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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Ritu and Betty

Ritu and Betty
I met Ritu in 2010. She knew of me and I knew of her as one of David’s stalwarts. I went that year with Max (my and David’s son) for a stroll in the Himalayas and after that, we of course visited the Chitwan Valley.

It is truly a place of beauty and for me, very exotic with camels or elephants passing beneath my hotel window. The air was also clear enough when we were there that from the village we could see the mountains we had recently left.

Manis, Ritu, Shiva and Mamata
David thought it would be a fun idea to surprise Ritu with our visit. He never told her that Max and I were coming to Sauraha. We rented bicycles to take the pocked and stony road to Ritu’s house. I remember the acres of chartreuse yellow mustard fields and little villages with large animals docile, sitting down amongst people, dogs and chickens. As we rode up to the house, Ritu was outside and was very happy to see David. She smiled when she saw other guests coming with him. Then David introduced us. “This is Betty.”

I never saw such an expression of love pour out from a face as what appeared on Ritu’s. It was as if her whole heart tumbled out onto her face and smothered her vocal cords, making her speechless. We hugged a long time. She cried. She laughed. She forgot all her English.

This woman did not even know me, yet she welcomed me like family.

Ritu lives with her husband Shiva and two children, a daughter, Mamata and a son, Manis. They made us a delicious daal bhat dinner of rice, lentils, vegetables, a spicy pickle and tender, delectable chicken. Shiva cooked the meat on an outdoor fire and Ritu prepared everything else over a one-burner kerosene stove.

The memorable mustard fields
After dinner, Manis searched the radio for some music. Ritu insisted on teaching me how to dance Nepali style and wanted us to dance together. Our captive audience enjoyed my clumsy attempts until eventually I got the hang of it. Of course, I got more hugs.

When David first met Ritu, she was working in a micro bank but lost her job due to downsizing. She found another job in a larger micro bank and decided to continue her studies even while working. Raising and feeding her family were ongoing, with Shiva as a supportive partner.

Ritu finished her secondary education, which led to work in the accounting office at the large micro bank. To add to their income, Shiva and Ritu built an extra room on the house so that they could lodge guests. Ritu loves the company and she can polish up her English.

Ritu and the orphans
Close to where they live, there was a family tragedy. The father of five children died and the mother, who could not cope, simply ran away and deserted her children. Ritu and Shiva could not sit by and watch this. First, Ritu started feeding the children. Then Shiva helped build a small home for the family of five. In a way, Ritu adopted the family. They now come over to her house all the time to eat with them. She holds the young ones on her lap and has a whole new family to love and laugh with.

I am always impressed by how people with less means than most of us have in this part of the world can be so generous with whatever they have and with their love. I felt rather privileged that I was on one end of that stick. I know that Ritu’s capacity for love is boundless. Those who fall in her wake are very lucky…as was I.


Betty M Walton

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Sustainability

The women of Bhokaha
Most of you have heard it said: “You can give someone a fish, or you can teach them how to catch fish.”  But it is only when they continue to catch fish after you have taught them that makes the project sustainable.

Since farming comes naturally to all those women who take part in our projects, we thought of vegetables instead of fish.

All Nepali village women know how to tend their gardens, but
learning how to grow vegetables without the use of pesticide and insecticide sprays is important. Now, the women can grow healthier food and earn an income, since many Nepalis are aware of the advantages of chemical free produce and are willing (and able) to pay a little extra for it. 

Our plan was simple; the women’s groups involved would rent a small piece of land, equivalent to the size of two thirds of a football field, paid for by WELNepal, along with the seed and the furrowing and the water pump and the training in growing chemical free produce.  After three years, WELNepal’s funding would end and, hopefully, the women would continue renting land and growing healthy vegetables; a sustainable project.

Let me tell you about the women of Bhokaha. Six or seven years ago the women of this little village, who you can see in the photo above took part in our first chemical free farming project.

Son Mathi
This year, those same women, under the motivation of the resident Alpha woman, Son Mathi, are renting FIVE FOOTBALL FIELDS of land.  They have also opened their own vegetable shop to sell their goods and, to put ALL their produce to good use, they have opened a catering company to feed the folks at festivals, weddings and any and all of the many other reasons Nepalis love to gather, sing, dance, and of course eat.


How is that for sustainability?  I think that the women of Bhokaha have blown “sustainability” right out of the water.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

My Peeps in Nepal

While I am in Nepal, the work I do is truly a labor of love.  But the work I do would be a lot more laborious without the help of my co-workers and friends, who get me through the days.

Raj, Shreya and Harimaya
Harimaya, WELNepal’s first coordinator, brought us the talents of her husband Raj.  Later on, Raj and Harimaya had little Shreya. The power couple looks after all of our projects, and does so beautifully.

Rabeeta, Prasamchya and Santos
Rabeeta became our first assistant coordinator.  She was brought on board to help Harimaya.  Shortly thereafter, she brought on husband Santos — the man who helped her make their first daughter, Prasamchya. He has also contributes to Raj and Harimaya’s tough work. 

Bimala and Raj
Medical practitioners (and married couple) Raj and Bimala have the job of keeping me healthy.  They have done a great job so far. I have yet to die in my village of Sauraha.

Raju, who runs the last of the cyber shops in my village, has the unenviable job of keeping all my photos and WELNepal documents in computer order.  And keeping me in order, when the internet Gods desert me.

Raju
Poor Raju, his thriving internet cafĂ© is so deserted these days because of Wi-Fi that he is thinking of opening a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream franchise.

Gayatri and family
Lastly is Gayatri Rimal. I wandered into Gayatri’s restaurant 18 years ago.  That was the first and only time she charged me “tourist prices” for my dinner. I’ve been eating with Gayatri and her family ever since. She now works in conjunction with Raj and Bimala to make sure that I eat properly in order to recover quickly from all my stomach problems.

To all my people in Nepal, I couldn’t do what I do without you.

Thank you all.


Monday, 11 April 2016

Nigel's Photo Blog

Greetings,

Here at WELNepal, we're lucky to have fantastic friends and supporters who go the distance for us each and every day by spreading the word about us and, most importantly, the wonderful women we work with. 

Earlier this year, WELNepal and David Daai's good friend Nigel Wilson took a trip to Nepal to check out the incredible country and the beautiful people who call it home.

Here's what he had to say about his adventure:

I had always promised myself that one day I would make the journey to Nepal to visit my old friend David. 

I have to sheepishly admit that it has taken 20 years to finally make it to Sauraha and see first hand the amazing work that David, Raj and Harimaya are doing.

A plan was hatched... Rather than fly into Kathmandu and take the bus to the village, why not hire a motorcycle and navigate the perilous terrain myself? Even better, see if people would like to sponsor the adventure. To cap it all, why not do it on a beaten old Royal Enfield Bullet?

Friends, family (plus a fair few anonymous donors) stepped up magnificently. Over a thousand pounds has been raised.

As for myself, it was an incredible experience. The spectacular scenery matched only by the kindness and generosity of the wonderful Nepali people. All the more extraordinary in the face of the adversity and calamity of recent events.

I am grateful that in a small way, with the help of so many generous people, we were able to help Welnepal with it's vital ongoing work. 

Needless to say, I am already planning the 2017 return.

20 years? It was worth the wait. 



Nigel on the road from Kathmandu to Sauraha

Some of the women of WELNepal
















David Daai with a women's group




















Nigel with WELNepal's coordinators Raj and Harimaya

Nigel with his beloved Royal Enfield bike


To all of Nigel's Facebook friends - old and new - and to those who didn't know Nigel, but thought that helping women in Nepal was a good cause, thank you - David Daai

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Giving Tuesday: Please Help the People of Nepal

Destruction in Kathmandu after April's Quake. Source: Reuters
This holiday season, think about the incredible women you’ve helped in the past. With new challenges facing Nepal, your support is more crucial than ever. It’s heartbreaking for us to tell a woman she may have to wait a year or more for a literacy class when she so desperately wants to read, write, organize and generate income with her sisters. Let’s aim to make this December a landmark one for the women in our project area.

The roads in Nepal are tough, both literally and metaphorically, and they’re only getting more difficult to traverse.

With so much turmoil in the world, it makes sense that Nepal’s recent (and devastating) earthquake is no longer in the news. While the world has moved on, the Nepalese have not. Even as the country slowly rebuilds and recovers from the catastrophic quake, the challenges to the country’s economy remain. Fewer people visiting the pristine mountains, scenic villages and colourfully chaotic cities mean fewer dollars are making their way into people’s modest coffers.

The country is also facing other challenges, namely ongoing strikes and blockades.
That said, there was some good news this year. For the first time in the country’s history, its parliament elected Bidhya Devi Bhandari as its first female president. The government is starting to acknowledge and respect the dignity, intelligence and contributions of the nation’s hardworking and tragically underrepresented women.

Now, more than ever, we need your help to keep that momentum going — especially in these difficult times. 

As you know, we did not have a benefit this year. Even though we did not get to interact with all of you face to face on a chilly autumn night in Toronto, we thought about you and all the help and support you’ve given us — and the women — in the past.
We would love your support once more.

Please remember that a little goes a long way in Nepal.

$25: Will teach one woman to read and write
$50: Will provide textbooks for 26 women in a literacy class
$100: Will cover a teacher’s salary for three months
$200: Will sponsor a student so she can continue her education for one year. If you are interested in sponsoring a student, please contact WELNepal president David Walton at david@welnepal.org for more details.
$500: Will find an entire eight-month literacy class. Donors who fund a class will have the class named after them.

If you frequent our parties, you know we typically auction off hockey tickets, art and jewellery. This year, we still plan on auctioning off some of those things and have two sets of NHL hockey tickets and original photography created by local, Oakville-based artist Wil Yeung Photography up for grabs.

You can bid on the tickets and pictures here: http://www.ebay.ca/sch/welnepal_7/m.html?_nkw&_armrs=1&_ipg&_from

With the holiday season fast approaching, we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how to make this December (and subsequent months) better for our loved ones in Nepal.

For all of your support, we thank you.


Namaste

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What We're Up To

Greetings Friends and Supporters,

We thought you might want a little update on what we've been up to lately. We also have some exciting news for you!

As for what we've been up to, we were fortunate enough to have our good friend and long-time supporter Diana throw us a spectacular fundraiser.

Diana and her beautiful belly dance troupe Tribe MayaFire hosted their annual Spooky Souk fundraiser at the gorgeous Staircase Theatre in Hamilton, Ont. The party was vibrant, fun and a great success -- Diana and her team sold every seat in the house.

The proceeds from the event will be used to purchase sewing machines for our women's groups. In Nepal, literacy must be augmented by opportunity. Once the women achieve literacy, they want to continue building profitable skills. The women of the village of Madjhuwa will receive five sewing machines and training in their use. WELNepal will supply enough thread and material during the training.

After their training, the 30 or 40 women involved will have access to the sewing machines for personal use, and they should be able to earn some money tailoring for others. The women, as a group, are responsible for creating the rules of use and deciding how to share in the profits earned.

As for the Souk, Diana had this to say about the party:



"This past Saturday's "Spooky Souk" was an amazing night full of dance and music, and we'd like to thank the many people that made it such a success: 

 To our performers that graced the stage and brought the house down! Thank you Ishra, Invoketress, PeggyEshe Yildiz, Ala Nar, the dancers from Wah' loo, Shades of Araby, and Elizabeth Gomez. We so appreciate you sharing your time and talents with us.

Thanks to the Staircase Theatre in Hamilton for being so wonderful and accommodating from start to finish. We love everything about your theatre - the location and vibe, Colette and Eric, those velvet seats, and can't forget the brownies! We feel like we've found the perfect fit for our little event that could, and we couldn't be happier.

Thanks to David Walton (founder of WELNepal) and the other WELNepalians -AshleyKim, Barry, and Wendy for taking photos, sharing your experience of Nepal, promoting our event, and bringing attention to such a worthy cause.

Thank you to Elysium Tribal and BellyUp for your generous silent auction donations. You will have some very happy ladies shimmying into your studios very soon for classes.

To our sound & tech crew Roger, Kirk, & Rene - thanks for keeping the cues tight, the music going, and the lights just right!

Thanks to Shelina who informed and entertained our audience as MC, and to my troupe mates in Tribe MayaFire - CarolKellieSherry, and Jessica who did the million little invisible "behind-the-scenes" jobs that make a night like this possible.

Thanks to our volunteers James and Malclom for always helping out wherever and whenever you were needed, and for doing it with big smiles on your faces!

And don't think we forgot YOU, our gorgeous audience! Your generosity, support, heartfelt cheers, and "Thriller" dance moves made the Souk! You have no idea how wonderful it feels as a performer to have such an appreciative audience - it makes you shimmy harder, spin faster, and give it all you've got! So thank you to our beautiful guests for being that secret ingredient that makes a good event a GREAT one!

Lastly, to our sisters in Nepal we say thank you for continuing to be such an inspiration by proving that it is never too late to change, to learn, to grow, and to claim the rights that are yours.

Until next year friends 
As for our big news, we will, for the first time ever, be hosting an eBay auction! We will have hockey tickets and art available. Please stay tuned to our blog, website and Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.