7 January 2019
Dear Sponsors and Friends,
Let me begin by wishing you all the very best for the New Year 2019 and thanking you sincerely on behalf of the SSN team and those we serve for your generous support during the past year which has made everything possible.
It has been an exciting and successful year for us, working with our new team members to build on our strengths whilst exploring more efficient ways of doing things to move us forward as an effective change-making organisation. 2019 promises to be even more exciting as our innovations continue to bear fruit and plans unfold.
Here, briefly, are some of the things that have happened in the latter part of this year…
The Garden Family
Perhaps the biggest news is that we have a new addition to The Garden family. She is Bimala Gautam, Binod’s younger sister. Bimala joined our family in mid-September last year. For various reasons she had not been attending school for over a year and had been living with other families rather than her mother. At only 14 years old, we felt she needed a safe and nurturing home and to resume her education, so we invited her to The Garden. She is now attending Gyankunj English medium School in class 7 along with Bikash, Binisha and Bandana, and seems very happy.
The rest of the Garden Family are doing well. They continue to study hard and the older ones have been taking a more active role in our outreach projects. Prakash, now in his second year at university reading Civil Engineering, has a part time government job pricing rebuilding projects in villages. This new expertise was put to good use for SN recently when he priced and oversaw the building of the shower block at his old school in Dhawa village.
Dhawa Village School and Community
Dhawa is the village where Roshan and his siblings were born and spent the first few years of their lives. Roshan’s grandfather was one of the founders of the small school there which each of the children attended at primary level. We began supporting the school and community back in 2015 after the earthquake, using donations from Ivy Collegiate Academy, and have continued to do so thanks to their annual fund-raising efforts.
In October and November of last year, we decided to respond to the pressing need for some basic kitchen equipment at the school to provide a simple hot lunch for the 35 children attending the school. We had used funds in the past to purchase food for the children, but the teachers agreed that installing a simple kitchen would be the best way to help them to provide a nourishing hot meal each day. Parents have been signed up on a cooking rota and we are happy that the equipment is being put to good use. There is no point trying to educate a child with an empty stomach!
We also provided 2 donated computers and a printer/scanner/photocopier for the school which will save the teachers the soulless task of writing out by hand each student’s exam papers, as well as many other tasks.
As mentioned above, we built a private shower room with wash basin on to the existing school toilet block. This will encourage better hygiene amongst the children and will also be used by teachers and other members of the village. We plan to follow up at the school with talks and educational activities on the theme of health, cleanliness and hygiene.
With shower facilities and a kitchen in place, we are now in a position to invite groups to stay and work in the village for a few days. The large field outside the school makes a perfect campsite!
In early December, we provided warm practical track suits for each child and teacher at the school.
Now that some basic needs have been taken care of, we hope to look at how we can support the teachers in the education process at the school.
Kaskikot Village Survey
Kaskikot Village is not far from Dhawa, also in the hills further up the valley from Pokhara.
Roshan remembers going to the tailor in this village who sewed their school uniforms.
For this is a village of tailors from a Dalit (untouchable) caste, who Roshan felt compassion for even as a child. Disadvantaged in many ways because of their caste, Roshan requested that we look into how we might help them increase their income and improve their lives.
Michelle Djekić, a member of the SN team who has extensive experience and expertise in research surveys, responded to Roshan’s request and decided to conduct a survey of each Dalit woman of working age in the community to establish the needs and aspirations of the group as a whole. Begun in October, it has proved to be a mammoth task, but is yielding some very interesting results upon which we will base any future action.
One idea is to teach new sewing skills and more marketable designs to those wishing to learn, which can be sold on the international market. We began piloting this idea with the girls from Namaste Children’s home earlier last year, but for various reasons, it has not continued. We are hoping that with better research and planning, a similar project can work with the Kaskikot group.
All the older Garden members were trained as interviewers and did an excellent job of conducting the 60+ surveys in the village over the course of several visits. They are becoming a strong and inspirational team of young change makers and we are very proud of them.
One World Participants (OWPS not OAPS!! )
We are currently in the process of reviewing the vision and mission of SN, as well as developing a long-term strategic plan to guide us, ably led by Michelle Djekić. Because of the negative connotations of the term “volunteer” and the bad press created by the dishonest practices of some non-profits in Nepal, we are choosing to call the guests who come to visit and work with us at The Garden “One World Participants”, in line with our mission to bring people from all around the world together in Nepal to share ideas, skills and experiences and to learn from each other.
Two such OWPs who made a big impact at The Garden in October and November of this year were Julie Holt and Sarah Creed.
Julie, from Australia, is an accomplished and creative fabric arts designer, quilter and basket maker who responded to Clare Grey’s call for someone to take over where she had left off in March of last year with the Namaste girls’ sewing programme. Partly because of timing issues and partly because of lack of motivation on the part of the girls, the classes did not continue, so we decided on a Plan B, which was to create a Garden quilt, with each member of The Garden designing and creating their own square. This turned out to be the most amazing experience for all concerned. The kids really got creative, learned many new skills in the quilt-making process, and really came together as a team in the sewing room which was a buzz of activity from morning to night! Lots of sharing went on, laughing and singing, and the final product was something that everyone could feel proud of. We are fortunate that Julie is returning to The Garden in February and March of this year with many new ideas to teach our family and also to start piloting some possible product designs for the Kaskikot project.
Sarah, a retired police officer from the UK, another long-stay guest at The Garden, shared her many creative talents with the children, and was an indispensable assistant to Julie.
Having worked in the child abuse section of the police force for a number of years, Sarah has a lot of experience of speaking to children on sensitive issues, and she is returning in March this year, prepared to go into our partner schools to speak to children about staying safe, and to teachers to recognise signs of abuse. Changes in this area are very much needed in Nepal.
Two-day Workshop at The Garden
As we now have a majority of teenagers of both sexes at The Garden, we felt it was important to address some adolescent issues with them and to provide them with an opportunity to share their feelings and ask questions in a safe space. We accordingly invited our young change makers from Kathmandu, Kripa Sigdel and Sujan Shrestha of Psychbigyaan to visit The Garden. We also invited Sri Ram Timilsina, a former teacher who now travels around Nepal offering workshops on Non-Violent Communication (NVC) to present. We invited local teachers and other adults working with young people to participate and came up with a 2-day programme we called “Emotional Wellbeing for Global Peace”.
It was clear from feedback that such workshops are extremely valuable, and we plan to offer more on these and other educational topics in the future.
The Future of The Garden
Our 6 -year lease taken out in 2013 ends in April of this year. We are currently negotiating with the owners of the house to extend the lease, on terms that suit us both. It is a perfect space and location for our needs and we would very much like to remain there for a few years more. If we are not able to stay, we will look for a similar property to rent. However, prices have risen considerably in Pokhara, and especially close to Lakeside, so it might mean us moving further away from the Lake. We are hopeful that a compromise can be worked out with the owners so that we are able to stay. Fingers crossed!
We are also in the process of updating the Sansar Nepal website as it no longer gives an accurate picture of who we are now. Guided by our new strategic plan, we will align the content of the website and revise our vision, mission and goals. It’s a big job, but we feel an essential one if we are to grow and become more effective as an organisation.
We are extremely grateful to Bea Toews, who took over our finances last year. She is working closely with Roshan and David Taylor to ensure that we have good clear records and know exactly where we are at. We barely make it through the month at the best of times, but when unforeseen repairs are needed or someone in the house falls sick, we really struggle. We therefore continue to look for sponsors for The Garden as well as for our outreach projects.
With no source of funding other than you, our friends, the more regular small commitments we can get the better. USD 50 a month goes a long way in helping us to cover our costs and look after the family. Please, if you know someone who might be able to help, do please ask them to get in touch.
There’s a lot more I could share, but this is already too long, I fear!
So, once again, thank you for your generous and much appreciated donations, which allow us to do what we do. As always, you are invited to visit us at The Garden, to participate in our projects, spend time with our kids, and enjoy the beauty of Nepal.
Namaste and do have a wonderful year!