Monday, 20 September 2010

For The Final Time

Well, I am set and ready to go.

Jordan left early this morning. I shall miss him .What an exceptional young man. He took me to a Tibetan restaurant yesterday afternoon. I had the most delicious and spicy momos I have ever tasted. It was made from buff (buffalo meat I think ) with green chllies and lots of spices thrown in It was yum! Jordan and I shared 2 platefuls of different flavours. We did not quite lick the plates clean, but not far off though. Admittedly my mouth was on fire couple of times during the meal, but it was worth the suffering.

The last thing we need to do now is going back to the school tomorrow to see a child who has been away from the school last week. She comes from the region -Gorka, home to the Gurkhas. She is one of the new children we hope to sponsor.Hopefully I will meet her tomorrow.

The only thing left which is worth mentioning is the English teacher . I think she is responsible for the amazing progress the children have made in one year.. I sat in her class on saturday morning.She had every child to go to the front to talk about topics they chose. For example, every child has 5 minutes on ' my best friend; or my daily life; or my school' etc.Though none of them lasted the full 5 minutes, all of them had many sentences. I was so impressed by their effort that I was speechless. Even Nitisha, the youngest was speaking in fluent sentences in her cute Nepali accent.. I have hoped that they would improve, but I did not expect the great strides they have made in a year. Its really mind boggling how fast children can learn given the opportunity

So to you all sponsors and donors, thank you, and Uma, for providing the stability and support to enable them to flourish. I just think that between all of us, we have made a small difference to these kids at this moment in time.And we should be proud. What do you think ?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Mission Accomplished

Well, we have had a very successful day yesterday.Uma and I planned the lunch soon after my arrival.The fact that my stay this year is only about 2 weeks long, meant that we have to do things almost at a gallop. With Uma almost back to her normal health, we have been able to purchase everything we needed for the new children as well as those required by Uma and the orphanage.

We invited all the new children and their parents to lunch yesterday.The invitation was given out after we have made contact with them in the homes and at the school in Kalimati. The aim of the lunch was to meet them socially, reinforce the sponsors' message of providing them with improved life chances through better education. In addition, we wanted to give them the Emergency lamps, new dresses and the tables for studying.This we did with the exception of the tables.The Carpenter was not able to complete the order of 7 tables in time. So Uma is looking at the alternatives.

Every child turned up with her/his mum on time.Interestingly again, no father turned up to accompany the families. Uma and I had a quick count. We planned for approximate 35 people. We had Chicken, potato salad and lentil, in Nepali style of course. It was delicious . Everyone had a good helping of everything on the menu . I believed that they enjoyed the meal thoroughly. Initially they all arrived looking tentative and somewhat anxious. By the time they left, they were all smiling and warmly appreciative of what we are trying to do for their children

There were times when the mums were talking to me -in Nepali of course. All I was able to do is to use the international language- sign, gesture and a lot of smiles and laughter. However , it is so gratifying to see that our children are speaking English so well that they were able to do much of the translation for me and the mums. Well done, kids!

The weather has been atrocious for the past week. It has been raining non- stop for several days. Nabina and I had prayed really hard for a dry day yesterday..... And yes, it was sunny and hot the whole day yesterday. We were so pleased and relieved. It meant that the children can play outside if they chose to. As it turned out, it was fine.I thanked whoever is up there for looking after our interests.

I have to confess that I did only a minimum to help .Although I did offer my help in preparing the meal, I did not survive the tasks.. I was asked to help to peel/scrap the potatoes - all 10 kilos of it. Unfortunately, I lasted only after 2 kilo . Instead, Nabina and Suzan and Urmila did the bulk of it. I felt quite ashamed. Such feeble effort on my part. It says something about my western living.... Alas, it has softened me up somewhat !

The children especially the older ones have been really competent in peeling and chopping onions, garlic as well as the potatoes. With Nabina, the helper there, they were working till late, cleaning and washing the floors etc. 7am the following morning saw the children finishing their morning routine earlier than normal. That is exercise and prayers, followed by their baths. The older girls helped to slice tomatoes etc. Uma was up @ 6am, cooking tomato pickle by 7am. My contribution was to accompany Uma to buy the chickens, and carried them back.. Though it was only a few kilos in weight,I felt quite virtuous having done something useful. I know its not a big deal, carrying a few kilos of chicken, but hey I did help after all

And then we all crashed out in the afternoon, following the departure of the mums and children. Socialising can be tiring as one knows. Uma and I are both quite elated at what we have managed to achieve. There are one or two loose ends to tie up. Apart from that, we both feel our mission have been accomplished

At a diffrent level, it is also time for me to say good bye to Nepal..Sig and Anja left this morning. Jordan will be leaving tomorrow morning.I will be the last one to go on wednesday.Before you know it, the house will return to its normal routine and calm until the next group of volunteers turn up. I do feel of certain sadness that this trip is coming to an end. However, the important thing is that we have done all the things we set out to do, till the next time...

Hopefully, I will blog for the last time tomorrow

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

My New Friends

When I arrived at Uma's, I was put in the dark room downstairs , sharing with another girl . Then I was moved to the room upstairs the next day. I did not question the move. I thought it will be nice for a change to be in the management block, so to speak. It was a much brighter room, though it has extensive damp patches on the wall .The good thing is that I did not have to share. It felt like a promotion after 2 years of effort, haha

I started my physio soon after my arrival. It is fair to say that September is supposed to be the start of the dry season. However , with the unseasonal rain,it has made the downstairs room very damp and smelly. Imagine my surprise one afternoon when I was coming through the gate, that the 2 Greman girls confronted me( very nicely ) if I would mind them moving into my room, to escape the dampness and smell downstairs.I ( had to )agreed, but did think that my comfortable stay was so very short lived.

The room is a largish double room with 2 single beds on either side of the room. I did wonder how the third bed will be accommodated. But we managed.It is amazing that when one has to , one usually does.Sig is truly Germanic with blond hair and blue eyes. Anja is of Korean father and German mother. Its mind boggling that they speak so many languages between them . Needless to say , they speak perfect English. In fact Anja used to be a lecturer in English for uni students.They are back packing round the world.It took only a short while for us to realise that we share similar sense of humour.

Jordan is a young Texan .He was turfed out when I moved into the room.In fact, he was promoted to the attic room. Less pleasant I understand. A great young man who has done a lot of volunteering work in different parts of the world. A wise and mature head on a very young shoulder .

As a group, the 4 of us have had a few chats on topics ranged from family values, culture to what the rest of the world looks like. We shared our experiences and insights from our travels, either as a volunteer or as a tourist.Breakfast is our sleepy time, where no much was exchanged. Sig is not a morning person. She tends to be quiet and grunted if you ask her a question. Some evenings following our dinner, we would create our own entertainment, talking about funny things that has happened to us during the day. It then tended to include what it was like when we were young and growing up. In fact, we reminisced

Last night we touched on how we would celebrate Xmas and new year in our homeland. That included Swiss, German, British , Korean , Chinese and American ways . The whole topic came alive when we talked about how some children would be expected to behave and respond to traditions in the different settings. There were some very interesting as well as amusing anecdotes.. We learnt a lot from one another. Jordan is almost 40 years younger, and the girls about half my age.The amazing thing is how well we have gelled and got on in spite of our age and cultural differences. We thoroughly enjoy one another's company . Sig likened our room sharing to staying in a youth hostel. It sounds pretty cool to me.

However, all good things come to an end. By the following Monday , I will be the only one left, before leaving for UK shortly afterwards. Like I say to Jordan last night, I hope to live to a hundred. So I will be meeting a lot more people in the years to come. However, I am very mindful that I have been privileged to have met a group of exceptional young people here this time. They have made my stay here simply quite splendid. Therefore it is important for me to mark the occasion with this blog

Thank you all. And I won't forget you when I become famous through the book I will be writing!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The School in Kalimati

Uma and I have visited all the children individually at home in the past week. We went to the school and met the very enlightened principal . Our original intention was to just sponsor the 5 children from the school, alongside the others and put them through private education. However, having seen the school and met the principal,we came away with a different point of view. We had a discussion at home following our morning visit. It is interesting that Uma and I shared the same feeling , that the children will be better served if they remain where they are, at the same time the school can benefit from our joint efforts.

So we returned to the school yesterday. We met all the mothers again,( interestingly no father is ever present ) in the principal's office. We or rather Uma shared with the mothers and the principal about our intentions to work with them to support the school to provide better facilities for all the children there. The only additional input for the 5 sponsored children will be in the form of daily English and maths tuition after school, paid by the sponsors. We talked about 21st century education for the youngsters.IT was the first topic that came up.The school is in the middle of a building program. There will be more rooms made available in the future. There is also an urgent need to have a science lab for the grade 6/7/8/9 and 10- equivalent of our secondary schools in UK. At present, the pupils only learn the theory of all the science subjects. They need the lab to do the practicals

Considering how slow things are done here, I was pleasantly surprised when the computer science teacher handed me 2 proposals, one for a computer lab and the other for a science lab.I thought it will take them a while to come up with something written when they mentioned that they will give me a proposal to consider . I have to say I was very impressed not only at the speed at which was given ,but the quality as well.. The proposal gave alot of details about the school. Information which will be useful when I need to make a case to all the potential donors in the future.

Oh I forgot to mention that I have been having coversations with some of the sponsors before the trip. It is the fact that it is looking increasingly necessary for me to register as a charity if I want to continue to attract donations and sponsorship in the future. I thought I will use this time away to consider the pros and cons of registering as a charity...However , faced with the pressing needs of the school, it will be an ideal project for the charity- helping the school to develop better facilities for the 650 plus pupils. Uma thinks the same too. W e have both become quite excited at the thought

So it is looking highly likely that I will start the process of registering on my return to UK. I hasten to add that I have not been seduced by the poverty here or making a hasty decision because I am in Nepal. Its something I have been thinking about on and off for a while. I have also been talking to some of the sponsors who are very encouraging and supportive if I decide to go all the way. I am mindful of the amount of work involved to set a charity up. However. having done 3 years of fund raising single handedly, I am now ready to take the next step. Uma and I are having discussions about the various processes that need to be put in place etc when we go formal.

So here I go again !

Saturday, 11 September 2010

What Shall I do ?

Having spent time travelling outside Kathmandu, Uma and I met up with Nabina's family yesterday. They live outside Patan,about an hour's drive away, in a rural village. Nabina is Nitisha's mum, the youngest child at the orphanage. And Nabina is the helper at the orphanage.

Nabina is in a family of 6 girls and a boy. One of her sisters is married , but now separated from her abusive husband through violence and drinks. A very common tale, I am afraid. It would seem that she rejected her 4 year old daughter following the split from her husband. The little girl now lives in the brother's house, cared for by the very lovely sister-in -law who treats her as one of her own. They have 2 boys themselves, but accept that they are doing ok, and will not be sponsored.The little girl is one of the new children we will be sponsoring.

On arrival, we were met with smiles all round . We were shown to the family lounge which doubles up as a bedroom . We met Nabina's mum and 3 of her sisters. The 4 year old , Laxmita is tiny for her age. She looks like a 2 year old, but mentally very sharp. She attends a nursey class in the local area. We are hoping that by paying for all her fees, the family may be in a position to bring in a teacher to teach her a little more, especially in basic English as well as contributing towards any other extra facilities which will help to prepare her for future studies.

During our visit, we saw a 17 year old boy . He is the brother of the lovely sister-in-law. He has been taken under her wing as well because his father died a few years ago. His mother has not been able to provide the most basic amenities to enable him to go to school. Therefore he is living with his sister in this big sprawling family . We witnessed a lot of love and affection amongst them. Such a lovely set up , albeit that they are quite stretched financially.

The long and short of this is that we are both drawn to wanting to help him to enable him to do the 6th form-grade 11 and 12 from April 2011. I have asked him to gather as much information as he can about the type of course, the length and cost of going to college/ uni etc for when we next meet. He will be coming to the lunch which Uma will host next Saturday

Later on in the afternoon, Omm, the chair of the orphanage contacted Uma about 2 different children whom he knows to be in dire need of help. I said to Uma that unless we can drop some of the children we have planned to sponsor, it is not possible for me to agree to the requests. I am very aware that there are overwhelming needs here. However, it is not possible for me , with the best intention in the world , to promise to help everyone. As it is , we will be sponsoring 7 children, possibly 8 with only 6 definite sponsors so far. Yes, it can be done short term, but long term planning is whats required in order that the sponsorship scheme achieves its goal of giving the children a better life chances, and secure a brighter future.

I am in a dilemma.I am not thinking straight at the moment. The needs are so overwhelming here that one can get swamped by it. And I think I am in that situation now.
Thoghts and ideas please, sponsors and donors

And Again

Having spent over an hour blogging yesterday, the server decided to disappear into outer space! I lost the whole hour of effort. Its been pretty frustrating all round.

I have been busy for the past few days. Its been a case of almost 9 to 5 day for me. I would leave @9am for my daily must at the physio clinic. If time permits I would go to the local Internet cafe to either blog or check my emails. Then Uma and I will go and visit some of the new children we hope to sponsor.It is usually around 4/5 pm before we get back home.

We have been to visit two of the children so far. One of the families live in a pretty dire environment. The family of 4 ( parents and 2 kids age 8 and 6 years) cooks, lives and sleeps in one bed(if you can call a big piece of wood a bed !) in a room no bigger than 10x10. It is really shocking (to my limited exposure to life !). However, the children seems happy in themselves. They were so excited to be given a packet of dolly mixtures and stationary set each. I marvelled at how easily pleased the children are when they have so little themselves. Mum is the second wife. It is a fact that she was not aware of at the time of her marriage. This lucky man has two wives who toil for him, to enable him to drink and be an odd job man whenever he is sober, or feels like working. This seems to be a very common feature in the lower socio- economic group. As a matter of fact, many of the children we are hoping to sponsor has the similar stories running through their lives. Mother works, then she gets beaten by the husband who drinks, therefore unable to hold down a regular job.

I had a chance conversation with my physio, who confirmed my observation on this. She said it is a real problem for the Nepali women in the lower social strata. Yet, things could not be more different for the professional class! I have become quite friendly with the physio who comes from an upper middle class family.She is exploring her options to come to UK to do her Master, either in Physiotherapy or Public Health in the coming year.My hour and a half of intensive physio cost just over a fiver . And it is private medicine. Thats value for money in any language

Well, we have spent some money. We have bought 2 bicycles for the children. One with stabilisers for the younger ones and the other is a normal bike for the older children.The children are having many of their ' firsts' experience this week .Learning to pedal forward (rather than backwards) and realising that applying brakes simultaneously will give them control can be quite mind blowing On top of that, they have to steer the very stiff handle bar to go forward or round the corner. I t was quite hilarious to watch them trying to learn the different skills in order to ride . There were a lot of shouting and screaming. It was an exhausting 2 hours of initiation for the children and adults alike

We have also bought a hand operated sewing machine, 8 Emergency lights/lamps for the new children we hope to sponsor. I have also purchased a supply of gorgeous pashminas for fund raising purposes. I am hoping that I will be in good time to entice the sponsors and donors in late October/early Nov to think about xmas present ideas .

Somehow ,Uma is not keen to take the children out, so we had a KFC feast with pizzas last night. Again, it was their first taste of KFC. I am afraid we overdid it a bit.We were all stuffed. We each managed 3-4 pieces of chicken with the local hot spicy chilli sauce. It was yum! But burnt a bigger hole in my budget than I have originally planned. To date, I have probably spent just under 500 sterling or thereabouts. Apart from the sewing machine, I have receipts for most of them. Uma needs to keep the receipt for warranty (5 years) purposes.We are planning to have a lunch for all the families whose children we hope to sponsor on next Saturday

For the first time, I am seeing rats and mice being chased and killed by the children. I think the unseasonal rain flooded the vermin's' hide out. They were all flushed out of their normal habitat. I even saw a cockroach as big as a child's palm. Its pretty gruesome to say the least. I have to say this has made this trip less pleasant The rain seems to have eased. We are now getting more sunny days.There is evidence too of the authorities attempting to clear the stinking rubbish away. Unfortunately, as soon as the roadside is clear, fresh mounds of rubbish are added overnight. That is because many people cannot afford to pay to have their rubbish collected. It is a constant headache for the authorities.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The new children

Uma is recovering well now. For a few days after my arrival, I was quite concerned that she has lost all interests in what we want to do with the new children .Well, she has rallied round . We are now rearing to go

We went through the list Uma has and decided that we will take a risk to sponsor 7 children even though there are only 6 secured sponsors at my end.The general plan is to visit them in the school, followed by a home visit to meet the parent/s.We will want to talk to them about what they need to help the child's education.. And to share with them about the sponsors' aspiration. That it is to give them a good education, and learn good English. It is with the hope that will help to improve their life chances and secure a good future.We would like them to consider transferring their children to the private school where Uma's children attend That hopefully will take place at the beginning of the next academic year in April 2011.Uma will provide them with the help and support they need to get the children ready. It is planned that once we have visited and purchased all the things required, Uma will host a lunch for the children and parents. They can then collect the stuff at the same time. The need for delivery can then be avoided

We have decided to purchased Emergency lamps and tables for every child we sponsor.With Nepali festivals drawing near, Uma thought it will be a good idea to have a set of new clothes made for each of the children. We will also give them stationary sets, which I have bought in UK.
As for Uma, she does not want another computer. She will have a sewing machine to help with future expenses of clothings.We also hope to purchase a bicycle for the bigger kids and one for the younger ones.These are the things we plan to buy for now. I am hoping that I will be able to take some of the donations back to UK.It is useful to have some spare funding for a rainy day. With regular sponsorship, I can see that the needs of Uma's children are well taken care of. Such happy and contented children........

I went to see a Nepali young lady yesterday.She is wheel chair bound because of childhood polio .Her right leg is not affected. She is studying for her 10th grade, hoping to go to college in April 2011. Though she manages to manouvre ( I don't know how) on the uphill uneven roads /pavements on her way to school, she has a problem getting on a bus with her wheel chair. She will need to stay in the Hall of residence when she goes to college. Her mother sells fruit in the market place with her sister. Her father drinks and does not hold down a regular job. She needs financial help to enable her to continue her study. John and I have agreed to sponsor her when Uma asked a few months ago. So I took the opportunity to visit her in her home. It was a real eye opener. And they are certainly not at the bottom of the pile!

The family consists of both parents and 4 grown up children , living in 2 rented rooms.The 2 brothers aged 20 and 18, shares the bedroom with the 2 sisters age24 and 22 years. 2 small double beds fill the room measures no bigger than12x12. The parents room is also used as the kitchen and dinning area.They share the house with another family renting the 2 opposite bedrooms. The bathroom is an open courtyard with blue sky on top. There is a big well which provide all their water they need for washing and cooking purposes.The bathroom is not overlooked, but it is understandably cold when one tries to shower in the open in winter.There is obviously no heating or hot water there.With everything stack against them, they remain incredibly cheerful and upbeat. The most amazing thing for me is their ability to keep everything so neat and tidy in such confined spaces! Amazing !

It looks likely that I will have a few busy days coming up. In fact I forward to it . I am slso mindful there's only 2 weeks to go before I come back to UK. Lots to do.......

Monday, 6 September 2010

At Long Last !

I fell like a drowning person since my arrival here . Until this moment, I have no means of communicating with the outside world.My mobile is unable to access any network, Uma's pc is infected with a virus which she cannot get rid of.I have spent hours patiently trying to access my email to no avail. I felt like screaming on a few occasions On top of all that Uma is ill. At the same time,I was suffering from migraine through lack of proper sleep etc. I have to say I was feeling quite low till late last night But it has all changed since

I am currently sitting in a internet cafe following my physio treatment at Blue Birds clinic, accessing the net. Another first time for me. Wow, what a wonderful feeling to be able to communicate again after the lapse of almost 5 days My arrival here was greeted with heavy downpour The weather in September is usually sunny and dry I have not seen any rain in my 2 previous trips. So it has come as a real shock to see rhe usual dry heap of garbage on the road side becoming heaving pile of rotting matter . The aroma emanating from them is rather unpleasant as well. People starting to throw dead rats onto the road. SomethingI have not seen before.I am not sure whats going on here. This has made my 2 previous trips seemed like honey moons. My trip out each day to the physio is like an obstacle course.I have to take a longer route to circumnavigate away from the crushed and half eaten bodies of the rats. urghhhhhh. I tell you, its grim !!!!!!!!!! I need public health people down here fast

However. away from all that. Its wonderful to see the children. They are all much taller than last year. Not surprising, I suppose,given that they have such big appetites for some as young as themselves.They all look as though they have been stretched. Most of them are truly speaking longer sentences, and with confidence, They were all concentrating hard on reading the cards/letters/photos the sponsors sent. It was lovely to see. They love the jigsaw puzzles. Every evening when they have finished their home work , they will all come upstairs, wanting me or one of the volunteers to be involved in doing the jigsaw puzzles. By 9pm we chased them back downstairs to bed

Uma has a houseful at present- 4 volunteers plus me.They are all doing voluntary teaching at the private school where the children are attending One of the best news I was given 2 days ago was during the school's annual prize giving , 7 out of our 8 children (Sangmu excepted) were awarded prizes for exemplary conduct and achievements . There are 500 children in the school.Our children are at the top 10 % of the school population. I was so chafed.I was speechless when one of the volunteer teachers wes talking about it during lunch.Rajesh brought the school reports up for me to see later on that evening. They were the ones sponsors were sent as attachments for their email a few weeks ago. I have to say they look even better in real life. I told them all that the sponsors are very proud of what they have achieved, And that they must keep it up

The children are also taught Karate weekly as a form of exercise. .They have the nightly tuition for an hour from a neighbor. overseeing their homework etc, Then the English teacher comes on a Saturday morning for 2 hours to do the conversational English. The school has started computer classes for the children.They are accessing the 2 pcs but tends to be the older ones who are more interested

So much for now. I will blog regularly now that I have found a cafe thats efficient and fast, for a change. And its only 20 rupees an hour. Am unlikely to break the bank even if I do it often.Apologies for any spelling and grammatical mistakes which I may have missed.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Its Now or Never

Well, the day has arrived!

In my usual efficient self, I have emptied and washed the waste bins; washed and hung up the towels etc; cleared and cleaned the fridge, sanitized the kitchen sink; bleached the toilet bowl; wiped over the bathroom tiles and floor, last but not least changed and washed the sheets. And this is only the inside of the house!

I must admit the house is always at its tidiest and probably cleanest just before I go away every time. Its a bad habit, which I am finding hard to maintain. I put myself under unnecessary pressure each time. Oh well, its a habit I need to unlearn I think

The luggage feels very weighty. Its probably over 24 Kilo. However, I have been told that Jet Air gives 28 Kilo for checked in luggage. Phew! And hopefully not too pedantic about the size of hand luggage, otherwise I will be in deep trouble! I regard myself as quite a seasoned traveller, and yet I have not learnt the art of travelling light. I think I must have the kitchen sink in my suitcase each time I travel . No matter how many times I tell myself that I can always purchase items at the resort, I tended to put things in for 'just in case'. Again, its a very bad habit

John keeps calling me mother Santa Claus around the house this morning.I think its only made possible by the generosity of everyone concerned. And the phrase sounds weird anyway. I am aware that I have a lot of work and goals to fulfill. It feels a bit scary . For the first time, I will not be working specifically in any set up, but with Uma's help and support, we hope to visit the homes of the new children we hope to sponsor. Then we have some tough decisions to make afterwards. I have secured 6, and not 7 as I originally thought.The 7th changed his mind , but never mind....

I feel somewhat nervous, excited, but also a little concerned that I have not managed to secure more sponsors before I set out. It has put a bit of pressure on the trip. However, I shall do my best while I am out there. Uma is sending a taxi to pick me up from the airport. I will be arriving @2pm Nepal time, but 8am uk time on saturday. Its 6 hours difference between UK and Nepal

Fingers crossed for a smooth flight to Delhi then onto Kathmandu.