Final Day in the Village

I have been so busy these past few weeks and I can’t believe my final day in the village had arrived! And even this day would be a busy one, we still hadn’t given out all the toothbrushes and worming pills. But thankfully, James, seen in the red top on the left of the first image above, helped go to each house and do the deed.

I took advantage of this time to say thank you and good bye to many of the villagers and also took photos of each family. Though not all families had members at home when we came. But we managed to do most of it, and just a few houses I left the things with James, who said he would give out to them.

So just before I left, and on my way to the highway I passed through the school to say goodbye. It was lovely, they had prepared a going away thank you ceremony. They sat me in a chair and every child from the school, village members and teachers all came by and put either flowers around my neck or into my hands and put a tikka onto my head. It felt so nice that they did this for me which of course I wasn’t expecting. It was a nice finish to my time in the village.

To be honest, the time was too little, there’s still so much to do and things to be achieved. But my visa says I must leave or I’ll get into trouble. But it’s making me even more excited for my return in April 2009!

I will be continuing to get information on the renovation through Mon and have pictures too, keeping us all up to date on the progress. We still have so much to do in this community, but we’re going in the right direction, and even with the bumps which are to be expected, the important thing is we’ve started the ball rolling.


Water in the Village II

Back to the issue of water in the village. It is becoming more and more obvious why we need to sort out the water issues in the village first. Everything relies around water, of course, without it we can’t survive and I don’t mean just drinking it. A classic example, the skilled labourers have started working on the school and they need water and quite a lot of it for mixing cement. So what we have had to do is buy 3 100 litre tanks and then ask the villagers to spare a little of their time in the morning every day to go and fill the tanks for them. An issue they shouldn’t have to be doing, but until we have created a better infrastructure within the village there’s not much we can do. Everything has to happen slower. You can see in images 4 to 7 when Mon rallied together some villagers to come and help with carrying the water, and also see the video below bottom left.

Before this day in the school started, I decided to go and visit the water source for the south of the village (see images 1-3 and the 2 videos below). What I will make clear now, is that there is only one tap in the south of the village for approxiamately 100 people, and not even a tap in the north, just a constantly running hose to cover about 80 people. The remaining approximately 80 people use sources outside the village, on the edge of other communities. Also, there are only 3 toilets being used by over 260 people in the village, and those toilets only by the family that owns them. The rest go to the toilet in the forest/fields and women especially put off their toilet breaks for excessive periods of time due to embarrasment and privacy, which can lead to urinary tract infections and considerable kidney and pelvic problems.

So these issues are highlighting to us the most important thing for the Aandhimul Project to work on is water, health and sanitation coinciding with the school work. And already in Australia Angela has raised AUS$1200, she doing great work to get the funds together to help improve the situation in the village.

To date Mon, the headteacher, committee members and me have met with the local Water Engineering Department to discuss the water needs of the village. They showed much enthusiasm and said they would help us in consultation and technical details cost free. The main reason is because of the Aandhimul Project and international connection. We hope to take things forward into the new year.

We will definitely be returning to these issues in future blog entries as soon as we have more information.


New Lunch for the School

Rupa was back again, and this time during school time to show one of the parents and teachers how to make and prepare the hot lunch for the children.

But first, Rupa being a teacher in Bandipur wanted to spend a little time with some of the children asking them questions and introducing herself. You can see in images 1 to 5 how good a job she was doing, their eyes were captured and had that look that all teachers love, and what is often a sign of a good teacher. Keeping the attention of your children or at least trying your best to for a majority of the time. As you know, things never go to plan especially when you work with children or animals, as the saying goes.

As for the other teachers all 5 teachers are working well, with some of the students being kept busy and attending school on a regular basis. However, there are maybe too many who don’t make it due to responsibilities at home and again the lack of understanding within the community of the importance of education, which the project is hoping to change. We also want to help the teachers with training, and many have asked for this so they can improve their teaching methods and feel more confident. With of course the children benefiting from such training, the ultimate goal.

Also, sadly, 8 of the local girls were withdrawn from school at the end of last year, because of such responsibiilities their families feel their needed to help at home. We all at the project find this really upsetting, as these girls will never access education now (or we hope in the future have adult education, an area we want to look into). Clearly, one of our ongoing commitments is promoting the school and the education it provides, so that all families will continue to send their children.

The Aandhimul Project has now taken responsibility for paying the wages of 3 teachers and a caretaker, totalling approximately US$200 per month. As of April 2009 we hope to have Mon Bhujel working full time on the project, will shall confirm this in the new year. And also Angela, Jolana and me are planning to go for that time too, again confirmation to come. In that period of time we want to heavily focus on the school with training, workshops and many more things, details to come in the new year.

So back to today. You can see in image 7, Rupa, in purple, and two other ladies happily cooking away by the side of the school. Then in images 8 to 10 you can see what is one of the most important lessons to the children, washing your hands and keeping them clean for eating. Then in images 11 to 15, the children are served their first hot lunch at school, with at first many looking at it the way I first did, slightly bemused. But most, after the first spoonful, seemed to take it straight down and many were back for seconds.

It turned out to be a good day, however, more thought needs to go into how and where the food should be cooked and also the maintainance of the equipment and bowls. The biggest issue being limited access to water. Which I shall hopefully be addressing in the following blog.


Water & School Renovation

This morning I decided to go and see where one of the villages water sources was coming from. So I could understand how we could improve the infrastructure to create more taps and washing facilities within the community. You can see the source in the video below.

The village itself comprises of two main parts, a north side of the village and a south side of the village split by a valley and river. And this split is enough to have caused many problems in the past and to this day, often creating disagreements between either sides on issues such as schooling and water. The issues will the school I will discuss at a later date

So today it was the source point of the north of the village where I visited, the point which runs towards the direction of the school, though the school itself doesn’t has a direct water point. I will be planning to visit the south side of the village’s water source in the next few days, and I will write a detailed blog discussing the overall water problems soon.

As for the school renovation, it’s coming on well, things are very busy and there are many people working on it. You can see in images 3 to 8, a lot of the action that is occuring right now. Both Mon, myself, committee members and school teachers are happy to see things progressing.

On a funny or should I say, a little scary note. The workers found and killed 2 snakes whilst removing the stabilising rocks from the roof (see images 9 & 10). It gave them a bit of a shock, but for me I was happy to see a snake, it was my first time. Though sadly dead, but for the safety of the workers and the children.

I will be updating you in later blog entries on the progress of the renovation.

One last thing, I managed to capture a nice image of some young children helping with the chores. You can see in image 13 children carrying back the recently washed plates and kettle. What good children they are!


A Visit from Bandipur

Today Mon, Rupa and their son came to the village with Lou, Binod (orange top in image 2) a friend and project manager, and Suraj one of the skilled labourers to work on the school.

They came for 2 reasons, first Binod came with the skilled labourer to look at the school building and give his advice on the best way of renovating the building and also ideas for building a new school building, something we’re hoping to put into action in Autumn 2009. Then Lou came with Rupa to discuss with some of the villagers about the new school lunch.

It is Lou who so kindly donated the money to buy cooking pots and utensils, and bowls and spoons for the children. She is also willing to sponsor the children’s food in the New Year. More details about this and the children’s food programmes will be coming soon!

On our route through I caputered these cute images of a girl carrying a basket with water bottle inside and her brother with the water bottle’s cap in mouth (see images 5 & 6).


A Child Who Needs Help

Another child needs our help. This young girl was born with a deformed foot, very similar to club foot. Whilst I was in the village we decided to take her to a hospital in the district’s capital Damauli, and see if they could help us. It was a good experience for me to again see what state Nepal’s hospitals are in, and I don’t have much positive feedback. Again, underfunding means lack of supplies and facilities are very poor. However, the doctor we saw was very helpful, he spoke English and advised us to go to Pokhara or Kathmandu to see a specialist, an orthopedic surgeon who could help us more and if neccessary do a scan or x-ray as they don’t have the facilities.

So we plan to go to Kathmandu with her, if time, at the end of the month just before I leave the country. I will update you again soon and if we need funding or help for her and her family, I will let you know.

To lighten up this blog entry, I have put a very cute video of her 2 sisters dancing and singing outside their home, and you can see in image 4 the father of the family, Kumar, with his 3 daughters. And I have to say, the little girl with her deformed foot is one of the happiest, and calm babies I’ve met for a long time. She also had no problem being placed in my arms, and nor did I. Except for the moment she started weeing on my leg, and because this family in particular are very poor, they can’t afford anything like a nappy. Actually, most children under the age of 5 don’t wear underwear and many just walk around without anything on their bottoms. I guess this is because the parents don’t want them to dirty them, as they have hardly any clothes.


Village Life

Today I spent the day trying to take in the everyday life of the village and wanted to capture it with my camera and the images above, and videos below hopefully give you a nice feel, they are quite self explanatory. Though the modern toy vs. traditonal toy is a good one to explain.

I brought with me a powerball, I not sure if many of you know what a powerball is!?! But, it’s a device which has a weighted gyroscope inside of it, and the aim is to start it spinning with a string and then keep it going by rotating your wrist. It’s main purpose is for strength building of the lower arm, but it’s also fun to see how fast you can make it spin and even better I bought the one which has a blue light that glows stronger, the faster the gyro spins.

The kids loved it, and so did the adults, and at first they found it difficult. But once used to it they enjoyed making it glow and feeling the pain it causes in the arm when you try and go too fast or keep it spinning for too long. You can see James, a village member finding it quite easy to spin, in the video below.

As for the traditional one, it’s intuition I guess, and impressed me more than my modern toy. However, the quality of the paths in the village makes this tradtional toy not so easy to use (check the video bottom right).


At the School

My first morning, I was awoken to the sounds of kids playing and adults talking, and as I should be used to now. There’s no such thing as a lie-in in bed here in Nepal. Come sunrise, and people are up. I took the first image above just after I had awoken, with one of the young lads catching sight of me. So, very quickly I was out of bed and down to wash my face and quickly greeted with a black tea, a cultural habit in the morning. In Bandipur when living with a middle class family biscuits are included. However, here in Aandhimul you are lucky to get tea, and was very thankful of that.

Actually, the first 3-4 hours in the mornings are usually related to household duties such as collecting fire wood, collecting branches and leaves from the forest to feed the cows and goats, if they have any, not many families do. Maybe 10 out of the 51 houses in the village have large animals, and a few more may have a chicken or 2. They may also do some work on their land, if they are growing any crops, but again, very few families do or even have any land. And also they prepare for breakfast, dal bhatt. But for many of the poorer families they only sometimes have rice and water, and if they can afford it lentils or some vegetables, or as mentioned on the previous blog, meat.

So, once we had breakfast if was off to start working in the school. As you can see in image 3, we started to clear the rooms in the main building, and again another lady teacher wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and do some lifting. We had to clear everything from one room first so we could start preparing the rooms to be re-rendered and have new floors. You can see in images 4 and 5 where we started to remove old stones and earth, and the headteacher also joined in the action with the pick axe, and then removing the debris from the room (as seen in image 8).

During this time the school was still going ahead, and some classes had to be moved out into the sunshine. But the children didn’t seem to mind, and at this time of the year there’s much sun and it’s not too hot.

Whilst some were working inside the school, there were 5 other men shovling sand into sacks from the roadside at the top of the hill and carrying them on their backs to the school. With 2 tractor loads of sand and 30 bags of cement and 5 men carrying it was estimated to take almost 10 days. This just made me realise how difficult things can be if you don’t have good infrastrucutre within a country and just the problem with the terrain as well. But there wasn’t much we could do and the materials were needed as soon as possible before the skill labourers could start their work on the school.

You can also see the children in images 10-11 and the video below having their lunch which currently consists of dry snacks and noodles, not very nutritious and as mentioned in the blog from Setograss 6th November we want to change their food to a hot and nutritious snack consisting of many cereals and pulses, that should hopefully being implemented next week.


First Day in the Village

Here it was, my first day to live back in the village by myself. Again, a little nervous because I’m not yet fluent in Nepali and only the young teacher Kissan can speak a little English. But I was just excited to be back their living, eating and working with them. Whilst doing my best to try and understand how they live to hopefully give me more ideas on how we can help them.

As you can see in the image above and the video below. I made quite an entrance this time, not on a bus but on a tractor fully ladened with cement from the local town. That was a fun and bumpy ride into Aandhimul, and the local children looked a little bemused on my arrival. Actually, I think we arrived at the wrong time as the villagers had just killed a buffalo and were cutting it into pieces not far from where we stopped (see image 4). So at first help was slow to come, as understandably, food was a more important matter at that time. I think the local dogs agreed too!

However, when things started moving we cleared the tractor’s trailor very quickly. These cement bags are not an easy carry, they weigh in at 50kg a piece. I found it difficult just taking it from the trailor and onto the ground. What happened next was pretty impressive (as you can see in image 5). Mina Gurung, one of the teachers from the school said she would help, and I thought are you sure? She only a few inches over five feet, and slender build. But I remembered not to under estimate the strength of the Nepali women, who grow up carrying things on the back. After a brief struggle putting the cement sack into her rope head strap, she was off. Almost every working person has one of these head straps, a vital piece of equipment, especially when there isn’t much flat land to pull things on wheels. The amazing thing is that she weighs the same as the cement.

A few of us decided to take a cement bag each to the school, and what a challenge that was. It was about 500 metres on foot, the first 350m going down tight mud paths and up for the last 150m. Wow, after one trip my neck was sore. It took us 10-15 minutes, and once at the school we were sweating buckets. But because we were near the end of the day. We decided to take the remaining cement bags to a house just by the road at the top of the hill, and start taking them again to the school the following day.

Just as we had finished with the cement we also had a tractor’s load of sand arrive (see image 6). This time we just got the labourers from the tractor to dump it on the road side and we would deal with it the next day.

Before settling in my family’s house for the evening, I wandered down to the river to have a wash, as there are no are no showers or bathrooms here. Then after I was lookng forward a big plate of Dal Bhatt, and luckily for me it included the buffalo that was killed earlier that day. And I was lucky, because eating meat is rare in the village, it may happen once a month, more during festival times.

Afterwards I tried speaking with the little Nepali I know and enjoying the moonlight, hillside view, before retiring to my sleeping bag and inflattable mattress.


Buying for the Village

It was one day before I was going to spend 2 weeks in the village, something I was looking forward to since I arrived. I was hoping to have been living in the village sooner, but due to the recent holidays in Nepal it had to be delayed.

We had spent the past few weeks organising the school renovation, which proved to be a lot trickier than I first thought it would be. The biggest issue was finding local skilled workers, the first we found said it was to difficult to get to the village because there was no direct road route and travel to and from the vilage every day would be troublesome. But thankfully Ramsaran from the Bandipur’s Old Inn Hotel came to our rescue. He found some skilled labour for us, and very quickly. Though in the end it was decided that they would sleep in the school building and we would pay a local family to cook and feed them for the duration of the renovation.

So to prepare for their starting we had to buy some materials and tools (see image 4). Also, Mon and I decided to buy de-worming pills, 250 of them to be given to the whole Aandhimul communtiy. Worms being a major cause of intestinal problems in both children and adults. You can see in image 2, a very nice gentleman who gave us the pills at trade cost.

Actually, the night previous both Cherry & Jill so kindly donated £20 each (Thank You!) to the project and it was this money we used to buy the pills and also toothbrushes for all the children. Which I will give out individually to each family.