purchased by Uma. It was heartening to read many of the letters repeating the same theme .Our decision was the right one at the time, thanks to Uma who has  bags of insight and common sense, as always.

I came across some heart breaking pleas in some of the letters. They all come from the true orphans at the Parapokar Orphanage where KIKN started the sponsorship program last year , beginning with 5 girls and a boy. In their letters to their sponsors, they are asking their sponsors if they can be their parents/grandparents substitute? They even drew  pictures of a  father and a mother with them as the daughter in the middle. I need to think how to handle letters like that before I forward them to their sponsors. Sponsors do what they do  out of generosity and a desire to help. It may be off putting for some to receive letters like that , totally unexpected and alien scenario to find themselves in.

This is the first time I have come across this type of requests from our sponsored children .The general theme  tended to be asking the sponsors to come to Nepal to visit them espousing the beauty of Nepal, and to meet them at long last. May be I am reading too much into these. Maybe they are just muses of teenage fantasies, and nothing more than that.... or could they have been put up by the staff in the Orphanage ? Or could it merely reflects the desperate desire of these poor children to have an identity, some thing/ some one they can call their own?  Is KIKN up to the job of fulfilling that angle if that is the case ? I  really don't know.....I need to think...........

Reflecting on the challenges  of working in Nepal........ There is  always something new and unexpected that I can learn from; there are some things that I have to accept regardless of how I feel about them (against my values), but  most of all, respect the decision they have made for themselves no matter what. The one thing I have learnt from working with them is that they are immensely resilient and are survivors . And I have huge respect  for the unsung heroes in all  the mums and dads I have come across over the years.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Uma's Children

Having stayed  at the orphanage  for the past 7 consecutive years, I have watched the children growing up  that little bit more each year, with the biggest  growth spurt seen in the last 2 years. I lamented at the passing years, but also take pleasure  in seeing the children  growing and developing confidently into  young adults. The 3 older ones are as tall if not taller than me now.

They are all so different in their imdividual ways. Uma has done well with the children.  They are polite,  helpful  and  quietly confident.  They believe in themselves.  The older ones are developing a clear idea of what they want to be when they grow up. I suppose I brain wash them  each time when I am here into thinking 'You can be anything you want to be.  You just have to prepare to work for it'. They listened and applied themselves.  And it is reflected in their school reports . It is such a pleasure  to see how well they are doing.

One of the boys, Suzan is exceptionally  bright.  He sleeps only for @5 hours each night. His bedtime reading is the  Science Encyclopedia. He is very good with building and making things.  He has built a mini generator  that works from bits of wire, blocks of wood etc.. This generator can power the television during the power cut. Any repair  around the house is undertaken by Suzan.  He sorts out the plumbing,  damaged shower heads etc. He wants to be  an aeronautical  engineer when he leaves school. And I believe he will be.Uma has asked if KIKN  can explore the feasibility of  finding potential colleges who may be interested in his academic development.  I will try to find that information  my  return to UK

The 3 older girls are growing up gracefully. One is interested in fashion. She is very bright in her study but unsure of what she wants to do eventually.. The oldest is interested to explore doing medicine which mean long period of study and personal sacrifice. The youngest of the 3 still a little way away from knowing her mind.The 2 boys are clear.  One an aeronautical  Engineer and the other a policeman.

It was really nice to cosy up to them some evenings and talked about school, London, teenage fashion,travel and  life in general. . It is not surprising  therefore, that when asked about their biological families up in the mountains, none of them is interested to go back to look them up when they grow up and working. That seems to be the unanimous view amongst the 8 of them. It reflects the extend of hurt, hidden anger and rejection they must feel by their families.It is understandable  when you think only one or two of the parents bother to visit them may be once a year or every 2 years .And it tends  to be prior to  the festivals. Lets just say the children are not impressed at all.

All things considered,  these children cope very well with Uma giving them the  love and stability they need. And it  comes with the increased opportunities to have a good life too. I guesss they are the lucky ones......