Sansar Nepal Newsletter #4

Number 4, December 2016

Merry Christmas from Nepal

Dear friends and sponsors,

Namaste! Having just returned from my most recent visit to The Garden, it is time for a not-so-brief update – I did want to be brief, but there was so much to share! It’s worth reading, so please bear with it…

Guests

We welcomed a number of amazing guests who contributed to The Garden in very special ways.

Gabriel's puppet show

Rooftop yoga

Guests at the Garden

The first were Jessica, a special needs teacher working in Alaska, and her 11 year old son Jaiden who spent their summer holiday volunteering at The Garden. Although I did not meet them in person, they made a huge impact at The Garden, helping the children in numerous ways, taking them on outings, treating them to delicious foods they had never tried before, and much more. Jessica also trained teachers and worked with classes in a number of local schools and colleges, as well as Sanskar School in Kathmandu, owned by our friend Bimala. Also thanks to Jessica, Roshan was able to pay for his grandmother’s emergency hospitalisation during her visit. We are truly blessed to have such caring guests.

Then came Phillip, originally from Germany, a young photographer friend who stayed at The Garden for several days and did the Annapurna Circuit trek with Jyendra, the husband of our house mother. Phillip then went on to assist in a school building project in one of the remote earthquake stricken villages. We hope he will be back to stay for longer at The Garden and share some of his photography skills.

Fern was next – a young, newly-qualified yoga teacher from the UK whom I had met earlier in the year. She joined me in Kathmandu at the beginning of October and spent 4 weeks with us. She led our children in rooftop yoga each morning and spent time talking and listening to the children, sharing her experiences and wisdom. During her time at The Garden, she became big sister to all the kids. Her mum Kim also spent a few days with us, and we were all sorry to see them leave to continue their Nepal adventures, joining a trekking party before returning to their home in Qatar, where they were kind enough to organise a much appreciated fund raising event for us.

At the beginning of November Julia, from Germany/Bali arrived, another recently-qualified yoga teacher, who continued where Fern left off, leading morning rooftop yoga with our Nepali yogis-to-be! She gave freely of her time and energy, and contributed in many ways, including vastly improving my rudimentary Sansar Nepal slide presentation….so grateful. Here it is…

Shortly after, Gabriel, from the US/Belgium, arrived at The Garden and immediately got involved doing what he does best; he set up a tool shed and taught the kids how to sharpen and use the tools; he oiled our creaking doors, fixed leaking taps, mended pipes, dug the garden, planted vegetables, introduced the kids to “boules”…oh, and in his spare time, presented his original puppet theatre to The Garden children and their friends, and again to the children of Sri Bijaya Primary School in Roshan’s village. The shows were a huge success – nobody had ever seen anything like them, and even the workmen next door stopped what they were doing to watch! We are very grateful for his help with replacement water tanks, and other essential items for the house.

We had the pleasure of Siobhan, an occupational therapist from the UK who took a well earned break from her volunteer work with Amrita Foundation, the psychiatric residential home in Kathmandu which we support, and stayed with us at The Garden for a few days.

In November we were delighted to host another visit from 4 of the Psychbigyaan team. They did some follow-up workshops with class 10 students at Himanchal School, as well as for several schools outside Pokhara supported by Rene Voss and Maya Foundation, Holland. They always impress us with their commitment to helping the young people of their country, and give hope for the future.

I would also like to recognise and thank Stephen Hall, from UK/Germany, who was planning to visit The Garden this year, but was unable to make it; he still kindly sent us a donation which was greatly appreciated. We hope to receive him and his children at The Garden next year.

The Children

GardeningOur 8 resident “children” now range in age from 5 to 21! From top down, Prakash is in his 3rd year of a 3 year civil engineering course. He is a hard worker and his results are consistently good. He takes care of the garden and stands in for Roshan as house manager, when needed.

Manju, who recently completed her “plus 2” management studies course with good results, has temporarily returned to her village to help and spend time with her single mother, who struggles to support herself and Manju’s younger brother. As she is still young, we feel it is good for her to spend some time with her family, having lived with her uncle from the age of 2 until coming to The Garden. We hope she will return, ready to resume her studies and embark on some work experience in the near future.

Sarita, in class 10, is studying hard for her School Leaver’s Certificate. As a day boarder, she attends school each day from 7am to 7pm! Sarita loves music, and has learned new songs to sing from Julia. She is growing in confidence. She is joined as a day boarder by Shishir who has come to live at The Garden for his final year of school.

Sangita and Binod are both in middle school. They work and play hard! Both have huge smiles and a willingness to help with whatever needs doing around the house.

Bikas, also in middle school, is growing up into a serious young man. He and his little sisters, Binisha and Bandana, help with the chores, and enjoy playing badminton, table tennis and “boules” with the other kids.

Sparky the house dog is also working hard guarding the house, and making sure all the other dogs in the neighbourhood know who is boss!

Projects

New Star Academy School, Sindhuli

LunchAt the beginning of October, Fern and I visited New Star Academy School in the province of Sindhuli, a 6 hour drive east of Kathmandu. I was requested to visit by Pratap Sewa, a former guard at Mont Kiara International School, KL, who was looking for international teachers to come and volunteer at the school. The community school opened this year, financed by a founding committee of 12 sponsors from the village. Its purpose is to provide an education in English for the poorest children in this remote community. After meeting the founders, staff and children, we were invited to spend the night at Pratap’s home. Pratap had just returned from a two-and-a-half year stint working as a security guard in Kuala Lumpur (like so many young Nepalese men). We witnessed him reconnecting with his 3-year-old son, who obviously did not recognise him, and meeting his baby daughter for the first time. As we were the first white people that many of the villagers had ever seen, we received a stream of visitors to the house, to check out the “bedawis” (foreigners)!

We are now looking for volunteer teachers to spend a couple of weeks at the school to help with English and teacher training.

The school currently goes from nursery to class 2. We can guarantee they will be treated like royalty!

Earthquake Relief

Sri Bijaya Primary School

This is the village school started by Roshan’s grandfather, 43 years ago, which Roshan and his siblings attended for the first few years of their education. In a recent visit, we discovered that the original building was damaged in the 2015 earthquake, and the 4 classrooms can no longer be used. Unfortunately, as it is a government run school, Sansar Nepal cannot get involved in the repair/renovation of the building. Sadly, it is unlikely that it will be repaired. Because of the connection with Roshan and his family and as part of our Full Circle project, we would like to offer our support to this school. When asked where they needed help the most, 2 issues were raised:

  • A midday snack for the 30 children. The school’s meagre budget does not cover a midday snack for the 30 pupils who do not eat anything from 9.30 am to 4 pm unless a snack is provided. Teachers have been taking turns to buy a handful of beaten rice for each child so that they do not go hungry. One of our guests has kindly agreed to sponsor the daily snack until the end of the school year in March, but thereafter, we have proposed that the school should use a piece of community owned land near the school to grow vegetables and keep chickens, so that the children can eat a nourishing meal in the middle of the day. The teachers, children and their families, will be responsible for producing their own food, as we want to encourage sustainability and independence.
  • Retaining their English teacher for a further year. The salary of the school’s English teacher has been paid for the past 3 years by former resident of the village, who now lives in the US, but he is unable to continue this. The teacher is currently receiving a small salary scraped together from the school budget and the other teachers’ salaries. Thanks to a donation by Ivy Collegiate School, Taiwan, we are planning to pay the salary of the English teacher for one more year, at a total cost of 1,300 USD, and will monitor her performance. We hope to be able to send international volunteer teachers to work with her and the other teachers, some of whom speak English, to improve the quality of their instruction, develop teaching materials etc. Three of the subjects are taught in English currently.

Please let me know if you would be interested in volunteering.

We also noted that the children are in need of warm clothing for winter and plan to use some of our remaining earthquake monies to buy each of the 30 children a school a warm sweater, tights/socks and shoes.

Full Circle Project

We are still planning to renovate and use in some way the abandoned family home and land of Roshan and his siblings. We have already planted coffee, lemon, avocado, guava and other fruit trees as the first step. The children go up to the house periodically to take care of the trees. Whilst we still plan to build some kind of overnight accommodation for visiting groups and trekkers, the old house might be used as a kind of visitor centre, the starting point for living history tours of the village. As we are still trying to consolidate our financial situation to run The Garden, any further development in the village is currently on hold.

Successes and Thank Yous

The GardenSansar Nepal and The Garden have now been operating for 3 years. We have come a long way! Taking on a house of this size and feeding 10 mouths was not a small undertaking, but thanks to our faithful sponsors and donations from friends and guests, which have kept us afloat, we are still here, and the Garden is growing into an ever more beautiful place, full of happy, healthy children. We are not out of the woods yet: making ends meet each month is an ongoing challenge, but we are still here and extend our gratitude to all who have helped us to get as far as we have today.

Thanks to our regular sponsors, this year Manju has graduated at college level with good results, Shristhi, a non-resident, sponsored child, has achieved her School Leaver’s Certificate with grade A, Prakash is able to continue his civil engineering college course, now in his third year, and Santoshi, another non-resident, is now completing her second year of a degree course in electrical engineering at Pokhara University. And the rest of our children are all in school.

Thanks go to our friend, Malia, who sponsored Sabu, an art and music teacher for the children for the year. They learned a lot and had fun!

We would also like to recognise and thank our sponsors who faithfully send us a monthly contribution to assist with our rent; without them, we could truly not do what we do. They are helping all of our children and providing the foundation from which we can also reach out to others.

In October a group came out from Kuala Lumpur for a Taste of Nepal tour and trek, and brought with them donations for The Garden, school supplies and t-shirts which were passed to New Star Academy, and magazines and toiletries which we delivered to Amrita Foundation in Kathmandu. We thank them all for this.

Thanks go to all of our guests throughout the year for so generously giving their time and energy to help our children and projects as well as continuing to support us when they return home. We are very grateful. I would personally like to thank the Sansar Nepal team for their efforts and support; Roshan, who faithfully and efficiently runs our organisation, doing his best to make the money go round and keep the children’s bellies full! Soma in Kuala Lumpur who spends endless hours trying to balance our books and make sure Roshan gets the money he needs each month to do his job. And Dave and Mandy in London, who, whilst working in demanding full time jobs, still manage to fit in early morning Skype meetings, update the website and collect money from friends and family to send each month. They have been on board since 2004 and there would be no Sansar Nepal without their support.

Help Still Needed

As I’ve already said, we are still struggling to cover our monthly running costs, so this is the main area where we need to appeal for help:

  1. A small monthly donation of 10, 20, 30, 40 USD (or any amount you can manage) would help us immensely. For example, if we can find 20 people to pledge only 25 USD per month, we will be able to cover our costs!
  2. Three of our resident children are still in need of a care sponsor; if we can find 3 sponsors at 840 USD per year (70 USD per month) we will have more money available for food and utilities.

If you can help with any of these, or know somebody who can, please do get in touch.

We wish all our friends and sponsors a very happy Christmas and New Year, and hope to see you (again) at The Garden soon!

With love,
Michelle