Thursday, July 28, 2011

Results Orientated Youth Leadership training course

Team building game, students have to place an object into a bucket but cannot enter a 4m circle around the bucket

Students engaging in group work

We were fortunate enough to assist at a course for training local youths in leadership skills and result orientated project management. The 3 day course was held in the nearby town of Dhulikhel, with around 25 local youths aged 18 – 25 attending. The objectives of this workshop were to provide local youths with the skills to be effective future leaders in the community and to encourage them to start implementing their own projects.
We were able to teach some outdoor group co-operation games and challenges. It was really rewarding to see the students responding this different style of learning. Most education in Nepal is formal individual textbook based so the small group teamwork challenges were a new beast to the students, after a bit of a learning curve they really enjoyed the challenges. The main challenge for us as facilitators was to get the shy Nepali girls to engage in the activities. These beautiful shy girls seem to be overwhelmed by the more boisterous boys and tend to be very quiet but with some gentle coaching we were able to get them fully engaged. 

The winning team proudly display their unbroken egg after the egg drop game

Team building game, students have to each pass thru a different hole in the 'spider web'

Classroom work

The classroom work focused on project development and leadership and was done in small groups. As most of the work done in Nepali we were unable to be of much assistance but were able to present several topics in English to the students. The final project was for the groups to come up with their own development idea, formulate a plan, present the plan and finally implement the plan in their town or village. The four plans were for an anti smoking campaign, HIV and sexual health awareness, building a local museum and building a community library / learning centre.

Teaching class

I really feel that this style of result oriented learning is a worthwhile method for encouraging growth in Nepal. If true change is to happen it must come from within and these bright young Nepalis are the beginning of a brighter future.    

Class photo

Yvonne with two students, Birkita and Sangita

Monday, July 25, 2011

Khopasi Eye Camp

On Sunday we went to Khopasi village for an eye camp.  274 patients attended the camp, many needed medication or glasses.  14 patients require cataract surgery, this life altering operation costs only $20!! One of Rotary's programs is to help sponser surgery for those who cannot afford it. 

Patients registering for eye examination

Waiting in queue

Waiting for vision test

1st stage of vision testing


Lunch venue

The kitchen

One of the patients needing cataract surgery

Another person in need of cataract surgery

And another

Monica is only 20 - she needs cataract surgery in both eyes!

A little girl terrified of the strange man with dreads pointing a scary camera at her...

School children who came for an eye test

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Buy a goat.

CDRA has a child education / poverty reducing scheme in which poor families who are struggling to send their children to school are sponsored with a goat to cover the school costs. Previously a child sponsoring program was in place in which the children’s education costs were met by donors. This was a good program but it is more efficient to sponsor the child’s family with a female goat so that the family produces the income to send the child to school. A goat will produce 2 kids a year which can be sold for around 3000 – 5000 rupees each, or kept to increase the earning potential for the family. School costs are estimated at 2500 rupees a year per child (this covers uniforms and books). So instead of continuously depending on donors to fund the child’s education year after year, one donation can cover many years of schooling. The goats are donated on the condition that the children are sent to school and checks are conducted. Often the children are responsible for the care of their goats, providing basic business education as well.

A goat will cost USD$50 or NZD$60 each. This will provide one vaccinated nanny goat and a short course in goat care. Below are some of the examples of the families that have been bought to our attention that are in need of assistance. This is a tiny proportion of the many families we have on our books waiting for help. Please get in touch if you feel like helping not only a child receive an education but also their whole family.  

Name : Mrs.  Ambika Dhital      Age : 45
Address: Patlekhet Village, Nepal
Children:  3 ( 2 Son, 1 daughter)
Economic condition: Husband ill, poor economic condition, subsistence farming, not enough food to eat, cannot afford education cost to her children.
Request to CDRA: To buy a pair of goat which provide income to cover education costs

 Name : Mrs.Sumitra Dhital    Age : 34
Address: Patlekhet Village, Nepal
Children: 4 ( 2 Son, 2 daughter)
Economic condition: She is in poor health and her children are taking care of domestic needs. Her children take care of domestic animals. She is requesting for 2 pair of goat to support her economic condition and spent money for her treatment and education costs for her children.

Name : Mrs. Kaili Tamang    Age : 46
Address: Kushadevi  Village, Nepal
Children: 2 ( 1  Son  1 daughter)
Economic condition: Her husband died 4 years ago she is alone with her 2 children. No regular income depends on domestic animals for income. She needs help to grow more goats to boost income.

A day of Visa Bureaucracy

Yesterday we took the bus to Kathmandu to pick up our visa’s for India (we went and applied for them last week).  The bus trip is always an experience.  It takes a good 1.5 hours to travel the 35 odd km’s from Banepa to Kathmandu, with the bus becoming progressively more crowded on the way.  Ben’s far too tall for the Nepali buses, he has to stand bent double and can’t fit into most of the seats due to the lack of leg room.  Bus fares can’t be complained at though with the trip costing around $NZ1 for both of us.
We arrived at the Indian embassy to be told our visas were not yet ready for us (clearance from Wellington has not yet come through).  We proceeded onto the Chinese embassy to discover they were closed (despite what the website says!). So very unproductive on the visa front.  We are in the process of planning a short break out of Nepal at the end of August – due to conditions on the Nepali visa. 
Ben getting Dread-locks

We made the most of our trip into Kathmandu – getting a steak for lunch (a delicious treat) from the Everest Steak House.  Ben spent 4 hours getting his hair dread-locked, while I enjoyed shopping in the Thamel’s touristy shops.  Everything is done by bargaining which gets quite tiring!
We made it home in time to help Rina cook momos for dinner.  Basically a momo is a steamed dough ball filled with minced meat and/or vegetables.  These are a traditional dish in Nepal – very tasty.  We had a very enjoyable feast with all the volunteers here. 

Making Momo

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Birth of a New Rotary Club

On Saturday Night (16th July 2011or 1st of Shrawan 2068 on the Nepali Calender) we were lucky enough to be invited to the Charter Presentation Ceremony for the Rotary club of Madhyapur. Madhyapur, also known as Thimi is a beautiful and historic Newari town close to the capital in the Kathmandu valley. Visitors to Madhyapur can enjoy the many ancient temples and festivals as well as traditional Newari handicrafts.The new Rotary club has been sponsored by RC Dhulikhel (see our post on RC Dhulikhel) with rotarians from Dhulikhel providing support and mentoring to the Madhyapur club throughout the chartering process. It is very inspiring to see a dedicated group of Nepalis who want to join Rotary to make a difference in their community. Joining Rotary means that this group of locals will be part of an international service club with over 1.2 million members all of whom are committed to community service. This provides an amazing resource for the members of RC Madhyapur to help their community.

The evening was a really grand affair with approximately 150 people present; local rotarians, dignitaries, distinguished foreign guests (that's us!), spouses and children. All the women were dressed in beautiful saris, and a band played throughout the proceedings. The new club already has 39 members. Its the 76th Rotary Club in Nepal.

The formalities and speeches were conducted in English (a blessing to us novice Nepali speakers) and the robes and gavel were handed to Rtn. Surendra Bikram Prajapati the Charter President of Madhyapur Rotary Club to great applause. After the ceremony a delicious dinner was enjoyed followed by some rakshe (local wine). All in all it was a very nice evening and as privilege to see the birth of a new Rotary Club.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Helping people help themselves

OK people it’s about time you learnt a little bit about CDRA and how they operate
CDRA stands for Community Development Relief Agency and is the organization we spend most of our time working for here in Nepal. CDRA (pronounced Seedra which is also the name of a delicious small dried fish but I digress) is a small NGO (Non Governmental Organization) based in Banepa. The motto is ‘helping people help themselves’ which is apparent in the projects undertaken by CDRA. The projects tend to be small scale and of immediate benefit to the recipients, such as micro finance, education and school construction. Unlike some large (well huge) international NGO’s and aid agency’s CDRA utilizes local involvement in its projects as much as possible. The benefits of this are twofold, firstly the costs and overheads are kept to a minimum (No cruising round in convoys of the latest Landcruisers for us) and also the locals take ownership of the project and take pride in the results. A good example is for a school build the local village will supply local stone for the construction. The villagers will quarry the stone and provide labour for the building construction. This means the villagers have a sense of ownership of their school, more so than if we plopped a pre fabricated building down and said ‘here you go’. This also means costs are significantly lower by utilizing local resources such as bamboo, wood and stone. It’s probably more environmentally friendly too when you think about it.
CDRA also encourages community involvement in all its projects. This means that locals are exposed to the entire process of the project instead of just the end result and can get ideas for projects of their own.  It is quite gratifying seeing some villages transform from asking for handouts to developing their own plans and completing their own projects. They really are helping themselves.  
CDRA has many projects on the go. All the projects in this blog so far have had help by CDRA in some way. If you would like to make a significant difference to peoples’ lives in a meaningful way please support one of our projects. They can range from $20 for a cataract operation to $50000 for a new high school, (I’ll blog that one soon, it’s a doozy) and everything in between. Full receipts and documentation will be provided for any donation and you will be secure in the knowledge that your money is being utilized in the most efficient way possible.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

MEND, Mobility Equipment for the Needs of the Disabled

While we were in Kathmandu getting our visas for a quick trip to India we were introduced by Ashok to a bloody top kiwi bloke called Rob. Rob has set up MEND and has worked providing mobility to rural Nepalis for over 20 years. Check out to see more of the good work they do.
If anyone is coming, or knows anyone coming to Nepal from NZ or Aussie MEND always can use any extra luggage space for donated mobility equipment to try and beat huge transport costs. Get in touch with us or directly with MEND thru their website

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Appreciating the little things in life...

Living in Nepal certainly makes you realise how we take so much for granted in our day to day lives in New Zealand (the same goes for all developed countries)… The people here work very hard for very little.  This is of course a generalization, as there is great variation between life in the city and life in the village, or life for the (relatively) well off and the poor. 

The government here is both corrupt and politically unstable.  Nepal has no constitution, and after 3 years of working towards one (since the elections were held at the end of the civil war) the population is fed up with the lack of progress.  The government does very little, from infrastructure development, to delivery of services and enforcement of law.  Communities need to work together to provide everything from education for the children, safe drinking water and healthcare to development and maintenance of roads and infrastructure. 
It constantly amazes me the number of people we meet with a vested interest in improving the lives of the Nepalese people.  Eager young Nepali men who choose to work on the development of their community, rather than pursuing opportunities abroad.  The spirit of NGO’s and community service clubs is very strong here, everyone is involved in some project; from micro-finance co-operatives, to establishing disability centres and schools, to improving water supplies and providing literacy and vocational training to those who need it. 
Still despite the active involvement of members of the community in development projects, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  Some examples;
-     Rubbish collection is virtually non-existent.  Rubbish litters the street and destroys the scenic beauty of the trekking routes.  There are a few rubbish collection systems in place in Nepal.  But even when collected the rubbish is simply dumped on a massive pile resulting in both an eyesore and pollution, with leaching of waste into the adjacent fields and water-ways. 
-     Water.  We have definitely come to appreciate a hot shower.  Lok’s house has solar panels, but even so a hot shower is a rare luxury.  The tap water is not safe to drink.  Yet we are lucky, many homes have no running water at all.  Even Ashok who lives next door must carry water up to his house.  In the villages it is not uncommon for people to walk several kilometers for water. 

Women collecting water in Bhaktipur (city of around 200,000 outside of Kathmandu)

-     Roads that are tar-sealed and maintained.  In recent years the Nepali government has been very active in bull-dozing roads to the villages.  This is great to enable better access to markets and healthcare and education.  However, the roads have been carved into steep hillsides and with the monsoon rains they quickly become impassable.  Landslides commonly block or wash away the roads, as well as deep rutted erosion.  The roads are built but maintenance is very limited.  Even the main highways to China and India (which are actually tar-sealed) are full of potholes and landslides. 
Women greeting us carrying loaded doko

-     Physical labour.  It is very common to see women and young children carrying heavy loads from the fields.  Dokos are carried on the back, supported by a strap around the forehead, usually full of fodder for the animals or water canisters.  Full bags of rice are also carried like this.  Some children do not go to school because they are working in the fields.
-     Health.  It is heart breaking to see the people suffering due to lack of proper health care facilities and financing.  Like Sumina we met in Baluwa Village with a broken arm – she never went for treatment despite the pain.  Like the many women we have heard about suffering from Uterine Prolapse.  This is shockingly common in rural Nepal, and many live with it for years.  We will touch more on this later.
-     Housing standards.  In the villages, people live in homes usually constructed from mud or stone.  Windows are covered by shutters, not glass.  You cannot escape the dirt, as this makes up the floors and walls.  Villagers who own goats, buffalo or cows will usually have them living with them inside the home.  Cooking is done over a small fire, or gas stove sitting at ground level.  There are no freezers, or fridges.  Everything is prepared fresh.  There are no washing machines either.  It is all done by hand.  Even where we live, in the big smoke of Banepa – with around 40,000 people, there are few washing machines.  Sufficient water supply to use the machines is an issue. 

Bio-gas stove in village home

Our home in Banepa

-     Education leaves a lot to be desired.  Not all children go to school, some because they cannot afford the cost of the school uniform as the school is free, others because they are required to work to support the family.  Many of those that do go to school attend a government school.  Pass rates at these schools are low with ill-qualified teachers, limited resources and poor facilities.  Good schools are expensive, attainable only for a few. 
This is not a comprehensive list and we will touch on more on these issues in the future.  In the meantime I urge you to appreciate the good things in life (that we rarely even think about) as they are by no means guaranteed to us all.  Perhaps next time you open the tap for a drink of water…

Monday, July 11, 2011

Phulbari School groundbreaking ceremony

On 10th July 2011 or 26 Assad 2068 in the Nepali calendar (confusing I know) we went to the small hillside village of Phulbari to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for a new school building CDRA is helping to build. The new building is being built with assistance from CDRA and Mr. Jim Danisch, an American who has settled in the area and started an organic farm and teaching centre. We will have to do a blog soon on the good work Jim is doing.

We have been to Phulbari several times before and have always enjoyed the wonderful hospitality and beautiful scenery. Last time we were fortunate enough to help deliver some uniforms that were kindly donated by the Goodwill Community Foundation from the USA.
The first thing we noticed as we got out of the ute for the ceremony was that the children had formed a clapping guard of honor and were looking very smart in their new uniforms. There were also several Buddhist monks from the nearby monastery in Namobuddha conducting a blessing of the area. We were honored to receive a beautiful garland of flowers and a paper rosette each. The speeches were in Nepali and although we are learning slowly we were not able to follow fluently. There was some traditional dancing from some of the village girls followed by a ceremony where sacred items were blessed by the monks and placed at the base of the foundation holes so the school will be built on top of these blessings. We also received beautiful white silk scarves from the monks.
Ashok presented an award to Maita Singh Tamang, the village headman who has been the driving force behind getting projects into his village. This award was to recognize the benefits that he has bought to his small community.  
After many photos were taken we were offered a delicious meal of local produce by the village elders in the old school building. This old 4 room building is the primary source of education for over 200 children and has no water or electricity. The rooms are barely 5m by 5m. The new building will cost around NZ$15000 it will utilize local labour from the villagers who will volunteer their time. Right now around NZ$5000 has been raised leaving a shortfall of $10000 before the project can be completed. The reason construction starts before fundraising is completed is that it can take many years to fundraise this amount of money and the children need the new building ASAP. The children can use parts of the building as they are completed, even if the entire building isn't completed for several years. Mind you if you have a spare 10 grand lying around we sure could use it…   
The view from the new building site showing the old school building in the background

The local girls dancing

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Nurse Niru

We had the pleasure of meeting Nurse Niru when we first arrived in Nepal.  She lives in a small village (Sanku) about half an hour from Banepa.  Niru was selected by the Dhulikhel Rotary Club for training to become an Associate Nurse Midwife (ANM).  The club put her through the 18 month course. Since completing the course Niru has established a small health care clinic in her village.  This has helped to greatly improve health services in the village.  She is only 20, but helps to deliver at least one baby each week.  With her assistance childbrith complications are able to be treated, or hospital care is sought. 

Niru is very active in her community, and has helped to establish a womens co-operative.  This helps the women to generate income, and enables them to pay for their healthcare.  She also runs training sessions for the villagers, educating them on issues such as nutrition, family planning, saving ($$) and basic health care. 

Nirus dream is to further her training and complete a Bachelor of Nursing Degree.  This would be a three year course, but the US$10,000 required makes this dream a distant goal.  She is saving hard for this at the moment. 

Health Clinic in Sangku 

The Dhulikhel Rotary Club has helped others like Niru, training eager young people in remote areas to improve health care in these locations.  Bijaya - introduced on a previous blog was trained through a similar scheme. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nepali wedding

Bridal Party

Snacks and Drinks

Kamala and Yvonne with Anu the bride

Paan - traditional Nepali after dinner treat

A wedding procession

We were lucky enough to be invited to Anu's wedding. Anu works at CDRA in public health. This was the bride's party as there is usually a bride's party before the ceremony and a groom's party the next day after the ceremony. Wow what a shindig! the food was amazing with delicious snacks and appetizers followed by a buffet main course.We even got ice cream for desert.

Anu looked amazing in the traditional red sari as she sat on a raised dais with her family. And there is nothing the Nepalis love more than a good boogie. All in all it was a wonderful night

(sorry I seem to be having trouble loading the photos. will try tomorrow)