Monday, June 11, 2012

And it's goodbye from me...

Hello everyone.  This is a very sad blog update for me to write because it is my last.  After today, I will no longer be working for PoD Nepal.  I’ve had an amazing 2 years in Nepal, but sometimes it’s just time to go home.  So, next week, I shall be packing up my bags and getting back on a plane to sunny old Manchester.  But, before I go, I want to do an Oscar style speech, gushing about the wonderful people and experiences I have had in Nepal.  I hope you don’t mind...

Leaving party at APS
Firstly, I’d like to talk about the people I’ve met here in Nepal.  I’m constantly blown away by local staff, children and volunteers alike.  Staff make the most of the limited resources and infrastructure in Nepal to support some of the community’s neediest people.  I’m not sure if their hearts of sense of determination is bigger, but they have a lot of each!  Often, their work is pioneering in that it challenges the cultural stereotypes and status quo.  It takes a special type of person to be able to identify social problems and then to act upon them.

The children and clients that I have come across are equally awe inspiring.  Many of them have faced – and are still facing – the toughest of conditions; poverty, abandonment, domestic violence, discrimination, loss of mobility. But, despite all of this, they carry on.  They smile and laugh and play and welcome our volunteers into their lives.  Their resilience and determination demand that we get to know them as individuals in their own right, not just as the faces of the social problems they face.  It has truly been a pleasure to get to know each and every one of them.
Saying goodbye to the Street Kids' Centre

Finally, our volunteers.  Wow.  What a bunch!  It would be easy for me to become complacent about this group.  I have been fortunate enough to meet a large number of these people.  People willing to give up their time, money and efforts to help people that they have never even met.  So, I need to keep reminding myself that this isn’t the norm.  Most people head for a swimming pool or beach in their holidays.  I feel incredibly lucky to have met a lot of the few who choose to dedicate their hard earned breaks to serving others.

Each of these individuals has played a vital part in the work of PoD Nepal.  It’s thanks to their combined efforts that I’ve witnessed some real changes in the projects we work with.  I’ve seen teachers taking on new teaching methods and the shy kids at the back of the class blossoming under the praise and support of volunteers.   I’ve heard the huge improvements in the English levels of the children we work with.  I’ve seen scared and angry newcomers at the Street Kids’ Centre be coaxed into joining sessions and having fun.  None of this would have been possible without the time and attention given by local staff and international volunteers.  What a team!
Farewell to the Asha Foundation 

I’ve seen PoD Charity grow from an idea into a really effective channel for distributing support where needed.  Thanks to PoD Charity and its generous donors, many of our placements have undergone real transformations.  All of the classrooms we work in now have whiteboards.  Shree Krishna school has access to clean drinking water.  The Street Kids’ Centre has a sheltered outdoor area to keep little heads dry in the rain and cool in the sun.  The kids at the Asha Foundation can now close their windows and doors to keep out the dust and bugs.  Annurpurna Primary school now has the funds to ensure that each child gets a decent meal at lunchtime.  Ward 6 day care centre has a huge toy box filled with educational toys and resources.  Dipya Jyoti has a well resourced and expanding school library.  And these are just some of the examples of where your donations and fund raising efforts have helped.  A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed, and please, keep up the good work!

Apart from all the great work our volunteers have done in the community, they have provided me with a lot of good times and a lot of new friends.  They have provided me with hours of momo making (and eating!), relaxing by the lake, short lived keep fit regimes, nights at the Silk Road, days out and mini adventures.  Of course, as with any friendships, we are not only there for each other during the fun times, and we have faced our fair share of challenges together.  We’ve dealt with cockroaches, unwanted admirers and middle aged Nepali women hell bent on stuffing us with dal bhat until us explode.  We’ve stood together and watched helplessly as our shoes have been washed right off our feet by the monsoon rains.  We’ve spent hours on a buses with chickens on our laps.  We’ve stumbled through the streets in the dark of power cuts, blindly dodging sleeping cows and buffalo that only came into view once we were almost on top of them.  We’ve shivered together them in winter and sweated together in summer.  We’ve shared intimate information about our bowel movements, inspected each other’s insect bites and combed out our nits.  And you know what?  I have enjoyed every minute.  Thanks to all of the people who have made my time with PoD Nepal a fantastic experience.  I leave here feeling inspired and humbled by you all.

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, June 4, 2012

Goat meat parties all round!

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about our last batch of donations, but yet here I am again with yet MORE donations news.

This week, Phil and I have spent two full days shopping and visiting placements to handover donations on behalf of PoD Charity.  It’s been great.  We’ve met some very real needs and provided some much appreciated treats for the projects we support.  A HUGE thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.

For those of you wondering how you can support PoD Charity’s fundraising, it’s easy!  Join our fundraising event in the Peak District at the end of next month.  It's going to be a great weekend of running or walking - whatever tickles your fancy - camping, laughing and raising money for a great cause (for details, click here).  If you can’t make it on the day, you can still contribute by sponsoring those of us who are heading up into the hills by clicking here!  My husband and I will be walking 10kms over hill and dale in the UK to raise pennies for all of our fantastic projects here in Pokhara.  I’m a little nervous about how I will cope with both the exercise and the UK weather after several months of moving as little as possible in the heat of the Nepali summer, but I’m going to give it a try.

Anyways, in case more incentive is needed to get you donating, see below for where our last batch of donations went.

Class five posing with their new books at Dipya Jyoti
We gave our first donation to Dipya Jyoti Primary.  This really is an amazing school.  The teachers are as keen to learn from our volunteers as the children are, and they are always open to new ideas.  One big change made in the school by our volunteers was the introduction of a mini library.  PoD volunteers Abby and Liz commissioned the building of a bookshelf, transported it to school on their heads and stocked it with books.  They taught the children and staff how to record the loans and take care of the books.  PoD Charity has just donated a load more fresh books to keep them interested.  The kids were delighted.  They proudly showed off their loans book as evidence of just how much reading they had been doing, and I can vouch that it is a lot!  We are also working to get more books for the school by linking up with and INGO that distributes library resources to worthwhile projects.  Looks like our next donation here may have to be a bigger bookshelf!

The Asha Foundation is doing well.  All of the windows and doors that we donated last time are in and looking great.  More importantly, they are keeping the wind, dust and rain out of the house.  So, with the house pretty much finished, we decided to use this batch of PoD Charity money to give the kids a treat.  We rocked up to their house in the evening time, armed with 5kg of goat meat and 11 litres of curd for dinner.  We all sat down together to enjoy a good meal and good company.  Marvellous!

Kids, staff and committee members receiving donations at
the Street Kids' Centre
The Street Kids’ Centre also benefited from a PoD Charity sponsored party, complete with goat meat and soft drinks.  They enjoyed the food greatly, but seemed much more interested in the new bike that PoD had bought for them!  At the moment, this organisation is really short on funds, so short that they are struggling to pay their food bills.  So, PoD Charity donated 50kgs of rice and 13kgs of lentils (the staple diet in Nepal) to ensure that the children continued to be well fed even when we weren’t there.

We also visited Annurpurna Primary School to donate funds to cover the cost of daytime snacks for the children there.  This is a really important donation as many of the children here come to school on an empty stomach and don’t eat until late at night.  This time around, we need to give a big thanks to Kerra Stephens, a past PoD volunteer at APS, who went home and raised funds with her own class to fill the tummies of children on the other side of the world.  Fantastic stuff!   

Santosh gets to be the first to see human blood
cells through the microscope
PoD Charity facilitated donations from Marilyn Watts, a past PoD volunteer, to Shree Krishna school.  Marilyn volunteered in the science department here last year and caused quite stir.  Until her appearance here, lessons were largely theory based and the children had very little experience or understanding of the practical applications of science.  She left the school pledging that she would help to rectify this, and she has certainly done that!  Since leaving Nepal, Marilyn has tapped her local colleges and colleagues for old science equipment, a laptop and a projector AND managed to get them to Nepal.  Despite a few glitches on the way - equipment finding it's way to pretty much every location in Nepal except the place it was meant for - we tracked everything down, got it all together and set off to school.  The staff there were delighted with their new resources and headed straight to Class 9 to show them off!  The kids were most intrigued and battled with each other to get the first glimpse into the microscope.  A huge thanks to Marilyn and we wish the students the best of luck with their new equipment.
And that’s about it.  Once more, if you have a few extra pennies to spare, please do sponsorKeshav and I on our walk up and down the peaks of the Peak District.  As you can see, your money really does go where it is needed.  We need regular contributions to ensure that we can continue to sponsor basic needs and treats across all of our placements.   

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.