Just put up some more pictures and videos of life in Aandhimul.
A few weeks have past since the water meeting in Aandhimul, and there was no sense of urgency within the community, and Mon, Jolana, Hari and I decided after much discussion that the community needed to not only have a water committee, but set up their own community group (local NGO), and we guide, support and train where necessary to give them confidence to take power in their community. The hardest thing of course, is if they really want this, and only time will tell.
So again we met with some village members and they agreed and said they would start such a group, and both Mon and Hari explained the importance of such a group. You can see a meeting outside one of the villagers home in the above pictures, here they agreed on the members and signed inside a book that they wished to be part of it. However, this was only the start. To register a local NGO isn’t an easy process, our research has shown, so just starting is going to tricky and I’m sure it won’t be quick.
Jolana and I decided to take a short break from Aandhimul and visit a community in the South of Nepal. Hari Devkota, as many of you may be aware is a Nepali man who is helping our project in regards to water, but not just that, with his experiences too in all areas of NGO work. He wanted to show us a small project he had started in a community in the Soutn of Nepal, and so both Jolana and me decided to go.
At first we were not overly enthusiastic because of being so busy with The Project, but we thought it may be a good break, and to have a change of scenery would be good. Actually, it turned out to be a far greater experience than we thought.
We took a bus from Aandhimul to a Southern city called Narayangarh, where we waited in a hotel for 3 hours before getting a bus at midnight to our destination which should be about 5 hours long. Though, whilst in Narayangarh we witnessed a big street demonstration by the maoist party, with hundreds of people carrying flags, and fire torches. But lucky for us it was peaceful. Freshened up from the hotel, we found a bus that was going in the direction we wanted and it was quite an experience, if many of you have managed to travel on buses in developing countries you will know what I mean.
The bus driver seemed to like speed, with many occassions almost being tossed out of our seats, we were at the back, the worst place to be. But luckily a few seats at the front came free and Jolana & Hari took them. As for me, I sat back and enjoyed the rollercoaster ride.
Going at such a speed, we arrived a lot sooner than expected at about 3am. We got off on the highway where there were many tea stalls for night drivers, as this is passing place for those taking goods between India & Nepal, the border only being 40km away. It had a slight eary feel, and many stalls had young females managing them. Hari told us that sometimes prostitution occurs in these sort of places, but very subtly. I guess it can be expected when there are many men in their trucks passing through here night and day, a sad reality actually.
We had a tea, and decided to try and find somewhere to sleep. Hari had rung before to a hotel he usually uses, but it was full. We checked one place, didn’t smell very nice, plus there was no electricity. So we tried his original hotel just in case, doors were locked but luckily a man came and said we could sleep on a balcony floor, he provided blankets and pillows at no cost, which was great and we managed to get some well needed rest. Though, we were up at 6.00am and out to meet Hari’s colleague.
Hari found this wonderful Nepali man when he first returned to this community a few months previous, both Jolana and I noticed how similar he is to Mon. We met him and went for breakfast, and the first thing we noticed here in daylight was how similar to Northern India this place looked. Not only the flat terrain, but the shops and buildings and even the food. We had a very sweet and oily breakfast, fried chappatis (bread) with a chick pea & lentil curry, and the sweet jeri (fried sweets), very sweet & tasty.
After our breakfast we mad our journey to the village they are helping, a Tharu community, who are one of the poorest and marginalized ethnic groups in Nepal. Before the 50’s they almost lived by themselves in the plains of Southern Nepal due to a natural resistance to malaria, but when the World Health Organisation helped the Nepali government to erradicate it, thousands flooded into the region to take advantage of the fertile lands. The consequences were supression and domination over the Tharu communities.
Hari met this community when he worked here for the goverment over 10 years ago, and made many good contacts, and on his return to Nepal from Australia this year he decided he wanted to help.
The thing he noticed most, was families in and around the village didn’t have toilets, so he came up with a simple idea to create a compostible toilet, using local materials. What was even more succesful was the method used to convince the people to have one. He said that if they dig their hole, and make their cover themselves within 2 weeks he would give them 150 rupees, equivalent to 2 US dollars. It was very successful, and of the 14 or so that agreed to do, only one failed to do it in time, and didn’t finish it. They are now taking it to other parts of the community due to its success rate. You can see the picture in the middle second up from the bottom, above.
We were only staying for one day, so had many things to see. The next was the very large school, catering for 1500 students from Class 1 till 12 (18 years old). It was actually funded from the Indian government, a little strange, but not to many Nepalis as the South of Nepal is heavily influenced by India, and you do almost feel like you are in India. What we we’re really interested in seeing in this school was the library, because it was funded by ‘Room to Read’, an internationally set up charity focused on bringing books to the poor. We are hoping that they can help the school in Aandhimul, so it was great for us to see it. You can see in the pictures above and video below the school’s library, and the teachers say it has had a great benefit to the children.
Then after eating a dal bhatt (traditional Nepali meal) in the school, so nice of them to make for us, they took us to see a pre-school made and funded by local people. It was lovely to see them taking such action, you can see in the pictures above 3 rows up.
We then finished by walking around other areas of the village, which is very large, and we came across a marriage taking place (see video below). Though Hari pointed out that the girl was only 14 years old, and this is still very common here, but is slowly changing.
So overall we had a wonderful experience, and were delighted to have a chance to see another Nepali community very different to the one in Aandhimul, but with similar problems. I know what we have learnt here will help us in our work with the community of Aandhimul, and we have to thank Hari for giving us the opportunity to visit.
Chiya khanos! (Please drink the tea!)
I wonder how many exhausted bodies were saved on a good cup of tea. Is this the answer to every problem?
Here in Nepal you get milk tea with exaggerated amount of sugar. I also recommend the coconut biscuits – the yellow wrapper one’s with pictures of coconut trees. They are on those lower shelves made in Nepal and cost about 10-20rs. Far better deal than the imported once!
The family we stayed in Aandhimul did not have tea so we got hot water for a breakfast – some families also do not have sugar in remote areas so they put a little salt in the black tea. I’ve learned how to say do not put salt in tea in Nepali and it really improved the taste!
The Aandhimul village is one of the most beautiful places. I get caught by the variety of butterflies and other insects and then have to remind myself to keep looking at the slippery ground, and its narrow winding paths. It is a constant up and down, and after 10am it becomes a real struggle to walk any distance as the sun burns onto the paddy fields.
Our room in Aandhimul, although we have comfortable self inflatable mattress, sleeping bag and mosquito net – is damp and dark – made from local red mud. Now and again the neighbouring wall falls inside of our room – I’m not talking about the spiders – I’ve never seen such fine examples – really glad to have the net! The Dust and Damp is an invitation to chesty coughs and snotty noses.
Kitchens here are made of small clay ovens – fed with wood – brought by woman or children on their backs. Unfortunately, the chimney has never been introduced so you end up with incredibly smoky kitchens, old ‘didi’ or young ‘bahini’ suffocating with tears in their eyes.
The children here are beautiful, even though some very dirty and neglected. Boys have no boundaries and some girls are pulled out of schools to attend to cooking duties, collecting food for the animals, getting water and looking after their younger brothers and sisters, and finally getting ready for the local village, married life ahead .
I’ve spent many times in total confusion and not understanding – asking what’s first and what possibly can work and what little change can be introduced easily. I had a strong feeling that I would find it within this community. I’m still looking.
In April we introduced teacher training workshops thanks to Angela and Yoshie for bringing great teaching materials – we were able to present some really creative ways of teaching. These included – management of class, lesson planning, mathematics art workshops, story telling, music, body coordination.
We have also linked our teachers to successful day care centre in Bandipur, and I was really pleased to hear from Mon what impact this has made to our 2 pre-school teachers (Mina and Pampha). This inspiration has brought something knew to them and they started creating their own teaching materials using some cardboard paper and some other the materials we brought.
In May, our project’s aim is to improve the water infrastructure, while still supporting our teachers in our school. I’m also planning a health care programme. Lee and myself are staying behind enjoying more views and the local dal bhatt diet.
We said good byes to Angela and Yoshie in Kathmandu with organic food and beer to send them off – both who will be missed in Aandhimul!
I’ve recently met a very talented musician and would also like to invite him for a day of music in Aandhimul. As music has a common language, I hope to introduce another strong bond which does not require spoken words!
I hope to keep you updated with any new progress but in Nepali style! (when place and electricity allows!)
Till then, I hope you can enjoy your special brew!
Lots of love, Jolana!
It was decided to hold the meeting at lunchtime in the school grounds, but we weren’t expecting what hit us in the early hours. I woke at about 6.00am to the sound of strong winds, and then followed by a storm. The rain came quickly and hard, the wind was verocious. Only a few days previous, one of the houses near the school had put on a new tin roof, but hadn’t put rocks on top to prevent it from being damaged during high winds. So you can guess what happened next, a strong gust took it straight off. You can see in the first photo, top left, some people trying to recover part of the roof from the land.
Once the rains had died down, Mon and I among other village men went to see if we could help. It was great to see so many help so quickly to get the roof back on top. It was a pretty muddy affair, but whilst helping Mon mentioned to me that maybe we should start the meeting early, because many people were there. It was a great idea, because the past has shown that when trying to get people to come to meetings, and on time, is not easy. That’s just the Nepali way, something we always have to work around, and Mon quickly took advantage of this situation knowing that.
So we asked the villagers if they would like to start the meeting and many agreed, also more were asked to come in true village fashion, shouting! Because the village is set within a valley the voices travel quite far, making it easier to communicate around the village without having to send a messenger.
Due to the amount of sticky mud, caused by the heavy rain, we decided to use the small, old school building for the meeting, as you can see in the pictures above and video below. I decided to have little envolvement, as I felt this is an issue they need to resolve. However, Mon got precedings going and just supervised and put any points forward he felt were missed.
It lasted quite a while, and at times it became very heated, at some points people were talking loud, if not shouting their opnions. But after much debate, the meeting was concluded and I asked Mon about the outcome. He said that they debated many issues and the biggest divide was about who the new supply would benefit. And Mon and other villagers told them, to begin with the priority is to get water to the school, and to supply those houses en-route. Then if this is successful we would create additional phases that would help two other areas of the village with their water supply.
Currently, everyone has access to water, but they have to travel down the valley into the river and collect from there and carry back up. The biggest problem here is time, which can be an inconvenience, and we particularly noticed this in the school. It took 1 hour for the caretaker to collect enough water to last the day at the school, but even this was limited, and on many occasssions and particularly with the hotter weather, this water would run out before the day has ended. And having to collect water in the heat of the day, is not easy and slow.
This is why we feel the community and the Project should focus first on the school, because the children need easy access to water anytime, for drinking, cleaning and proper use of the toilets.
Many of the villagers agreed, but Mon had made it clear also, that they needed to create a water committee who would take responsibility for actions, and more importantly who could keep up with maintainence. They also agreed, but were a little concerned because they felt they lacked any knowledge and experience, and Mon replied to them saying that we ‘The Project’ will support them wherever possible.
They then concluded with 2 plans, to renovate the old water system to a higher standard, and to create new system to supply the school. The next step is to take this forward and do more detailed plans and surveys.