Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lovely times in Nepal!

Yes, lovely.  I think that that is the best word to describe our week in Pod Nepal-land this week.  We have had some new team members arrive and some really positive, productive and enjoyable sessions at our placements too. 

We may as well start with introducing our new team members, Sarah from the UK and Jane from Singapore.  The girls met each other at the airport in Kathmandu, did a bit of exploring in the capital together before getting a bus to Pokhara the next day.  Despite bumping, twisting and sweating their way through Nepal for 7 hours, they were still fresh and enthusiastic enough to get stuck right into volunteering at the Street Kids Centre that afternoon. 

Getting wet at the Street Kids Centre
Our time with the Street Kids went well with all of the children happy to see us, welcoming the new faces and joining in with our activities (no, this is not always the case!).  Alongside some creative activities there was also some learning and testing going on, although we were the ones getting tested!  Sarah discovered very quickly that she is not, in fact, smarter than a 10 year old.  One of the centre’s neighbours came in to quiz her on a range of topics including spelling (amphibian) and geography (name the longest river in China?), Sarah let him down with her answers...Jane became an instant superstar with her gift of two water pistols.  The children took turns with the pistols whilst others improvised grabbing buckets, cups etc. to soak their brothers with.  Most joined in and everyone got wet.  Good times.

Sarah started volunteering at Ward 6 who were delighted to have another PoD volunteer with them.  She had a challenging first day dealing with first day nerves and crying children.  On a more serious note, it was difficult to witness how roughly the children are handled by staff and so we have had to come up with some ways by which Sarah can lead by example and make it clear that children do not need to be smacked.  In more positive news though, overall the staff were friendly and welcoming and kept Sarah busy throughout the day.  She was even handed some flash cards hand made by previous PoD volunteers to work with the children with!

We also had an encouraging time with Esther at SCIAN who demonstrated the full extent of her new found English skills.  She was able to have a complete introductory conversation with Sarah, something she wouldn’t have even been able to begin 6 months ago.  It was really good to see such huge progress which reflects both her hard work and the effort put in by us PoD folk.  Despite wanting to build further on her English, her room was simply too hot and stuffy to stay in, so we went out for a walk around the local area, visited a temple and popped in to SCIAN's vocational training centre.  Here we met with Hari Krishna, the organisation's founder, who brought us up to date with their latest training programme.  He has brought 25 physically disabled people from all over Nepal to receive training in bag making using sewing machines.  Each trainee is provided with accommodation, food and training for 3 months in Pokhara, but most importantly, they get the opportunity to seek paid employment and thus finanacial independence in the future.  Unfortunately, persistant discriminatory and prejudiced attitudes often hampers this groups efforts at finding employment.  Thus, Hari's next dream is to rent and furnish a shop in which his trainees can work, develop their skills and earn money.  We wish him the best of luck and hope to be able to offer support with this in the near future.

Look at that concentration!
We are pleased to report that our ‘good behaviour programme’ at Annurpurna Primary School seems to be a runaway success.   We developed this for two reasons; firstly to gain control of a raucous bunch of kids and secondly to encourage struggling students to get involved and pay attention.  We start each session by getting each child to write their name on the board and each time they behave well or are helpful or try very hard they get a point.  At the end of the class the children line up in order of how many points they have, and whoever got the most points gets the first choice of sticker, second place gets second choice and so on.  This week I forgot the stickers and owned up to this in the first few minutes of the class and then panicked that my class would subsequently be a disaster, but the children simply shrugged their shoulders and still behaved as if their stickers were at stake.  In addition ensuring classes are not interrupted by constantly having to tell children to sit down, listen, don’t fight, no, it’s definitely not breaktime yet...we have seen some really huge changes in the effort levels of children who were previously dismissed as ‘no good’.  Now that they know they can be rewarded for trying, regardless of their results, they are getting more involved in class and subsequently their marks are increasing.  Fab.

Other than that we have been making many phone calls to Louise our volunteer doing some fab work at our rural placement up in Bhalam Village.  We are planning a teacher training session for staff there which will hopefully be fun and informative for all involved and contribute to the longer term development of the school.  Jane and Sarah have also been getting themselves settled well into Lakeside, floating around the lake on a wooden boat and helping some trainee raft guides practice their English.  See, I told you we have had a lovely week!

Tips for upcoming volunteers
·         We could really do with some more stickers, if you are coming to Nepal please bring some bright, small, colourful stickers of different varieties.
·         Sticky backed plastic would be a great resource to have to ‘laminate’ our resources and protect them from sticky fingers.
·         Bring a torch with you – Pokhara’s roads are uneven, often flooded and dark at night!

If you would like to join our team and help with the good work we are doing in Nepal, please contact Gemma the UK office for more information on how to book.

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