December already…. Time to reflect…. It makes you think a lot when you’re in Nepal, you see and experience so many things that are different from what you are used to.  And there is time to think, in the mornings, waking up early, while it’s still dark outside…and you hear the first cock-a-doodle-doo.  Or was the first one even earlier, the one that actually woke you up but became part of your dream?  I would lay there and think about what we did the day before, perhaps the new people I met, things that made me laugh in class, wondering about the homes the kids go back to after school, if they have enough lighting to do homework, hoping they are warm while they sleep and trying to imagine what their mornings are like, hoping they’re warm when they get up too.  By 6.30am pretty much everybody, I guess everywhere in Nepal, is awake.  They don’t tend to sleep in, there is always so much to do.  I know a lot of kids do their homework in the mornings, over tea and a biscuit while their mother cooks dal bhat, and gets everybody ready for the day.  Then their welcoming smiles when they see me approach the school.  Always.  Every single day.

During the first 2-3 weeks of November the rice fields are harvested and everybody is working really hard, from as soon as it gets light until darkness falls, they are out in the fields.  Sometimes children help too, or they have to stay home and look after a baby brother or sister.  It’s heavy work, even elderly people carry loads of up to 50kg on their backs strapped around their foreheads.  This is what they’ve always done and there is no alternative, because this is the only way to get it done and it has to get done, they need the rice.  It always looks like there’s such a nice a community spirit in the fields.  Some mornings I went for a run around the neighbourhood, which may have seemed like a very alien thing to do to them, why exhaust yourself unnecessarily?  And when you think about it, doing exercise, for the sake of it is kind of weird.  Should we not get enough exercise naturally?  Well, we in the western world don’t, we sit around so much, that we have to plan in sessions to use our muscles and get our heartrate up.  Every morning I also did yoga in the most serene setting, on the roof, with the snowcapped peaks of the Annapurna range in front of me.  I would just sit there on my mat, taking deep breaths, taking in every moment, feeling so much gratitude for having the opportunity to be there.  Nothing I’ve ever done compares to being in Nepal.  Many Nepalis have these kind of moments of meditation naturally.  I see people taking a pause in their work in the rice fields, or perhaps while waiting for something, and they just sit still for a moment.  Often in Malasana (the Garland or squatting position) as there is usually nothing to sit on, and this is how they’ve always sat.  I don’t know what they’re thinking, but I’m sure they must also sometimes wonder about the lives of other people and the mysteries at the top of the mountains.  It’s nice to see people be still, just sit, or stand, and look out over their environment, or even with their eyes closed….just be still for a moment.  Without the need to look at their phone, respond to something or report their movements and impressions on social media.  I wonder and worry about the new generation (globally) who live through their phones, how that will impact their view of the world and themselves, and their relationships to others.

Anyway, moving on from those early morning thoughts, to tell you about the ‘programmes’ we arranged, what we spent the donated money on, what difference the contributions make.  Remember, I only deliver it, but it is only possible because of you.

Since the last update, we gave uniforms to another 3 schools.  Some people may wonder, are uniforms really that important to the children?  And the answer is, yes, they are.  They need these clothes to be ‘special’ for their days at school.  Among those who didn’t have a uniform, I saw them in the same t-shirt every day for 2-3 weeks, and it’s not just a t-shirt for school, it’s before and after and the one they also slept in I would guess.  Wearing a uniform makes a child feel more committed to school, it makes them want to study, because they can see that school is important.  It also takes away the obvious differences in socio-economic status of the children, although in the schools that we support, everybody is pretty much the same.  The hats and warm jumpers are also important because it can be very cold at school, there is no heating and the windows may not have glass or be drafty

A uniform (measured and made by a tailor) is about £9.30, a sweater £3.20 and a hat 90p.

So, we spent (we had £2300):

Jogimori: 44x uniforms (they already got tracksuits from the Lion club about a year ago)

Pame:  63x uniforms plus jumpers and hats

Setu Barahi:  21x uniforms plus jumpers and hats

Sarangkot primary:  28x uniforms plus jumpers and hats

The food (rice, lentils, oil, etc.) for the 18 families of 21 kids at Setu Barahi (but also to be enough for siblings not at school) cost £248 in total.  This is about £23 per family for at least a month of food.  The rest went towards transport (e.g. a jeep to reach some places) and with the £34 left over I told them to buy lots of fruit for the kids as a treat for their lunches (a normal lunch a biscuit, puffed rice or a bread bun, and unfortunately the canteen that was built at the Jogimori school they knocked down when they built the new school).

One friend donated £500 which was spent on the health camp (doctor, dentist, assistant and medicines, toothbrushes, etc.) and 50 handmade, washable sanitary pads, 2 each for 25 young girls.  They cost £2.80 each.  Total came to: £477.  Thank you Evelyn!

And just to point out, all money is only and directly for the above activities (and not for my flights, accommodation, expenses, etc.).   So you can all see how far the money goes and that even if you just donate £10 it is really meaningful and very much appreciated.

We showed the film ‘I am Belmaya’ at a secondary school and at a children’s home for girls.  This is a really important film to young people in Nepal, especially girls.  So much so, that it is possible that it might change people’s lives.   I could write a whole separate essay about it and the reasons why, but I’ll leave it to those who are interested to watch it for yourself and google for more information.  Thank you, Sue Carpenter (co-director with Belmaya) for letting us show the film and thanks to Belmaya for coming along to these events, to chat to the girls, answer questions and for being such an inspiration!  And for the educational session on the sanitary pads.  It was lovely getting to know you and Bipana.

Meanwhile, Diane has been busy with various fundraising events, and has collected a further £1600 from a concert and a few £hundred from ceramics workshops and markets.  And there are more markets planned before Christmas.  As mentioned in the last post, we have some ideas for what we would like to support next.  More details to follow, but it would be something long-term, e.g. to set up a community learning centre, where the focus would be on learning skills to help unprivileged young people to have a way to support themselves.

For now, please take a look at the pictures in the gallery, and remember, all this is only possible thanks to you people like you!