The Project Outline
A beautiful country, a diverse landscape and scenery to die for, well known for housing the world’s largest mountain, Mount Everest and attracting thousands of trekkers and climbers every year. But it is also highlighted as being one of the poorest countries in the world, in the top 5 outside of Africa. 68 percent live on less than two dollars a day, and almost half of the adult population is illiterate, preventing many people from participating in or contributing to their nation’s development. With most of those coming from the 84 percent who live in rural communities, and it was from one of those communities where we heard a silent cry for help, and listened.
The 2 founders of The Aandhimul Project, Lee Allan from the UK (who was volunteering for another organisation at that time) and Mon Bahadur Bhujel (a Primary School teacher at that time) from Nepal, both met in January of 2008 in a Central Nepali hilltop town called Bandipur. This small town is located with easy bus access 5 hours west of the capital, Kathmandu. After becoming friends, Mon introduced Lee to the village of Aandhimul (2 hours walk from Bandipur) asking for help. Mon’s connection to village is that he has family who live their, and he understands the difficulties they are going through and with passion wanted to help them. It was this passion that convinced Lee, without a doubt, to do whatever he could to help.
Very quickly two more people wanted to be involved in the project. They were volunteers from Bandipur who worked alongside Lee. Angela Sharp from Australia, and Jolana Whyte from the Czech Republic. After a short period of time spent in the village before leaving the country in March 2008, Lee decided to start this Project, ‘The Aandhimul Project’, with both Angela and Jolana joining and also wanting to do everything they could to help.
Then in the Autumn of 2008 when Lee was back in Nepal he met Lou Boddington from the UK who was a volunteer in Bandipur. She became really interested in what we were doing and from April 2009 she got involved and has been fundraising ever since and doing everything she can to help as well.
What we have achieved so far
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The project started slowly because both Mon in Nepal, and Lee, Angela and Jolana in their respective countries had full-time work and volunteered during their free time. But, in March 2008 whilst in Nepal, and when Lee stayed in the village, it was decided that one of the first things we could provide was extra support to the school, which was needed very much.
So the first priority was to raise some money to pay for 2 new teachers and their salaries, and also increase the Caretaker’s salary too. Second, the school buildings needed to be renovated and the plan was to raise money for such work as well.
In July 2008 Lee, and Bob Uppington from SHIVA Charity UK, a registered charity with over 12 years experience in Nepal, met. After a great meeting, SHIVA Charity kindly agreed that The Aandhimul Project could work through them and use their experience, also gaining gift aid on any donations given within the UK.
In South Australia between April and August 2008, Angela Sharp managed to raise enough money to cover wages for one year, and by the end of August 2008, Mon and the community of Aandhimul found the two teachers needed, and they were employed. Also, a bank account was set up for the project in Nepal for these funds to be sent to.
Similar to Lee in the UK, Angela found a charity, World Youth International, who would help using their experience, and transfer funds raised from Australia to the bank account in Nepal.
Also, during the summer of 2008 Lee and Jolana managed to raise over £1000 for the school’s renovation, from a fund raising dinner held at a Nepali restaurant and 5km charity run in Central London. Then in October, Lee made a return trip to Nepal to get this project started and spend time with the community.
Whilst Lee was in Nepal, Jolana from the UK also received £1500 donated from her employer to contribute towards the school and any other project work that was needed.
In the 2 months Lee was in Nepal, himself and Mon spent time trying to understand the community of Aandhimul greater, and to find out their needs. We realised in this time that there were, and are many issues in this village, and that it would require much more time to understand them and help to resolve them. But first, we believed that for the project to continue and have any chance of being successful that it need to start to employ full-time workers, at least in Nepal to begin with.
After a few long discussions, and due to Mon’s great passion to want to make a difference, it was decided that as of April 2009 (the end of the Nepali school year), The Project would employ Mon as a full-time worker. Taking the role as Nepal Project Coordinator.
As for the school building renovation, it was not completed until January 2008, after Lee had left Nepal and returned to the UK. There is also another school building that is quite small and many discussions have taken place about what to do with it, and there were plans to build a new and larger school building to accommodate for the increasing number of students, and to provide better facilities. However, further planning and funding is needed for this to go ahead.
During his time in Nepal, Lee also discovered that the teachers who were employed by The Project had no previous training, and it was felt a priority to find adequate training for them. After discussing with Angela and Jolana, who had both decided to return to Nepal in April 2009, that with their teaching experience they would put on three weeks of teacher training. Also, Lee’s girlfriend Yoshie Uchimura from Japan, who is a freelance illustrator and picture book author, also planned to go to Nepal to run a creative workshop with the children in the school.
In April 2009, for the first time the project intensified. With Mon working full-time and 4 people from overseas, we could really get working within the village and in particular the school. Angela, Jolana & Yoshie, under sometimes difficult circumstances, achieved a great deal in the 4 weeks of April working with the 3 Project paid teachers. With communication issues, cultural differences, hot weather and lack of facilities many bridges were crossed, and near the end of the teacher training it was evident to all, of the hard effort that was put in by the results that were seen.
Also, It was during this intense period that we further understood the deeper issues that this community faces, and most importantly we spent time with the them so they could try to understand us too, and why we, The Aandhimul Project are wanting to help them.[/accordion]
In March 2010 Jolana went back out to Nepal to catch up with Mon and the community. Progress was slow, but should have been expected with the minimal resources we have and trying to get an understanding of what the community needs.
One of the project’s teachers Mina Gurung went on a Teacher training course that was run in Bandipur. We sponsored her travel there. She found it very useful, and we hope those skills she learnt can help some of the other teachers too, and also benefit the children.
The villagers, alongside Mon and Jolana built a small kitchen so that the children’s lunch, subsidised by the project, could be cooked safely and stored properly. Before this time they have been either cooking outside or ate non-cooked foods (snacks). Jolana & Mon did great work to try and source local produce and with our support, they bought as much as needed to give the children healthier lunches.
Jolana found a company who was willing to give a solar panel, with a good discount. This solar panel was installed in the main school building and is powerful enough for 3-4 hours of light for a few of the classrooms, and maybe some time using a tape/cd player.
A big meeting was organised by Jolana and Mon for the community to again, discuss the issues in the village, in particular water to the school.
Jolana also introduced some new plants to the community and encouraged some families and children to plant.
Our wonderful fundraiser Angela, raised $800 AUD (450 GBP) at a party sing in her home city of Adelaide. All proceeds went to supplying water tanks and other materials needed for building a rain water collection system at the school. And Jolana, Mon and many helpers in the village did a great job in building guttering onto the school, and connecting a series of downpipes to the 2 tanks located at one end of the school.
The main reason for doing this was to take advantage of the large quantities of rainfall during the monsoon. This water can then be used for cleaning hands and dishes, and even filtered for drinking water.
In October of this year, the villagers started to build their own toilets following the persistence of our project manager Mon Bhujel, Kisan and help of local neighbors from a different cast Cahtruman Gurung, The villagers lost the appeal for local donation to build the toilets but still managed to secure funds for building materials. This however small impact is very significant in the progress of this community and we were all incredibly delighted with this news.
The Youth Club in the village was doing well and support from the project has helped them run cultural activities and sponsor day visits to important cultural sites.[/accordion]
After 6 months since Jolana was last there and over a year and a half for Angela, they are both decided to return to Aandhimul together in January.
After a few days in the capital preparing, they headed off to the village, and what a welcome they received. The villagers had prepared a ribbon cutting ceremony for both Angela and Jolana. So many malas (flower necklaces) and tikka all over our faces (vibrant red powder mixed with water, used for celebrations and more). Then the kids did calisthenics, an egg and spoon race (using a marble instead) and a lolly eating contest – like the donut game with no hands.
There was a huge meeting about starting a water project the following morning between all 3 villages to iron out any last obstacles before the final agreement was signed. Then the survey could be completed and the digging could start.
On their visit replenished the school with some new supplies. They bought buckets, jugs and a container for the sugar as the mice ate a huge hole in the last plastic one. They also bought books, pencils and a pencil sharpener for the school.
The water project was agreed when the local Aandhimul committee met with the group of villagers from the neighbouring village (Koreka) and they all signed an agreement allowing the water project to begin. Which was great news.
This was submitted to the local VDC (similar to a local council) and the work began. Choice Nepal, an NGO based in Kathmandu were helping us to complete the water project and were responsible for the surveys and buying of pipes and other equipment.
It was really exciting because we were not sure this was possible, and better still was that the locals did all of the negotiating themselves. Which was so promising.
Angela and Jolana said the improved behaviour of the children was thanks to the consistent teaching. They work, listen, and rarely interject. So Angela and Jolana decided to spend as much time with the teachers as possible to help with their pronunciation (of English) and get them to read all of the books they brought with them. They also ran a few art project days as well. And from Angela, of course, some singing (She runs a choir or two back in her home town, and teaches the piano as well).
The community really pulled together to get the water project completed. Even 2 guys Jolana met last year, Frank and Andreas (Röbbeck Röcks) had kept their promise of using their skills to help the water project. They made the long trip to Aandhimul from Germany, where they had raised over 1000 euros to contribute. We thank them so much.
In March, an art workshop was ran by Christina from Berlin (someone Jolana had met previously and who wanted to help the project), Pati and Subash (spanish/nepali family) and the children really enjoyed it Jolana was amazed to see the concentration on their faces, even hearing nothing, silence!
At the end of March, Aandhimul got a visit from Bikram Piya, Rayaram Prajapati, Anil Pragapati from the medical hall in Banidpur and doctor Shrhar Rayastha. This one day health camp has been organized by Bikram Piya and Dr. Shehar and they managed to examine up to 80 of the villagers.
Anil Pragapati donated all the medicine from his medical shop in Dumre. This was so much interest by the villagers, and all was on a voluntarily basis – the project only offered a simple Khadja (lunch).
Most of the issues were related to sanitation – another puzzle of this matrix and also a poor diet. The traditional dhal bhaat is actually completely balanced food, but in this village, most do not have enough money to buy vegetables or lentils or even do not spend the money they have wisely.
In April we had many clothes donated to the village from the UK, Australia and Nepal.
Buy the end of April before the monsoon rains fell, the water project was finally completed. We thank the villagers so much for wanting and making this happen. And to CHOICE Nepal for their expertise and to Frank and Andreas from Germany and all the other people who helped make this happen.
In September Röbbeck Röcks again raised money for the project, 860 Euros to be exact to go towards maintenance of the water project and other future projects.
In November the Aandhimul Project was very lucky to have 2 young and enthusiastic volunteers from Australia come to the Aandhimul village. With energy, passion and resources for the school, they were ready to have an experience of a lifetime.[/accordion]
In January we received some wonderful news from Kishan, our young sponsored teacher, and student club leader for the village of Aandhimul. He reported that some villagers started to grow vegetables. And new varieties as well.
What was great about this is that it means their diet will improve, and will provide more variety. They are growing potatoes. They have had to put their own money in, and are learning how to grow them. And with the Water Project completed in Aandhimul last year, it makes it easier to use water to help their veg grow.
In May, due to difficult circumstances our project manager Mon, could no longer work for us and returned to his teaching job in Bandipur. We thank him so much for the time he has put in over the past few years. And we will still keep up a relationship with him, as he is still an important connection to this village.
Jolana was back again, this time in June. And first on the agenda was seeing to some repairs for the school. Another priority on this trip was to support the youth club and build a building just for them sponsored by Röbbeck Röcks. Andy from Röbbeck Röcks was also back to help with repairs and the building of the Youth Club. Both him and Jolana had brought some tools to help with the job. They also helped to repair some damage with the water pipes.
Also, in June Christina Levanas from Germany returned to do another art workshop with the school children, which went really well. Then in July Jolana and Christina returned to Hitchin in the UK to set up a stall at the Rhythms of the World festival where they sold original Nepali garments to raise funds for the project.
2012 was quieter than previous years, one reason was our Project Manager’s departure and also Jolana was the only person who could find time, only 6 weeks to be out there. Which is a reminder that we all work for the project voluntarily and it’s very difficult to find the time and money to visit Nepal and the project members thank Jolana so much for all her efforts and the time she has spent towards the project. And also to all the donators and the people who have spent their own time and money towards helping those in Aandhimul. We are forever grateful.