Latest Event Updates
So a quick post about Birgunj. The town itself is a large border town, loads of dirt and poverty but at the same time loads of shops, trade etc. And very hot – today it’s ‘only’ 39 degrees, it was 46 two days ago.
Here we met a few people: former commerce minister, director of the chamber of commerce, chief of the police, regional director for Red Cross, a local influential businessman, and a director of a local charity, Soyog Simitri.
In a few words – there is no children’s home here, about 100 street children on the streets (trying to get statistics from the local government tomorrow), and the local community are ready to support us – local businesses, we can get a large piece of land 4-5km outside of Birgunj. They are really willing to expand the education programme into small villages around the city.
We’re going to Mukesh’s house now and tomorrow to Phattepur for the school ceremony, then Hetauda children’s home again, and then on our way to Chitwan.
So Hetauda day – very beautiful area, very easy to navigate. Throughout the whole day we managed to only do two meetings but it was definitely worth it.
The first meeting was with a school in a village near Hetauda. This was really successful as this school is a ‘resource centre’ for 35 schools in the area. What they mean by resource centre is that their building is used for teacher training etc, and are a sort of information centre for the area. There are 1200 children attending this school, 30 teachers. The children are mostly from the lowest castes – Tamang, Chepang and Dalit. Most of the parents are farmers. This school are really happy to work with us on the teacher training programme and also be a point of contact for other underprivileged schools. They have already given us contact details and ideas. They are very enthusiastic!
The next meeting was with a children’s home there called ‘Mama Koghar’ – I have to say, I was so impressed and touched, and this doesn’t happen very often! This home was set up 6 months ago by a uni professor who initially was doing research for his phd on street children. He had a small team of students helping him with the project and after he finished the research, they decided they really wanted to help those street children. So there are two people running the home – Masters students who were doing the research, both volunteers, they live there 24 hours a day and the professor comes there once a day to help with children’s education. They have no income really, all the food and clothes for the children are being donated by the local community. The building where the home is set up – the local government paid the rent for one year. They are not sure what will happen after that, they are talking to government now and trying to extend that. The children are amazing – 17 children, all boys, from 7 to about 16 years old, most of them really clever. We gave them loads of sweets and books, and the torches. It was amazing how excited they got over the books, they all showed me their notebooks from school, their drawings, took out the world map from one of their school books and were very excited to tell me all about different countries etc. Many of them spoke quite good English but not the youngest ones. They have already linked 7 children with their families, they do this through ads in local papers, and then parents come and collect them – they check and monitor the families all the time and speak to their local community. Some children come from the Hetauda area and some from Kathmandu. In times of crisis a DOCF Foundation that are connected to the University helps them slightly. We are going back to that home tomorrow, on the way to Chitwan, to meet the professor. We will ask more questions then.
Today we have had our big meeting in Birgunj so will post a separate blog about that. Again, it was really good and we have managed to meet a lot of high profile people.
So just a short blog now about our way from Kathmandu to Hetauda. Pretty much an unlucky day but very interesting. The strikes in Kathmandu started again but not on a large scale – it was more of a demonstration rather than strike, organised by students but still most of the roads were blocked and it was really difficult to get anywhere. After a few hours of stress trying to get our car sorted when two of our drivers never turned up, we managed to get into our car. In the meantime a supreme court judge was shot dead so blocked roads again… there are still problems with the constitution and the killer actually left a note explaining the reasons for killing the judge. Total mayhem.
We managed to leave Kathmandu very late afternoon and set off for Hetauda. We were driving through some beautiful mountains, crazy roads and half way the road was blocked by a large lorry. What had happened was that a small car had an accident and the lorry was what I think an equivalent to our breakdown recovery. About 8 or so men were trying to push the small car in the lorry… Mukesh and Clint were helping, I was spoiling local children with sweets, and by some miracle they managed to get the car into the lorry so we were free to go. Arrived very late in Hetauda – an amazing place, very green etc. No foreigners here, saw some USAID big cars but don’t think they have actual projects there – couldn’t find any info on that.
Yesterday was a very long day, packed with meetings. But they were all really successful with some great ideas for Our Sansar.
We met with Lata who is a teacher trainer here. She is fantastic! We are looking at running a ‘train the trainer’ programme with her, with Lata overseeing the programme and training local teachers, who then train more teachers themselves in schools in Hetauda. This way we can reach many more teachers. I am going to visit the schools in the next two days or so, so this is very exciting!
We also met with Indira, our trustee in Nepal, who is currently working with PA Nepal. She is so passionate about her work and an amazing person. We visited two of her children’s homes, in Kathmandu and Saku. There are 58 children living at the home in Saku, with 2 teachers. They have a lot of land to grow vegetables and fruit, and to keep cows and goats. The children all help with the cooking and keeping the house, which is run like a family home. And amazing hill views and baby goats running around everywhere!
We also met with Janak Joshi, a vice-chairman of the Poverty Alleviation Fund, who previously worked in senior roles for the government, DFID and UNDP. He’s keen to become involved with us and help us with networking with politicians and business, which is fantastic.
And finally, we met with Toya, our chair of trustees in Nepal. We were wonderfully welcomed by him and his wife. We will meet them again when we return to Kathmandu and will visit their children’s home. We provided them with a computer for that home about 2 years ago and apparently it’s still working well!
Today there have been large demonstrations again in Kathmandu so I spent a few hours in a very hot car trying to get back to the hotel… fingers crossed, we’ll be able to come back to Kathmandu with no problems!
We arrived on Tuesday morning so are still adjusting to the time difference after our travels to other countries. Kathmandu is what we expected – very relaxed (well, compared to other Asian cities!) and very exciting – and amazing food! We had a fantastic greeting at the airport, with loads of flowers and hugs.
I’ve already had a chance to meet and feed a street child and made him very happy with one of our torches. It looks like these might be very useful in here, as they don’t require any batteries and last for a very long time so should be very useful for children to study in the evenings. We’ll use the ones that we brought over as a pilot, and if they are successful, then we’ll include them in all our projects.
Mukesh, our Project Coordinator in Nepal, has managed to get a fantastic deal with a telecom company to put in satellite internet at the school in Phattepur. This means that the internet will be much faster than the one we set up now and the cost lower. And the whole village will be able to have access to it as well. We’re going to Phattepur in the next few days so I’ll post some photos of the school then.