Monday, October 10, 2011

19 People, a Goat and a Jeep

This week’s title refers to the luxurious travel arrangements our volunteers found themselves in this week, but more of that later.  So, we have largely just been enjoying life lately.  This week was the climax of the Dashain festival so we have been joining in with the festivities and generally finding time to cram in all of the fun that Nepal has to offer.  Oh, and of course we have still been doing a little bit of work.

Aine's welcome to Lakeside
We have had two new team members arrive, Aine and Liz.  Aine narrowly missed out on one of the best arrivals in Lakeside ever.  When I arrived at the bus park to pick her up, the whole place had been decked out in bunting and banana trees to celebrate ‘World Tourism Day’.  As tourists stumbled off their busses after 7 hours of being jiggled and bounced around  on the road from Kathmandu, hoards of local hotel owner and businessmen rushed towards them to cover them in flower garlands and hand out gifts whilst being accompanied by traditional musicians.  Unfortunately, Aine’s bus was one of the last to arrive and so all flowers, gifts and enthusiasm had long gone and she just got me standing in a dusty bus park with flags flapping around the place.

Aine is an Occupational Therapist who is working with individuals with physical disabilities in the community and will be moving on to support SCIAN full time after the Dashain holidays.  The lack of services, systems and equipment is making her work here very challenging, but undaunted, Aine is simply setting off to buy wood, saws and all sorts of other things to design and build her own aides.  She certainly is a very inspirational and compassionate lady!  Liz is a qualified teacher from home who arrived on what is the equivalent of Christmas Eve here and so hasn’t started volunteering just yet, but it looks like she is going to be the first volunteer at our newest placement, Shree Dipya Jyoti Primary School.  This is a government school that is a bus ride out of Lakeside and has never had a volunteer before.  Exciting times!

Campfire songs whilst cooking their goat
We all headed off to the Street Kids’ Centre for our regular session there this week and made it just in time to see them slaughter their Dashain dinner.  Members of the committee, the house mum and four boys who had no family to visit over the holidays were at the centre with a very handsome goat.  Unfortunately for the goat, he had his head chopped off and was cleaned, filleted and cooked up within about an hour.  The rest of us, however, had a lovely celebration.  The committee provided us with some beer to drink and extremely fresh meat to eat so we ate, drank and enjoyed being included in the festivities.

Nishma and I have started sessions at SOS Bahini, (‘Bahini’ means ‘little sister’ in Nepali), a fantastic local organisation that we have just started to work with.  They work with disadvantaged and at risk women and girls from all over Nepal.  They provide accommodation, support, health care, education and training for their ladies in order to empower them to take control of their own lives, something that is often difficult in such a patriarchal society.  Our contribution to their great work is to offer conversational English classes to the girls in their final years at school.  The aim is that by getting the girls more comfortable with expressing themselves in English, they will stand a better chance at getting international scholarships to study in the future.  We are really excited and privileged to be able to work with this organisation and look forward to where this will take us and the girls.

Bandipur High Street
Other than that, work has been thin on the ground this week and so we have been finding other ways to keep ourselves busy.  There was a group trip to Bandipur, a stunningly beautiful hilltop town between Pokhara and Kathmandu, definitely somewhere that every volunteers should visit (this is where the packed jeep trip came in!).  Reta and Marilyn set off on a ‘Royal Trek’ and came back with some amazing stories and photos.  Nishma is still on a 5 day trek up to Poon Hill.  Sarah and Aine have been hiring bikes and cycling around the lake and to Zumba classes.  They have also been swatting up on their Nepali skills with classes at the Cosmic Brontosaurus and have been joined there by Liz who is keen to squeeze in as much learning as she can before heading off to work next week.  We had a street festival here with live concert, everyone went off to the Bat Caves and hiked up to the World Peace Pagoda for some stunning views of the Annupurna Mountain range.  Oh, and Aine has joined the church band and has been treating us to some wonderful music sessions at the Silk Road. Phew!  There was probably more going on, but I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

And that’s about it for this week.  We’re back to work from the middle of next week until the next big holiday at the end of October so will be sure to keep you updated.

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

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