Welcome, Namaste, Peace, Shalom

Welcome, Namaste, Peace, Shalom, Benedicite. May the peace of the Lord always be with you.

Annapurna (Goddess of the Harvests) range, Nepal. Machapuchare, Fishtail Mountain, sacred to Shiva and never climbed.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Making a Difference

Nepal is the sixth poorest country in the world.

Something that struck me very forcibly was how big a difference small things, and small amounts of money can make to the quality of life for an individual in a very poor country.

Although I see the pictures and articles in the news and in the charity literature seeing how people live for myself really brought home to me how comparatively rich we are, how much we take for granted and how far money can stretch there.

We visited a small coffee and honey farmer in the hills above Pokhara. 

I mean the farm is small not the farmer! He grows organic coffee and produces organic honey. I don’t know if he had a fair trade connection to sell his coffee and honey but I could see what a difference this could make.

We visited two schools created by and dependent on charitable giving. The Nepal government is trying to increase literacy levels. we were told this is improving but that for many children access to education is still very difficult. The importance of education is still not always appreciated by parents.

The furniture and equipment is so antiquated and basic.

We were asked to take gifts of things like pencils, crayons and paper. £50 GBP will fund a child for a year.

Himaljyoti Community School

Tharu Tiger Mountain school

The Tharu school has a special focus to give schooling to orphans in particular. A child can be orphaned by the death of one parent. If the father dies and the mother remarries the new husband might not accept the children of the previous husband. If the mother dies a stepmother might not treat the stepchildren equally with her own children. These orphans are then dependant on other family, grandparents, aunts, uncles.
At this school, just as important as education, is providing two meals a day and a school uniform including shoes. The clothes are kept at the school and the children change into them when they arrive in the morning. The orphan children might not otherwise have sufficient food to eat or clothes to wear.  They are also bathed once a week and have regular medical care.

The trust that funds this school had also recently become involved in a scheme to help very poor families become more self sufficient. The family is given a goat. The first kid is given back to the charity and given in turn to another family. The family also has to do voluntary work, labour, for the school.

I also saw another school, not a formal visit, I just happened to be waiting there during the break time while the rest of the group were walking over a suspension bridge.  The path onto the bridge was past the school and playground.

Typical suspension bridge in Nepal harunire on flickr

This is not the bridge, but gives the general idea.  I decided to give it a miss. I think this was a state school and seemed to be even poorer and less equipped than the charity ones. Many of the children were wearing dirty, ragged tattered clothes.

The children came from what would we would call ‘ribbon development’ along the roadside. The homes were just old planks of wood roughly nailed together. Shelters without doors.  The only word I could think of was hovel. Either privacy is not valued in Nepal culture or it is an uaffordable luxury.  The traditional homes in the country villages seemed like palaces in comparison. In the towns I saw a lot of structures which seemed to be just a basic shop or storage shed which turned out also to be a place for living.

We saw horribly disabled and disfigured lepers laid out to beg in the entrance to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. I am ashamed to say that I could feel the fear and revulsion that leads a society with no other means of disease control to isolate and exclude victims.

When you read in  Nepal Leprosy Trust  New SADLE Nepal  or Oxfam, about how the creation of small craft workshops, provision of a sewing machine, a fishing net, a goat or rickshaw, will enable a family to become economically independent, that is true. We saw the tiny workshops with one or two sewing machines, and tiny businesses.

Most houses do not have a personal supply of fresh water. There are public water pumps. People not only collect water from them, we saw adults and children bathing at them and doing laundry.

in Kathmandu  we saw people bathing themselves in the street from bowls.  In one case we didn't just see the person, we stepped around her.

In one village some of the houses had huge concrete water containers in the gardens. These are provided by a government initiative with UN support to improve water storage and availability. They catch the rain during the monsoons. We were told that this makes a big difference.

It has made me a great deal more conscious of my spending habits and the use of my money.  I cannot solve all the problems of Nepal or the world, but I can make a difference.  I have a better understanding of how comparitively rich I am and how much of the world's resources I consume in order to have a lifestyle I take for granted.

So I am very much more motivated now to try to buy fairly traded responsibly sourced products. To consider how my lifestyle choices affect others and to be more organised and intentional about my charitable giving.

1 comment:

  1. I have so much and often forget. Thank you for the reminder. Not only to be grateful for what I have but to remember to share with others.


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