Monday, April 23, 2012

Summer of '69!

Hello everyone and a very Happy Nepali New Year to you all!  The turn of the year 2069 means that we are now officially in the Summer of ’69.  Anyone who has been here will know that this is Nepal’s unofficial national anthem and can only imagine how delighted the population are now that they have a real excuse to blast it out at every opportunity. Now, wherever we go we hear Bryan Adams’ famous hit blaring out of radios, cover bands or mobile phones.  Fun...?

Enjoying some hard earned candy floss at the fair
Anyways...back to us!  We celebrated New Year’s by heading off to the festival in the park.  We took all of the kids from theStreet Kids’ Centre along and enjoyed all the fun of the fair.  The bravest amongst us risked the swinging pirate ship, we all took our chances on a ride that was much faster and scarier than it looked from the ground, and the little ones practiced their motorcycle riding and plane piloting skills on a merry-go-round.  After that, it was lunch time.  Dal bhat all round.  And all over the floor and the table and the children...they got a bit excited and kept jumping up to point out things to each other sending their banana leaf plates flying all over the place!  We stopped at the main stage to watch some traditional dancing and then very nearly ended up in a tent of scantily clad ladies doing some not-so-traditional dancing.  Luckily, we realised that this wasn’t the magic show that we had been looking for and got out before the children saw anything too inappropriate.  Quite why the staff at the ticket booth didn’t think to tell us that the dance show may not be exactly what a group of volunteers and staff with 8 children were looking for, I don’t know!  Anyway, we finally found the magic show which was great fun.  People disappeared, flew and were cut in half.  We thought about a helicopter ride, but decided that may stretch the budget a little and so walked home instead.  Good times all around!

It’s also the start of the school year for us here.  The great news is that all of the kids we work with at the Asha Foundation, SOS Bahini and the Street Kids’ Centre passed their exams.  Our SOS Bahini girls all had improvements on their English results.  Asmita at the Street Kids’ did fantastically well and won a scholarship to a private school.  Shreeram, also at the Street Kids’, did well in his exams but really excelled in his conduct and behaviour in class and has been made class monitor.  They both begin their new roles with the opening of school this week.

Distracting kids with balloons, always a winner!
Ward 6 Children’s Centre has had a fresh batch of children starting.  It’s been quite chaotic.  Lots of crying and squabbling, not so much of the cooperation these days.  No one seems to want to sit and sing songs, read books or learn their alphabet just yet.  So, we have been distracting them with fun games and balloons, anything to make them associate the centre with fun rather than punishment!  The aim is that in a week or so the children will be happy and comfortable enough for us to get back to some sense of order and re-start more productive, structured sessions!

We have just finished distributing this quarter’s PoD Charity donations across our projects, too.  We have paid for the construction and fitting of windows in the living room and a front door for the Asha Foundation, the building of a shelter for the Street Kids’ Centre and sports equipment for Shree Krishna Lower Secondary School.  More details and photos will follow next time once all construction work has been finalised.  These donations, as with most of our past donations, have focussed on upgrading the physical environment for the centres.  For our next round of donations we really want to focus on giving the children a bit more fun and excitement in their lives.  To do this, we are looking at running day trips and experiences for the children.  If you can donate some pennies towards this, please visit our donations page.  If you can contribute some ideas for fun, child friendly days out in and around Pokhara, let me know! 

And finally...I want to invite you to a party.  Yes, that’s right. A party.  It's not in Nepal (although if you do come here I will put on another party for you!).  PoD turns 10 this year – hurrah! – and to celebrate the lovely ladies in the UK have planned a very special, fun, fundraising event.  We are all going to meet in the Peak District on June 30th for a sponsored walk (or run for those of you so inclined).  There is a 4km and a 10km route, after which will be an evening BBQ and party, after which will be camping, breakfast and then home.  It’s free to attend, you just need to raise £25 for PoD Charity.  You will be able to choose which project you raise money for and will have a lot of fun in the process.  If you are interested, email Gemma in the UK to let her know.  Keshav and I will be there and want to see as many PoD Nepal faces there as possible.  Yes, that’s right, we are coming all the way from Nepal to be there, so you lot had better make an effort too!

For more information on our work in Nepal and how to join our team, look at our website or contact Becky in the UK on 01242 250 901.  If you would like to help, but don't have the time to come in person right now, you can always make a donation to the PoD Charity and help fund our work here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying yourselves over the long weekend.  We have certainly been having fun times here.  This week we broght Easter to Pokhara and, whilst not everything went entirely to plan, we had a great time doing it!

Eggs decorated by the Asha Foundation kids
Our first attempt at Easter celebrations were on Thursday at the Street Kids’ Centre.  This was Lynsey and Jess’s last day at the centre and we thought that an Easter party would be a memorable send off.  We planned to decorate boiled eggs, have an egg hunt, egg and spoon races and all sorts of other egg related fun.  However, whilst the eggs made it to the centre, the bag of decorations didn’t.  Ooops.  Luckily, the kids brought out their own felt tips and got decorating.  Unfortunately, the monsoon rains decided to join our party which meant that all games were off.  Instead, we huddled together under the porch roof, ate boiled eggs and pretended to be penguins whilst Shreeram honed his photography skills, snapping all of us from every angle with Lynsey’s camera.  There were then some emotional goodbyes whilst our volunteers said goodbye to the children and staff.  So, whilst our farewell/Easter party didn’t go quite as planned, it was a fun session and a lovely note for our volunteers’ placement to end on.

‘PoD Nepal Easter: Take 2’ took place at the Asha Foundation.  We managed to bring along both the eggs and the decorating materials, but this time it was the children who were missing!  Lots of them were out for the afternoon, but we still had a good sized group of 8 to work with.  Eggs were painted, hidden and hunted out.  Races were run and sweets were eaten.  Very fun times indeed.

Earlier in the week we had a very silly session together at the Street Kids making balloon animals and facepainting each other (photos here).  I proved to be a one-trick-wonder and whipped out a lot of balloon swans.  Jess demonstrated some great facepainting skills before both she and Lynsey gamely gave their faces up for painting by the kids.  As all of this was going on, Bijay quietly slipped away and made his very own, amazingly complicated balloon dog.  My highlight of the day, however, was walking home with tiger-faced Jess.  Her attempts to scare small children with her tiger ‘roar’ amused everyone (imagine the noise a cat would make if it got its tail stuck in a door, that’s somewhere close to the noise she made).  It was beautiful.

Bijay showcasing his balloon dog
The staff and children at Ward6 were very sad to see Lynsey go.  Her contribution was greatly appreciated.  They enjoyed everything about her, from her general attitude to the resources and ideas she brought to sessions.  They particularly loved the introduction of ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ and ‘The Wheels on the Bus’!  The Chairman came to visit her on her final day and presented her with a certificate and a tikka.  The staff have since contacted us to reiterate their appreciation for her efforts – well done Lynsey!

Our free time has also been quite eventful lately. went on a jungle safari in Chitwan and bathed some elephants.  Lynsey got a birds’ eye view of Pokhara whilst paragliding.  The monsoon started – 5 days of big, big rains.  We were almost washed out of the Silk Road by one particularly heavy downpour.  But, the benefit of big rains at night is the clear skies in morning.  Jess finally got to see mountains on her last day here, hurrah!  We learned how to make momos and chapatti and have generally had a marvellous week.

For more information on our work in Nepal and how to join our team, look at our website or contact Becky in the UK on 01242 250 901.  If you would like to help, but don't have the time to come in person right now, you can always make a donation to the PoD Charity and help fund our work here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Summer school, day trips and BINGO!

Hello to everyone from a very hot Pokhara!  Spring seems to have sprung on past us this year and we have found ourselves slap bang in the middle of a hot and humid summer.  Of course, we don’t a little issue like let stifling heat get in our way and so it's business as usual for our fab PoD Team.

 Our latest team members, Jess and Lynsey, have been making a great impression both on placement and in Lakeside in general.   Staff at both of their placements have gone out of their way to tell me how well they are doing and they have also been turning heads in their free time. Their boat trip across the lake saw them filling up their boat with members of the Nepali Police Force, getting stranded at the temple, floating helplessly off across the lake and getting rescued by locals screaming, 'are you crazy?!'  Jess is off to Chitwan this weekend whilst Lynsey has been paragliding.  I dread to think what will come of those activities, but I've been checking the headlines and there's been no mention of either of them which must mean all went well!

Jess squishing into her cupboard to teach!
Anyways, back to PoD business...Jess has been working at the new Street Kids’ Centre and has fit in nicely.  It’s currently the school holidays here which means the children have a lot of time and energy to spare!  So, every day Jess puts on her kurta suruwal and heads up to the centre to run ‘summer school’ classes.  The focus of this is to get the children – particularly the newcomers – up to scratch before the start of the new school year in a few weeks.  The extreme heat means classes have to take place indoors.  However, because the centre is not yet finished, they are working in what is essentially a store cupboard.  Everyone squashes in between various pieces of furniture and gets to work.  Jess generally finds a seat, but for most of the kids it’s standing room only.  They do so desperately need an outdoor shelter building to provide them with a shady area to sit, study, eat and play under.  If you can help in any small way, please donate here.

Anyways, whilst study is most important, it is the school holidays and we can’t have the kids spending all of their time with their books.  So, in the afternoon time Jess is joined by Lynsey for some fun sessions.  Our volunteers brave the sun and head out to play football, play ‘pooh sticks’ in the river and all manner of other fun things.  Lynsey brought an amazing parachute with her that the kids go mad for.  They have developed a whole host of games that the manufacturers could never have even dreamed of!

Lynsey’s mornings are spent at Ward 6 children’s centre.  She helps staff run play and educational sessions in what is an unusually calm environment these days. I think this is largely due to the reduced number of children attending sessions.  Lots of regular attendees are at home being cared for and entertained by older siblings on their school holidays.  Lovely.  There is, however, a sense that this is the calm before the storm.  In a few weeks the new school year will start and there will be a batch of newcomers arriving.  We are braced for tears, tantrums and general chaos whilst they all settle in! Should be fun. Anyways, back to the present...

As an experience and qualified nursery school teacher back in the UK, Lynsey has done a great job at identifying ways by which she can enhance sessions without disrupting the centre's routines.  She has been using the outdoor playtime to take older children aside and work with them to develop in all manner of areas.  She is reading with them, communicating and working on educational puzzles and games.  Not only is this great for those specific kids, but it gives the younger children the space and time to enjoy the outdoor play area without bigger kids pushing them out of the way!

A final bit of good news from Ward 6, our efforts to introduce handwashing as a regular part of their daily routine seem to have worked!  When Lynsey arrived the soap dish was full and teachers were making sure children washed their hands after going to the toilet and before meals, without prompting.  Hurrah!

Posing for photos at Devi's Falls
Our aim at giving all of the kids we work with some kind of day trip is becoming a reality.  Last week we took all of the street kids and their mum to Devi’s Falls and the Gupta Caves.  The falls fell a bit flat as there was hardly any water in them, but the caves were a great success.  We all headed deep , deep, deep underground, through narrow, wet and slippy passages through the rocks.  We finally arrived at the underwater outlet for Devi’s Falls which was quite impressive.  I discovered I am claustrophobic, but everyone else had lots of fun.  I suspect a lot of their enjoyment was at my expense.  It seemed to tickle the kids that I was so scared when they weren’t.  Anyways, we survived the cave, had an ice cream and headed home.  Good times!

Aside from working at their individual projects, our volunteers have also been running weekly sessions at the Asha Foundation and SOS Bahini.  Our Asha Foundation sessions seem to have developed into a weekly Bingo club.  All of the children love it and can play for hours.  Literally.  Luckily, the introduction of Lynsey’s parachute offers us a bit of respite from calling out yet another round of numbers!

And that’s about it for this week.  We have some fun programmes planned for Easter and have been busy handing out donations, but they are stories for next week, so watch this space!

For more information on our work in Nepal and how to join our team, look at our website or contact Becky in the UK on 01242 250 901.  If you would like to help, but don't have the time to come in person right now, you can always make a donation to the PoD Charity and help fund our work here.