Sansar Nepal Newsletter #6

Number 6, July 2018

Dear friends and sponsors,

Hope you are all well.

I was in Nepal for 7 weeks until the end of April, and just wanted to give you a brief update prior to the more detailed newsletter which I will send out when things have crystallised, as we are currently in a process of change.

Firstly, thank you so much for your financial support; children’s sponsorship, general monthly contributions, and one-off donations all come together to help us to carry on doing what we do, and we certainly could not do it without you.

All our kids are doing well; Prakash is in his first year of engineering at Pokhara University, Sarita in her first year of nursing, Sangita still at school, and Binod finished class 10 this year and passed his School Leavers’ Certificate. He is now planning to study science for the next 2 years at Little Step College in Pokhara. The 3 younger ones, Bandana, Binisha and Bikash, the children of Dilamya our housemother, are also in school and growing up in the house, speaking good English, and learning new skills all the time. Roshan continues to hold it all together and wear many hats! He has just completed an intensive certification course in Pokhara to become a fully qualified trekking guide. This will really be the icing on the cake for him, as he is already a wonderful guide and his services in great demand!

We had lots of guests in April and May whilst I was there. A patchwork quilter from Australia, Claire Grey, was one of the guests. She and her travel companion, Bernadette Kelly, helped us to set up a sewing room at the house, and we invited 7 teenage girls from Namaste Children’s Home in Pokhara to learn to sew and quilt on an intensive six-day course. They are still coming to the house on a weekly basis to sew and we are hoping to sell what they have produced at Christmas markets. Julie Holt, a quilter and basket weaver from Australia, is planning to come out in October to teach more advanced skills to the girls, and we also hope to extend the teaching to a group of Dalit (low caste) women who can already sew, to offer them the chance to increase their income by producing high quality fabric crafts for the international market.

We have 2 new additions to the SSN team; Bea Toews, a retired teacher and good friend of mine from Australia, who has been coming to the house for 4 years now, and a young woman from the Netherlands / Malaysia, Michelle Djekic, the daughter of a friend of mine, who just spent 3 months at the house. They are both committed to SSN, to help us to improve and extend what we offer, and to become more self-sufficient and transparent. We feel that as a young man with obligations and interests of his own, it is time that Roshan has the opportunity to earn a salary as well as head the SSN team and take care of the house and children, so we are looking into ways in which this might be possible. Generally it is an exciting time and with the new team members on board, I think it will really take us to a different level, where we can support many more young people and women in need.

We are currently trying to streamline the finances so we don’t lose so much money on transfer fees and exchange rates, and are going through a process of transition. We are grateful to Soma Mahesan who, since the setting up of SSN in 2012, worked closely with Roshan on the finances and kept us afloat. He was also instrumental in the setting up of SSN and played a big role during the earthquake. We now feel that it is time that Roshan stepped up fully into his role as head of SSN, and henceforth, with some assistance from Bea, he will keep all accounts. Dave continues to manage our website, and both he and Mandy are assisting with the changes we are initiating. They are planning a visit to The Garden at the end of the year. We are indeed fortunate to have such a committed and international team!

You are, of course, always welcome to come and visit The Garden and be part of what we do, or just come for a holiday; combine some restful time at The Garden with a trek perhaps, and some sightseeing. Nepal is still a very special place even with the inevitable development and changes, and The Garden is truly a lovely place to chill out. Our six-year lease expires next April, and in October we will find out if we will be able to renew it or have to look for a new place. Do please keep your fingers crossed that we can stay.

Finally, let me once again express my sincere gratitude, on behalf of the SSN team and all the children and young people we help, for continuing to trust us with your generous donations.

THANK YOU AND NAMASTE!!

Michelle

Bernie and Claire in the new sewing room

All ready for the class

Prakash, hard at work, as always!

Celebrating International Women’s Day. From left: at back Sangita, Michelle D., Dilmaya, Michelle B., Garima, at front Bandana, Binisha

It’s a dog’s life! Happy house dog, Sparky

Roshan (on the right) at Guide Training Camp, Pokhara, also celebrating World Environment Day

Important lessons for the guides

Visit with Sita and Tikaram (centre), the parents of Roshan, Prakash, Sarita and Sangita

Nurse Sarita

Sansar Nepal Newsletter #5

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.

Dental Clinic

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.

Amrita Foundation

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.

Sy Amini

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.

Guests

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.

Future Plans

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!!

Michelle

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

Sansar Nepal Newsletter #3

Number 3, April 2016

Dear friends and sponsors,

Unbelievably it is almost one full year since the first devastating earthquake struck on 25th April last year and definitely time to do some stock taking! Please bear with me as I try to summarise all that has happened at The Garden since February 2015…

Before the Earthquake

All was well at The Garden when I arrived at the house in February of last year with Mike on his third visit from the UK, accompanied by rock climbing friend Micky on his first. Poor Micky got sick almost immediately and was confined to his room with severe bronchitis, but managed to recover to join Mike, Roshan and I on a wonderful 6 day trek in the Annapurna region. Towards the end of February, Soma arrived and used his engineering expertise to install internet throughout the house and upgrade our electricity and water systems, even getting the waterfall in the garden functioning!

At the end of March, I travelled back to Kathmandu to meet Jill and Jacson Lowe Hyatt, international school teachers working in Kuala Lumpur, and their two sons Ethan and Jarrod, who flew out for a 10 day Nepal experience. They turned out to be just about the last tourists to see the temples of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan in all their glory. We were all thrilled to welcome them at The Garden for three days and to see their children bond with ours – nationality, race and language proving to be no barrier whatsoever. We then headed back to Kathmandu with Manju as assistant tour guide, via Bandipur and Chitwan, where we were joined by my daughters Lucy and Charlotte, Lucy’s partner, and my grandson Leo. Although we weren’t fortunate enough to see a Bengal tiger this time, we did see rhinos, elephants, deer and abundant bird life.

The Earthquakes

I was at the Garden with Roshan and the children when the first earthquake struck. It took a few seconds for us all to realise what was happening, but when we did, everyone rushed to the garden and stood on the shaking earth for two long minutes, wondering what would come next…

We found out subsequently that it was 7.8 magnitude, and that there had been much damage radiating from the epicentre north of Gorkha, midway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. We also knew that my daughter, Lucy, on her way back to Kathmandu by bus, would have been just about due south of the epicentre right at the time it occurred. It was 12 hours before we finally heard that she was safe as well as her partner, Jesse, who was waiting for her in Kathmandu. They ended up in an emergency camp for four days before being flown out to Delhi. The after shocks continued daily, and two weeks later another 7.3 quake struck, creating yet more devastation and loss of life (more than 9,000 people died). I was in Kathmandu at this time, about to return to Malaysia. Surrounded by old, swaying buildings this time, I was given a taste of the terror felt by the victims in the city and outlying villages.

Sansar Nepal’s Response

lila_ktm_hospitalWithin two days of the first earthquake, Roshan had left for Kathmandu with a friend to deliver tents to some of the victims in the worst hit areas, after which he spent several days volunteering as a porter and translator at an Israeli field hospital in Kathmandu. Unfortunately another large earthquake followed the first one two weeks later, wreaking more havoc, and the after shocks continued for several months. During this harrowing time, the Sansar Nepal team worked with local groups and individuals to bring relief supplies of food, clothing and shelter to some of the worst hit villages. Thanks to donations that came in from all over the world, we were able to assist more than 7,000 people in 26 villages. Our children and young people at The Garden all played a part in the relief effort, packing supplies and joining the grueling expeditions up to remote villages to distribute them. Later we supplied mosquito nets and zinc roofing sheets for temporary shelters and school rooms to help villages to prepare for the onset of the monsoon months. As winter approached, we launched a Warmth for Winter appeal and again, thanks to the overwhelming response, were able to provide warm clothing, shoes and blankets for 500+ children, old and sick people in 10 different communities. We were lucky enough to have Soma, one of our team, in Nepal at the time of the earthquakes and were grateful for his organisational skills and dedication. He came out again in November and, with Mandy and the Garden kids, continued the work of distributing relief aid in the villages.

More Challenges

During the months following the earthquakes, we met many impressive young Nepalese people who responded quickly and effectively to the crisis, not waiting for the government and international aid to reach the villages. They were the ones who managed to get essential aid through to the victims when it was most needed in the weeks immediately following the earthquake. It was with these proactive young people that Sansar Nepal joined forces.

If the earthquakes were not enough, the signing of the new Nepalese constitution on 20th September 2015 led to civil unrest in the South, and the main Indian border was virtually closed for the next six months, leading to widespread shortages of petrol, cooking gas, food, medical supplies and other essentials. The fuel shortages severely hampered the earthquake relief efforts and, as is usually the case, the poorest of the poor were the ones who suffered the most.

Outreach: Amrita Foundation and Psychbigyaan

amrita_vistorsIn October, Mandy, our Sansar team member from the UK, who is a newly-qualified occupational therapist, came out to Nepal for almost three months with another OT, Carla. Together they volunteered at a mental health facility in Kathmandu, called Amrita Foundation, initiating new therapy programmes and training young volunteers to continue the work after they left. Sansar Nepal is continuing to support Amrita by finding sponsorship for materials and resources to enhance the lives of the residents. Lakshmi, a friend from Malaysia, and her sister and brother visited in March, and bought guitars, flutes and tambourines for the facility. We subsequently enjoyed a song and dance session with the residents and staff, followed by an afternoon tea also provided by the visitors.

Through Amrita we met three inspirational young Nepalese psychology graduates, Kripa, Sujan and Ashish, who have set up an NGO called Psychbigyaan. Its mission is to raise awareness of mental health issues, especially in young people. In February of this year we invited them to The Garden for 5 days and arranged workshops for them at two local schools with high school students and teachers. The workshops were very successful; the students greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss their issues in a safe environment. For most it was the first time they had been really listened to. We hope to arrange some full day workshops in October, as the need is clearly great.

Visitors

mike_binodIn October we were lucky enough to have Dawnell Albers, and interior designer from the US, come to stay at The Garden. Initially here for only a month, she stayed on at The Garden for 3 months in all, spending Christmas at the house. She was joined by Katia, an art teacher currently living in KL and Ania, an English teacher living in Kuwait, and who also spent Christmas at The Garden. Dawnell finished off the furnishing and decoration of our lounge, and was invaluable in receiving guests and assisting the children after I left Nepal towards the end of November. She has since found a small apartment not far from the house and continues to work with and for us until her visa expires at the end of May, making many valuable connections and supporting our projects in numerous ways.

When I returned to Nepal in February of this year, I was joined by Brenda, a teacher trainer from the UK living in KL who taught some primary classes at Himanchal School. A few days later we were joined by Mike for the forth time! The kids love having him around and again got to go rock climbing with him during his visit. We are trying to persuade him to stay for longer next year.

GIN Conference, Bali

In March, Roshan and I attended the 2016 GIN (Global Issues Network) conference for international schools in S.E. Asia, hosted by Bali Island School, and we presented workshops to teachers and students about the work of Sansar Nepal. We made some valuable contacts and it was all in all a wonderful opportunity for both of us. We were also lucky enough to be in Ubud for Nyepi, the Balinese New Year festival, which was a very special experience. Following the conference, Roshan spent two weeks in Kuala Lumpur before returning to Nepal. He was hosted and entertained by various friends and former visitors to the Garden who made sure he left with some exceptional memories. He also shared the Sansar Nepal story with primary and secondary school students at two international schools in KL, and was apparently a huge success!

More Visitors!

poon_hillSince returning from Bali, we have had many visitors at the house; it is wonderful that tourists and volunteers are now returning and Lakeside is almost back to it’s former lively self; let’s hope that the bad times are now at an end and Nepal can move forward in positive ways!

Rene Voss of Maya Foundation has been a regular house guest in between assignments over the past 3 months, and it has been pleasure to have him as part of our family. We have also had several other Dutch visitors come to stay, though our connection with Rene. Sheldon from Wales, who built our deluxe chicken house last year, made a surprise return to The Garden a few weeks ago, and we have also had short visits from John, (New Zealand), Toni (USA), Kelly (Australia), and another short return visit from Katia  We now have Amit (Canada) staying for the next few weeks, who plans to do art and crafts with the children. Each of our visitors contributes something unique by their presence at The Garden, and our children remember each of them fondly.

Post-Earthquake Projects

Many NGO’s and groups are now involved in the rebuilding of schools and public buildings in the villages. Although there is much need in terms of rebuilding, the amounts of capital required for such projects are beyond the means of a small NGO such as ours, and our efforts and our resources will be put to use elsewhere. We are however open to supporting a rebuilding project should it be initiated and led by a group of committed young Nepalese, in keeping with our mission.

Full Circle Project

In the meantime, we are embarking on a new outreach project to renovate the house where Roshan and his siblings were born, and convert it to a trekking lodge and campsite. For more information, see the separate article. For this project we are working with some of the young Nepalese change agents who we have met since the earthquake. We have a mixed team of Nepalese and international volunteers, all sharing our skills and passions to create something of lasting value for Roshan and his family, the village community and the visitors it will serve in the future.

The Garden Family

studiesOur resident children are all doing well. The six youngest finished their end of year exams a week ago and are now enjoying a well deserved rest. Manju is nearing the end of her 2 year management course and has to make decisions about the future. She is interested in accountancy. Prakash is finishing his second year of a three year civil engineering course, working hard and doing well. Roshan’s new passion is paragliding; we are happy he has found something he loves to do when he is not looking after the house, the kids and the NGO! Binod is now off on a trekking adventure with Lila and two of our guests, whilst Sarita is visiting our team member, Nisha, in Kathmandu for a few days. Dilmaya and her children have returned to their village for a week to rebuild a family home destroyed in the earthquake. Since November everyone has been having art and music lessons at the house every Saturday with Sabu, an inspiring young local teacher, who is passionate about recycling and protecting the environment. His art projects and music reflect this, and he is a great role model for our kids.

They are all growing up, finding new interests, developing new skills, and spreading their wings; it’s a joy to watch!

Giving Back

Although our children at The Garden do realise how fortunate they are and fully appreciate the wonderful opportunities they receive, we feel that it is very important that they share what they have learned with others who are less fortunate. Next week, before they return to school, we plan to visit a daycare centre for mentally handicapped children, play games and do activities with the children there. This will also be a good experience for my 7 year old grandson, Leo, here on a learning holiday for the next 4 weeks.

New Additions

sparkyOur Garden family is growing. Last year we welcomed Santoshi, a young engineering student, who lives close by, and Sanjay, who has joined class 7 at Himanchal School, into our extended family. We were able to find sponsors to help them with their education, as we have done for Shishir and Shristhi, whose parents run a small bakery in Lakeside. Their education has been sponsored though us for the past 5 years. Shishir has just finished class 9, and his sister is currently taking her final SLC exams at the end of class 10.

Baldo, a Belgian/Israeli retiree who lives next door to us, has joined the team, documenting our activities and acting as an invaluable computer technician and IT trouble shooter for us.

Our newest family member is Sparky the dog – he was abandoned, injured, in Kathmandu and nursed back to health by a kind volunteer. Another volunteer brought Sparky on the bus to Pokhara. In spite of the chewed slippers, we love him to bits!!

More Outreach: Supporting Teachers

Through the workshops we organised at Himanchal School for the Psychbigyaan team, we have got to know Prakash, the head English teacher there. He is keen to further improve his English and also to explore new ways of teaching. He is frustrated by the lack of resources and support at his school. He wants to explore new ways of doing things and see change in the current education system, which is typically teacher-centred, text-book-based and geared to passing exams through rote learning. He has visited The Garden several times to use our resources, and recently brought five like-minded colleagues with him to meet with me and to discuss how we might support them at The Garden. It was agreed that they will come to The Garden whenever they wish to use our WiFi and borrow materials from the library. As teachers of different subjects never get the opportunity to meet other teachers of the same subjects and levels from other schools, we plan to host periodic meetings at The Garden for teachers of the same subject from the six English medium schools in the neighbourhood. We will also try to find a teaching partner from the same subject area in an international school for any Nepalese teacher interested, so that they can exchange ideas, share lesson plans, and perhaps provide some materials

How You Can Help

Our guests at The Garden provide a source of funding to supplement the running of the house and our projects, along with the individual sponsorship and regular small monthly contributions we receive. However, this is only for a few short months of the year, in spring and autumn, when people typically like to visit Nepal, and when I am at The Garden to receive them. During the other months of the year, we are struggling to cover our running costs; the initial sponsorship for half of the monthly house rent which was provided by a friend for the first two years of Sansar Nepal, expired about 6 months ago. Neither do we have a budget as yet for our outreach activities; Mandy and Carla covered the costs of their expenses at Amrita Foundation themselves, and Mandy personally funded the Psychbigyaan visit to The Garden.

Although we still have some funds from the earthquake appeals, we are holding on to these until a suitable earthquake-related project materialises.

We therefore need some extra funding to help us to cover our running costs, sustain our present projects and extend our outreach efforts to provide education for children in need and support young Nepalese change makers.

This is how you can help:

  1. Make a regular monthly donation towards our running costs. We are looking for about USD 300 extra per month to cover our basic running costs: a pledge of just USD 20 (the price of a glass of wine a week!), USD 30, USD 40 or USD 50 per month would help us enormously.
  2. Make a regular monthly donation towards one of our outreach projects. eg. Amrita, Psychbigyaan, Local Teacher Support.
  3. Sponsor one of our children: we are still looking for care sponsors for Binod, Bikash and Bandana, and an educational sponsorship for one of the children above. Care sponsorship costs USD 830 per year per child, and education costs USD 820. This can be paid for in installments, or can be a partial sponsorship for a fraction of the total. There are many other needy children we would like to help locally once we have covered our own expenses.
  4. Sponsor Sparky! We estimate it will cost us approximately USD 30 per month for his food and vet’s bills as necessary. He really is a great addition to our family, he needed a good home, and we feel it is important to teach our children the responsibility of taking care of a pet.
  5. Organise a fundraiser for us; a sponsored walk, a quiz night etc.
  6. Spread the word about what we are doing and direct people to our website at www.sansarnepal.org.
  7. Invite Michelle, Lila, Mandy or Dave to speak about Sansar Nepal and The Garden. Since the Bali conference, we have a ready-made presentation we can share!

Please donate through our website stating which area you would like to sponsor, or contact Michelle, Mandy or Dave, for more information on sponsoring a child.

Thank You

Nothing that we have created or accomplished could have been done without all the sponsorship and generous donations that we have received since the beginning of this dream almost three years ago. Your ongoing support has enabled us to:

  • provide an education and a stable and loving home for our eight resident children;
  • provide an education and home base for other children and young people in need of support and guidance;
  • bring relief to numerous victims of the earthquakes;
  • support young Nepalese change agents in their efforts to improve not only themselves, but their society and the world we all live in.

With your help, we can do even more.

A huge THANK YOU from Michelle, the Garden Family, and the whole Sansar Nepal team!

Namaste!

A New Village Outreach Project

New Directions For Sansar Nepal

As we move beyond earthquake relief work into our next phase of outreach, the SSN team have considered and discussed how we may continue to help some of the earthquake stricken villages, whilst still supporting the young change agents who we met during the earthquake relief effort work and after. We have looked into the options of helping with the rebuilding of village schools, or sponsoring the education of earthquake orphans.

However, there are certain factors which have led us to focus our attention in a different direction

  • We do not have an existing close relationship with any particular village as our own children’s family villages were not significantly affected by the earthquake.
  • The worst hit villages are a considerable distance from Pokhara and would be very difficult to access during an ongoing building project.
  • We have not been approached by any specific community with urgent needs since the relief effort and our Warmth for Winter appeal.

Looking closer to home, an idea has germinated which has the potential to benefit many, and to be a vehicle for real change, bringing together people from different backgrounds for a common purpose. It is an exciting new departure for us and although it is early days, this collaborative vision is already taking shape.

A Family Affair

Roshan and his four siblings, three of whom live with us at The Garden (the oldest is now married and lives in Kathmandu), were born in the small village of Dhabo in the district of Kaskikot, where their grandfather founded the government-run village school, Sri Bijaya Primary School. All five children attended this school for the first few years of their education. Their father, Tikaram, built a small house for the family where he and his wife Sitha continued to live after their children left, initially to live with Tikaram’s brother and family nearer to Pokhara, so that they could have a better education, eventually coming to live with us at The Garden.

Unfortunately, Tikaram’s health failed several years ago and he is unable to work. Although the couple no longer have the burden of feeding and educating their five children, in order to survive themselves, they were forced to leave their family home and village in order to move closer to the tourist centre of Pokhara so that Sitha could get a job as a cleaner in a hotel. They were able to find a place to stay rent free in return for farming the land and taking care of the property, the burden of which falls mainly on Sitha.

The Present Situation

The family home in Dhabo now stands empty and is sadly disintegrating. The family land, which one day will belong to Roshan and his siblings, is overgrown and unused. At the same time, other houses stand empty, as young people have left to find work in Pokhara or Kathmandu. The school has only 25 primary-aged children who come from six different villages in the district. Yet it is an idyllic spot and holds many happy memories for Roshan. He and his family are well-known and well respected in the village, which is still home to many family relatives and friends.

The Village

Dhabo can be easily reached from Pokhara, either by road (a new section was recently completed which runs right past the family house!), or by a pleasant day’s trek up the valley and into the hills, where Dhabo commands stunning views of the river valley and distant mountains. It is another day’s trek to Nayapul, which is at the start of several well- known Himalayan treks to Poon Hill and Annapurna Base Camp. The small family home is built in the traditional village style with stone walls, wooden beams, two storeys and a slate roof. Below it are grassy terraces. Electricity already reaches the house and fresh, safe drinking water from mountain streams is close by.

Our Vision

The idea of restoring and converting the house into a trekking lodge with camping facilities first arose several years ago. However, the forming of Sansar Nepal and setting up of The Garden took precedence at the time. Now, two-and-a-half years down the line, we are in a better position to consider such a proposal and have many more contacts and connections!

A Trekking Lodge and Campsite

To convert the house into a simple trekking lodge, we will need to repair the walls, re-roof, re-wire and possibly extend the original structure to include a simple kitchen, toilet and shower. The downstairs room will serve as a meeting room/dining room for wet weather, whilst the upper level will provide a dormitory style sleeping space. The aim is to use only local materials and cutting-edge eco-design in order to create a model of simple but comfortable, aesthetic village housing. The surrounding terraces can be used for growing organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants, as well as for camping spaces, fire pit and meeting area. At a later stage, more of the surrounding rice terraces might be purchased or leased to create meeting and camping areas, including a yurt or something similar to accommodate larger groups. We envisage guests from The Garden, as well as other visitors to Pokhara, enjoying an authentic “village experience”, perhaps as a two-day-one-night trip, or an overnight stay either at the beginning or end of one of the longer Annapurna treks.

Education and Training

The lodge and campsite will also be used for educational purposes; we see groups of international students partnered with Nepalese students of the same age from Pokhara or city schools learning together the disappearing skills of growing food and living in harmony with nature. We also envisage older members of the village teaching the ancient but disappearing arts of basket making, weaving, wood carving, butter churning etc. to the younger generation, to prevent such skills from dying out, which is a concern repeatedly expressed by our young organic gardener and artisan friend, Garima. Our young Nepalese change agents, working with other young international partners, might introduce new knowledge and skills into the village, such as new crops to cultivate, cheese making, new handicrafts, and so on, as a way for families to earn more more money. We also see ourselves supporting the village school, bringing in both Nepalese and international volunteers to teach English, improving facilities, and offering the children more opportunities for learning, experiencing and broadening their horizons. We may also provide educational/vocational sponsorship for young village residents.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

The facility could also be used as a retreat centre for overburdened teachers or at-risk young people, where mental health and wellbeing training could be given, possibly in partnership with Psychbigyaan and Amrita Foundation. We also have a dream of welcoming the physically disabled to enjoy a specially designed outdoor adventure under the care of our trained partners, maybe embarking on treks from the lodge on horseback.

The Gautam Family

Roshan sees his mother and father, Sitha and Tikaram, taking on new roles, perhaps as caretakers of the lodge, with a smaller new home for both of them built nearby, where they can spend time with Roshan and the other children on their own land. With part of the revenue, Sitha can give up her cleaning job and help with the running of the lodge. Roshan and his siblings will have a legacy and the opportunity of paying something back to their parents, but also to the village of their birth.

The Dream Team

Paolo Coehllo says that, “When we find our true purpose, the whole universe conspires to help us on the way.”

It so happens that we have a ready-made team here in Pokhara (or soon to come) to begin the work; Micky (builder and contractor), Mike (electrical engineer) assisted by Santoshi (electrical engineering student sponsored by SSN), Dawnell (architect and interior designer), Baldo (our neighbour, photographer and computer specialist), our own Prakash (civil engineering student), Mandy (occupational therapist), Dave (website administrator), Garima (organic gardener), Michelle (educator), and most importantly our leader and key player, Roshan (diplomat, communicator, go-between and man of many trades!!).

The Win-Win Factor

Apart from those listed above, we also anticipate the following benefits:

  • Part of the profits from the lodge and campsite can be used by SSN to support further outreach projects promoting education and change.
  • Employment of local people to work for and with us, teaching and learning new skills.
  • Bringing new life and energy into the village, leading perhaps to the opening of more tea shops, another general store, a craft shop, home stays…

Join Us!!!

We believe that this vision will become reality. It is the right thing to do, coming from the right place, all the conditions are right and the right people will be drawn to join us! With our help, Roshan and his siblings can continue the work begun by their grandfather, so many years ago, and so bring it Full Circle!

If you would like to be a part of our vision, please let us know how you might contribute. Fund-raising is an obvious area, but if you can think of any other ways in which you could support this exciting project, we would love to hear!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has!” Margaret Mead.

Supporting Young Agents of Change in Nepal

It was part of the original mission of Sansar Nepal to identify and work with Nepalese people wishing to initiate change in their society/country, and, during the earthquake and its aftermath, it became even clearer to us that there are many, especially young, agents of change at large in Nepal, who need and deserve our support.

Apart from our own homegrown examples of Roshan and his brother Prakash, who particularly distinguished themselves during the earthquake, we were impressed by our new SSN board member based in Kathmandu, Nisha Rai. Nisha worked on behalf of SSN with Uten Lama, a young hotel receptionist, and project coordinator for education and food, for a tent community on the outskirts of Kathmandu, whose village had been completely destroyed. We were put in touch with Uten by her sister who is studying in Malaysia. The two sisters, supported by other Malaysian students who raised money, coordinated efforts with SSN to provide food, warm clothing and shelter for this community in need.

Some other outstanding examples of young inspirational agents of change are the Psychbigyaan Network Nepal, a group of young psychology graduates based in Kathmandu, who have formed their own NGO to raise awareness about mental health and to remove the stigma which causes those suffering from mental health issues to be marginalised in their families and communities in Nepal. Recently three of their members, Kripa Sigdel (Psychbigyaan’s founder), Sujan Shrestha (president) and Ashish Kafle, spent five days in Pokhara hosted by Sansar Nepal at The Garden. They had the opportunity to pilot the three-hour workshop programme that they have created to promote physical, emotional and mental health in schools, especially for students in classes 8 and 9, who are going through puberty as well as coping with the stress of schoolwork and pressures from parents and peers. After careful planning and preparation with Sansar team members, they presented their first three-hour student workshop to class 8, 9 and 10 students at Gyankunj Secondary School, one of the two schools attended by The Garden children. Teachers were requested not to attend so that the students would not be afraid to share their true thoughts and feelings with the Psychbigyaan team. Although the team had previously been concerned that they might not be able to engage the students for a full three hours without a break, they had the full attention of all participants and the feedback was enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive. It is clearly something that is much needed. The following day, the same workshop was presented to a huge group of 60 class 8 and 9 students at Himanchal School, which included two of the Garden children. The response was the same. Feedback included remarks that this was the first time anybody had addressed such issues with them and how happy this made them feel! The final workshop was for teachers. Although the response was positive, the one hour allotted was not long enough to address the many concerns or for the discussion necessary to change mindsets or alter behaviour. Nepalese teachers receive no training in pastoral care, and very little training in teaching methodology. We discussed the possibility of organising a day-long workshop in the future for teachers, at The Garden, lead by the Psychbigyaan team and bringing in Nepalese teachers and heads of school already implementing or open to new ideas, such as our friend Bimala Gurung, head of Sanskar School in Kathmandu. We are certain that this is just the beginning of our collaboration and we are excited about the changes which, together, we may be able to bring about to benefit young people.

Another new and inspirational friend of Sansar Nepal is Garima Gurung, from the very different field of organic vegetable growing. Although Garima grew up in Pokhara and was never taught to grow vegetables by her family, she has learned from neighbours and by her own research how to organically grow a wide variety of highly nutritious vegetables and fruits, as well as medicinal herbs and plants. She says that Nepalese young people have lost their connection with the earth, do not have these skills anymore, and are unaware of what they are consuming. If this is the case in Nepal, how much more critical is this situation in the world’s developed countries! Garima’s mission is to educate and share with young people who no longer live in rural villages the skills and knowledge she has acquired so that it is not lost. Garima also makes her own fibre-based paper and cards, and paper jewellery. She has created her own brand called Kafal Creation. At 32 she is not married, which is unusual in Nepali society, and she shares the young psychologists’ concerns for the difficulties that young Nepalese people face, especially girls, who wish to pursue their own path in life.

We aim to help Garima by promoting what she is doing, by providing a venue for her to sell her produce, and perhaps most importantly by connecting her with other young people, who, like her, have taken the path less trodden and sometimes feel alone and marginalised.

By bringing such Nepalese innovators into the Garden family, we will also inspire the younger children in our care to have the courage to embrace a different way of living and being.

UPDATE : Warmth for Winter Campaign

A belated Happy New Year to all our friends around the world, and a huge THANK YOU for all your support and generous donations for the Warmth For Winter campaign which we started in November of last year and is still ongoing.  We have received donations big and small, from children, families, schools and groups; all have been invaluable and have brought a little warmth and comfort to more than 500 children and at-risk adults in poor, earthquake-affected areas.  As those delivering the clothing observed from the welcomes and huge smiles they received wherever they went, hearts as well as bodies were warmed by these gestures of kindness and compassion. Below is a  summary of what has been achieved so far with your generous donations.

  1. Kanya Girls School in Pokhara. We distributed sweaters, leggings, socks and shoes to 22 students. We were privileged the following week to be invited to attend, and take part in the start of the school’s programme of events to celebrate its 25th year of teaching young female students. The first event we attended was a celebratory parade through the local streets of Pokhara. It was lovely to see lots of people, of all ages, line the streets to greet and support the event. Once the parade returned to the school a blood donor event commenced – what a practical and generous way to start a year of celebrations! The following day we attended a celebratory assembly and student award ceremony which included a colourful cultural programme of music and dancing. The SSN team would like to thank local businessman and SSN supporter Madan Sharma (manager of the Vardan Resort) for all his help, especially with our transport needs (essential during the current fuel crisis). Madan was also the first to kick off the blood donor event!
  2. Gauri School, Pokhara. This school is high up in the hills overlooking Pokhara. It has an amazing view, but with a crumbling, earthquake-damaged school building and winter upon them, the community, teachers and students were pleased to receive sweaters, leggings and shoes for the 22 children. We were grateful again to work in conjunction with local Nepalese supporters. Our combined efforts ensured that our transport costs were kept to a minimum. A bonus was the kind invitation to attend the nearby home of the school’s president which was extended to SSN team members and local supporters, where we were treated to a hearty meal of dal bhat!
  3. Saraswati Government School in the village of Bharat Pokhari, Begnas Municipality, Kaski District. In a joint venture with Rotary International Pokhara, 80 sweaters and pairs of leggings have been distributed, with an additional 20 children also due to receive shoes. This school also supports and teaches 30 children with learning disabilities so we were particularly pleased to make sure they all received warm clothing.
  4. Sushil Kalyan Primary School. In collaboration with Rotary International Pokhara, this is the second school in Bharat Pokhari which has benefited from SSN’s  Warmth for Winter campaign. 30 children now have sweaters and socks, with leggings on the way as well!! This school includes 19 street children presently in a social enterprise-run hostel who walk 1.5 hours each way to attend the school.
  5. Maya Foundation Nepal children. SSN has supported a further 10 children to receive sweaters, leggings and socks. These students attend a school in Dhikiri Pokhari. They are earthquake orphans from the Gorkha region. After hearing about their situation from SSN friend Rene Voss, we were happy to help out. (For further information, visit www.mayafoundationnepal.com)
  6. Bom Bahadur Ghale School, Thuli Gau Ghalel village, 70 kms from Pokhara (44 off road!). Sansar Nepal was able to provide warm sweaters, leggings and socks to 30 of the poorest and most needy children. Leela (Roshan), our fearless leader, accompanied the delivery on motorbike with SSN friend Dinesh Maharajan, and they were warmed by the grateful smiles of the children receiving the clothing!
  7. Navgarita School, Huwas Parbat District. In another joint venture with Rotary club, Pokhara, we provided school uniforms for 77 children.
  8. Kyamune Bhanjang Secondary School, Huwas Parbat. 57 needy children received warm sweaters and leggings from SSN.
  9. Sri Buwan School, Chettrae Durali, Dhading District. Sweaters, leggings and shoes were supplied to 73 children. With the support of Ivy Collegiate School, Taiwan, we are also helping with the rebuilding of 3 classrooms which were badly damaged during the earthquakes.
  10. Displaced Persons tin-sheet camp, outskirts of Kathmandu. Warm clothing and shoes were provided for 21 children, blankets for 29 households and warm winter clothing (sweaters, jackets, scarves, hats, socks, thermal underwear etc.) for 30 at-risk adults including the old, the sick, the disabled and nursing mothers.

Photos to follow…

WARMTH FOR WINTER Appeal

Click here for news of the Warmth For Winter appeal.

What are we doing?

We are launching a “Warmth for Winter” appeal. Its aim is to provide warm clothes (and blankets if needed) primarily for children, but also for vulnerable adults. For only GBP13 | USD20 | EUR20 | RM60 you can ensure that a child or vulnerable adult will be warmer this winter.

Why are we doing this?

Nisha (a teacher and young Nepalese Board member of Sansar Nepal) recently made a further visit to the displaced persons tin sheet camp on the outskirts of Kathmandu. She was accompanied by her friends who work in the same school: Sita Basnet, Brizzesh Chaulagain, Suraj Pandey and Bijay Pradhan (Nisha’s tuition student, studying in grade 10).

The purpose of their visit was to gather all the camp children and take them (on her and their day off school!) on a shopping trip for warm clothes and blankets. We are pleased to report that this successful, small-scale assistance was made possible due to the existing generosity of Sansar donors following our earthquake appeal.

The visit has brought home to us the severity of the ongoing difficulties that the Nepalese people, both young and old, continue to face in remote villages, as well as closer to urban areas. These difficulties are becoming even more severe as winter quickly approaches. Sadly for the Nepalese, the earthquake, as devastating as it was, is now just a backdrop and exacerbating factor for the current difficulties that they face.

Nepal is a land-locked country, historically reliant upon India for overland supplies of fuel and medication. However, there is currently a dispute between the two countries, which, three months in, shows no signs of being resolved. The result is a scarcity of fuel and medical supplies and an extortionate black market economy for essential items to keep people mobile, fed, warm and well. Inevitably it is the most vulnerable in Nepalese society who are suffering the most. To provide some idea of the extent of country’s difficulties, Nepal features alongside Iraq, Sudan and Syria in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOHA) for severe, large-scale humanitarian crises. Check out this UN video on YouTube. Please note this predates the current fuel crisis.

Due to the fuel crisis, Sansar Nepal’s recent visits to schools have, by necessity, been close to the Pokhara area. Our exploratory visits have shown that your help is still very much needed, for both earthquake and non-earthquake survivors.  Hence the launch of our “Warmth for Winter” appeal.

Following Nisha’s recent experiences, Sansar Nepal is confident that we can meet the need in locally identified schools/communities, thus ensuring that the maximum amount of donations reaches those in need, and is not swallowed up by transport costs.

What can you do to help?

If you would like to donate to this appeal, please visit our Donations page, making it clear that your donation is for the Warmth for Winter campaign so we can ensure funds are allocated appropriately.

Financial donations are obviously important but if you are unable to donate, you can still help by raising awareness. Please visit our Facebook page and like and share our launch so we can spread the information on what is happening in Nepal.

Thank you.


Check our Facebook and News pages for updates on the work being carried out.

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Many thanks.

Winter approaches in Kathmandu

 

Dear friends, there follows an account written by Mandy Peacock, an occupational therapist and one of our founders who is currently in Nepal, volunteering at a mental health rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu. She and Soma Mahesan, also currently in Nepal, are now planning our next response to the earthquake situation as winter approaches.

Many children in villages face schooling (for the lucky ones) in flimsy, temporary classrooms with dirt floors in icy temperatures. We were also shocked to learn of a community whose village was completely destroyed, who are now camping out in central Kathmandu, and whose situation Mandy describes below.

We will be using some of our reserved funds from earthquake donations to bring immediate relief to this village as soon as we can source the supplies and get them delivered (which is challenging due to the current fuel crisis). We are also planning a Christmas appeal: “Warmth for Winter” based on the idea of a Belgian charity which is supplying a pair of shoes, two pairs of socks and a winter coat to each pupil in a remote village whose school has been destroyed. More information on the way…

For more on the fuel crisis in Nepal, see here.

Mandy’s Day…

I worked in the hospital until 3pm then headed to a tin sheet camp for people whose village in rural Nepal was destroyed in the earthquake so the whole village has been temporarily re-homed to the outskirts of Kathmandu. They desperately want to return to their village but it’s not possible as there is no road to get anywhere near there now plus the ground is so unstable that there is a fear that if they did the next monsoon would wash any rebuilt village away anyway.

They are living in such basic conditions in a noisy, dirty city far away from their rural home and all they are asking from Sansar Nepal is warm coats for the kids so they can remain warm in school, warm shoes for the kids, school stationery items and blankets for the elderly, infirm and breast feeding mothers, during the impending cold winter months.

I asked to see inside the tin shacks they are living in and saw an old chap huddled in a basic but clean and tidy, drafty (as not closed to the elements) tin hut not bigger than a shed. I am surprised they are only asking for blankets for the elderly and infirm, as I understand that they presently have 1 blanket to 3 people.

We heard about the camp through a trusted Nepalese contact who knows the young Tibetan woman called Uten and her sister who have decided to support the camp as much as they can. They have raised money to get the kids into a school nearby and have enough money to feed the 194 people until January 2016. The camp has received no government help.

I went with Nisha, who is a young friend and new board member of Sansar Nepal, and who acted as an interpreter in an intensive care field hospital for 2 weeks immediately after the quakes. She works as a teacher in Kathmandu, and straight after work today traveled 1.5 hours in cramped buses so that I had company in the camp.

After the camp meeting we had some noodles together until it got dark and afterwards she hailed a passing motor bike to hitch a lift as far home as she could, as buses appeared not to be running. She informs me that this is now the norm in Nepal due to the fuel crisis – people just help others who are not so fortunate to have transport…

Having left, Nisha I walked through a religious square near to where I am living, and where the large Buddhist stupa has been damaged by the earthquake. It was dark due to there being no electricity and, as I turned a corner, I was greeted by 100’s of candles. On closer inspection I observed that many Nepalese had gathered to light candles and were standing in quiet reflection with hand-made posters offering their support and affection to Paris, following the terrorist atrocities there.

Nepal this year has suffered devastating earthquakes, and is in the midst of a fuel crisis, with fast depleting fuel, gas and medical supplies such that people are cooking using wood, hospitals can not provide food and people with conditions such a diabetes and heart problems have no medicine. I would expect ordinary people to be drawn to the streets to protest about the conditions they are living in, but instead observe that when they do it is in a quiet, dignified manner to offer solidarity with Paris.

This is why I am always drawn to Nepal.

Mandy