CASD NZ Ambassadors Denise and Peter recently returned to Nepal to help facilitate a number of projects. Here is a report of their journey and some photos from the trip.
Words from Peter:
It was wonderful to arrive back in Ghusel after one of those rides in the jeep which is akin to driving down a river bed for two hours. It was like reconnecting with old friends – in fact it was reconnecting with old friends. We are so privileged to be accepted into the bosom of this family and participate in their daily life. To eat with them – although Brahmins have very strict rules around food. We try to follow the rules ( that we know of!) Difficult because we are both left handed. I have become very dexterous with a spoon in my right hand. The concession to us is that we each have a plastic chair to sit on and a spoon to eat with. They sit on the floor and eat with their right hand. We are complimented that the old Baba eats with us this time – when we were here shortly after the earthquake he didn’t. We found out later that he was afraid we would pollute his food. ( inadvertently) .
The day after we arrived Australian friend Liz, Isobel and the team from the BFCC turned up.(Brighter Futures Community Centre – they work on a project in Kopan, a very low economic area of Kathmandu. They came to present a girl’s hygiene day for the girls in the secondary school in the top part of the village. This has been months in the organising and I was so pleased Lizzie was able to come out here before flying back to Melbourne.
Life can be very tough for women here and one young woman I met from Kathmandu told me she was to have been locked up for three weeks when she began menstruating.. She objected strongly, so after a few days her father let her out because luckily he was a ” modern man” with a government job. ( in other regions this happens and there is a lot of concern about it) Here there is no privacy around menstruation and you will be told ” oh she can’t cook tonight/ go to the temple etc etc because she is menstruating.
So this is a brilliant programme funded by the Australians and presented by two Nepali women from Kopan. Then the girls are all issued with a kit – comprising two pairs of knickers and a tricky arrangement of washable pads that can be inserted into a little cloth and plastic holder that clicks with a dome around the crotch of the knickers. A bar of soap, a wash cloth, plastic bags for carrying soiled items – all in a colorful cloth bag with a drawstring complete the kit. I shudder to think how they cope out in the villages where the open air washing tap is beside the buffalo stalls alongside the road/ track. No privacy – my washing routine is with a wet one in the bedroom or a few dabs under my sarong. Choice aye! In Kopan about five women are paid to sew these kits and they have visited about five schools in different areas so far.
So a typical day here consists of the rituals around the Hindu shrine beginning at five in the morning. Buffalo milk tea ( absolutely delicious) at about eight. Then various chores – washing at the outside tap…..visiting the outhouse squatter, preparing materials for whatever lesson I am going to be doing. Two days ago Peter was assembling the ” safety ” gear and tools we bought. Face masks, thick gloves etc in preparation for the first day of work. This was after we had spent about four hours down on the site with the engineers, the contractor, Prakash CEO of CASD, Govinda the headman who we stay with and any number of other interested and curious parties. We were told the engineers would be here at 7 pm. They rolled up about nine. Then everyone had to have some chai….we were just about to go down to the school when the contractor rolled up, so he had to have chai. Then we all waited about twenty minutes down at the school gate under the marijuana plants while a runner went on down to the village to get a key
Then there was about four hours of measuring, meetings, discussions in little huddles, more discussions etc.
A price was asked initially that really made us wince…..in fact we said that we just didn’t have that much. Trouble is when they see Europeans involved they ( contractors) think funds are unlimited. But after a great deal of negotiation it was finally decided that the price of thirteen thousand US dollars for the fully completed job was a reasonable price. That plus the CASD management fee and engineers wages another thousand US – a bit more than what we raised but not too much to handle. So great excitement when we said yes go ahead – all to government specification for quality of materials, including training of the “boys”, of various ages and to be completed within three months but with an extra few weeks allowed for weather issues should it be a bad winter. Clearly we will not see it finished but while we are here we will be down there checking progress and keeping them on- task! ( We have seen workers in Kathmandu…..one or two working and another five hanging out on their shovels chatting).
We also have hoodies for them and hand knitted hats as well. However Govinda said not to hand them out for a couple of weeks until we are sure that they are stayers and good workers.
So day one on the site Peter trots down to check on progress……..no workers! Aha they are having Dahl baht we are told. After I finish my class I look at the site…..no workers. Peter trots down again a couple of hours later. Then about two o’clock a runner comes up to the house to tell us workers are there. And indeed they were, busy demolishing what was left of the old stone walls.
Next day the contractor turns up and does training. They get issued with their safety gear and get to work. We tried not to laugh at the sight of them in big gloves and dust masks but bare feet!! When we weren’t looking a couple took their gloves off…..a pregnant woman and toddler wander across the site…….OSH just wouldn’t cope.
So we come back up the hill in time to patch up a guy at Govinda’s who had sliced his hand open on some iron. Then a bit later a tragic little boy I had a particularly soft spot for last time…..skinny as as a pin and always in filthy ripped clothes came by. His parents
Apparently are alcoholics and ignore the kids. Despite his circumstances Vikram Lo always had the cheeriest cheesiest grin but this time he looked really glum and wasn’t smiling. When I returned from the tap I saw that Dil Kumari, Govinda’s eighty year old mother had him sitting down with his tatty trousers rolled up looking at the most horrific sores on his legs. It seems he has had them for two months…..when I showed the teachers the next day they were really shocked – his trousers covered them and they hadn’t seen them. So we went to work on him. Warm water swabs and antiseptic spray…..fully expecting to have to take him to hospital in Kathmandu, we were so fearful of blood poisoning.
However after a couple of days of this treatment they are looking a lot better – fingers crossed. Every evening his father drives his two buffalo past carefully not making any eye contact. I recognise him by the filthy rag he has tied around his leg. Most people going past namaste us – not him!
Today we put out on a huge plastic cloth all the baby and children’s clothing we had brought over. Two backpacks full – plus several bags a friend carried over for us.
Sarita and Govinda had sent the message down to the Tamang village and about thirty to forty children turned up between 1.00 and 4.00pm with one or other of their parents and we managed to give each child two pieces of clothing some of the later ones got more.
I panicked initially because there were so many about five and six year olds and we had brought mainly clothes for younger children. However the babies even the one of two months were much bigger than I expected and the older children much smaller!!
We think it might be because they are all breastfed for at least the first eighteen months to two years……they were really bouncing babies. Then after that they get very little protein so they don’t grow much and are very thin. So we were managing to put five year olds into clothes for two and three year olds – luckily!
Most were in quite dirty and ripped clothes so they were very happy and namasted us when they left.
Life here is amazingly busy…..attending to animals ( we are helping with the feeding of the cutest baby goat that has been rejected by its mother ). Sarita is cooking everything from scratch from the fields. Very healthy, and of course in the autumn there is a fantastic range of vegetables. We have no idea what many of them are…..and there are also wild greens from the fields and forest. I find some of the food quite hot and a bit of a challenge to eat but Peter is putting vast amounts away in grand style!!
Enough for now I will try and insert a couple of photos showing the training of the boys, work on the site and the clothes laid out.
Big hugs…..lots of love and a very big namaste to you all for your generosity……believe me it is really appreciated. We have told them that photos are being sent home to all the people who are supporting the school rebuild, the clothing, the training of the boys and the school supplies.
Denise and Peter. 😘 x