Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Christmas! End of year update from PoD

Hello everyone and Happy Christmas!

2011 has been a busy and interesting old year for us at PoD Nepal.  We’ve seen many volunteers come and go – we’ve even had a couple returning for a second run!  Our programme has expanded to support three new wonderfully worthwhile projects and our PoD Charity is now running fantastically well.  So, I thought that it would be nice to round off the year with a summary of all we have achieved and to acknowledge those who made it happen. 

This year saw the launch of our PoD Charity, a channel through which volunteers’ donations are managed, distributed and tracked.   All donations are collected up into one big ‘pot’ and allocated across projects on a need by need basis.  We are now in the fantastic position of being able to offer all of our projects an equal opportunity to access funds and resources.  Suggestions on where money should be spent are collected from PoD staff, volunteers and placement staff, with the final decision being made by our Board of Trustees in the UK.  So far, we have raised £2,694.34 and distributed approximately £2,154.94 across 6 projects.  The rest will remain in the ‘pot’ until such time as it is needed.  You can see exactly where this money has been spent in the individual placement summaries below, photos here and you can find out more about PoD Charity here

Annurpurna Primary School
Kids at APS enjoying their picnic
Annurpurna Primary School is one of our longest standing placements.  It is a small, government school in Lakeside with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, but very little in the way of resources or organisation.  Our volunteers have contributed significantly to establishing a more structured routine at the school and have introduced various new teaching methods and resources to lessons. Perhaps our most notable contribution would be the introduction of free school meals for every child.  This practice developed after Susan Skene, our volunteer back in November 2010, started to bring healthy snacks for the children every day.  The school ran with this idea and now has a fully functioning kitchen that provides hot meals for the children every day.

PoD Charity contributes towards the cost of daily meals and has bought a new cushioned carpet for the nursery class, whiteboards for each classroom, chairs for the staffroom and partially sponsored a full school picnic.

Shree Krishna School 
Another long standing placement, Shree Krishna School is a large, wonderfully chaotic government school in Lakeside.  Our volunteers have made a vast range of contributions here, running a summer school, providing extra tuition and generally offering their time, ideas and suggestions.   A real highlight here was the introduction of practical science lessons by Marilyn Watts in September.  Marilyn blew the minds of students and staff alike by closing the textbook and shunning theory and diagrams in favour of real life examples of acids and alkalines and examining various objects under her mini-microscope.  Staff have since picked up on her methods and are now often found giving practical lessons of their own, hurrah!

PoD Charity has funded a new drinking water tank, money towards furnishing three new classrooms and whiteboards for every class.  

Street Kids’ Centre
Handing over donations to Street Kids
Yet another well established PoD placement is the Street Kids’ Centre.  This centre offers housing and support to abandoned or orphaned children, and does a fantastic job at it!  The whole PoD team visits the centre on a weekly basis, running arts, crafts and play sessions, but we have also had a few full time volunteers at the centre who given extra tuition and support to new arrivals who are waiting for school places.  Our volunteers also ran a highly popular summer school at the centre, giving the children a chance to catch up on key concepts that they may have missed because of previously disrupted schooling.

PoD Charity has given every child a brand new top, jeans, belts and shoes, funded food for the centre for one month, sponsored their Dashain meal (Dashain is the major festival here, celebrated on the scale of Christmas back home), provided toothbrushes and toothpaste for every child and new linen for every bed.

The Asha Foundation
Suroj receiving a guitar on behalf of the Asha Foundation
The introduction of weekly sessions at the Asha Foundationhas to be one of the more notable changes in PoD Nepal’s work this year.  We all head out together to the orphanage on a Friday afternoon running arts, crafts, music and play sessions with the children.  This has not only been great for our own team building, but gives the children the chance to get much needed one-to-one interaction with adults.

The Asha Foundation recently moved into a new, custom built home, but unfortunately the move was made way before the building was completed.  Consequently, the children have been sleeping in bedrooms with no windows or doors, leaving them very cold at night.  PoD Charity has funded the making and installation of windows and doors in all 4 bedrooms, meaning everyone gets a warm and secure night’s sleep.  We also provided a guitar to be used by all of the children.

Ward 6 Day Care Centre
Kids receiving their toy box
This centre provides childcare for around 40 pre-school children from low income families. Our volunteers play a crucial role in supporting staff in their day to day activities and generally helping to control and pacify the hoards of tots in their care!  Our biggest impact here this year has to be the hygiene drive initiated by Alice Seale back in May.  Alice set about encouraging staff to make sure that they and the children washed their hands after using the toilet and before every meal.  This ran well for the time that Alice was at the centre and when subsequent volunteers have arrived brandishing a bar of Dettol soap everyone certainly seemed to know what to do.  We aren’t quite at the stage whereby staff are doing this of their own accord, but we’re getting there! 

PoD Charity have donated a new toy box to the centre crammed full of interactive books, etch-a-sketches, big Lego blocks, balls, alphabet jigsaws and many more goodies that went down very, very well.  The idea is that these toys will give them the stimulation they need to develop motor and cognitive skills and some fun in the process!

Spinal Cord Injury Association Nepal (SCIAN)
Anju, ready to restart her studies
SCIAN, the first of our new placements this year, is a well established organisation working to promote the independence and wellbeing of people with disabilities in Nepal.  Our volunteers mainly provide social support for SCIAN’s clients, visiting them at home and accompanying them on trips out.  This service is of real benefit to people who are often find themselves stigmatised and ostracised from mainstream society.  SCIAN clients also benefited from Aine and Sam, two qualified Occupational Therapists who spent three weeks visiting and assessing clients, then funding, designing and building equipment to help them in their day to lives.  

PoD Charity sponsored Anju, one of SCIAN’s younger clients, back into full time education.  The money we gave her covered the cost of registration, books and uniform.  

Shree Bhalam Primary School
Louise with students at staff at Bhalam
Another of our new placements this year, Shree Bhalam Primary School is a small government school in Bhalam village, just outside of Pokhara.  We have had just one volunteer at the school so far, but Louise made such a fantastic impression there that the village and school are desperately waiting for the next one - so sign up and join us!  Louise not only taught the children, but also mentored teachers and ran a great teacher training session emphasising the importance of interactive classes and using teaching resources.  We donated a whole stack of teaching resources to the school and left them with the ideas and materials necessary for them to make their 

SOS Bahini
We have also just started to work with SOS Bahini, a local organisation serving women and girls at risk (Bahini means ‘little sister’ in Nepali).  The organisation is well established and receives international funding, so our input here is minimal but significant.  We provide weekly conversational English classes for the girls supporting them in learning, using and developing English skills.  We were also able to provide the girls with some fun dance classes, courtesy of Nishma.  After putting in long hours at school all day, Nishma would head off to SOS Bahini and spend much time and energy teaching the girls various dances and having lots of fun!

Shree Dipya Jyoti Primary School
Liz teaching kids at Dipya Jyoti
The newest of all of our placements, Shree Dipya Jyoti is a small, local government school on the outskirts of Pokhara.  So far, we have had three volunteers at the school who have made a great impression, leaving staff desperate for more PoD folk to join them!  Volunteers here are well supported by the school’s English teacher, Dev Laxmi, who accompanies their classes, take notes on their teaching methods and relays these back to other teachers in the staff room.

Unfortunately, Shree Dipya Jyoti entered our programme too late for our latest round of donations, but they did benefit from a new school library shelf, kindly donated by Liz and Abby.  They bought the shelf and books and then taught the children how to use a library, signing books in and out and taking care of them.  

And that’s about it as far as placement updates are concerned.  Many thanks to Abby Holder, Gemma Lay, Marilyn Watts, Thomas Kneen, Kate Hughes and Rachel Savage who have fundraised for PoD Charity and made it possible for us to distribute funds and resources to those in need.

PoD Band playing at the Silk Road
Finally, a HUGE thank you to all of our hardworking volunteers this year.  Our community has benefited from the skills, knowledge and time of 32 volunteers, including our youngest ever volunteer, our first health volunteers, our own PoD Band and even our first PoD romance (hats on standby for a PoD wedding...)!  Our volunteers have given their time to street kids, disabled people, orphaned children, underprivileged schools, village schools, women and girls at risk and deprived pre-school tots.  Their achievements have been many and varied; running teacher training sessions in the village, securing a disabled, housebound gentleman a place on a rehabilitation programme, getting the withdrawn newcomer at the Street Kids’ Centre to join in and enjoy the group activity, getting the shy child at the back of the class to put their hand up and answer a question.  They have worked so hard to improve the lives of those around them and, in return they got to experience and become a part of a wonderful community.  They learned about Nepali culture through all manner of firsthand experiences, celebrated many festivals, explored the mountains, jungles and towns on foot, on elephants, by river and in the air and made lots of new friends on the way.  The highlights of each individual are just too many to list, but the one thing they have in common is that they have all, without exception, been brilliant ambassadors for PoD and international volunteers in general.    We have enjoyed each and every one of our super volunteers.  We, and those we serve, have truly valued and appreciated the contribution they have made, so THANK YOU!