It’s been busy, but busy in a nice way. Because it’s so nice to be back in Nepal. And they’re super busy here too, with people in the villages right in the middle of harvesting the rice at the moment. The weather has been perfect and it’s good to see that life looks like it’s back to normal. Well, it is and it isn’t. The reality is that a lot of people have struggled massively during the past 18 months. I hear their stories, and it hasn’t been easy, and of course it will take time to catch up. The kids say corona was ‘boring’. The ones I meet in the villages don’t have computers or mobile phones, so online lessons were out of the question. They say they tried to do home schooling, but how easy is that without any effective method for getting guidance? It’s not possible for the teachers to visit every single home, as some kids live up to a 2 hour walk away from school. I can’t assess the effect the lockdowns have had on other subjects, but overall, in terms of English, they are now way behind. Those who were in year 3 last time we were here are now in the top class, i.e. year 5 at the primary schools, and obviously, those who were in year 4 and 5 have moved on to a secondary school. Year 4 and 5 have, from what I hear and see, slipped back to the level of ‘what’s your name?’, ‘how old are you?’, and ‘do you have brother?’. If you reply ‘no, I don’t, but I have a younger sister. How old are your brothers and sisters?’, you get a blank. Still, they continue to chant poems about ‘A great man who does great deeds’ and copy long texts about Isaac Newton. I hope they’re learning a bit from me though, but at least we have so much fun in class, playing games and doing activities, demonstrating ‘tall, taller, tallest’, ‘beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful’, drawing clocks and talking about what time we do things, and repeating ‘do, does, don’t, can and can’t’, ‘I walk, you walk, he/she/it walks’ and yesterday, tomorrow, today and so on.
In the first week the tailor came out to the Pame and Jogimori schools to measure the kids for new uniforms. An order is also in for Setu Barahi school, a small and very remote little primary school, where most families have been going through serious hardship lately. We will also bring them rice, lentils, oil, salt and spices and potatoes. I’ve noticed that about half the children don’t have a uniform (some are new little kids). Among those who still have one, it is very worn, often with tears and holes, and generally two sizes too small. Few have school shoes. The 62 kids at Pame got their uniforms last week, and on Wednesday, they’ll also get a sweater and a hat. The other 2 will get theirs later this week. That will be 130 uniforms in total that we’ve been able to provide, all thanks to the donations and from the money collected through selling ceramics, bags, cards, etc.
A lot of friends have also donated clothes and shoes, and I managed to bring out about 55kg, thanks to Turkish Airlines for being so generous with the extra weight. So the first clothes party was the Nestling children’s home, run by Alliance Nepal, where 12 homeless and orphan children are now living. They were very grateful. In the last 2 years they have built some really sturdy vegetable gardens and green houses on terraces of the fertile slopes (donated land by relatives of Krishna), and are now trying to be as self-sufficient as possible. There’s even a field of turmeric and ginger, and the plan is that they might be able to sell some at local markets. They also have a buffalo… and an orphan goat as a pet. The girls are so well looked after and have 3 wonderful, loving ‘mamis’, and they all help out with the chores around the house and land. Remember one of the mamis, whose family lost their rented house (that belonged to someone who had to come back due to losing his house in the city)? Well, thanks again to the money given we helped build a new, little pink house with 2 rooms for her family right next to the children’s home (see pics in gallery).
Up on the same mountain is Krishna’s school, Mani Jyoti Basic School and after a visit there we went to meet the other family with about 10 kids (children and grandchildren) whose house we helped re-build and repair, install a water tap and solar cell electricity. They now have a separate kitchen and toilet. They also got some new clothes. And on another evening we bumped in to Aisha and Pinki’s daughter, remember the 2 girls who lost their parents in the landslide July 2020. They’ve both healed up nicely from their injuries and are living with a relative. We’ve got some new exciting ideas for her (and other young people) which we’ll tell you about later.
And, it doesn’t end there….Last week we also held a health camp at Jogimori. This was all paid for by a very generous friend, Evelyn Kennedy (and her contribution is also enough for 50 re-washable sanitary pads for 25 teenage girls). A doctor, a dentist and an assistant came to the school and everybody was given a toothbrush and toothpaste. The dentist demonstrated how to brush their teeth, and gave general advice on hygiene, handwashing, and information about corona virus. Each and every one of the 40 kids had their health and teeth checked and where necessary, given medicine or dental treatment, except for if more invasive treatment was needed (then they got a note with advise for parents). General extractions of milk teeth and fillings were carried out on the spot. Most of them were super brave, they just accepted what needed to be done, and let it happen, but unfortunately 3 or 4 of the little girls, who’d had their check up no problem, and needed treatment, suddenly got scared and refused to let the dentist get anywhere near their mouths again. By coincidence, some health care assistant students arrived the next day and also repeated the importance of being healthy and hand washing.
By the way, during the pandemic a new school building was built in Jogimori. I’m not sure why the government decided to do that, but it’s a really nice, bright building with big windows, and it could potentially fit twice the number of students per class. Maybe they’re expecting lots of new babies in the village and preparing for the future when they’re ready to start school. However, there are only 4 classrooms, which unfortunately means, 2 classes have to have their lessons by the staircase, which is kind of outside. But as they are small classes, sometimes they combine them.
You might have heard about a film called ‘I am Belmaya’? It’s being screened around the UK and Europe now. It’s a really wonderful film about an orphan Nepali girl, who followed her ambition and kind of went against what is often expected of girls in this society. Here, in rural areas around 70% of girls stop going to school at age 16, and instead work at home, then get married, at which point they have to move to their husband’s family home. So unfortunately many girls never get the chance to get a full education, which limits their options, for jobs, for independence, etc. Tomorrow we are going to show this inspirational film to the girls at the Jyan Jagrit secondary school in Sarangkot. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s available to watch online on the BFI (British film industry) or Picturehouse cinema websites. Just google it, it’s easy to find, and your contribution will be most appreciated. Here you can read one of the many many brilliant reviews: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/oct/11/i-am-belmaya-review-nepali-dalit-filmmaker
So as always, all the help we’ve been able to provide is only possible thanks to all the generous people giving (all money goes directly, and only for the above), so we are incredibly grateful. If anybody is interested in joining us or going to Nepal to help with teaching, etc. please let us know and we’ll tell you more and help with all the arrangements. Get in touch if you have any questions or comments! Thanks for reading!