Number 5, January 2018
Dear friends and sponsors,
Having just returned from my usual October visit to Nepal, and with the year end just passed, it seems like a fitting time for a review of last year; what’s happened at The Garden and what’s been achieved by Sansar Nepal. I’ll try to be as concise as possible, as I know everyone is super busy, and I do thank you for taking the time to read this.
Firstly, a huge thank you to all of you who have supported our children and our projects this year. As always, it is entirely thanks to you that we are able to continue to do what we do, and we are extremely grateful.
At the beginning of February 2017, The Garden became the venue for a week-long dental clinic where about 650 children from 6 different schools received dental checks and treatment. For most of them, this was their first visit to a dentist. The team of 9 volunteer dental students from Taiwan worked continuously, supported by The Garden team and friends who provided water, refreshments, supervision and activities for the waiting children. The clinic was made possible by the generous response to our Facebook appeal for donations to cover transportation costs, electricity, food etc.
Sri Bijaya School
Thanks to the generous donation made by Ivy Collegiate School, Taiwan, we are committed to paying the salary of their young English teacher, Srijana Bassnet, whose government sponsorship ran out at the end of the last academic year, for one more year. The school was very happy to be able to retain her, as at local government schools such as this school the tuition is only in Nepali, and the children really need to be able to function in English in order to find work later. Srijana is also teaching and supporting the other teachers who don’t have good English skills.
For the time being, our plans to renovate Roshan’s family home and utilise his land in this village are on hold as we decide where are efforts are most needed at present.
We continue to collect craft materials, books, magazines and toiletries for this residential mental health facility in Kathmandu, which houses more than 90 residents of different ages in cramped conditions and with meagre resources. This year, for the third time, we brought an occupational therapist from the UK to support and train the young social workers and care givers at the house. These month-long volunteer placements have provided support and encouragement to the social workers and care givers, and much needed stimulation and motivation to the residents.
A young English teacher from the USA came out to volunteer with us from June to September this year. Sy was a huge help at the 2 schools he worked at, Sanskar School in Kathmandu and Star Academy in Sindhuli, and was a big hit with teachers and students alike! It was also a life changing experience for Sy. The schools we support are keen to receive and work with volunteer teachers from other countries, to improve their English, and also to learn new teaching methods and ideas. The volunteers also benefit, and experience Nepal in a very special way, learning as they as they teach; a perfect win-win arrangement!
News From The Garden
From oldest to youngest: Roshan, now 26, is a fully licensed paragliding pilot and working for Advance Paragliding in Pokhara. As well as taking tourists on tandem flights and manning the office, he is also training to be a competitive solo pilot, and paragliding instructor.
This as well as continuing to ably manage the affairs of SSN and hold The Garden together, with the solid support of his right hand man, Prakash. Now 22, Prakash is awaiting his final engineering college exam results, after which he will take up his already secured place at Pokhara University campus to begin his degree in Civil Engineering. This amazing opportunity is thanks to his faithful sponsors who have supported him right from the very start, when he joined Himanchal School 12 years ago, without a word of English. How far he has come!
Sarita, now sweet 16 (yes, sweet!), was offered a life–changing experience in April last year in the form of a 3 week holiday in Kuala Lumpur, sponsored by a kind teacher from my former school who visited The Garden at the end of last year, got to know Sarita, and decided to offer her this very special gift. After many trials and tribulations to get her through Nepal passport control (it’s a whole saga!!), she finally made it and had the time of her life, returning to Nepal a more mature and confident version of herself, with a clear vision of her next step in life. She is now in her first year of a 3 year nursing course in Pokhara, living in hostel for the first year. This thanks to her loyal sponsors and the added monthly sponsorship of 3 kind friends who together have made this dream a reality for her.
Sangita, 14, virtually runs the domestic side of the house, helping Dilmaya, our house mother, and Prakash to keep everything ship shape and welcome guests. In her spare time, she enjoys making crafts and sewing, and is exploring her creative side. Binod, also 14, is working hard in class 10 for his School Leaver Certificate. When not studying, he helps Prakash with the gardening and taking care of the animals. Bikash, Binisha and Bandana are doing well, and support the older children in taking care of the garden and animals. They are growing up fast. Bikash is now almost 6 feet tall and no longer the little boy who moved in with us 4 years ago!
Santoshi, whose engineering studies have been sponsored by a friend in Malaysia for the past 3 years, is now entering the final year of her degree course. She visits the house whenever she can and helps Prakash who is one level below her and so she can offer advice and support to help him prepare for the challenges ahead.
Shishir and Shristi, the 2 children from the bakery in Lakeside who we sponsored up to School Leaver Certificate level, both graduated with good grades and are now studying at Plus 2 level at a local college. Their parents are now able to cover their fees, and we are happy to have helped them on their way, again, thanks to a kind sponsor in KL.
Manju is married. This came as a huge shock to all of us. Manju went back to her village last year to help her single mother when she had completed her Plus 2 studies in Management. When I visited her in April before leaving Nepal she was volunteer teaching at the local village school and had plans to apply for teacher training. She assured me she had no plans to marry. About a month later, we found out she had married. She may not have had plans, but her mother apparently did. According to Manju, her mother arranged the marriage without her knowing and she met her future husband only 4 days before the wedding. After the initial shock and disappointment, I tried to keep an open mind and suspend judgment, especially as I received reports from the other children that Manju was happy and that her new family were good people. During my latest visit to Nepal I was invited for dinner by the family and indeed, Manju is happy and radiant! Her husband, Adarsha is deaf, and his parents, middle class Brahmins, are both teachers of the deaf. Manju is now learning sign language. They live in a large new family house on the outskirts of Pokhara, with Adarsha’s parents, brother, sister and grandmother. Manju seems very happy to be part of this loving supportive family, and to enjoy helping her husband. This is the first time she must have felt that she truly belongs somewhere. She has also made her mother happy, which was very important to her, and the family are helping Manju’s mom live a better life. There are plans for the couple to attend a 3 month business course and for them to open a clothes boutique in Pokhara. I believe Manju’s education has been useful this far and will continue to be significant and useful to her in the future. We are grateful to her loyal sponsors for their help over the years, and believe we have served Manju well, although we may have envisaged a different path for her. We wish her continued success and happiness.
We have welcomed a number of wonderful guests to The Garden this year, including Bea Toews on her second visit. Bea supports SSN and The Garden family in numerous ways and we look forward to welcoming her back again next spring for a longer visit. Whilst in Nepal, Bea presented a teacher workshop at Sanskar School, and plans to share her expertise from many years of teaching in international schools with other schools that we support on her return to Nepal next year. Stephen Hall, my ex-husband and now a supportive friend and advocate for SSN, visited for 2 weeks in April, his first but hopefully not last visit to Nepal. He needs to return as he didn’t manage to see the Himalayas in the 2 weeks he was there! 😦
Roshan and our boys have also led a number of treks for friends of friends who have been out to The Garden and have highly recommended them as guides. Although I didn’t meet some of these guests personally, I always hear glowing reports of their experiences of being hosted and taken care of at The Garden by our young people.
We are now 4 and a half years into our 6 year lease on The Garden. Our children are growing up fast, and without any plans to take in more children, it is now time for us to look to the future and to ask ourselves where we go from here. Sansar Nepal and the Garden have met and in many ways surpassed our original hopes and expectations. We could not foresee the earthquakes of 2015, but it was indeed fortuitous that our NGO status and The Garden as our centre of operations enabled us to collect funds and support the Nepalese community in bringing much needed help to numerous villages in the year that followed the disaster. The Garden has brought many people together, young and old, both Nepalese and international guests, many wonderful friendships have been formed and connections made, and children’s lives have been changed. Our lives have been changed.
We already have some ideas and possibilities in mind for the future, and will continue to develop these over the next year. We will do our best to preserve what has been created, whilst moving forward in whatever way best serves the young people we have committed to, as well as our young Nepalese friends who value our support as they strive to bring much needed change to their country.
A final thank you to all who have supported and continue to support SSN and The Garden, be it by sponsorship, donations, volunteering, visiting The Garden, telling others about us or inviting one of our children to visit another country. The support and generosity we have received continues to warm my heart and fill me with gratitude.
A request: we rely on the small income from renting our guest rooms at The Garden to make up some of the shortfall on our running costs. Please do spread the word and encourage anyone who is planning a trip to Nepal to spend some time at The Garden whilst in Pokhara, and to let our boys guide their Annapurna trek.
THANK YOU AND NAMASTE!!