Friday, September 30, 2011

Holidays are coming!

Hello there everyone, how are you?  So, as always we are all very happy here and have lots to share with you!  Firstly, our team is growing.  Reta and Marilyn have arrived, fitting in very nicely in the team and getting stuck right into work.  Reta is at Ward 6 taking care of the little ones and Marilyn has joined Nishma at Shree Krishna Secondary School. 

Sarah, Nishma and Reta planning their adventures!
We are starting to see the beginnings of the Dashain festival here, this is the major festival in Nepal where everything stops so everyone can travel home to visit their families.  We’re not quite at that stage just yet, but we have started to see cars, trucks, busses and motorbikes decorated with bright, colourful ribbons.  Schools will also close for Dashain so our volunteers are busy planning what to do with their hard earned time off.  Some of it will be spent visiting the children living in orphanages and some will be spent exploring Nepal.  Marilyn seems to be the adrenaline junkie of the group and is looking at white water rafting and trekking, Reta is planning on a jungle safari and everyone is heading to Bandipur, an amazingly beautiful hilltop town not so far from Pokhara.

But, school’s not out just yet and so we are still hard at work here.  Sarah has been getting on leaps and bounds at Annurpurna Primary School, putting her UK teaching skills and experience to the test!  I joined her for her first class when she introduced the idea of a weather board.  The children were asked to choose the weather symbol that best described the weather that day and stick it on the board.  They rightly chose ‘cloudy’ and fixed it in the right place, but as we were leaving class all of the children were crowding around the board and starting to take it down.  We marched back in telling them not to play with it and then had to retreat as they explained that the sun had now come out and so they were merely updating the board.  Fantastic initiative I feel!

Sarah has also introduced the concept of ‘phonics’ to APS, something that is not routinely taught in Nepali schools.  Children learn their ABC and learn how to spell and recognise certain words, but they struggle to read new words as they don’t know how to sound out what they are reading.  Not only is this improving the children’s reading skills, but the teachers and parents are also getting on board with it, sitting in on classes, taking notes and learning to read.  Hopefully, this is the start of a long lasting change for the children there.

Brotherly love at the Street Kids Centre
Our visits to the Street Kids’ just keep getting better and better.  Not only do the children behave marvellously well for us, but they are so nice with each other!  Always sharing and caring between themselves.  Really heart warming stuff.  We had a lovely session there making friendship bands.  We arrived armed with a ‘how to make friendship bracelets’ book and a few hours practice under our belt ready to teach them.  Turns out our efforts were unnecessary as all they needed was the thread and they were away churning out designs far more complex than anything we had planned!

We are having a week off from the Asha Foundation this week as it is exam time for them.  The older girls told us it was better they used Friday to study rather than play.  This met with some dissent from the younger ones, but they were overruled!

Shree Krishna Secondary School is delighted to have two volunteers at the moment.  Nishma is starting to get her own classes to teach and seems to be in high demand – children come searching for her and request her to teach them!  Marilyn is also working here now and is specialising in science.  Until now, children and staff learn and teach science from the textbook.  Marilyn has been astounding her charges with practical demonstrations and experiments and really igniting an interest in science.

Last but not least, Reta has been doing fantastically well at Ward 6.  She is an absolute trooper untroubled by the temper tantrums, the sickness and general chaos surrounding her.  She is carrying on with our mission to get the centre a little more hygienic by making sure all hands are washed prior to eating and after the toilet.  Her laid back, no nonsense manner is just what’s needed here.

Momo Chefs Nishma and Marilyn
In other news, we are all now very pleased to call ourselves momo chefs.  We spent a highly enjoyable afternoon at the Silk Road playing golf, drinking cold drinks and learning to make vegetable and cheese momos.  We got into quite a mess and never quite mastered the technique, all of our momos came out slightly mis-shaped.  Actually, totally deformed is a better description, but they tasted amazing all the same and a good time was had by all!

 Advice for future volunteers
·         A Frisbee and / or water pistols would be great resources to bring out for fun sessions.
·         We really need some small whiteboards to use when teaching younger children who can’t reach the board.   They don’t need to be high quality, flimsy ones are fine!

Our tasty - if slightly mishapen - momos
·         Think about the skills you already have and whether or not they could be developed or used here, for example if you are a first aider, could you develop this so that you are in a position to train placement staff over here?  

Monday, September 19, 2011

PoD Nepal needs you!

Swings are built to celebrate upcoming Dashain 

So let’s start with news of the PoD Team.  Since I last wrote, we have said goodbye to both Jane and Sarah which was sad, but sweetened up a little by fun and fond farewells from the placements.  Nishma arrived in Pokhara last Monday and was all alone for 10 days!  She is now very happy to have the company of Sarah (another Sarah), who arrived yesterday, remarkably cheery and bouncy after her long, windy and hot bus ride from Kathmanudu.  It seems as though ‘alone time’ for any of the PoD Team is going be a rarity for the next few weeks as we due to be fully booked with volunteers until the end of October!  This is most exciting as there are some major festivals coming up in Nepal and so we will have lots of new friends to celebrate with.

So, first things first.  We need your help.  We at PoD Nepal have spent a long time working with projects in Pokhara and are keen to develop our existing services here by complimenting our voluntary work with some practical support for placements.  We have spent the past few months consulting with project staff and PoD volunteers and drawing upon our own experiences to identify what resources, equipment and supplies would most improve the quality of life for the people we work with.  Our wish list includes – but is most certainly not limited to – whiteboards for all of the schools we work with, a new roof for the Street Kids’s Centre, funding towards a vocational training and independent living centre at SCIAN, funding for excursions with clients, furnishings for the Asha Foundation’s new home, funding for midday snacks at APS, an educational sponsorship to get one of SCIAN’s clients back into school...the list goes on! 

Obviously, to provide these items we need money, and that’s where you come in... We need around 6,000GBP to fund everything on our list, this is undoubtedly a big amount, but most definitely attainable.  I’ve been chatting to some past volunteers recently and have heard of a few fundraising plans in the pipeline – the SOAS University Great Dumpling Exchange sounds like a particularly tasty and effective way to raise some money!  Join our facebook discussion to share your fundraising ideas or successes.  You can also check our fundraising page to donate or see how much we have raised so far.  Of course, we will be sure to keep you updated on where you money is going and if you email me and let me know how much you raised and how, I will give a special PoD Nepal Blog mention – you really don’t get more prestigious than that!

Morning exercises at Shree Krishna - and a late arrival at the back!
So, back to this week.  Nishma has been hard at work volunteering at Shree Krishna Lower Secondary School, teaching children of all ages and abilities.  She has a timetable to follow and has been officially paired up with Bedhari, the school’s head English teacher.  However, this being Nepal, there hasn’t been an awful lot of structure to her week!  There was a random school holiday one day, another day all of the female teachers left to visit a colleague and her new baby for the afternoon (leaving 2 male teachers and Nishma running the school), and yet another day where there just didn’t seem to be all that many teachers around.  Despite this, there has been no slacking on Miss Nishma’s watch and her classes have been running as normal, much to the disappointment of some of her charges!  That said, she has been brightening up the days with some song and dance classes which have been going down a storm.  All in all, good times are being had by all.

It was all change for me at Annupurna Primary School this week.  I took Class 1 for the first time and spent a lot of time teaching the letters A, B and C.  To avoid the session becoming repetitive, we had a big class treasure hunt for the different letters which was chaotic, but lots of fun!  For the first time in a very long time, the school have no volunteers teaching there, but no worries, this is soon to be rectified by Sarah, our new volunteer who will start on Monday.  She is a qualified teacher in the UK so she should settle in quickly enough and start to make a real difference there.

Little ones at the Asha Foundation
Our trip to the Asha Foundation this week was a little bit uneventful.  We had prepared a great session for making colourful, glittery, sparkly mobiles for the children to hang above their beds.  However, when we got there, all of the children were out!  Three of the smallest children were home and being taken care of by one of the older boys.  We sat with them, did some colouring and watched Nepali movies against the backdrop of mountains and rice paddies.  Not quite the session we had in mind, but a nice enough way to spend the afternoon.

Our mobile making project was, however, a great success at the Street Kids’ Centre.  Well, it was once we backtracked and explained that the mobiles we would be making were actually made of wood, string and paper and for decorating their rooms and not, as they had initially understood, mobile telephones..! It was particularly heart warming to see that all of the three recent arrivals are still here and appearing to be settling in well (there are high incidences new arrivals running away).  It’s also interesting and encouraging to see how their attitudes have already changed after just 3 weeks.  During our first session with them, they were desperately snatching at everything and begging for us to let them keep every little scrap of paper or pencil.  This is common behaviour in new arrivals who are used to having to grab what they can, where they can.  Now, after realising that they are being, and will continue to be, well cared and provided for, they are much calmer and less concerned with collecting and saving everything.  This is a great step and testament to the fantastic work of the centre staff.

Lakeside scene
And so I think that’s about it for this week.  We’re enjoying life here as always and looking forward to the next few weeks which will see the arrival of a very many new volunteers, some great festivals in Nepal and hopefully the start of some busy fundraising activities by you guys!

 Tips and suggestions for future volunteers
·         Mini whiteboards would be a great thing to bring.  Just one or two would be really helpful, particularly when running interactive sessions with smaller kids who can’t reach the board at the front of the class!
·         We really need some zip lock style sandwich bags of different sizes.  At the moment we have a huge supply of glitter, stickers, sequins, googly eyes and various other craft materials, and it’s very hard to get them to our sessions without them spilling out all over the place!  Sandwich bags would be perfect for dividing them up and transporting them.
·         Research what there is to do in Lakeside and plan and budget accordingly.  This way you will be sure to make the most of your time off.

If you want to join our team in Nepal, contact Becky in the PoD UK office or by phone, 0044 (0)1242 250 901