Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Diwalli!

Hello, it’s Philippa back again this week.  Firstly, I want to send a big thanks to Liz for writing last week’s blog!  OK, so I know I generally start these blogs telling you that we have all been super busy and working hard, but never has it been so true as this week.  Our team is growing and growing.  We now have 9 volunteers, including our youngest ever, Connor aged 7.  All are doing fab work, as you can read below...

Limbo at the Asha Foundation
Our Occupational Therapist, Aine, has been joined by her friend Sam, also an Occupational Therapist from back home.  The three of us went to meet Mr Hari Krishna, the founder of SCIAN to find out how they could be of help.  Our meeting with him, under a big tree and surrounded by chickens, ducks and cows, was most productive.  Apart from being useful in terms of planning the ladies’ placement, it also opened our eyes to the issues facing disabled people in Nepal.  People are dying from relatively minor causes, such as untreated bedsores.  There is little understanding or funding to support disabled people and a high level of stigma and discrimination that makes it difficult for disabled people to be part of their community. 

Aine and Sam have risen to the challenge of serving this group magnificently.  Undaunted by the lack of equipment available in Nepal, they are making their own.  They have been spending lots of time in the workshop of a local carpenter, using his equipment and expertise to help them make bed levers, sliding boards and cushions to relieve pressure sores.  To say they have been welcomed into the carpenters family would be an understatement – adopted would be more accurate!  Aine was part of the family’s Tihar celebrations and has been invited for tea, boat trips and all sorts of other exciting things.

Nishma is in her last week at Shree Krishna school.  She has really stepped up to the challenging conditions there, managing large classes by herself and not getting worn out by the constant chaos going on around her.  She has been joined for the past few weeks by Sarah whose placement at Annupurna Primary School has been on hold as they gave themselves an extra three weeks holiday, but is due to re-open this week.  I think it’s fair to say that whilst Sarah has enjoyed Shree Krishna, she is very much looking forward to getting back to her old class at Annurpurna!

Nishma has also been hard at work at SOS Bahini, teaching the girls dance and helping them to prepare for their Tihar celebration.  TIhar is the second biggest festival in the Nepali calendar and seems to be a nocturnal festival; in the day time you would be hard pressed to realise anything was going on, but in the night time, the town erupts with bright colours, twinkling lights and fantastic dancing. 

Every home and workplace paints pictures outside their doorway and builds a lamplit path into the centre of their home to encourage Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, in in the hope that she brings them good fortune all year around.  Fairy lights are put up everywhere and troupes of dancers parade up and down the streets, wheeling their hi-tech sound systems around on rickety old wooden carts.  Definitely my favourite festival in Nepal.

But, back to work.  Liz and Abby have been our first volunteers at Shree Dipya Jyoti Primary School and have been making an amazing impression.  I received a text from Dev Laxmi, the English teacher at the school, telling me how much she, the staff and pupils are enjoying the teaching methods our volunteers use.  It’s really exciting for us to be able to support a new placement with real needs.  The children here are all from really poor backgrounds and have little in the way of comfort and opportunity in their lives.  The school has recently started to receive financial and practical support from a local businessman who has taken the school under his wing and arranged for his business contacts all over the world to sponsor various contributions to the school. So far the school has had a complete makeover, new toilets, uniforms and – of course!  - they have been introduced to our super volunteers.  Next on the list is to get a system of school dinners in place as most of the children only currently get one meal a day at home, in the evening time.

Jacqui has been braving the disorder at Ward 6 and getting involved with playtimes, meal times, reading times...basically all times!  As fun and rewarding as this placement is, it can also be super challenging.  The children are very young and expected to spend long periods of time sitting in a circle learning by rote and this is often difficult for our volunteers to stand by and watch.  However, we appreciate that young children need a routine and as such we can’t expect to go in and change this whenever a new volunteer comes along.  That said, volunteers do definitely make many other positive contributions.  Children and staff benefit from the English language practice, we raise awareness of hygiene issues, contribute to the development of teaching and learning practices through the examples we set.  We just need to appreciate that immediate changes and improvements are rare, instead we are proud to be part of a much longer term process that will make a lasting difference.

Last but not least, we come to the Street Kids.  We have had a few visits with them lately, shopping for new clothes, celebrating Tihar and generally having a lovely time.  We went together yesterday to introduce Mel and Connor to them, as this is where they will be working.  Mel will be using her teaching skills to provide one on one support to one of the centre’s newest arrivals who is yet to start school.  This should hopefully give him the leg up he needs to join in with and excel in classes once a school place is found for him.  Connor is going to be helping out by teaching the boys some English games and sports and will be learning a lot about life for Nepali children in the process. 

Music time at the Street Kids
Connor is taking his responsibilities seriously and got stuck right in to playing and sharing ideas with the boys there whilst the rest of us shared sweets and gossip with the staff.  He quickly made a bond with Niroj, a 13 year old boy who wrestled with him, taught him some break dancing moves and gave him piggy back after piggy back all over the place.  In return Connor gave a quick yoga demonstration which initially confused Niroj who didn’t seem to understand why this  previously bouncing boy suddenly plonked himself down and started to chant ‘om’.  But, he caught on pretty quickly, tried to get himself in a similar position and promptly let out a very big fart.  This sent him flying into his room in embarrassment and gave everyone else a good laugh.  Some things really are universally understood!

In between all of this work and festivities, we have also found time to make the most of our free time to celebrate Sarah’s birthday with a delicious birthday cake made by the SOS Bahini Cafe, another visit to Bandipur, some boating on the lake, paragliding, singing at the Silk Road, some mini golf and lots and lots of visits to various restaurants around town.  Don’t you think you should come and join us? 

If you are interested in joining our team in Nepal, contact Becky in the UK.

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