Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter is coming...



So my last volunteers left about a week ago and I've now got about 3 weeks on my own. Which means, for once, it's actually been quite a quiet week. Everything (all the strikes) have settled down again since the elections, but we are still waiting for the results. The schools are open and running like normal, so I am spending my time helping out at Annapurna Primary School and the Street Kids Center in Lakeside.

The Bahini Eco village now
I'm sad to update you all that the Bahini Cafe closed for good this week. Due to their location they were not getting enough trade and losing too much money. Although the aim was never to earn a lot of money, it was to serve as a training center for young women and provide employment, but they were simply loosing too much. There are plans they may re-open in a different location at some point, but for now their focus is on the Eco-village, which is looking incredible, and nearly ready for the girls to move in to.

Another sad bit of information is that the Street Children may have lost one of their largest donors. The Center survives solely on donations, and although PoD give a monthly donation towards food from the PoD Charity, we are all worried that they will not have enough to continue in the future. Me and Phil visited the Center last week to make our donation for the next three months, but you'd be surprised how much rice these little fella's get through! I am starting to fund raise for my trek in April to Everest Base Camp and hope to get enough to help them out in some small way.

BJ tucking into his Dal Bhat at the Street Kids Center
In better news, Bindu is on the mend. She's been having regular check ups and is a little bit more mobile now and hopefully the caste will be off soon.

It is technically 'Winter' in Nepal now, but to me, it feels more like an English summer! But it's actually my favourite time of year, it is still warm in the day time and cool in the evening and the clear skies mean that we are seeing the mountains every day.



I'm looking forward to the next volunteers arriving in the next few weeks, every one has been asking me when my new friends are arriving!

If you would like to join me and the team in Nepal and volunteer your time here, then please email Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elinor's Diary Part 3 - Final installment!



9th October 
Hi everyone,

The last few days have been eventful to say the least.  As you know, on Monday we had a new boy arrive at the street kids centre.  He was picked up by some tourists who have agreed to sponsor him (pay for food, clothes, school equipment etc) however, this all depends if we can actually keep him from running away!  He is a nightmare!  His name is Dinesh.  He looks about 5 but apparently he is 9 and he is a proper handful.  The other boys have not really warmed to him and he is causing some friction at the moment.  If he doesn't get what he wants he cries or screams.  When he does get what he wants he won't share and he doesn't really know how to interact with others or 'play' in any real sense.  We gave him some old paints yesterday and he just mixed them all together using one brush and then daubed big lines on a piece of paper and then wanted us to stick it on the wall :-)


Today, we went to the big park with the younger ones so there were 7 in total.  We had a lovely time playing on the swings and the slide, and then we took the group over to the lake to look at the people fishing. On the way home, I had walked ahead with one of the lads and I got a call to say that Dinesh had sat down on the side of the road and wouldn't move and kept saying that he wanted gum (this means glue here and we know that he did sniff glue when he was on the street, so unsurprisingly he is suffering from withdrawal) so I dropped my boy off and went back to where everyone else was.  Now you know me and I'm not for any messing around so I picked him up and started walking!  I just wanted to get him home, but he wouldn't move so I put him down and again, he refused to move, so a local taxi driver, who was watching the spectacle, offered to drive us home.  I've never been so relieved!  We put him in the taxi with us and he shut up instantly and was too busy looking out of the window watching the world go by to make a fuss.  What a cheeky monkey!  I feel battered and bruised and I'm hoping for a less eventful day tomorrow, although, that could be hoping for too much as we're going out on the peddle boats!!!

Other than that, I've had a gorgeous pizza for my dinner and brought some home for the dog, Rex.

I hear from my mum and dad that it's starting to get cold in the UK.  I'm really going to feel that difference when I get back.  At the moment it's about 25-30 degrees here and absolutely roasting.  I have got a 'Nepali' tan, which basically consists of a tanned face and neck and arms.  Everything else is still as white as anything!

I'll let you know how tomorrow goes, wish me luck!!!

Love,
Elinor xxx

11th October.

So who bet that Dinesh would run away?  Well, if you did, you were right!

We had a great day on the peddle boats on the lake yesterday and on the way back we stopped for momo's and Chrissy's partner Maila, who is Nepali, came in to say hello and to speak to Dinesh about why it is a good thing for him to be at the street kids centre and whilst he was trying to chat to him, he scarpered!  We tried to find him but he was gone.  Ama (the mum) was a little bit beside herself and Chrissy was not happy with Maila as he was supposed to help, not make things worse!

Not to worry though, later on that day Chrissy found him down by the lake and took him back to the centre, so we have Dinesh back and Maila has redeemed himself somewhat :-)

Today is a relatively easy day for us.  We go up into the mountain orphanage this afternoon (Asha) for a couple of hours and some of the children will be gone for the festival so we're expecting a quiet couple of days.

Elinor xxx


14th October.

Hi everyone,

Well, since I last checked in with you, it has been an eventful few days (when is it not?!) 

Dinesh was found again, ran away again and was found again.  I think we have all agreed that we're not going to force him to come back if he doesn't want to, so if he does run away again and we see him, we'll only take him back if he wants to go.  He was there on Saturday night when we went for our Dashain meal of goat soup and BBQ goat with rice, and he seemed to be relatively happy, so we'll see.  He's still very gropey and loves to try and suck on your neck or your arm which is very off putting!

On Saturday, Sinead and I went paragliding!!!  Yes, that's right, we got in a jeep, went up to the top of the nearest very big hill, strapped ourselves in to a harness and jumped off!  Fortunately, we were doing a tandem paraglide, so there was someone else in control of the chute.  I have to say, I really loved it.  It was very exciting to run down the side of the hill and then before you knew it, your feet were off the ground and you were flying through the air, with Pokhara and the lake below you and the mountains beside you.  The views on the way up in the jeep were phenomenal and it was a really clear day, so we got to see all the mountains that we never normally see because there are hills in the way and it is quite cloudy on most days.  Sinead wasn't quite so much of a fan of the whole jumping off the side of a hill malarkey and apparently her language was quite colourful as she hurled herself down the hill

Yesterday was a day for spiders!  The spiders here which are the equivalent of house spiders in the UK are huge and quite hairy.  To date, we haven't really encountered any at close range, however, Sinead got up to go to the loo at 4am on Sunday morning and went to turn the light switch on.  As she looked to the left of the light switch, very close to where her hand had just been, there was a rather large, hairy spider!!!  She bravely went back to bed, rather than getting me out of bed which apparently did cross her mind, and in the morning, she ushered me into her room, whilst standing behind me, and said 'kill it'.  Now Sinead seems to think I'm quite brave, little does she know that spiders freak me out as much as they do her, however, not wanting to appear weak, I stepped up to the plate and squished it.  We looked at it to see if it was dead - it was behind her dresser at this point and I had just pushed the dresser onto it - and it dropped down onto the floor.  You should have seen us, I've never known two people to run away as fast as we did, Sinead heading for her bed (she ended up standing on top of her bed) and me down the corridor, both of us screaming like little girls!!! We have since encountered another one, but have been unsuccessful in killing it, so it remains in the communal room, taunting us with its hairy legs and fast run.

Today is the main festival day so all the shops and restaurants are shut and it's raining so it's quite dull and boring, hence the very long e-mail!  We only have 4 boys at street kids so we need to go home and decide what we're going to do with them for 3 hours this afternoon.

Happy Dashain everyone!

Love,
Elinor (and Sinead!)


17th October 2013-10-17

Hi everyone,

This will probably be my last e-mail from Nepal, as I head back to Kathmandu tomorrow morning.

Yet again, we have had an eventful few days.  No more spiders thankfully, however, major challenges with another of the boys attempting to run away.  His name is Pawan and he had been home for Dashain to visit his extended family in a village several hours way from Pokhara.  PoD really encourage the children to keep in contact with heir families however, this can cause as many issues as it brings rewards. Pawan is approx 9 years old and he hasn't seen his family for two years, having been at the street kids centre for nearly 4 years.  It is clear he really enjoyed seeing his family and he was very cuddly when I saw him the day before yesterday and quiet, even for him.

Saying goodbye
Yesterday, we only had the 4 small ones again and the rain had stopped so we decided to take them to the small park.  Within 10 minutes of us being there, Ravesh, who is normally really good, had started a fight with Pawan and pushed him to the ground. It's possible that there is some jealousy from the boys who didn't go home towards those who did.  Pawan ran off and we let him have a sulk for a bit.  Then he came back and it was ok for a few minutes and then they started fighting again.  Pawan got really peeved off this time and headed off down the road.  Me, Sinead and Asmita (the daughter of the lady who runs the centre) tried to get him to come home (Lottie and Anna had taken the others back by this point) but he wasn't having any of it.  I honestly thought he was going to bolt and I wouldn't be able to catch him.  He was so upset and sad, it really broke my heart.  I sent Sinead to go and get Ama (the house mum) and then fortunately, we had an absolute stroke of luck.  Sinead got back to the house, and as she was telling Ama, the oldest boy, BJ, arrived back from visiting his family.  As soon as he heard that Pawan as trying to run, he dashed out of the house and reached us within about 5 minutes.  Sinead was left in his dust trying to keep up, which isn't easy in 30 degree heat!

As soon as Pawan saw 'Big BJ' as he's known, he stopped trying to fight me and Asmita and after a few minutes of 'boy chat', BJ took his hand and led him home.  Phew!

We had a back up activity of making picture frames, so we got everyone settled and it was good to have Big BJ back as he calms everything down and he is very creative, so everyone follows his led.  Except....Dinesh!!!

Yes, that' right folks, he had been ok at the park.  Lottie and Anna had been double teaming him, but when we got back and were doing the picture frames he got bored and started playing with a kite.  We must all have got distracted for one minute and looked round and he'd gone!!!  We went to see if we could see him but he must have done the run in Olympic record time.  When we left to come home 20 minutes later, we saw him on the main road heading down to the tourist section and tried to make him go back to Ama, but he wasn't having any of it, so we left him to do whatever he decides to do.  We updated Chrissy later and agreed that it is up to him now, and actually we don't think he will come back permanently.  Sooner or later Ama will tell him it's either 'go or stay' and at that point, he'll more than likely go.

Other than that, the rain has stopped, the sun is out, I've been souvenir shopping, I've semi packed my bag and me and Sinead are going to play pool before taking the boys for pizza this afternoon.

The bus leaves for Kathmandu at 7am tomorrow and that will be my volunteer experience over.  I've had an absolute blast, made a very special friend in Sinead which I will treasure and met some wonderful people that I hope I will continue to support and be involved with for many years to come.

I hope you've enjoyed my little updates and if you ever get the chance, visit Nepal, it's a very special place.

Bye!!!
Elinor xxx

If you would like to have a similar experience to Elinor and join the PoD Nepal team, please email Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org for further information.

Big thanks to Elinor for letting us share her updates.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scary faces, dressing up dogs, festival of lights and Bahini cookies!




As per usual it's been an eventful few weeks. It's still the holidays here, well at least for the Government schools. Most private schools went back for at least a week during Dashain and Tihar festivals, but for our schools, they are still on break. So that means we've been spending most of our time with the Street Kids and Asha Foundation.

The other day we celebrated Halloween with the StreetChildren's Center, although it is not celebrated here we though it would be a great opportunity to get the kids dressed up, plays some games and have some fun. You can see from these photos how much they got into it all! We then spent the evening with some friends having our own Halloween party!

The Bahini Cafe has finally re-opened and we are SO happy about it. They shut in August for the off season and then due to problems with the rent and staffing (the manage had a baby!!) they had not been able to re-open until now. Since the opening we've been in there most lunches snacking on their club sandwiches and cookies. It's a great little cafe, and it's so nice to be able to give something back to SOSBahini. They use the cafe as a source of income, but also a place to provide training to the girls so they can they go on to get jobs in other restaurants or hotels in Lakeside which provides a good future for them ;-)

We are currently in the midst of Tihar festival (Dipawali). So far we've worshiped Dogs, Laxmi & Cows and tomorrow is Bhai Tikka, the main day where we worship our brothers. On Kukur Tikka (Dog day!) we gave Buttons a lovely flower garland and a tikka on her head for a blessing, she then got fed plenty of meat from many families in lakeside. On Laxmi Tikka the whole town was beautifully decorated with twinkly lights to welcome the Goddess Laxmi into their houses in the hope for a prosperous year ahead. Bands also set up all over the place with dancers showing us their best routines...there's a real party/holiday feel about town at the moment. Tomorrow for Bhai Tikka we are hoping to go to the Street Kids Center so we can give all our little brothers a blessing.


In sadder news, it looks like Dinesh has left us for good. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Dinesh had come to the center and was finding it tough to settle in, well after many attempts to run away and people bringing him back every body has decided it is now up to him. We gave him all the support we could, talked to him about his future, gave him one on one care, etc but during the tourist season when people are handing out money and sweets all the time, there was just too much temptation for Dinesh to run away again. We hope when the season ends (and it gets colder) he will come back. He knows he is welcome anytime, but it is still sad when we fail to keep them with us.

That's it for now, the schools are finally open again on Monday so we'll all be back on placement then and we're looking forward to some new volunteers arriving in the next few weeks!

For those of you that have been enjoying it, don't worry, more updates from Elinor will be posted soon!

If you would like to join the team here in Nepal, then please email Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org

Elinor's Diary, Part 2



Here's part 2 for Elinor's Diary. I've tried not to cut out too much as I think it's great to see the highs and lows the volunteers go through and Elinor gives a real insight as to what volunteering in Nepal is really like!



3 October

Hi all,

It's been a very frustrating couple of days in lots of different ways, some real highs and lows.  It's a 50/50 situation, 50% of the time, you really feel like you're getting into the swing of things and then the next moment, everything is thrown into chaos!!

On Monday, we took a class from the Shree Krishna school to the Gurkha museum, which was very interesting and again, they all seemed to be really interested in the information and enjoyed the experience.  Then the children decided that they wanted to go and see the local hospital, which turned out to be an hours walk away, through the town, over the extremely large and slightly terrifying suspension bridge (I thought Sinead was going to have a nervous breakdown halfway over), through a few local villages, up a ravine, down a ravine, over a river, up a hill, down a hill, through rice fields, to the hospital, which looked like an inner city slum block.  There was mould growing down the side of the building, it looked filthy and like it should be knocked down due to being a health hazard - how ironic!  The children wanted to go inside and have a look around, and some of them wanted to go in the lift as they had never been in one before, so inside we went.  No-one looked twice at us as we wandered around the different wards. 

In the afternoon, we went to the street kids, and it is here that I do feel like I'm contributing and making an impact.  The lads did their homework and then we went to the park and threw frisbees and balls around and did some skipping.  Before we knew it, all the local kids had joined us so we ended up playing with about 30 kids!

Yesterday was the most frustrating day yet.  We were going to Shree Krishna and we had planned an outdoor activity for 3 groups of 25 each for an hour each.  When we woke up in the morning it was throwing it down with rain, so we had to quickly re-plan and come up with an indoor activity.  My kiddie repping experience has never come in so handy. We arrived and we were told we would have 3 classes of 8-10 year olds.  What we ended up with was a class of 5-6 year olds first with about 20 in the class so they were really too young for what we had planned, the second class were 8-10 but there were 30 of them, maybe more, so too many, and the third class didn't show up and we were kicked out of the library we were supposed to be using!  They tried to get us to take over the older class and teach them English but we refused and then we eventually agreed to take a class that didn't have a teacher outside for some games.  Again, it was fine for about 20 minutes and then all the other children in the school seemed to join us so it descended into chaos.  The teachers here don't care and will do anything to get out of doing any work.  INFURIATING!!!

Last night we had dinner with the family who own the guesthouse where we stay - veg and cheese momo's - which were lovely, but looked cr*p cos we'd made them!

Overall, I am still enjoying my time here, however, I have to have a word with myself daily to tell myself to accept things for the way they are and not to let things get to me.  I do miss my home comforts and I will massively appreciate everything when I get home, even more than I do already!

Thanks for all your responses, take care, and catch up soon.

Elinor xxx

5 October.

Hi everyone,

So, officially the Volunteer Experience is over.  My two weeks of visiting all the different placements has come to an end and I have been lucky enough to go to all but one of the different schools, orphanages and the street kids home.   I didn't go to Bahini, which is the abused women's school, as only long term volunteers are allowed to go there. It's been hard work, testing physically and mentally at times as you know, but overall, I'm very glad with how it has all gone.

The next two weeks will be very different because it is the Dashian Festival for the next week, followed by another festival for two weeks, so many of the families, and therefore the children, have gone to visit family in other areas.  The town of Pokhara is much quieter and many of the schools are now closed for a month!!!  God love the Nepali education system :-)  One interesting fact for you - during Dashian, 100,000 goats and buffaloes will be slaughtered (apologies to my vegetarian friends for this) as it is considered to be a great gift to give your family.  PoD are paying for a goat to be given to the mum at the street kids home, so she can cook a big meal for them all.  This is a very big deal and will be very exciting for them.

Luke has finished his placement so he is off trekking on Monday though the Annapurna mountain range, so it's just me, Sinead and Kay. Over the next two weeks, we will spend the majority of our time with the street kids and up at Asha, which is the orphanage in the mountains about 40 minutes away.  

Yesterday, I went on a bit of a shopping spree and I brought the lads a new t-shirt each.  They only really seem to have their school uniform and one set of 'casual' clothes which they change into when they get home from school, so I thought a new t-shirt each would be good.  The only two things I'm worried about - them fighting over the different colours I got (and boy, when they fight, do they fight?!) and them keeping the clothes for 'best' which they have a tendency to do, unless you specifically tell them the clothes are for everyday wear.  I think I will have to get them to line up in height order and hand out the t-shirts one by one, otherwise it will turn into a brawl!

We're going to take them to the park and perhaps set them a project to do for the week, and of course, help them with their homework, of which they have quite a lot.

Happy weekend everyone, and catch up with you all next week.

Elinor xxxx

8th October.

Hi everyone,

After a very relaxing weekend of getting my clothes washed properly at a laundrette (luxury - smelt of lemons) a trip into the city to buy loads of new toys, games (Twister, Scrabble, 3 new frisbees...) and a steam bath followed by an all over body massage, I decided it would be good to put a plan together of what we were going to do for the next two weeks.  You know how I love to be in charge and boss people about right?!!!  So we sat down and looked at all the equipment and games that we have and now we have an indoor / outdoor list of things we can do up until next Thursday which is my last day.  Can you believe I've only got 10 days left?  The time has flown by that's for sure.

So, with our plan in hand, we arrived at the street kids centre yesterday, the lads were just having lunch and then we sat them all down and explained the activity planner.  They seemed very excited, however, my favourite bit was when we told them that we had some new clothes for them to wear when they were doing their activities and that it was a present to celebrate the Dashain festival.  They couldn't line up in height order quick enough!! We handed out the t-shirts and despite my fears, there was only limited swapping of colours :-)  The smallest boy, Nissan, did look so very cute with his oversized t-shirt which looked more like a dress.  Then, they were even more excited when we handed out the shorts that Kay had brought.  Having a whole new outfit was just brilliant.  Now here's the funniest thing, despite us saying that they were not for best and that they were to wear them every day, about half the group went and got changed, came out of their bedrooms, showed us their outfit and then went back inside and got changed into their old clothes again!!  It took several tries before we got all of them to agree to put on their new outfits as they didn't want to spoil them.  So funny seeing them going in and out of their bedrooms, asking each other if it was ok to keep the clothes on and taking their lead from the older boys as to what was acceptable.

Then we took them to the park and played frisbee and ball throwing and we had also brought a big washing line to use as a skipping rope, however, boys being boys, this quickly became a high jump, a limbo line, tug of war and a thing to wrap around your brother's neck and playfully try to garote them!  Then the play descended into play fighting and so Sinead and I got stuck in and soon enough, I was the person to go to if you wanted to be hung upside down or spun around until you were dizzy and fell over.   Anyway, it's fair to say by the end of it that their clothes were well and truly worn in and they weren't worried about getting them dirty anymore.


Later in the afternoon, I took 5 of the older kids to the internet cafe so they could play games on the computer and when we got back to the house, a new boy had arrived!  Seemingly, he had been picked up by some tourists who, along with some locals, had brought him to street kids, hoping that there was space for him.  Ama signed some forms and took him in.  We still have space for one more boy if needed.  This one looks like he will bolt at any minute though, and it is often the case that when they first come, it takes a few tries before they decide to stay and they realise they're on to a good thing.  It's whether they can accept the routine, the fact that they go to school and do homework and whether they fit in with the other boys.  It'll be interesting to see if he's there today.  Some run away and never come back, particularly during tourist season like it is as the moment, as they can make lots of money on the street and get given ice cream and chocolate.  Bloody tourists!!!

Today is painting and drawing, followed by Badminton, Skittles and Blind Man's Bluff!  Happy Days :-)

Thanks for all your lovely messages of support and news of home, I really do look forward to logging on and reading about what you're all up to.

Take care, y'all and chat soon.

Love,
Elinor

If you would like to join the PoD team in Nepal, then please email Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Elinor's Diary Part 1

Elinor was a recent volunteer in Nepal who came out for the 2 week Volunteer Experience and then stayed on for an extra two weeks. She very kindly offered to share her email updates she sent home to give you all more of an idea what life is really like when volunteering with PoD in Nepal. As there's a months worth, I was going to put up a few days over the next few weeks...Enjoy and thanks Elinor!



Dated 23 September.
Hi everyone,


Hope you're all well. I'm doing one e-mail to everyone as I've got the same things to tell you all and the key board is really sticky, so I can tell I'm going to get frustrated just doing one!

I arrived in Kathmandu at 8.30am and was met outside by my guide and taxi driver and we did the drive to the hotel through Kathmandu city centre.  If you have ever been to Cairo or India you will know what I mean when I say that the driving is MENTAL! You just have to go for it and hope for the best.  Arrived at the hotel, checked in, had my first shower of many since I've been here (it's freaking hot all the goddamn time!), a sleep and then I went to the Garden of Dreams, the Monkey Temple, Durbar Square and Freak Street so felt I made the most of the day.

The next day I was up at 5.30 and the same taxi driver took me to the bus station and made sure I was on the right bus.  The people are all lovely and very helpful.  Now, I know that some of you will be disappointed that I wasn't on a regular bus and handed a pig, a chicken or a baby, as previously discussed, however, I was quite happy to spend my journey talking to Shakir from Winchester who was visiting his sick mother who lived 10km outside of Pokhara.  I arrived in Pokhara after a very hot, very bumpy and quite hair raising journey at times at 2pm and was met by Chrissy from PoD and taken to Bindu's Guesthouse.  My room is basic (single bed - boo!) but I have my own bathroom which is great.  In the evening, we went for dinner and I met Sinead (18) and Luke (not sure - late twenties I think) who are also volunteers.

On Sunday, I was fitted for my traditional dress which I'm expected to wear to some of my placements and then we had a free afternoon, so Sinead took me on a mini tour of Pokhara.

Today, we have been sightseeing, swam in a lake, visited two caves and a monastery, so a really good day, however, I'm knackered and it's only 9.50pm!

Tomorrow, the work begins, as we are taking a group of children from the local primary school to the Gurkha Museum.  I think I'm as excited as everyone else!

I have to say that I'm really glad I chose Nepal. It's a fantastic placement, the people are lovely, and I feel that I will make a difference whilst I'm here.

Oh, I had my Nepali lesson this evening.  Still only to know how to say Namaste!!!

Love you all, miss you loads.  Please pass this on to anyone that might be remotely interested.  I'll try and stay in touch as much as possible.

Elinor xxxxxxxxx

27 September.

Well, Wednesday was the first full day of work, with a trip to Annapurna Primary school in the morning to do our face mask making.  It was very manic, as the teachers just kind of leave you to it and the children can be very demanding when they all want to use the materials you're providing at the same time, and the materials we have are very limited, for example, we only had one pair of scissors to cut up all the face masks and bits of card and shiny things to stick on.  Nevertheless, the kids had a good time and that's all that matters really.

In the afternoon, Luke and I went to the street kids home, which is an entirely different experience.  Basically, it's 10 boys who live with a 'mother' called Ama, and she looks after them, however, she is funded by charities, like PoD, who pay for the boy's food, rent, school fees, etc.  We're there to help them with their English homework and then play games and activities.  Their English is amazing and they are good fun to be with.

Yesterday, we went to a local nursery in the morning.  This is called Ward 6 and it is for about 20 children between 3-4 years old.  It is a very dark, hot oppressive room, and the children are just left to their own devices for most of the time.  We took balloons and bubble blowers and musical instruments and they definitely enjoyed the attention.  This is a hard place to work in, as the children just want to be hugged and played with.  Some placements suit certain types of people and I suppose that's why they always need lots of volunteers.

Today we're going to take the children from the mountain orphanage Asha, for a trip to the lake, so Sinead has just picked up the bag of life jackets.  She looks like one of the women on the street who carry the vegetables on the back of their heads!

Right, must dash, loads of love, 
Elinor xxx

29 September.

So, where did we get to?!  On Friday, just after my last email we took the children from the Asha Orphanage down to the lake and took them out on the big peddle boats they have here.  The children from this orphanage go to school during the day, then when they get back they go out onto the farm and work in the fields, so they have a very tough life. They are also not used to busy town life, so I think everything was a bit overwhelming, however, the cutest thing about them was that they had all dressed in their best clothes for the outing so the girls had their hair done and their best dresses on and the lads had jeans and checked shirts on so they looked 'cool', particularly the lad who had his collar turned up!  The downside to this is that they didn't want to go anywhere near the water, so only Luke and I ended up going for a swim which was much needed after peddling the boat in 35 degree heat!!!

After the boat trip we took them into a local food shack and they had buffalo momo's (like dumplings) and then we loaded them back onto the bus for their return trip back into the mountains.  We see these guys once a week on a Friday afternoon, so next Friday we will be going to see them where they live which should be interesting as it is a twenty minute taxi ride and then a twenty minute walk into the hills.

On Friday night, we were well deserving of a few beers so we went to the local tourist bar which is called Busybee and had cocktails.  Now, I have to warn you, if you're ever in Nepal, they don't really understand measures, so they just basically pour alcohol into a glass until it's full!  After 3 cocktails, I couldn't see very well and had to call it a day!  I woke up on Saturday morning quite dehydrated and in need of quite a bit of water to get me going.  The rest of yesterday was a bit of a chill out day, so I decided to wash the family dog, who is an Alsatian called Rex, and is completely loopy as he runs around the garden chasing his own tail. He looked at me as if to say 'what are you going to do to me woman?' but once I had covered him in water a few times, he realised he really liked it and just stood there enjoying the experience.  Then I took him out for a walk in the fields at the back of the house for about half an hour.  I think he smelt every bush, leaf and flower he could find!!!

In the afternoon, I went to the bus station to meet the new volunteer who is here for three weeks.  Her name is Kay and she is from Watford, although originally from Burma.  She owns her own construction company and has two grown up sons.  She is 51.  It definitely attracts all sorts, this volunteer malarkey!  We took her on a bit of a tour and had a snack, then left her to relax.  

Today, Sinead and I went to the Peace Pagoda.  This is on top of a hill on the opposite side of the lake.  In some ways it looks really near however, when you actually decide to do it, you can either take a taxi to the bottom of the hill and do a ten minute walk up the steps or you can decide to do what we did and take the most round about way to the top, through the 'jungle' being bitten by mosquitos, and walking through little villages, whilst shouting 'Namaste' to you as you walk by!  I think it's fair to say that we think we had the more adventurous journey, which made the views from the top after our two hour trek, even more beautiful. The Peace Pagoda is one of 71 currently built around the world with another 29 planned and they serve to spread the word of peace and harmony, according to the Lord Buddha.

Then the rain came!  So, we decided not to push our luck and got a taxi back to Lakeside!!!  We were a bit shattered, very sweaty and tired and it was our reward for the uphill climb.

This afternoon, I have had a spinal massage and Sinead has bitten her nails to the quick whilst waiting for me in the bar next door.  She says I mother her - can you believe that?!!!

So tomorrow, we are off to the Gurkha Museum with Shree Krishna, which is a local school for 3-16 year olds, so we'll have a real mix of ages with about 30 expected to come on the trip and then in the afternoon, we're having our cooking lesson on how to make Dal Baht, which is essentially rice and lentils and is the staple diet here.

I can't believe I'm going into my second week already and time is really flying by, however, it is still really great to be here and I'm looking forward to the week ahead.

Miss you all and love you loads,

Elinor xxxx

More updates coming soon! But in the meantime if you would like to join the team in Nepal and volunteer with PoD, then please email Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org.  You can also see photos of Elinors trip here

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dashain Holidays 2013



It's the holidays!

This week the schools broke up for (maybe) 2-4 weeks. When we break up for holidays, we're never entirely sure how long they will be off for, but then neither are the teachers!

One sad thing to update you all on is that Bindu, our house mother, was unfortunately in quite a nasty accident earlier this week. A young motorcyclist knocked her over whilst she was walking home and she has been in hospital ever since. She has broken her leg, and has severe bruising, but she has had an operation which has gone well and will hopefully be home in just a few days to recover. I know everyone is praying for her quick recovery and I wanted to say thank you on behalf of the family to everyone who has phoned and emailed us. It really means a lot to them, so thank you !!!

This holiday is for Dashain, which is the main Hindu festival in Nepal, it's the equivalent to Christmas in England and is a very family orientated holiday. As such the majority of the children from SOS Bahini and Asha foundation are going 'home' to visit family. Some of them have no parents, but if there is an aunt, uncle or grandparent out there then it is really important for the kids to visit them during this time and I personally think it is great that Asha and Bahini support this and help them get to their families. Some of the children will be travelling as far as Surkhet to get home for the holidays.

As we cannot go to school during these weeks we have been spending our time at the Street Kids. Ama (the mother) is the only member of staff there and trying to take care of 13 children whilst doing all the cooking and cleaning can be a bit overwhelming, so we provide a bit of rest bite for her by taking care of the kids so she can get on with other thing. Our volunteers made a great timetable of what we would do with them including trips to the park, games, arts and then gave all of them a new exercise book that they could keep a holiday journal in. We also gave them new shorts and tshirts each as a Dashain present (we knew we would get them filthy playing in the park and didn't want to ruin their best clothes so brought them some playing clothes!). The highlight of the week was definitely taking the children out on to the lake on a pedalo.  

The PoD Charity very generously donated some money towards buying the children a goat for Dashain. Most families in Nepal will buy a whole goat to feast on over the holidays, and it's lovely to be able to provide this for the children! We celebrated on Saturday evening by going over and having a small feast with the children.

However, it hasn't all been plain sailing. We have had one new arrival at the Street Kids, Dinesh, and he is finding it very hard to settle in. He has tried to run away several times already (twice with the PoD volunteers when we were down at the park, fortunately we got him back both times). He is not used to the structure and living in a family. When they come straight from the streets they are used to doing what they want, when they want. At the center they are expected to go to school, do their chores, make sure there homework is done and generally be well behaved. The older one are rewarded with some freedom and are allowed to go to the park on their own, but as with any normal families, they are expected to be back at certain times. For a small child who has never had to listen to any one before, this can be a hard transition. They are mostly likely to run away in the first few days, but if we can make it to a month, then we know that they will be fine. We are still trying to find out more about Dinesh's background as very little is known about him at the moment, but this needs to been done very carefully and delicately. All the children are being so kind to him and everyone is working hard on making him feel at home but I am concerned that he will run away. He is also a little handsy and has been trying to grope many of the female volunteers and staff! Something that we definitely need to discourage him in doing.

On Wednesday, myself, Phil and all the volunteers got invited to go to Asha early in the morning for a 'jungle assembly'. When I invited the volunteers they were obviously full of questions which I simply could not answer as I had no idea what a 'jungle assembly' was! But we decided to keep an open mind and head up there (mainly we wanted to satisfy our curiosity!). Once we got there (and it was actually so lovely walking there in the morning rather than the mid day heat for once!) all became clear. It was the Asha Foundation's 9th birthday and they wanted us to be there to celebrate with them! All the founders and board members were there, Phil gave a great speech, the children did a song for us all, then we had a feast of chicken and beaten rice. Asha is one of my favourite placements and the children there are so incredible it was lovely to be part of there celebration.

Next week will be our second week of holidays so we will be spending more time helping with the Street Kids and the Bahini girls will be back soon so we will start going there as well.

If you would like to join the PoD Nepal team and volunteer at one of our incredible placements the please contact Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Volunteer Experience September 2013

So we've just completed our second ever Volunteer Experience here in Nepal. The Experience is an intensive two week programme where we (myself included) volunteer at a variety of our placements in a group. The emphasis of this is to improve conversational English, but also, fun! We try and make things a bit more exciting that our usual programmes by taking them out on excursions to places they may have never been, getting arty and doing things in a group. Once again, the Experience was a great success.
The monestary we visited on the sightseeing day

We started off the week with a day of sightseeing. In just one day we managed to go for a swim at Begna Tal (the 'other' lake), see Devi's falls, 2 bat caves and a monastery.
Looking around the museum

The first day at school we took Class 1, 2 and 3 of Annapurna Primary School to the International Mountain Museum. I am always so impressed with how well behaved the children are and how much attention they pay to all the displays. Although, if you ask the kids, probably the most exciting part of the day was getting to ride on the bus there and back (many of these children won't even have been in a car before, so travelling on their own bus is very exciting!). We then spent two more days at Annapurna School doing lots of painting, singing and generally having a lovely time.

We also took one class of Shree Krishna School to the Gurkha Museum. Unfortunately I missed this day due to illness, but all the volunteers, teachers and children told me how much fun they had. After the trip to the Museum, they then went on a walking tour, over the Balam Bridge (one of the longest suspension bridges in Nepal), through the fields to one of the biggest hospitals in Pokhara and then back to Lakeside. The other day with Shree Krishna we spent in the school with some sports on the field.

We also had a couple of days at Ward 6 which is a day care center for under 4's. Although it is much harder to get a structured activity going here, we still had a lot of fun playing with bubbles, balloons and doing colouring. This is one of our poorest placements and they do not have many toys to keep the children stimulated, so anything we bring in is always a welcome change and gets their motivation up.


All the kids climbing the moutain!
On Friday afternoons, we normally spend the afternoon at Asha, with is one of our orphanage placements. As a treat for them, we decided it would be a nice idea to get them out of the center for once, and we took them to the lake where we hired out some pedalos. We then paddle to the temple in the middle of the lake to explore and chilled on the lake for the afternoon. It was so nice to see the children out and relaxing, as normally when we are at their home, they are always working, collecting grass for the cows, washing their clothes or working in the farm. We finished the afternoon off with a plate of momo's each before it was time to go home.

And of course, not forgetting the Street Kids! We spent every afternoon at the Street Kids Center, playing football, painting, making origami, and helping with their homework. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to take the children out of the center, but they have had lots of trip to the park so are doing ok!

I would like to thank the volunteers who worked so hard on this Volunteer Experience and who helped make it such a success. Already I am looking forward to the next one!

If you would like to join us, our next Volunteer Experience in Nepal is on the 4th April 2014. Please email Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org for more information.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chloe account of volunteering in Nepal

 I have just come to the end of an absolutely amazing 2 weeks volunteering in Nepal and wish I could have stayed for longer. It was no doubt the highlight of my month in Nepal.

We spent the mornings teaching at Annapurna Primary School, a small government school in Pokhara. This was really challenging, particularly with the language barrier and the variety of ages and abilities in the same classes. But the children are extremely receptive and eager to learn. Although volunteering is, as it is regularly described, rewarding, the opportunity to get an insight into Nepalese life and education is something I would have never gained from simply travelling here.

Our afternoons were spent at The Street Kids Centre. I absolutely loved going there and it provided the perfect complement to our mornings teaching. Here it was much more informal, it was mainly fun and games, arts and crafts. The kids are adorable and so welcoming, warm and kind. We will always remember them.  

 
 I cannot think of any other organisation I would have preferred to have volunteered with. PoD are a not for profit organisation with in my opinion, the right attitude to volunteering. They provide ongoing assistance to the schools and centres they support and are aware of the disruptive nature volunteering can cause. On a personal level, the support from Chrissy in Pokhara made my time here so easy and enjoyable. She was a constant source of local knowledge and help and even introduced and included us in her day to day life in Pokhara. We joined her on several Zumba classes which was so much fun.

All PoD volunteers stay with Bindu and this made our time here such a comfortable experience. Bindu and her family are incredibly kind and welcoming which made us feel totally at home. It is the perfect combination between a guesthouse and a homestay and after our trek we couldn't get back to Bindu's fast enough.

Pokhara is an amazing place to do a placement. When we weren't volunteering there was always something to do. We climbed the World Peace Pagoda, bobbed around on boats on the lake, went paragliding and enjoyed the many restaurants that Lakeside has to offer. From Pokhara we spent a weekend rafting and canyoning and at the end of our trip went trekking. It is a beautiful town and an ideal base.

I cannot recommend volunteering with PoD, in Nepal enough and I would love to come back!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teej, Kayaks and Taps



Time is flying by in Nepal at the moment. It has stopped raining quite so much now and we are actually catching glimpses of the mountains most mornings now (it won't be long until their out all the time)

This week we celebrated Teej Festival, which is the women's festival. On the first day of Teej, women have big parties and there's plenty of singing, dancing and feasting! I spent the evening with some of my Nepali friends all dressed in their finest clothes. The second day is the fasting day and the third is a day of purity. During this time the schools were all on holidays which meant we spent the majority of our time with the children from the Street Kids Center.




On the main day of the festival we decided to take the kids out of the center and down to the park (with the main goal of wearing them out so that the house mother could have a quiet day!). We quickly set about getting a game of football started and frisbee soon followed. The kids then started playing with Buttons (my dog) near the lake when they saw a kayaker approaching, little did they know it was Maila coming to teach them some kayaking! We the spent the next few hours playing about in the water with Maila teaching them some of the basics of kayaking. The kids love doing activities like this and seeing their faces light up when they were sat in the kayak was priceless.

Whilst taking new volunteers on their induction I went to Shree Krishna Lower Secondary School and was really happy to see that they were putting new taps in. A few months ago, the old ones broke which left the whole school without water. During these hot months it is so important for the kids to drink through out the day so this is great news that the taps are up and running again.

Festival season is just around the corner (what with Dashain and Tihar coming in the next few weeks) which means we will be experiencing lots of holidays at the schools. We've got lots of plans in the pipelines ready to keep the kids busy during these periods.

If you would like to join us and the team here in Nepal, then please contact Gemma on gemma@podvolunteer.org for more information.