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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.  

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Help Us Help the Women of Nepal

Some of our teachers planning their lessons
We know you haven’t heard from us in a while, but rest assured it’s not because we’ve been inactive. Quite the opposite!

Last year, WELNepal had to turn down over two-thirds of the women’s groups because it wasn’t possible to fund their courses. We also had to turn down women’s groups who wanted to learn how to grow organic vegetables and mushrooms and manufacture candles.

We’re going to need you to be especially conscious of our women’s groups this year because we will not be holding our annual benefit bash. We’re taking the next few months to hunker down and spend every penny on the people who need us most: the dedicated women and girls who always want more and better from their friends at WELNepal.

For all of you who have attended our parties and donated in the past, we still need your support.  Please help us by making a donation through Canada Helps. Canada Helps will electronically issue a tax receipt.  You can also send a check payable to WELNepal at:

178 A Palmerston Ave.
Toronto, ON
M6J 2J4. 

As always, we will be happy to send your tax receipt to you.

Three of our bursary students
Also, please remember that the devastating earthquake has had a catastrophic effect on tourism — a sector people rely on to make ends meet. In order to survive, the Nepalese people need to find new ways to grow their economy. By giving the neediest people the tools to grow their coffers and give back to their communities; we’re helping rebuild a beautiful and troubled country that suffered a horrific setback.
We need you to help us help them by remembering to donate. Remember, as little as $25 teaches one woman to read.

If you still want to join us for a party, we invite you to come to Tribe MayaFire’s Spooky Souk fundraiser. The belly dance extravaganza is going to be held on Oct. 24 at the gorgeous Staircase Theatre in Hamilton, Ont. at 7 pm. If you can’t attend the Halloween-themed party, know that you can donate online any time or send us a check.

Thank you, as always, for your love, generosity and continued support.

Namaste




Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Post-Earthquake Update

One of our classes
What We’re Up To

First of all, we would like to thank all of you for your generosity, concern and well wishes in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake that struck Nepal last month. The aftershocks are continuing and there’s more work to be done, but we’re so grateful that our supporters came through for the country and people we love with donations and messages of hope.

Fortunately for our staff and women’s groups, WELNepal is headquartered in Chitwan — a lowland area largely unaffected by the quake and subsequent tremors. A lot of our people have friends and families who lost livestock and homes and we’re continuing to reach out for support on behalf of those who are suffering. That said, we also know how important it is to continue spreading literacy and independence in our project area and that’s just what we’re doing.

Here’s a little rundown of what we’ve been up to lately.


From left to right: Santos, Sita and Man Bahadur
Madi, previously inaccessible during monsoon season, now has a bridge connecting it to the rest of Nepal. Hydro polls are also being constructed so the district can finally receive electricity.  Madi is joining the 21st century and we want the women to be ready.  Of course adding roads may take a little longer, but progress is progress and we’re thrilled.  

This year, 10 groups will be involved in our six-month Advanced Literacy class and we have started eight new eight-month Basic Literacy classes. Sadly, we had to turn down many more groups due to budgetary restrictions.  It is very difficult to have to tell women that they will have to stay illiterate and alone until next year, when we hope to collect enough funds for them to learn to read and write in their language for the first time in their lives. 

Continuing Education Classes


Our weekly “book club” project is gaining popularity. This year, we are funding 11 groups from the 16 groups of women that completed our two-year literacy course last year.  There were also nine other groups of women who completed a government literacy course who asked to take part. Continuing Education involves women meeting once a week to read pertinent articles and discuss them.  Can you imagine the discussion taking place when the women read a story and learn about women like Malala Yousafzai? 

WELNepal’s Bursary Program

WELNepal continues to financially support young women who are gifted scholars but come from families that are either too poor to fund their higher education or believe that a girl’s place is not in school. This year, WELNepal is helping 26 students stay in school and out of unwanted arranged marriages.

Bursary students Laxmi, Anita and Kabita
Income Generating Programs

All of our women’s groups want to make money. Money buys freedom and that is what the women want.  We know that women use the money to better the lives of their children because studies show that women spend close to 90 per cent of their money on their families.

Our pesticide/insecticide-free farming project is a great success.  Out of the 12 groups we funded to grow and sell their produce, eight are flourishing. Some of the women’s groups are renting bigger plots of land to grow and sell their produce and some groups are finding new ways of marketing their vegetables.  One group even loaned out their profit at interest. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit! Our women’s groups are also making, growing and selling candles, soaps and mushrooms. We’re also pleased to report that the women involved in our sewing machine project, generously supported by WELNepal’s good friend L.M. Clark Customs Broker Ltd, are doing well.



Insecticide/pesticide-free farming group from Kathar
As important as making money is, what’s most amazing is how these women are working together, making plans, setting rules and sticking to them. The seeds of organization are well planted along with their carrots and onions. Sadly, WELNepal does not yet have the financial resources to help the growing number of women who desperately need and want our help. Every year, we have to tell more women to wait another year for literacy and income-generating training. With a little bit of help from everyone, we might be able to expand our programs and help all the interested women immediately. To gift the gift of literacy, please donate. A little goes a long way in Nepal. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Nepal Earthquake: Call to Action

How to Help Nepal

Through recent broadcasts we all have seen the immediate consequences of the 7.8 earthquake on the overcrowded city of Kathmandu and surrounding villages. As of today, Nepalese officials are saying the death toll is 4,500 and could expect to reach as high as 10,000.

Our TV screens are filled with scenes of injured people, collapsed buildings and frantic neighbours digging their way through the wreckage, brick by brick, looking for other survivors.  Fortunately we have been able to confirm, from our coordinators and leaders in the field, that all of our groups are safe. Although our students and teachers have family and friends affected by the devastation, we are relieved to know that none are victims of this tragedy and that they will be able to offer help to those in need during the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The media has told us about the outlying villages where contact has been nonexistent. Those of us who have traveled through these villages have seen what those houses are made of (mud and sticks) and know the vulnerability of the residents within and the potential for complete collapse of entire villages.

The long-term consequences of this disaster are equally devastating.  The lack of infrastructure and resources will challenge recovery and rebuilding efforts and many of the minimally constructed buildings left standing are still at risk of damage and collapse, causing even more death and injury.

Nepal is a country that relies on tourism and the tourist dollar to make ends meet.  Trekkers and sightseers put much-needed income into the hands of Sherpa guides and people in the hospitality, retail and transportation sectors. How many tourists can Nepal expect over the next year — or two or three? There will not be enough incoming funds to help repair the damage that the struggling country has to deal with.

Please join us in making a donation to help the Nepali people.

WELNepal’s staff and board members plan on giving generously to UNICEF. We have chosen UNICEF because our Nepali contacts have endorsed their work locally and UNICEF has partnered with a sponsor to match, dollar for dollar, all donations.  This initiative added to the recently announced Canadian government donation match program means your donation has three times the monetary impact. To donate, please click here.

Stay tuned for a note outlining our progress this year and our plans for the next few months. Although recovery and crisis management are top of mind right now in light of this terrible tragedy, we will continue to focus on our core mission in the Chitwan region as our women’s groups require ongoing assistance and support.  Through our literacy and education efforts we are training and graduating women who can be part of the solution in rebuilding the infrastructure necessary to help their community and country to grow.

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bent Over Women

Years of labor take their toll - and they do so early
Women do 85 per cent of the work in Nepal.

Many men leave Nepal for jobs in other countries, leaving all the work to the women.
Since the women do the cooking, they are required to fetch the firewood and cut it. They also have to get the fodder if they are lucky enough to have animals like goats and buffalo.

They cook over an open fire, which is unhealthy for their lungs. In fact, more women die of lung cancer than men in Nepal.

There is no electricity—no washing machines or blenders or heaters for the cold nights.  They couldn't afford them even if there was power.


Young and old, all women work — which is one of the reasons girls are denied the pursuit of education.

And, after a lifetime of back-breaking work, many of the women wind up spending their advanced years walking bent over as if they were still carrying a heavy load on their backs.

Something to think about.




Tuesday, 3 March 2015

So You Want to Teach in Nepal?

Active Greenland Boarding School
Nepal is an incredibly alluring destination for the initiated and uninitiated alike. It has everything an adventurer wants — ferocious mountains, challenging terrain, warm days and brisk, icy nights, welcoming people and memorable scenery. It is also, as we’ve discussed so many times, a troubled developing country rife with poverty. That said, it is also a friendly and safe destination that treats its guests well — and you, should you become a guest, now have an opportunity to give back.

WELNepal’s good friend Sharad Pandey is looking for volunteer teachers for his boarding school. His school, the Active Greenland Boarding School, is located in the Abu Khairani village in the Gorkha district, just outside of the beautiful lakeside city of Pokhara.

A view of the Gorkha district
Volunteer teachers can work anywhere from one to three months and can expect to teach four classes a day. While the position will be unpaid, food and lodging will be provided, free of charge, by the school. No formal teaching experience or education is required. In fact, the only requirement is that you be passionate about teaching students English. English goes a very long way in Nepal, and is often the only language used in post-secondary institutions in the country. By helping the students master an internationally important language, you will be helping them enhance both their knowledge and self-esteem. There’s a lot to be said about boosting someone’s confidence, and that’s part of your job, too.

As for the complimentary food and accommodation, teachers will have a choice of staying in a room at the school or in another teacher’s home nearby. The school will provide all meals. Volunteers will be responsible for paying for their own transportation — including flights, buses and taxis. If you would like to see pictures of your accommodations, you can contact David or Sharad (email addresses below).

Not only will teaching at the school be a rewarding experience in itself, it’ll immerse you in
Greenland teach and students
an entirely different culture and community. You’ll be learning almost as much as you’ll be teaching — perhaps more. You can also take the time to enjoy the beauty and diversity of one of the most scenic and endearingly chaotic places on earth. We also expect you’ll get to enjoy heaping helpings of dal bhat, which is a little something extra to look forward to.

Also, if you set aside a little extra time and money, perhaps you could hike the gorgeous (and challenging) Annapurna range or even Everest Base Camp before or after your classes start. You’ll come back smarter, worldlier and fitter than ever.


If this opportunity interests you, please feel free to contact Sharad Pandey at sharadpandey37@hotmail.com or David Walton at david@welnepal.org

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Susmita Rimal

The Rimal Family. From left to right, Ashok, Asmita, Ram Krishna, Guyatri and Susmita
Sometimes it's hard to feel deeply about a cause until you see how the gift of education affects, in a profoundly positive way, the life of a real person. Here's a story about one such person, my bahini (little sister) Susmita Rimal. 

During my first visit to the little village of Sauraha in Nepal, I found a local restaurant that served a very good dal bhat at a very good price.

The husband and wife team who owned the place, Ram Krishna and Guyatri Rimal, were very happy to have a tourist come for dinner. But their little girl, then four-year-old Susmita, was not accustomed to white faces and kept her distance and let me know that I was not welcome.  That was 19 years ago in 1995. I have been going to the Rimal’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner ever since. The Rimal family has since grown to include Susmita’s sister Asmita and her brother Ashok.

The more young Susmita and her sister and brother saw me, the more they warmed up to me. They are now my Nepali family and people I take visitors to see almost right away.

Mother Guyatri was always adamant that her children get the best education possible, even her girls — something many Nepalese villagers don’t think is necessary. The financial burden of sending their children to private schools was oppressive and they sacrificed a lot and made do with very little.

Over the years, I watched Susmita grow into a beautiful and well educated young woman.  The Rimal’s went into debt to send Susmita to nursing school — a debt they’re still paying off despite the fact that Susmita received her degree a few years ago. After graduation, Susmita worked in the palliative care ward in a local hospital and tended to dying patients who needed comfort and support in their last few days on earth.

This year, when I go back to my little village and drop in for dinner at my Nepali family’s restaurant, I won’t see Susmita.

After trying for a number of years, Susmita finally won the right to study and work in Australia.  She is there now, sending me emails, wondering at the beauty of the ocean and the size of super markets and the use of credit and debit cards. Susmita tells me that she is having some trouble with both the Aussie accent and their expressions. She’ll get the hang of it sooner rather than later.

Susmita will, in all probability, stay to work in Australia.  And, knowing my Young Sister, she will be sending money home to her family to pay them back for all their sacrifices to ensure a successful life for Susmita. 

Good for my Nepali family and good for my bahini Susmita.

Susmita in Australia
Now, here’s Susmita talking about her Australian experience and the wonder, excitement and, yes, homesickness that it entails. She one day wants to return to Nepal to help other women. We couldn’t be more proud of her.

"My parents are my inspiration, especially my mum. I was born in a poor family. My mum and dad are uneducated, but they did lot for our study. David Daai is also an important part of my life who was with my family when they were unable to pay my school fee and who encouraged my family to send us to school. Finally after a lot of struggle for my parents, I am able to achieve success.
Now I am here in Australia. I am getting a golden opportunity to learn. I am happy here even though it’s very foreign, but more than this I am missing my family, a special DAL BHAT cooked by mum and our beautiful Sauraha where I used to have lots of fun with my sister, brother and friends. I have already enrolled in the Bachelor of Nursing program at Charles Darwin University in Darwin. After completing my study, I will be a registered nurse of Australia. After that, my plan is to do welfare work and to become a skilled person in the nursing profession. When I earn money, I want to do a lot for my family and go to Nepal and work in maternal and child healthcare. Those are my future plans. I wish my dream will come true one day."