The craziness of monsoon, Nepal

I’ve alluded in earlier posts about the challenges the people of Nepal (and many other counties in SE Asia) face during monsoon time.  This year’s monsoon has killed over 50 people in Nepal, and there is another two months to go before monsoon is expected to end.  Landslides are frequent and have hit the Narayangadh-Mugling road multiple times so far this monsoon, where at least 10,000 vehicles ply back and forth every day.

Landslides on the Narayangadh-Mugling road. Photo credit My Republica

This road connects the country’s southern, eastern and western parts with Pokhara and Kathmandu and creates unbelievable havoc when it has to shut down.
Another factor to add to the mayhem in Kathmandu is the ongoing road works that have been underway for years now, aimed to install proper drainage systems and resurface the roads.  Private contractors are doing the work … or I should say won the contracts but are not really doing any of the work, just lining their pockets really. So here we are in the middle of yet another monsoon and  nothing much as changed.  Take a look.

Streets in Patan, a suburb of Kathmandu, flooded after monsoon rains. Photo credit The Sun Daily

Muddy and flooded road in Jorpati, another suburb of Kathmandu where many wheelchair users live. Photo credit Kathmandu Post

Not only is it warm and muggy monsoon time, but the garbage has not been collected in Kathmandu for over a month due to two factors – no more room at the landfill and the access road has been washed out.  So now there are piles of garbage mounting up all over the city, and not only does it stink to high heaven, it also means a serious threat to water-borne diseases.

Photo credit Kathmandu Post

To top it off, the city of Bhaktapur has been trashed with the Hanumante River having swollen it’s banks, after a night of fierce rain last Wednesday.  The Araniko Highway heading east is completely submerged with over 4 feet of water.  Fortunately my friends the Kayastha Family are not affected.

Flooding of the Hanumante River in Bhaktapur

Banepa, the town where I live for much of my time in Nepal is completely flooded but thankfully Lok and family’s home is on a higher elevation and so has not been affected.  Mind you the people living in makeshift tents and under tarps after losing their homes in the 2015 earthquakes suffered the brunt of this year’s flooding – enough already.

Flooding in Banepa. Photo credit Sapkota Rajan

I came across this little story which made me snigger a little.  The Traffic Police along the Koteshwor-Suryabinayak section of the Araniko Highway are attempting to ensure drivers stick to lanes by vehicle type, where the heavy trucks are to stay right and cars & motorbikes must stick to the left, with no overtaking.  I snigger only because first of all, the lanes are not always evident and when they are evident, no one really keeps to lanes.   The chances of vehicles sticking to their ‘lane’ are slim to none!  There’s also an attempt at educating jaywalkers – ha!  Good luck with that.  Read it here.
And finally on a positive note, a cool thing happened at the recent Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League in Kathmandu.  The tournament is a wheelchair basketball competition now in it’s third year with 134 players and more than 600 spectators and is getting noticed by the general population. 
In the past anyone with a disability was shunned across Nepal and it was for this reason Ram Bahadur Tamang was determined to complete his Wheelchair Yaatra in 2014.  Ram’s aim was to raise awareness and give hope to those with disabilities.  It is clear Ram’s yaatra has done it’s job.  One of the young players at the tournament was asked for his autograph by some adoring spectators.  Unheard of!  Read all about it here. 
Keep up your advocacy work Ram!
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The latest from SCI Hostel, Jorpati

Thanks to Keshav who keeps me up to date on all the goings on at the SCI Hostel these days.  When I look at how busy the kids are, not only at school but also with sports and outings, I am thankful this little island off the west coast of Canada, can make such a difference to these young lives.

Take a look for yourselves ….

For any of you who have visited Nepal, you will know the roads are dreadful.  For the past few years the government have been laying water pipes throughout the city, causing havoc for pedestrians and traffic alike.  Just when that work finished, they dug up the road again to enhance the storm sewers, it’s a never ending sea of mud!

This is the road outside the SCI hostel – dreadful!!

With a large population of wheelchair users living in the Jorpati area, they organized a protest rally.   It seemed to work as the road crews were out a few days later trying to improve the small road outside the SCI Hostel.

After the rally, the group was invited to the Prime Minister’s residence for a meeting, who then referred the group to the Finance Minister.  The hope is in addition to the roads, a Npr 5,000 / CAD $60 monthly payment is paid to all those with disabilities to help cover food, shelter and medical expenses.  Future meetings with the Minister of Social Welfare and Minister of Health is also planned … this will be a very long process.  But it’s great to see such activism!!

New wheelchair donation for Sumit from National Disabled Fund and Bharat Bahadur Karki

 

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School’s back! In Nepal at least

It’s been two months since the Remarkable Year in Sri Lanka fundraiser raised C$5,000 to benefit children with spinal cord injuries (SCI) in Nepal.  A mix of countries I know but the story I had to tell was about my time in northern Sri Lanka working with small, family-run businesses in the Tamil community.  Nepal continues to be my soul-home though, I have a strong connection to the resilience of Nepalis and in particular with people living with SCI, hence raising funds for the kids with SCI in Nepal.

The hostel is run by the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal, an organization created in 2016 by Rishi Dhakal and friends, in response to the increasing need for kids with SCI, to have a safe place to stay while attending school.

I’ve been to visit the hostel in Jorpati  in the outskirts of Kathmandu a few times and wrote about it way back in 2016.   Check out that blog post here.  The hostel has basic accommodation, spotlessly clean and well cared for by a hired Didi – a local lady who cooks and cleans for the children, and gets them off to school in the morning.    Didi actually means Older Sister in the Nepali language.  I think it is fitting that the lady that cares for them is indeed like their older sister in their home away from home.

Didi preparing lunch

The Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal board members are also very active at the hostel, helping the kids with homework and projects, enhancing their English language skills, public speaking skills (Nepal’s future advocates for SCI!) and bringing them along to a variety of sports activities:  swimming, table tennis, basketball, cricket and wheelchair road racing.  They lead very active and stimulating lives, don’t they?

It’s not hard to believe there is a wait list of about 11 kids who want to attend school.  The hostel needs to be expanded to accommodate more children … but that’s a whole other story!

Out of many deserving kids, Sumit (15), Sidhant (12), Subash (15) and Bandana (10) are the ones who are benefiting from the donations of Bowen Islanders (C$5,000) in combination with a contribution towards expenses (C$1,800) from their respective families.  Money sure stretches far in Nepal.

This is Sumit, Sidhant and Subash’s second year living at the hostel.  Easy to tell they are happy and healthy in this photo below, ready for the new school year.

Fresh uniforms and ready for school Sumit (l), Sidhant (m) and Subash (r)

And then there is Bandana from Mugu in Western Nepal who only arrived at the hostel this week.  She had a long way to travel and needed a hospital stay to manage a pressure sore before being healthy enough to attend school.  Look how happy she is upon arrival at the hostel!

Bandana upon arrival at the Hostel earlier this week.  Nicely painted nails too!

Keshav Thapa who is the Program Coordinator of Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal, sent me some background on the children and how they have ended up at the hostel.   These are the children’s stories (unedited).

Thank you Bowen Island, for your continued support in all the volunteer work I do, and the support you provide me  time and time again.  In particular I would like to thank Ann Ramsey and a cadre of Anonymous donors (you know who you are!) for your generous donations.  Thank you too to those who contributed in many ways at the fundraiser.

Your generosity has given hope to the possibility of a bright future for Sumit, Sidhant, Subash and Bandana.

Dhanybhad!

Budget detailing how the money is being spent is below:

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Happy Nepali New Year!

Bisket Jatra is the annual celebration of two of the most important deities of the town of Bhaktapur, the wrathful god Bhairab and the goddess Bhadrakali. The New Year of the Bikram Sambat calendar takes place at the same time as this ancient festival.

A few days before the New Year, the goddess and the god are enshrined in their raths, or immense chariots & pulled through the narrow streets of Bhaktapur by crowds of young men.

On the last day of the old year a towering wooden pole is erected at the edge of town. Long banners hang from the pole, symbolizing next and conquered in a mythological battle.

On new year’s day, contesting terms of men pull the pole to the ground, a moment of danger and excitement.

Happy New Year 2075 to all!

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This is a re-post from my good friends on Bhaktapur, the Kayastha Home Stay

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Thank You for a Remarkable Evening

Last night, just under 60 Bowen Islanders turned up at the Annex to hear the story of my year in Sri Lanka, devour some delicious food and donate generously to the SCI Practice Home in Kathmandu, Nepal, raising over $4,500, allowing THREE children with spinal cord injuries to continue their education.  Thank you to the generous souls of Bowen Island!

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As is always the case, these kinds of events do not happen on their own.  Heart-felt thanks to my team of volunteers:  Rob S, Rob G, Judi Robyn, Muriel, Gail, Shannon, Doris, Marcel, Jlonka, Jen, Phil, Marysia for a stellar job, to Claire Leverton for poster design, to the Bowen Island Undercurrent for their online promotion, to BIAC for promotion and ticket sales, and to BIPL for rental of the Annex.  Thanks too for discounts from Paul Rickett and Fresh St Market which helped reduce my costs.

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And to all those of you who donated generously and who bought tickets, raffle tickets, chutneys and spice mixes.  Thank you.  Know you have made a huge difference to these children in Nepal.

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A Remarkable Year in Sri Lanka

Last year, I found myself unexpectedly in Sri Lanka, working with the Tamil community helping small family-run businesses grow and prosper in a country ravaged by a decades-long civil war. As is so often the case, the experience left me altered in many ways and in wonder of my Remarkable Year in Sri Lanka.

Come join me on Saturday March 24, 2018 at the Annex, Cove Commons on Bowen Island for an evening of storytelling, lots of chat, delicious Sri Lankan food (not too spicy I promise!) and a few Sri Lankan foodie items to buy.

The evening will also be a fundraiser to educate Nepali kids with spinal cord injuries – a cause close to my heart. Donations are encouraged.

Tickets are $20 and for sale at The Gallery, Cove Commons., Bowen Island.

Hope to see you (yes you!) on March 24: 6.30pm- 8.30pm.

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2017 – a year that was

Here I am on a snowy, icy Bowen Island, taking stock of the last 12 months and fully appreciating how charmed my life has been in 2017.

Photo credit: Rob Severin | https://www.instagram.com/robrainforest/

Besides calling Canada home for 20 years now, I spent much of the year travelling the length and breadth of Sri Lanka, working with some of the most resilient people that I have met.

I wasn’t meant to be in Sri Lanka at all actually.  It being a tropical hot and humid country filled with scary bugs and animals, it would never have been a top choice of mine to spend a length of time in.  But things happen for a reason.

With a profound sadness on leaving Nepal in October 2016, and some trepidation to committing to be in Sri Lanka for the following nine months, I needn’t have stressed at all.

My time in Sri Lanka ended up being a defining moment in my life.

I love this photo of the BIZ+ team dressed in red for International Women’s Day 2017

The people I spent time with, the work I did through the VEGA/BIZ+ Program, the experiences I shared with so many … every little thing really just renewed my sense of feeling in every moment, I was where I was meant to be.  I bet there are not many of us that can say that with confidence.  How blessed am I eh?

I ended the year by accepting an award presented by VEGA  on behalf of the BIZ+ team across Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan small business owners who trusted me, who opened their minds and hearts to greater possibilities.

These photos are my last meetings with two of the four businesses I worked with in the north and east of Sri Lanka.  A lot of hard work achieved but always with humour.

It was a tad daunting for me given the award ceremony was in the Senate Meeting Rooms  on Capitol Hill, Washington DC but it was made a little easier knowing my pal Jacqui was by right my side!

News of the award ended up causing quite a stir including here on Bowen Island where Meribeth Deen, Editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent was quick off the mark with an article sent to press on the night of the award ceremony after a long-distance phone call from Bowen to DC :-).

I headed back to Nepal twice while in Sri Lanka, first in February for Nikita & Binay’s wedding – a five-day extravaganza where friends Katrina, Cathy and I were treated like family throughout the entire celebration.  Blessed again.

Binay and Nikita, on their wedding day. February 14, 2017

And the second time in June, en route home to Vancouver, I caught up with my Nepali friends, cooked Sri Lankan feasts, visited Mankamana with Prajwal and delivered a couple of workshops.

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Needless to say, upon return I immediately dove back into volunteering on Bowen – doing the promotion for TOTI’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest which was a ton of fun!  And I have taken the Chair of the Bowen Island Arts Council Board for a one year duration while the Vice Chair is being trained up (right Rob?!).

All in all, an epic year for me.  It is real good to be home on Bowen.  I’ll be visiting family and friends in Ireland & the UK in January before I start another work contract in February.  I have a few plans flying around to maybe downsize …. who knows what else is on the horizon?  But one thing I know, live continues to inspire me.

Be all you can be in 2018!

 

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