I tell ya, I spend my time these days being in awe of the youth of Nepal. Even the staff here at SIRC have philanthropic minds and although they are not well off, they are better off than most. They know it, so they take on the responsibility of helping those in need without so much as a word.
For instance yesterday Dipesh, the Admin Director brought a pair of fleece socks for each patient & their carers. His wife who runs a beauty shop, sent lipsticks and nail varnish for all the female patients and female carers. How very thoughtful – us women always delight in ensuring we look good, no matter what our lot.
Archana, ASCoN Conference Coordinator bought a set of warm winter clothes & jacket for a young 8-year-old patient last Friday. Today she brought him a pair of boys shoes (up to now he has been in a girl’s pair of pink patent shoes as they were the only ones that fit him).
Amrita is a physio and does her own set of charitable work including attending an eyesight camp for 3 days last week.
Dr Renee was telling me about Dr Sushil’s plans along with his medically trained friends, to open a home for old people and abandoned women and provide them with medical care and a place to live. You’d expect a fully trained medical doctor to want to get into private practice and make some money, but not this one!
Lok’s daughter Neecol is another person who does as much social work as her family responsibilities allow. After the earthquakes, many young people from Banepa bandied together to build 200+ temporary shelters, and provided personal hygiene kits as well as kitchen starter kits to hundreds of families in the Kavre District, sometimes having to hike into villages cut off by landslides, and who had not seen any aid despite being just 50km from Kathmandu. This same group also ran a health camp, delivering basic first aid and transporting anyone needing any further care to Dhulikhel Hospital for more professional treatment.
I have to say this is just a small sampling of what the Young People of Nepal did and continue to do for their communities. Think of all the stories I have yet to hear!
All this leads me to my weekend visit to Phoolbari village close to Namobuddha in the Kavre District to see the work Shree Krishna Dhital, his brother Shree Ram Dhital and friends are doing to improve the lives of their village.
It all started with me meeting Shree Krishna just as my time in Nepal ended last year. He is a long-time friend of Neecol, Lok’s daughter (I stayed with Lok and family in Banepa last year). It was clear we had lots to talk about given our interest in what is known as social work here in Nepal (aka charitable work) and the key to empowering communities to help themselves. We kept in touch over the past 12 months, and now that the work front has settled a little here at SIRC, I had the time to travel out to Phoolbari and see this dedicated team’s plans in action. Prepare to be impressed.
You see, Shree and his brother Ram along with a 3rd friend are the first from their village to go to university. They were sponsored by Rotarian Bruce Higgs and Diane Kennedy from Canada and eternally grateful for this immense opportunity education provides. In fact, it was their mother & father who decided to invest in their sons’ education at a very early age.
Shree at the age of 8 went to school in Banepa, initially living with his uncle and by age 9, lived by himself – cooking, doing laundry and studying under his own supervision. His little brother Ram joined him 4 years later. They had little money and traveled home at weekends to see their parents ….. they never wasted their money on buses so used to race the bus home through cross-country shortcuts, a walk that took a few hours walk each way. They did this for all of their schooling till age 18 and then went to university in Kathmandu on scholarships.
Shree graduated two years ago in mechanical engineering, his friend graduated two weeks ago in Development studies and Ram (younger brother), is in his final year of environmental engineering. Between these three, they have accepted responsibility for making their village a better place to live so as to thwart the migration of workers to Kathmandu and beyond (Qatar, Malayasia etc) and in doing so, have changed the course of their village.
Winters are dry here in Nepal, and the moisture in the ground from monsoon rains doesn’t usually last through the winter, so the village have had to truck in water for their vegetables. Shree got his mind thinking and came up with the concept of rainwater harvesting. Not entirely a new concept but certainly new for Phoolbari.
A large pond is dug out of the earth and lined with plastic material. Gutters are applied to the roof and a pipe connected from the roof to the pond down the hill. When the monsoon rains come, the water off the roof flows directly to the pond, making over 50,000 litres of water available for farming during the dry winter months.
After the earthquakes this year, the ponds have become even more important as the underground water sources that were previously abundant, are no longer. Out of 500 households in the village area, over 60 now have their own ponds and no longer have to purchase water or pump it from lower elevations using what is now a precious commodity – fuel – due to the ongoing border blockade between India and Nepal. The cost of installing one pond is but US$250 – this includes the cost of materials only, labour is provided by the village. Pretty neat huh? Check out the full details here on Shree’s blog.
Another key focus at the moment is the build out of a community school in the village. The government school in the village is not all that great, which means any family with the means, sends their kids to the closest town of Banepa for schooling – at significant cost. With the support and help of Canadian Rotary club of Gananoque and Kingston, as well as many Canadian and German friends, the vision to build the school was born. The idea behind this school is to elevate the standard of education, re-introduce a level of discipline that is non-existent in government schools and charge a reasonable rate to those who can afford it, and allow others to be in the school for free.
The community raised US$2,000 themselves towards a new school building and they are now looking for matching funds to complete the school, and provide it with a library, computers, books and of course a fund to sponsor kids who cannot afford to pay. The school opened earlier this year and despite the earthquakes, they now have 75 students enrolled, many of whom went to school in Banepa previously. They hope to grow to 200 students by spring of next year.
The new school is located close to the municipal offices as well as the health centre. The plan is to also use the school as a community hall – a place where the community can assemble not only for meetings and such, but for celebrations and festivals. Sounds familiar to Bowen Islanders eh?!
Postscript added December 25, 2015 – additional comments by Patrica Butchart. Rotary Club of Gananoque, Ontario, Canada:
This is an awesome write up. Our Rotary Club here in Gananoque have been connect with Shree since he was little boy. We helped financially with his schooling and are so proud of how Shree is now paying back by doing so many things in his community. He is an awesome young man.
Shree has also helped us with our sewing machine project through our Gananoque Rotary club. We sent 6 sewing machines over last year and money was just sent to buy 12 more sewing machines to start the 2016 Tailoring Course for another group of ladies so that the ladies can help rebuild and help support their families and community. They are an amazing group of people. Last year when the ladies finished their course the Government of Nepal gave each lady their very own sewing machine. How cool is that. We are looking forward to hearing how the next Tailoring Course does.
Every time I Sell a house I put $100 towards a sewing machine. And a lot of my friends in my community have also been so generous and donated towards our Sewing Machine Project in Nepal.
Again. A huge thank you to Shree for all his hard work getting this project started.
Blessings. Patrica Butchart. Rotary Club of Gananoque, Ontario, Canada.
Shree’s blog documents other projects this energetic group has underway, so please check it out here.
Shree and group also run a Homestay in the village, a really awesome way to experience a farmer’s life in Nepal. Unfortunately the homestay building was damaged but the hope is to have it available for visitors next year.
Earlier this year, Shree was featured on a Nepali TV program called Pattern Breakers, you can kinda see why he has been singled out as one of Nepal’s future leaders. He is a determined young man, full of ideas but ones he puts into action …. bringing the naysayers in his community along for the ride. And building a future for his village, one where people can earn a good living with fresh country air to breathe, eating organically and a place where families can thrive. He is one to watch!
We were given a very warm welcome at his parent’s home and throughout the village. As this post is a bit long, I’ll prepare another post on the people and faces we met at Phoolbari. That’s up next!