Trip to Pokhara

Mon and I took a trip to Pokhara for a few days, to use the internet, have a change of scenery and discuss the Project. Whilst their we visited Mon’s father’s place. He is one of the major sellers (to retailers) of the Aandhimul villagers main source of income, the Nanglo (a bamboo rice shaker, made by the people in the village). When leaving his room, we stopped at shop nearby that sells these Nanglos (Image 1). You can see Mon outside the shop, trying to help the shopkeeper sell a Nanglo to a customer (Image 2), though this time it was a no sale, but he looked pretty convincing to me.

We stayed at a hotel run by Bishwo Adhikari and his family. I originally met Bishwo in Bandipur this January during my last visit. He was with an Australian man, Barry Broomfield. The 2 of them have been working together on a Project helping and giving life to a school, in a village near Pokhara for the last 6 years. Taking it from a underdeveloped, small primary school, to a newly renovated and larger primary-secondary school. They gave great advice and to see where they had started from and how things are now, it’s truly inspiring.

So whilst here in Pokhara we spent a morning with Bishwo talking about our project and what we’ve been up to, and again he also gave us some good advice, and a very tasty Dhal Bhatt he served us too!

What both Mon and I have noticed is there are many Nepali people, that when we speak with them about the project they are so willing to help, with their time, advice and even money. And as I have said in a previous blog entry, the more Nepali people we inspire the better, and we hope this project and many others will continue to do that until almost all NGO’s in Nepal are self sufficient, and have to rely very little from outside help.

It was also a time for Mon and I to relax and talk about other things than the Project, also a time for me to take some photos of the lake and people, as you can see in the Images right. Also I have a video of me riding on top of the bus, the best way to travel. Fresh air and amazing views, but if you don’t have anything soft to act as a cushion, your bottom becomes a very unhappy bunny.

Community Meeting at the School

In the previous days Mon and I had discussed many things about the content of the talk with the community, and had prepared a plan. So we were up early on the morning of the 15th and made our way to the village, and again we had company. This time just one person, a Nepali girl from Bandipur came with us, Pipila. She was a student in my computer class when I was volunteering with GVI, she herself is a Bhujel and seemed really interested in what we are doing, so asked if she could come with us, and of course we said yes.

Again we walked, with no complaints from Pipila, and once we arrived at the school she got straight in and befriended some of the students, as you can see in the first 3 images. Afterwards she said how much she enjoyed the day and wants to go again and maybe help in anyway she can. For me this is one of the most important aspects of the project, involving and inspiring Nepali people, especially the younger generations, as they are the future Nepal. If this project can inspire and empower only a few that’s enough to make a difference, and especially if they are female. Things are changing here in Nepal (mainly because of the West’s influence) and we can do our best to support it.

In true Nepali fashion, we waited around for about an hour until as many members of the community arrived, and in Images 4-6 you can see I got a good chance to take some nice photographs. Then before the meeting started they had planned some formailities for us, first the children were all put into lines (Image 7) and under the instruction of the new teacher Kissan Bhujel, they sung their national anthem (see video, far right). Following that we sat on the porch of the main building and child after child came past and put Mallas (necklaces of flowers) around our necks, as a traditional sign of gratitude. Then shortly after midday we all went into the pre-school room in the main building and the meeting began.

Mon first talked about the need to set up a committee within the village, an important topic, because having a committee made up from people within the community gives them the power and responsibility that is needed if The Aandhimul Project has any chance of success. Also, because the village is split by a river and valley it is almost like there are 2 seperate villages and in the past both sides have had dissagreements on certain issues. So we felt it only necessary that the committee should be made up of 4 people from one side, and 4 from the other and there should be at least one woman representative from both sides of the village. A vote was to take place at the end of the meeting.

The second topic of conversation was in reference to the school’s renovation. We outlayed our intentions and ask the community to respond with questions, which they did. They were happy with the plans, though some brought up the issue of water supply to the school. Currently there isn’t any, they have to carry it up in urns from the bottom of the hill, a time consuming and tiring process. Also, other issues with water in the village were raised and many discussions took place. To conclude them, Mon and I asked the community to vote on which issues were most important, and to be started first.

The school renovation came first, with the water issue for the school a close second, and our hope is to find organisations who maybe able to help us solve the issue with water not just in the school but with the community’s drinking water and land irrigation too. We will keep you updated with the progress in future blogs.

Other topics were briefly discussed, such as providing training to the teachers and giving talks to the communtiy about health, sanitation and family planning. One company that can help is Early Childhood Education Centre (ECEC). When I go to Kathmandu a week Wednesday to renew my visa, I will visit ECEC who will hopefully provide training for the teachers and talks with the parents on health and sanitation.

I met them in March and they were very interested in helping, and if any of you are interested in reading about what they do, please visit their website www.earlychildhoodnepal.org, and if you have any feedback don’t hesitate to email me.

At the end of the meeting the community voted and chose the representatives for the committee. We then decided to arrange another meeting for Monday 20th October, because Mon and I wanted to create specific rolls and responsibilities for the members and print the information to give to them, and then in the meeting they can choose/vote which person will take which role. Such as Chairperson, Secretary etc.

Finally, it turned out to be quite a productive day, but we still have much work to get the Project going, it is still early days, but things look positive and the community show enthusiasm and co-operation, we have to keep it like that. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the videos, there will be more coming!

GVI Volunteers Come to Aandhimul

blogImg_1 blogImg_2 blogImg_3 blogImg_4 blogImg_5 blogImg_6 blogImg_7 blogImg_8

A few days have passed since our first visit and after discussing with knowledgable people in Bandipur we have created a proposal and plan for the school’s renovation. However, we needed to get some measurements of the buildings to calculate costs for materials, and decided to head back to the village on Monday 13th October to retrieve them.

But before we left we had some visitors to join us, they were 3 volunteers with Global Vision International (GVI), the same organisation I was with for 10 weeks on my last trip to Nepal, and how I came to be in Bandipur, as many of you know.

You can see in Image 1 Mon and the 3 volunteers. Also, Angela the Aandhimul Project fundraiser from Australia, and Jolana the Aandhimul Project fundraiser from the UK were both volunteers with GVI in Bandipur and had done a similar visit to the village with Mon and I in January this year.

We decided to walk to the village as the weather was beautiful and the walk itself is wonderful, although a little slippy on the small, rock paths leading down into the valley. The vegetation is lush and we passed through some lovely villages with friendly people intrigued by us foreign trekkers, and we constantly passed under bridges of webs, and you can see one of the friendly, bridge supervisors in Image 6.

We did not stay too long in the village, but first stopped in an area where I stayed on my last visit in March. I had my laptop with me and showed the villagers pictures of themselves I took last time, they were very happy to see them and were laughing when I showed the videos too!

But you can see in Image 8 one reason why we need to help educate and support this village. Some children pictured show signs of malnutrition, which we need to try and eliminate from this village as soon as we can. It’s not widespread but is still happening due to unstable economic conditions and lack of education, thus resulting in poor diets and of course young children are then the first to suffer.

After this stop, we took a long walk around the village to the school. Whilst on this walk I took a picture of the School from above, Image 6 shows this, and hopefully it gives you more of an idea of the size of the school. When there we took the required measurements and then made our way down to the highway and caught the bus back to Bandipur, as it was too late to walk. Going back uphill would take over 3 hours, so the bus it was.

All the GVI volunteers really enjoyed the experience, and Lou from the UK especially took interest and showed real enthusiasm to help the project in anyway she can. She may even be able to get some funding for future programmes, which is great and I’ll keep you updated on that one. And sorry I didn’t get a front shot of the volunteers, hopefully I get a picture soon, and post it on a later blog.

The Aandhimul School

On our route back to the highway we stopped off at the school for an inspection of the grounds and buildings as it is one of our priorities to renovate the school, and a topic to be discussed in the upcoming meeting.

blogImg_2

blogImg_1

If you don’t already know, the school is comprimised of 2 buildings facing inwards onto a small playground/open area.

The first building is the larger of the 2 (above), and is formed of 2 large rooms, the room to the left has a dividing wall inside, one third is where Class 3 is taught and the other two thirds is the staff room. The room on the right has no division and is where the pre-school children are taught.

blogImg_3
Class 3
blogImg_4
Staff room
blogImg_5
Nursery

The Second building is also made up of two rooms, Class 1 being taught in the room on the right, with Class 2 in the left.

However, you can see from all images that the school is in need of renovation. And after inspections and through discussions with Mon, we feel it only best to renovate the main building and destroy the other smaller one, and build a larger newer building. First, if you look at images 6-10, you will notice how bad the conditon of the building is. In 9 & 10 you can see the sunlight shining through all the holes in the roof onto the walls, and the state of the walls both in and out are not good.

blogImg_6 blogImg_7 blogImg_8 blogImg_9 blogImg_10

Mon and I decided we should speak to some people with knowledge about buildings in Bandipur, create a plan and then put it forward to the community at the meeting on the 15th, and get their feedback.

Lee’s Return to Aandhimul

The day after the main Deshain celebrations, another day I had been waiting for with much happiness, and eagerness. To return to the village of Aandhimul!

blogImg_4

Mon and I travelled via bus on the main highway, then on foot to reach the village. On our journey there we have to walk through another village, and because of the Deshain holiday, all around Nepal are these big swings, they call “Ping”. They are either attached to a tree, or a large bamboo/wood structure is made. In this village was one, on a tree and there were many kids playing on it, and as soon as they saw us, especially this tall, pale foreigner, they stopped. But very quickly they asked me to have a go, and being a big kid I didn’t refuse. Then after me Mon jumped on, and he is a pro, he loved it! Making my swinging skills look very amateur, as you can see below.

blogImg_1 blogImg_2

We soon moved on, and as we did I was amazed to see how lush and green the landscape was, in comparison to my last visit, as many pictures on this site show how red the landscapes were or are in Feb/March. The reason for this is the monsoon rain, the earth soaking it up like a sponge and life bursting from it, and it’s also rice season, as you can see below.

blogImg_3 blogImg_5 blogImg_6

Once entering the village, many children saw us and were both intrigued and shy, I knew this was a great photo opportunity. Though in image 10 you can see where one girl was too shy and made a dash for it, basket included.

blogImg_7 blogImg_8 blogImg_9 blogImg_10

We arrived at one village house where we invited to sit whilst waiting for other prominent members of the village to come. In this time we were offered a form of bread called ‘Cell Roti’, and because it was still festival time, homemade alcohol was given too. It’s name ‘Roxy’, pretty strong stuff made from fermented rice, they also use millet too.

blogImg_11 blogImg_12 blogImg_13 blogImg_14

There were many members sitting on the porch where we began to discuss with them about our upcoming plans, and also ask about how the 2 new teachers were getting on. During these discussions one of the new teachers Kissan Bhujel was asked to join the meeting. This was the first time for me to meet him, and the great thing about him is that he is the first village member to have passed his Class 10 (GCSE equivalent) and 11 (AS-Level), and now finishing Class 12 in between teaching at the school. Mon and I believe that having a villager as a teacher can only but inspire other children and hopefully their parents. But without our help it will be very difficult. He also can speak the most English from all the teachers.

He comes across as a nice young guy and shows much enthusiasm for teaching, lets hope his effect on the school and community will be a positive one. I will be discussing more about the school in the next blog.

blogImg_16

In conclusion, we decided to hold a meeting 5 days later on Wednesday 15th November, giving enough time for as many community members to be made aware. And just before we left, we visited other parts of the village to say hello, finding another Ping, and didn’t waste anytime getting on it, before departing back to Bandipur.

blogImg_16 blogImg_17

Celebrating Deshain in Bandipur

After a 4 and a half hour bus journey I had made it to Dumre, a small highway town in the valley beneath Bandipur. There, I was met by my Nepali brother and co-project co-ordinater, Mon Bahadur Bhujel. We were both so happy to see each other, 7 months after our last encounter, and so much to talk about.

blogImg_1
blogImg_2

From there, we scrambled onto a tightly packed jeep and travelled up the 8km windy road, to the top of a hill where Bandipur lye. I was excited, and so looking forward to seeing my friends, their families and staying in this wonderful place again. For those of you who have not read the blog from my previous visit (www.byebyewest.blogspot.com), a year ago I had spent 4 months in this beautiful place, and formed some close and fun relationships within this community, prior to the creation of the Aandhimul Project.

blogImg_3 blogImg_4

Of course, one of the closest being Mon Bahadur Bhujel and his family, and without our meeting, this project would not have been, and it wasn’t a co-incidence that I had planned to return on this date.

Deshain, one of their biggest festivals was happening on my arrival, and wanted to celebrate it with my Nepali brother, Mon. You will see in the images below Mon’s mother-in-law with Tikka remnants in her hands after applying to mine, and Mon’s cute son, Arpan’s foreheads, and Mon and his wife. It was a great day of going to all relatives houses and receiving Tikkas, flowers, money and food. Literally, my stomach was bursting by the end of the day! This festival really shows how important family life, and families are in Nepal, they have so much respect for each other.

blogImg_5 blogImg_8 blogImg_6 blogImg_7

This experience and many more from my last visit justifies my being in Nepal, as it’s not just about helping people, for me it is far greater than that, it’s about creating a connection with people and giving and receiving Love, and without Love, it would mean nothing!

blogImg_9 blogImg_10

Back in Nepal

blogImg_1

On approach to Kathmandu’s International Airport, I realised that my feet would soon be grounded, once again in the beautiful, and majestic country… Nepal!

After spending 6 months in the busy, hectic city of London, I had almost forgotten the smells, flavours and sights of what it is like to be in a vastly, different culture. But as soon as my senses were re-acquainted, the memories of my last visit came flooding back and although it hadn’t disappeared, the strong feeling of connection to the people of Nepal had returned.

blogImg_2 blogImg_3 blogImg_4 blogImg_5

Before heading to Bandipur, I stayed in Kathmandu for 4 days with some good friends I had made on my previous visit, Lily & Stephen. Lily has been in Nepal for over 12 years now and speaks fluent Nepali. She is involved in many community based projects, one of which is supporting an orphanage of 7 girls from a far Western region of Nepal called Humla, an undeveloped and one of the poorest regions. They started the orphanage 6 years ago and when they received the girls, they were malnourished and were in poor condition both mentally and physically. But now they are healthy, well fed girls, enjoying a good education and looking forward to a positive future.

blogImg_6